Teacher's departure puts the brakes on driver's ed
Martha's Vineyard Regional High School coach and driver's education instructor John Stabile officially ends his employment today. His unexpected departure has left students without a certified driving instructor midway through their semester-long course.
School officials have been tight-lipped about the circumstances surrounding Mr. Stabile's position at the high school.
In a phone call Thursday of last week, high school principal Steve Nixon would only confirm that Mr. Stabile no longer worked at the high school and that he had contacted parents of students in the driver education program. Mr. Nixon referred all questions to the superintendent.
James Weiss, superintendent of public schools, said Mr. Stabile's employment is a personnel matter and he was limited in what he could say. However, he did confirm that Mr. Stabile had been placed on administrative leave without pay since the last week in October. "His last official day as an employee will be November 26, and he will remain on administrative leave until that time," Mr. Weiss said.
Asked if Mr. Stabile was fired, Mr. Weiss answered with a cautious explanation about the three ways in which personnel leave the school district's employ.
"Way number one is we fire them - we dismiss them. Way number two is they resign," he said "And then way number three is kind of in the middle of the two. We come to a mutual understanding, and there's usually some kind of agreement. And when it's that latter case, there is usually something that says we don't talk about it."
Reached at home on November 3 soon after The Martha's Vineyard Times learned of the administrative action and asked whether he still worked at the high school, Mr. Stabile said, "I don't really want to discuss it with anyone, quite honestly - until I really know something, it's not something I want to talk about."
Mr. Stabile did not return a phone message left on Monday this week asking him for comment.
Mr. Stabile taught sophomores the classroom portion of driver's education since it was added to the school curriculum as an elective two years ago. He also coached lacrosse and junior varsity football.
Mr. Nixon was scheduled to meet with parents last night at the high school to provide information and discuss possible options for students who are anxious to complete the course in order to get their driver's licenses.
Mr. Weiss said the school is doing its best to come up with a plan. He said the meeting with the parents is a start.
"Right now a substitute is in place who is not a licensed driver's education teacher, and we have some concerns about that, because it's different than a public school teacher," Mr. Weiss explained. "We're not sure if the hours are going to count and all that kind of stuff, so we're working with Tim Cooney, who runs the driving school. Sometimes these things happen, unfortunately, and we don't want kids to lose out - that's what's important to us."
Mr. Stabile received training from the Center for Massachusetts Safety Council, headed by Mr. Cooney, in West Boylston. He continued to work in affiliation with and was licensed through the organization, which provided a car for driving instruction on Martha's Vineyard.
Mr. Stabile's departure came as a blow to Tom and Barbara Furino of Edgartown, founders of Martha's Vineyard Drive for Life. The Furinos' tireless and passionate efforts to improve teen driver safety and education followed the loss of their son David and his best friend Kevin Johnson, both high school seniors, in a car crash in 2004.
The Furinos were successful in having driver's education added to the high school's curriculum in 2007. They also have raised funds to purchase expensive learning aids designed to provide realistic training.
"Since Martha's Vineyard Drive for Life started, we probably raised about $50,000 to $60,000, and were able to purchase four car simulators and computer-based training," Mr. Furino said in a phone call Monday. In addition, he noted, students donated over $800 in the cafeteria to help the cause.
Driver's education classes were held in a room off the cafeteria in 2007. This year, Mr. Nixon found classroom space for the program. Mr. Furino said several volunteers from the community pitched in to help set up the room. Martha's Vineyard Drive for Life purchased new carpet and cubicles. "Ten of David's and Kevin's friends each bought a chair," he added.
After meeting with Mr. Nixon on Monday, Mr. Furino said, "We made a deal to keep driver's ed in the school next fall. We will solicit bids for an instructor, who will have to go through Martha's Vineyard Drive for Life. Whoever gets the contract will do the on-the-road training, which students will pay for, and also will provide classroom instruction free in the school. "
Mr. Furino said students will work out arrangements through the guidance office to take the semester-long course during a study hall period. In the meantime, he said Mr. Stabile's job will be posted so that a new instructor can be hired to teach next semester's classes, for which students have already signed up.
"I feel like this is just another hurdle - it's something we have to deal with and work through and make it work," Mr. Furino said. "You don't stop a business because you lose an employee - you replace the employee. We're very determined, all of us, to keep this going."