Driver's ed program finds a way forward
Following the departure of driver's education instructor John Stabile from Martha's Vineyard Regional Hgih School two weeks ago, arrangements have been made with the Central Massachusetts Chapter (CMC) of the National Safety Council to provide training by licensed driver's education instructors so students can finish the course.
High school principal Steve Nixon met with parents of students enrolled in driver's education as an elective course on November 25. CMC executive director Tim Cooney also attended the meeting.
Mr. Nixon told parents the high school's goal is to meet the semester deadline for those presently enrolled so they can finish the program and get credit. In the meantime, the school is advertising for a new instructor for the spring semester.
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 received training from CMC, headed by Mr. Cooney, in West Boylston. Mr. Stabile continued to work in affiliation with and was licensed through the organization, which provided a car for driving instruction on Martha's Vineyard. Students paid a fee for on-the-road training, which was not provided by the high school. Mr. Stabile also worked as a driving instructor outside of school hours.
Mr. Stabile was placed on administrative leave without pay in late October, according to school officials. Since that time, a substitute teacher who was not a licensed driver's education instructor covered his classes. Two weeks ago, superintendent of schools James Weiss said Mr. Stabile would no longer be working for the high school as of November 26, which he attributed to a personnel issue.
"I told parents last week that I hope to get driver's ed back on track," Mr. Cooney said in a phone call on December 2. Last week, his office was working on auditing students' classroom hours to address individual needs. In addition, a CMC instructor worked with students on behind-the-wheel training last weekend.
Over the next several weeks, a CMC instructor will travel back and forth to Martha's Vineyard to provide classroom instruction, Mr. Cooney said. "I think it's going to go well - we would like to have it all done by January," Mr. Cooney said. "It is hectic. We have to put people up in a hotel, and get them back and forth on the ferry."
Under a new teenage driving bill signed into law on Jan. 3, 2007, parents are required to participate in at least two hours of instruction on the content of driver's education curriculum. Mr. Cooney held a two-hour parent training session following the November 25 meeting and planned to do another one, possibly this week.
Before the high school began offering driver's education classroom instruction in 2007, Joe and Natalie Thibodeau, owners of the Vineyard Auto School, ran the only driver education program available on Martha's Vineyard for about 12 years.
Their private driving school, certified each year by the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), continues to operate, Mr. Thibodeau said this week. Although he and his wife no longer teach the classroom portion, they are still in the business of providing teens with the required behind-the-wheel training and observation hours required for a driver's license.
The fee is $450 to $550, factoring in fuel and insurance costs. The Thibodeaus also offer the required parent training classes.
Mr. Thibodeau suggested that if parents have any questions regarding the required driver education program curriculum, it is available for viewing on massrmv.com, the RMV's website.