Island school committees, it's back to budgets
Although a new school year started only a few weeks ago, several Island school committees already are back to business as usual.
With fiscal year 2011 (FY11) budget planning starting soon, the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) and Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) District school committees received reports about projected revenue shortfalls in current school year budgets, mostly due to cuts in state funding.
At the UIRSD school committee meeting Monday night, school business administrator Amy Tierney said the district faces a possible deficit of $131,000, which could be covered by reserve funds if necessary.
School districts were notified that state Chapter 71 reimbursements for regional transportation costs might be decreased from 72 percent to 38 to 42 percent. In a worst-case scenario, that would amount to a loss of $66,601 for the UIRSD.
A projected two-percent cut in Chapter 70 funds, a decrease of $16,850 for the district, also is expected, Ms. Tierney said.
Superintendent of schools James Weiss said he and Ms. Tierney would watch the district's finances closely, take steps to freeze the budget and reduce expenses as needed, and keep the school committee informed.
The MVRHS school committee heard similar budget concerns at a meeting on September 14. Finance manager Mark Friedman estimated that losses in state funds might decrease the high school's revenues by $316,000, about 2 percent of the total FY10 budget.
Other state fund reductions may result in a loss of $58,000 in Chapter 70 funds, $9,000 in Chapter 71 funds, and $147,000 less in Circuit Breaker funds for special education program reimbursement.
Mr. Friedman said as a first step, he and MVRHS principal Steve Nixon have been working with school departments to reduce their budgets by 20 percent and are looking at possible cost savings in health care insurance.
Up-Island Regional School District
The UIRSD school committee's meeting took place at the Wampanoag Tribal Administration Building in Aquinnah.
In addition to regular business, the agenda included discussion between school administrators, the school committee, and Tribe education director Heidi Vanderhoop, in accordance with an agreement between the UIRSD and the Wampanoag Tribal Council outlined in an Indian Policies and Procedures document (IPP).
Ms. Vanderhoop provided the committee with textbooks and materials for review from the Diabetes-Based Education in Tribal Schools (DETS).
The free curriculum for grade K-12 students is designed to raise awareness about healthier lifestyles in preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes, which has become one of the most common and serious illnesses among North America's Tribal Nations.
Ms. Vanderhoop suggested that the DETS curriculum would be useful in conjunction with science, health, language arts, and social studies curriculum already used in Island schools.
Ms. Vanderhoop also discussed possible uses for Title VII formula grant program money received from the Office of Indian Education. She suggested spending the funds on a performance or program for students at both district schools and on tutoring for Wampanoag Tribe students.
Ms. Vanderhoop estimated about 82 children from the Tribe attend the Island's public schools, including 25 at West Tisbury School and 3 at Chilmark School.
In other business, West Tisbury School Principal Michael Halt and Chilmark's head of school Susan Stevens reported a successful opening day at both schools.
Ms. Stevens said she also took on the role of a general contractor over the summer, as there were several repairs and maintenance services to take care of before school opened.
The seven-room Chilmark School, built at a cost of $3.6 million, has experienced various maintenance issues since it opened in December 1999. Early problems included frozen pipes during cold spells that resulted in pipe leaks and a burst sprinkler, as well as loose floor tiles.
The school was built by the Standen Contracting Company and designed by Thompson and Rose Architects of Cambridge.
Ms. Stevens said new Pella windows and doors were ordered and dehumidifiers installed in the basement. The school's well did not pass a water test this week, Ms. Stevens said, and required flushing with chlorine because of coliform and E. coli bacteria levels.
Assistant Principal Robert (Bob) Lane provided a building and grounds report for the West Tisbury School, with an update on an ongoing problem with leaking windows. Mr. Lane said that JK Scanlan Company of Falmouth, the general contractor for the building's addition, determined that the subcontractor installed the wrong type of windows (see related story).
Richard Scanlan, Vice President of Operations, suggested either reinstalling the existing windows into rebuilt wood frames or replacing them with new ones.
Mr. Lane said about 30 windows need repairs, including 16 on the roof. The UIRSD agreed that the first step is to determine the cost.
Mr. Weiss suggested consulting an engineer or architect, in partnership with the town of West Tisbury, which owns the school building.
In other news, Mr. Weiss said the received a grant for a wind turbine feasibility study for the West Tisbury School site.
The UIRSD school committee meets again on October 19 at 5 pm at the Chilmark School.
MVRHS School Committee
At the September 14 meeting, the MVRHS School Committee approved transferring funds from a salary increments line in the FY10 budget to augment salaries partially funded by grants for a reading instructor, counselor, and writing lab instructor.
The school committee also approved a calendar change to schedule staff in-service training days on December 9, March 10, and May 5.
The MVRHS school committee meets again at 7 pm on October 5, preceded by a budget subcommittee meeting at 6 pm to start work on the FY11 budget.
All-Island School Committee
The All-Island School Committee (AISC) met September 10 at the regional high school.
In follow-up to the budget subcommittee's meeting on August 31, the AISC approved its recommendation to accept Superintendent Weiss's proposal for changes in his contract, which would end June 30, 2011.
Mr. Weiss offered to forego his scheduled four-percent salary increase for fiscal year 2011 (FY11). He also requested to extend his contract by two years, to run through June 30, 2013. (See "School chief asks less pay, longer deal," September 10 issue.)
Mr. Weiss said the revision effectively takes the overall increase in his contract and spreads it across three years, slowing the growth of his salary for the three-year period.
His current FY10 salary, $142,500, would remain the same in FY11. Under his previous contract, he would have received $148,200.
In Mr. Weiss's new contract, which was approved by the AISC, in FY12 he will receive $145,350, a two-percent increase, and in FY13, $149,700, a three-percent increase.
Several AISC members voiced their reluctance at not giving Mr. Weiss a raise he deserved and had been promised. Given the tough economy, the committee agreed they would accept Mr. Weiss's gracious gesture since it was his suggestion.
The AISC also approved Mr. Weiss's recommendation that administrators in his office receive no salary increases in FY11. They include Laurie Halt, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, whose salary is $90,000; Amy Tierney, school business administrator ($95,000); and Dan Seklecki, director of student support services ($119,100).
In addition, the AISC approved Mr. Weiss's request to allocate a pool of 2.5 percent of the total administrative salary fund in his FY11 shared services budget to divide up among salary increases for non-union technical and support staff.
The AISC will discuss Mr. Weiss's proposed FY11 budget on October 8 and October 22, both at 7 pm at MVRHS.
In other business, the AISC completed a third reading of a school travel policy. In response to comments from teachers, administrators, and parents, it includes a revised section on fundraising to allow each school to decide on whether fundraising by individual students, rather than a group, will be acceptable.
The AISC also completed a first reading of a proposed new cyber-bullying policy. It addresses the use of electronic information and communication devices to threaten, harass, or intimidate an individual or group.