High school budget falls, but assessments rise
The Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) District budget for FY11 includes operating expenses of $16,441,416, about 12 hundredths of a percent less than the FY10 total of $16.46 million. But, Island towns will be assessed $12,955,917, a 3.82-percent increase over the $12.47 million assessed in FY10.
"That's due to a significant reduction in revenue, primarily from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in funds for Chapter 70 school aid, regional transportation, circuit breaker funds, and just about everything," superintendent of schools James Weiss said in a follow-up call Tuesday. The committee certified the budget Monday evening.
In the final version of the budget, the high school committee authorized reinstating a driver's education program into the FY11 budget, in response to discussions with Martha's Vineyard Drive for Life (MVDFL) board members.
A few years ago MVDFL raised about $60,000 to furnish a classroom and equip it with two driving simulators and computers with software for training. The high school offered the classroom portion of driver's education as an elective for two years before it was cut from the fiscal year 2010 budget.
In order to reinstate driver's education, Mr. Weiss said the Registry of Motor Vehicles gave approval to the high school to continue the program, and the teachers' association agreed the instructor's position could be offered as a fee-for-service, rather than a union position.
Mr. Weiss said a $25,000 line item was added to the FY11 budget to fund driver's education for high school sophomores next year, assuming that the budget passes. Students will take classes during study hall periods.
After a brief discussion, the school committee also unanimously approved using the state's statutory formula to determine town assessments, Mr. Weiss said. Those amounts will be calculated in January or February when the Massachusetts department of elementary and secondary education (DESE) provides the numbers.
In Mr. Weiss's report to the school committee, he said the latest figures he received from DESE regarding dropouts show that the MVRHS rate remains at one percent, which is extremely low.
In other business, the school committee also voted to adopt a graduation requirement that students complete four years of history, including two years of U.S. history and two years of world history.
In a phone call Tuesday, MVRHS principal Steve Nixon said the change had been made in response to an announcement three years ago that a U.S. history exam would be added to the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests.
Since MCAS tests are given in grade 10, Mr. Nixon said Island teachers worked on restructuring the sequence of history courses in order to make them beneficial to students that would be taking a history MCAS exam.
Currently, Island schools offer U.S. history, part one, in grade 8, world history in grade nine and ten, U.S. history part two in grade 11, and one semester of government in grade 12.
The new course lineup includes civics/government in grade 8, U.S. history in grades 9 and 10, and world history in grades 11 and 12. Ironically, Mr. Nixon said after making the effort to restructure everything, the DESE decided to postpone the addition of the MCAS history test because of a lack of funds.
"It works for us structurally in how it's arranged, and whether or not they add the MCAS test is immaterial at this point," Mr. Nixon said. "But if they do resurrect it, at least we're prepared."
The school committee members also reviewed a travel policy amended at their last meeting. The revised policy now requires a minimum of two chaperones on all trips, and allows the principal and the superintendent to approve trips when the school committee is not available.
The MVRHS school committee's next meeting is January 4.