School committee certifies 2008 budget
The Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) District school committee voted to certify the fiscal year 2008 budget at a meeting Monday night.
MVRHS principal Peg Regan said about four percent of the high school's budget remains for the rest of the calendar year, with coverage required for two overages, one for contracted stipends and another for special education residential care. A transfer of excess and deficiency funds approved by the school committee in 2005 will offset the overages, as well as "circuit breaker" funds from the state towards the residential care costs.
Ms. Regan also talked about the high school's plans to retool the alternative education program to include students in grades 9 and 10. At present, the needs of juniors and seniors are addressed through an evening program, a summer introductory program, and the Rebecca Amos Institute. Assistant principal Steve Nixon, who is culling ideas from alternative education programs used in other high schools, said the goal is to encompass all of the high school's alternative programs into one.
To address what he called a "one-time, unusual situation," Superintendent of Schools James Weiss asked the school committee for their approval to allow the high school staff to donate two days of sick time each, for a total of 185 days, to a staff member whose daughter is seriously ill. Mr. Weiss said the measure was not intended to extend the school department's sick bank policy to cover children's illnesses.
The school committee approved the proposal, with an assurance from Ms. Regan that money for a substitute teacher is available in the budget.
In other business, the school committee authorized under appropriate legal citation the issuance of bonds to buy buses, not to exceed $1.5 million. Following their approval and notification of the Island selectmen within seven days of their vote, the towns have 60 days in which to hold a town meeting to vote against incurring the debt.
Committee member Priscilla Sylvia presented a report from the school's land-use subcommittee regarding a final draft of a campus plan they put together with Martha's Vineyard Ice Arena and the YMCA of Martha's Vineyard. Ms. Sylvia explained that approving the campus plan, which specifically outlines the five acres to be leased to the YMCA, will allow the Y to move forward with site development plans.
The campus plan also includes an overflow parking lot with 120 parking spaces available for combined use by high school, the Y, and the Arena. The school committee voted to approve the plan.
Student representatives Ben Williams and Rachel Schubert updated the school committee about student activities. Mr. Williams reported the high school's Safe Rides program is operating on Saturday nights from 10 pm to 2 am. He also informed the committee about an article he wrote which appears in today's Times regarding the controversy of using drug-sniffing dogs to conduct random checks in the high school.
MVRHS principal Peg Regan said the school's leadership council has been discussing the issue, as it is a regular practice in many high schools to make sure they are drug-free.
Regarding school organizations, Ms. Schubert said the student council plans to conduct an assembly program to educate students about genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. The student council will host a holiday bazaar at the high school on Saturday, Dec. 16, to raise money for activities.
In response to Ms. Schubert's request, the school committee approved participation by MVRHS students in two upcoming Model United Nations conferences to be held in New York and Pennsylvania. Ms. Schubert said students will cover the costs of the conferences themselves, estimated at about $400 per student, and that they already have started fund-raising.
The school committee meets again on January 8.