News in Brief
Tisbury selectmen set
beer and wine discussion
The Tisbury selectmen Tuesday night reviewed a draft article that would allow the town to grant licenses for the sale of beer and wine in Vineyard Haven restaurants and inns.
There will be public forum to discuss the article on Feb. 6 from 5 to 6:30 pm, in the Katharine Cornell Theatre prior to the selectmen's regular meeting. Selectmen said the draft could be amended depending on public input.
The article as now written limits the sale of beer and wine to patrons of restaurants (including those within inns and hotels) with a seating capacity of not less than 30 persons served by a waiter or waitress at a table. The sale of alcohol without meals or from a package or convenience store would be prohibited.
In other business, town administrator John Bugbee said Steamship Authority (SSA) general manager Wayne Lamson called Monday to inform him the SSA applied for a mooring permit from the Department of the Army Corps of Engineers that could result in a request that moorings for the Shenandoah and Alabama sailing vessels owned by Robert Douglas and Coastwise Wharf Company be moved. The SSA is concerned that under some wind conditions the sailing vessels are not a safe distance from SSA vessels entering and exiting the harbor.
The selectmen also reviewed budgets for the ambulance service, fire department, and harbormaster, and pared down a list of ferry embarkation fee projects. Mr. Bugbee said 2006 embarkation fee revenues are projected to be $247,980.
Regional high school considers dog search policy
A new policy proposed by Principal Peg Regan regarding the use of dogs to conduct drug searches at the regional high school evoked mixed reactions at Monday night's school committee meeting. Ms. Regan provided school committee members with a sample policy she drafted, asking them to read it, talk about it, and reflect on it before their next meeting on Feb. 5, when she plans to invite students and community leaders to join in further discussion.
"I'd like to eliminate this as a place where drugs can be bartered, bought or sold," Ms. Regan explained to the school committee.
In researching canine search policies adopted by other high schools, Ms. Regan talked to principals at five schools on Cape Cod, as well as nine schools who compete with Martha's Vineyard Regional High School in the Southcoast Conference athletic league. Many of the principals she talked to told her they use drug-sniffing dogs to conduct school searches twice a year.
Several recommended giving advance notice to students and parents that a drug search is about to take place, without giving the date. One principal told Ms. Regan he regretted not warning students ahead of time, because one search resulted in him having to expel 12 students right at the beginning of the school year.
Ms. Regan told the school committee she agreed with warning students of an upcoming search. "My motivation is not to expel students and not to try and catch someone, but rather to send out a message that we don't have any tolerance for drugs in the school," she explained. "I think if students were given the notice the dogs are coming, it would accomplish a lot in cleaning up any drugs in the building."
Ms. Regan explained that the dogs do not sniff students, but rather their book bags, lockers, and cars. Students are cleared from a classroom before it is searched. "The whole image of kids sitting in the classrooms with dogs nipping at their heels it not what will happen," she assured the school committee.
Committee members Judi O'Donoghue and Roxanne Ackerman expressed their discomfort about adopting such a policy. "I can see that substance abuse deserves our attention," Ms. O'Donoghue said. "But I feel that bringing dogs in is not the way to address the problem."
Ms. Regan said she initially had reservations about using the dogs, too. However, in weighing the effectiveness of the high school's current drug policy, she said, "I feel we're only ridding the school of the 'small fries' with expulsion."
Under the present policy, she explained, students who are caught exhibiting symptoms of being under the influence of drugs usually are not the ones selling them. "What I get is that it's easy to procure drugs, and the ones who are selling them are not flagrantly smoking or using them," Ms. Regan said.
Assistant principal Steve Nixon agreed. With an average of three to five drug offenses occurring at the high school each year, Mr. Nixon said, "Usually the student we find is already under the influence - we aren't always going to find the ones selling the drugs."
In talking with various sources, Ms. Regan said she was told that from November to March, "The high school is thought of as the place to procure drugs - I want to dispel that notion."
Ms. Regan encouraged the school committee to talk to students, who she said were a big deciding factor in her decision to propose the canine search policy. She also discussed the idea of the search policy with the school's leadership class.
If adopted, the canine search policy will be part of a multi-faceted approach at the high school to deal with substance abuse and addiction, which Ms. Regan said includes a therapeutic component. "We're trying to encourage kids to come forward and admit they're struggling with a substance abuse issue, without being punitive," she said.
School adjustment counselor Amy Lilavois runs a group meeting where teens can talk about substance abuse issues they are experiencing or concerns they have about a family member or friend, Ms. Regan said.
Ms. Regan said the policy will be the topic of discussion at the "Coffee with the Principal" session on Jan. 23, and at the School Advisory Council meeting on Jan. 24 at 7 pm in the high school library conference room. Both are open to the public.
Accoring to the draft Martha's Vineyard Regional High School's K-9 Search Policy proposal, "Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) District is committed to providing students with an environment that is free of drugs and other contraband. In order to reinforce the message that drugs and other contraband will not be tolerated in school, the High School Principal may conduct searches of the building for such items using the assistance of the Oak Bluffs Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police, and canines (K-9's) trained for such searches.
"Searches by canines at MVRHS will generally be to public areas of the building, lockers, and motor vehicles on school property.
"The school administration will generally rely on the State Police for the trained canines."
MVRHS dropout rates lower than state average
The dropout rate at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) remained lower than the state average for the 2004-05 school year, according to figures from the Massachusetts state Department of Education recently received by superintendent of public schools James Weiss.
Mr. Weiss told the MVRHS school committee Monday night that the high school's dropout rate for 2004-05 was 2.7 percent, representing a total of 22 students, compared to a statewide rate of 3.8 percent.
However, although below the state level, the high school's dropout rate increased by 1 percent from the 2003-04 rate of 1.7 percent. Mr. Weiss pointed out to the school committee that the dropout rates from the school years 2000 through 2005 fluctuated a great deal from year to year.
The dropout rates for MVRHS by year: 2000-01, 3.5 percent; 2001-02, 2.7 percent; 2002-03, 1.9 percent; 2003-04, 1.7 percent; and 2004-05, 2.7 percent.
This year's increased rate was due in part to a change in how the high school's alternative programs are viewed. In previous years, students who dropped out of the high school's regular program were not counted as dropouts if they enrolled in the evening adult education program.
However, the state did not consider the adult education program a viable alternative school program in 2004-05, because the hours were cut back and it does not provide 990 hours of instruction.
MVRHS principal Peg Regan said another contributor to the high school's dropout rate has been an increase in the number of non-English speaking students who at ages 19 or 20 decide to quit school or move away. Many of them are at risk of failing the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests, as well.
Ms. Regan also pointed out that many non-English speaking high school students come to the Vineyard without their parents to do seasonal work, then enter school in October and leave before spring. She has asked the state department of education whether these students might be redefined as migrant workers so they would not be included in the dropout rate. However, the state limits the definition of migrant workers only to those employed in fishing and agriculture, and most seasonal Vineyard jobs are in hospitality or retail.
The dropout numbers, based on enrollment figures from October, lag a year and a half behind the current school year, Ms. Regan said. If students drop out, a school has to wait until October of the next school year to see if they re-enroll before they are counted as dropouts. Statistics are not released until January.
Chamber of Commerce program promotes jobs and housing
The Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce plans a new program designed to provide information on seasonal jobs and housing for would-be summer residents.
Billed as Live Work MV 07 (LWMV 07), the program will address the increasing demand for jobs and housing opportunities by seasonal employees who work in the tourism industry, according to a chamber of commerce press release.
Nancy Gardella, chamber executive director, said that seasonal employees have become more enterprising and are beginning their job and housing search earlier each year. "In an effort to better serve our members and the entire Island community, we want to accommodate their proactive work search and are launching Live Work MV 07 in February 2007," she said.
Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce members may list employment opportunities on the Chamber's web site. Individuals may list their housing availability with the LWMV 07 program. Forms are available at '
For more information, contact Alisa at 508-693-4486 x 17.
Permanent Endowment Fund grant applications solicited
The Permanent Endowment Fund of Martha's Vineyard seeks applications from Island nonprofit organizations.
Grant funding for the spring cycle comes from two sources, the general discretionary fund and the James P. Cahen Fund for medical assistance. According to a press release, the general discretionary fund assists all facets of the community, from children to elderly citizens, art programs, wellness programs, community service, cultural programs, and human services.
Applications are available online at www.permanentendowmv.org or application packets are available by calling Gail Craig at 508-627-3754 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline for all applications is February 15. Applications received after that date will not be considered during the spring cycle.
Milton Mazer M.D.
Dr. Milton Mazer, 95, died on Jan. 7 at Longhill Assisted Living in Edgartown. Dr. Mazer joined in founding the Martha's Vineyard Mental Health Center, which eventually became Martha's Vineyard Community Services. He was the husband of Virginia (O'Leary) Mazer, who died in 2000, and father of Mark Mazer of West Tisbury, a builder. A memorial service will be held at a later date, and a full obituary will appear in a future edition of The Times. An appreciation of Dr. Mazer appears in the Editorial column this morning.