High school committee heads into final stretch
With graduation only a month away and the end of school drawing near, the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) Committee tackled a full agenda Monday night in a two-and-a-half hour meeting.
Amy Tierney, assistant to the superintendent for business affairs, reported that the state has certified the school district's unencumbered excess and deficiency (E&D) funds at $1,111,396. The high school is allowed to keep E&D funds in excess of five percent of the operating budget, which amounts to $773,973.
The additional $337,423 will be returned to the Island towns in the form of reduced fourth quarter assessments. Aquinnah will receive $8,280, Chilmark $13,662, Edgartown $77,421, Oak Bluffs $87,357, Tisbury $71,210, and West Tisbury $79,491.
School administrators requested spending $422,572 from the E&D funds to offset the fiscal year 2008 operating budget and to pay a prior transportation bill, cover deficits in various funds, and pay for capital improvement projects such as painting the building exterior and installing security cameras.
In a public comment session, Davis Morris, an Oak Bluffs School committee member and former coach, asked the school committee to put together a panel of coaches to review how the high school's athletic coaches are hired and fired. Mr. Morris said the replacement of lacrosse coach Peter Ferrini has caused dissent in the community.
Turning to another matter, some residents on Ryan's Way expressed their concerns about the possible siting of a wastewater treatment plant on school property near their homes. The school committee agreed with Russell Wendt's request that the abutters be involved in future discussions.
In response to the school committee's invitation, athletic director Mike Joyce, vocational education director Jeff Rothwell, and guidance director Michael McCarthy provided a recap of their departments' activities for the school year.
In an interesting aside, Mr. Joyce said that despite the South Coast Conference booting MVRHS out of the league next year, seven of the nine SCC teams scheduled games next season on the Vineyard anyway.
Assistant principal Stephen Nixon provided a draft of the 2007-2008 student handbook and highlighted changes. Of note, beginning next year, grades for electives will not be weighted in determining class rank. Another new school policy addresses personal electronic devices such as MP3s, CD players, cell phones, iPods, etc. The school committee agreed to review the draft handbook and vote on its approval in June.
Mr. Nixon and junior student Rachel Schubert reported the high school's first drug-sniffing dog search conducted on May 2 received favorable reviews from students, faculty, and administrators.
Hoping to act quickly on the school committee's decision a few weeks ago to begin work on regional assessment formula issues for next year, superintendent of public schools James Weiss submitted a draft proposal regarding the formation of an action committee.
After a lengthy debate about the makeup of the committee, the school committee members agreed that Mr. Weiss and Ms. Parker should seek input from the All-Island Selectmen's Board and All-Island Finance Committee for their input, with a suggested meeting date of May 31 at 4:30 pm at the Vineyard Transit Authority offices.
In an update on contract negotiations, Mr. Weiss said an approved agreement for the paraprofessionals is in place, and he expects to complete sessions with the food service workers and custodians soon.
In other news, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges notified Ms. Regan that after review of the high school's special progress report, the Commission on Public Secondary Schools had continued the school's accreditation.
The next school committee meeting takes place on June 4 at 7 pm, preceded by a site visit by committee members to Tori Lane to gauge the visual and noise impacts from the high school's recently erected wind turbine.