School ends for kids, not for educators
Although school ended on Tuesday for students, Island educators marked the start of summer vacation by starting preparations for next year, with changes in programs and staff already in the works.
"Kids go home for vacation, but teachers stay in school," said Margaret (Peg) Regan, Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) principal. On Wednesday through Friday this week, high school teachers are redesigning curriculum, a task made easier while their classroom materials are close at hand, memories of what worked and didn't work fresh in their minds, and exam scores available, Ms. Regan said.
In addition, some of the Island's eighth-grade teachers added their input to the curriculum discussions, in an effort to better coordinate the sequence of teaching history and science. With changes in
Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exams, the class of 2010 will be taking a biology MCAS exam and the class of 2012 a history MCAS exam as sophomores.
"The grade eight teachers and high school teachers will make sure we have a unified curriculum from grades 7 through 12," Ms. Regan explained. "They are talking about what they're teaching and what they're emphasizing, and the sequence of subject matter taught, to make sure that students are not going to face curriculum gaps."
Megan Mendez and Hailey Meader of the Tisbury School contemplate summer with smiles. Photo by Lynn Christoffers
What's new in the classroom
Ms. Regan and staff also are working on a new advisory program, with different curriculum for grades 9 to 12. Starting next fall, every high school student will have an adult advisor that is a teacher, administrator, counselor or teaching assistant. The advisors will work with about 10 students each, remaining with the same group through graduation.
Additionally, a grade 10 earth science class will be added next fall. "We've had earth science before, but not as a separate course," explained superintendent of public schools James Weiss. "State curriculum frameworks changed, so this became an important course for us to have."
New instructor David Brand arrives this week to begin writing his curriculum and purchase books and materials, Ms. Regan said.
At the elementary school level next fall, a new grade eight algebra program taught by Oak Bluffs teacher Eve Heyman will offer some students the opportunity to get a jump on higher math and squeeze in an extra year in high school. A few weeks ago, seventh-graders Island-wide were tested to see who will qualify.
Malcolm Hammond gives a gleeful sign as he leaves Edgartown School. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Reading, writing, 'rithmetic ... and retirement
In looking at personnel changes for next school year, Mr. Weiss said, "We have a number of folks who are retiring across the Island, and we're working hard to replace them."
One retirement will hit close to home for him, when assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction Marjorie Harris retires on June 29. "We're trying to fill her position, and are down to two candidates," Mr. Weiss said last week. "I hope to appoint someone at the next All-Island School Committee meeting on July 11."
Ms. Harris served as assistant superintendent since 2003, after spending 27 years at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School as a social studies teacher and then history department chair. "Change of scene" might be a more appropriate description than "retirement" for Ms. Harris, who starts a new job as an associate professor at Southern New Hampshire University in September.
Other retiring personnel from the Island teachers' include Nancy Shemeth, health and physical education department chair, and Ruth Major, vocational child development program instructor, at the regional high school. At West Tisbury School, Madi Coutts (literacy center reading teacher), Joyce Dresser (special education department), and Marilyn Yas (grade 2) will set down their chalk and erasers, as will fourth-grade teacher Liz Cornell at Oak Bluffs Elementary School and fourth-grade teacher Donna Gazaille at Edgartown Elementary School.
Dylan Lyonnais of the Tisbury School has games to play. Photo by Lynn Christoffers
Changes in attitudes, latitudes
When it comes to principals, some of the Island's elementary schools will see a new face, while others will see a changing of the guard. At West Tisbury School, interim principal Ed Jerome will be leaving this summer. Dan McCarthy will take over until former principal Lt. Col. Michael Halt returns from his leave of absence after serving as a U.S. Marine Corps reservist in Iraq.
"I spoke with Michael a couple of times this past month and got an e-mail from him not long ago, and he is still believing he will be back here in mid to late October," Mr. Weiss said.
At Tisbury School, in what Mr. Weiss calls a "flip-flop situation," principal Maureen DeLoach will switch jobs with assistant principal Richie Smith, who will serve as acting principal next year. Ms. DeLoach plans to retire at the end the next school year.
Oak Bluffs assistant principal Carlin Hart also takes on the role of acting principal next year, while principal Lawrence (Laury) Binney is on leave. Gina Patti will serve as acting assistant principal for one year.
Starting June 30, Mr. Binney will take a year's leave of absence to join his wife Marcy Klapper on her year-long sabbatical from her position as an English Language Learners (ELL) and reading teacher at West Tisbury School.
In September they plan to head to Brazil to visit as many towns as they can, particularly those from which students in Ms. Klapper's ELL classes come from.
Elliot Ferland, top, Austin Chandler, left, and Jacob Cardoza of the Edgartown School had summer and freedom on their minds. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Her goal is to gather data and put together a comprehensive report about the Brazilian students' communities and school systems to offer Vineyard teachers a better understanding of the cultural and educational differences between Brazil and the Island.
In addition to helping his wife with her project, Mr. Binney will be working on one of his own, putting together "pod casts" as they travel throughout Brazil and to other parts of South America. Using his digital camera and laptop computer, Mr. Binney will create virtual field trips tied to the Oak Bluffs School curriculum, some filmed and others transmitted live via telephone back to the school.
At Edgartown School, where Anne Fligor has served as acting principal since January 19, Mr. Weiss said the principal's job is "still up for grabs."
"NESDEC [New England School Development Council] is doing a search for us this time, and we'll have a bevy of applicants," Mr. Weiss said. "We hope to appoint someone over the summer."
Administrative changes at the regional high school will include a move requested by assistant principal Anne Lemenager to return to the classroom and to her former position as the chair of the health and physical education department. Neal Weaver, an assistant principal of curriculum at Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Fla., has been hired to take the reins from her on July 2.
Who's new at the blackboard
"We have two large areas of staff changes," Mr. Weiss said. "One is in the area of world language, particularly our Spanish teachers at the elementary school level. Several of them are leaving, and people are moving around, and that's going to be a big issue for us if we can't find enough people."
The other area includes what he calls "specials," reading specialists, guidance counselors, and special education staff. "There are a few we are still looking for, not a significant number, and other than that, we're filling a position here or there, with no other big trends," Mr. Weiss said.
Two teachers who resigned include Edgartown Elementary School sixth-grade teacher Betsy Hauck and MVRHS social studies teacher Eric Alexander.
In other high school faculty changes, Michael Joyce is resigning as a biology teacher, but will remain as the athletic director. English teacher Michelle Hogan requested a year's leave of absence to complete a master's degree program in English, writing, and literature.
Kimberly Baumhaufer, an Island daycare provider for many years, will join the vocational department faculty as a child development teacher. Amy Hewitt will move from her part-time position as a Spanish teacher at Chilmark School to a full-time position at the high school.
Summer school for educators
Several Island teachers and administrators will take advantage of the summer to further their professional development. Twenty-six teachers will attend a "Schools Attuned Program" on July 16-20 at Oak Bluffs School. Mr. Binney will serve as the on-site coordinator for the professional development workshop, aimed at helping K-12 educators develop instructional practices for recognizing, understanding, and managing students with differences in learning.
The workshop will be presented by two staff members from All Kinds of Minds, an organization co-founded by Dr. Mel Levine, a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School. Over the last 30 years, Dr. Levine pioneered programs for evaluating children and young adults with learning, developmental, or behavioral problems. He uses a research-based approach that links the way different students' brains develop and operate to their behavior and learning.
The superintendent's staff will be participating in an administrative retreat on July 31 through Aug. 2.