High school committee begins busy year
The Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) committee met Monday night to kick off a new school year. Principal Margaret (Peg) Regan deemed the high school's opening last week very successful, including the morning of Sept. 5 when the freshmen had the school to themselves.
The addition of several programs offers some new interest and additional support for students this year, Ms. Regan said, including a new earth science course for freshmen and driver's education classroom instruction, available as an elective for the first time.
All students will participate in a new advisory program beginning this week. Groups of 8 to 10 students have been assigned per teacher to meet and cover curriculum about skills for success in school, as well as social and academic issues, and to discuss individual problems and concerns.
Assistant Principal Steve Nixon described a new alternative program, Students and Teachers Achieving Results (STAR), a program designed to help 10 freshmen who are having difficulty adjusting socially and academically to high school. The students will continue to attend classes in the high school with four mainstream teachers, in addition to receiving individual help. Patterned after a program used in Braintree, STAR will start in November, after the first report card period.
Land use subcommittee
Superintendent of public schools James Weiss summarized the land use subcommittee's (LUS) meeting, held an hour before the school committee's meeting. The LUS agreed to extend MVTV's lease of a building next to the football field for another six months, he said.
The subcommittee also discussed and approved a plan agreed to by the Oak Bluffs Wastewater Commission that would allow the high school to pump wastewater to Oak Bluffs where it will be treated at the sewage treatment facility and then pumped back to leaching fields at the school. In return for using the treatment facility, the town will use the high school's leaching capacity in peak summer months if needed.
Mr. Weiss reported that the YMCA has also expressed interest in hooking into the high school's system and contributing to the costs. The next step, he told the school committee, is to commission an engineering firm to conduct a feasibility study to provide information about cost and design requirements. Although the school committee already budgeted $100,000 from excess and deficiency funds last year towards an engineering study, Mr. Weiss said he expects the study to cost between $35,000 and $40,000. The school committee voted to approve the LUS recommendations.
In a follow-up to discussions last spring, Mr. Weiss said he had the superintendent's building in Vineyard Haven appraised and is continuing to explore the possibility of relocating his offices to the old Edgartown School building.
Dollars and cents
In a financial report, Ms. Regan requested the school committee's acceptance of several donations and grants, including one for $2,700 from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative as a rebate for installing and using a wind turbine to generate electricity. The high school can qualify for another $3,000 at the end of the year by providing data about the turbine's wind power generation, Ms. Regan said.
In addition, the high school received a $10,000 grant for an after-school special education program from the van Ameringen Foundation, and $4,305 from the Alexandra M. Gagnon Foundation towards an established peer outreach program.
Regarding other financial business, Mr. Weiss said that 33 high school teachers and staff members, out of 80 Island-wide, took advantage of a one-time paid incentive to switch from Master Health insurance to less expensive plans. The health-care insurance cost savings to the school system amount to about $100,000 after paying the one-time incentives, Mr. Weiss said.
Students plan ahead
Representing students at the meeting, student council secretary Max Nunes, class of 2009, highlighted some upcoming student activities. A club assembly on Sept. 19 will offer students information and the opportunity to join in the high school's many activities and organizations. On Sept. 21, candidates for freshmen student offices will present their election speeches.
Theater lovers can look forward to a performance of the musical "Chicago" by the drama department this year, Mr. Nunes said. Ms. Regan added that the high school production would be an expurgated version, which prompted one committee member to quip, "That should cut it down to about 30 minutes."
Ms. Regan said the Student Council discussed plans for the school year's assembly programs during a summer retreat. They agreed they would like to schedule one that focuses on an issue of national or international importance, similar to one held last year on the subject of civil war in Darfur. One suggestion was to invite actor Michael J. Fox, who owns a home in Aquinnah, to speak on his experiences in dealing with Parkinson's disease.
Changes inside and out
Ms. Regan noted that several capital improvement projects took place over the summer, overseen by new assistant principal Neal Weaver after he arrived in July. In addition to the installation of security cameras, improvements and maintenance included repainting and refinishing the gym floor, steam-cleaning bathrooms and chairs, installing new windows in the culinary arts center, erecting new fencing around the football field, and painting several classrooms and interior areas. Horticultural students assisted with planting new flowerbeds and grounds maintenance.
Ms. Regan thanked Mr. Weaver, the custodians, and students for making the building sparkle. She invited everyone to take a look around during next week's activities, Coffee with the Principal on Sept. 18, 8 to 9:15 am in the library conference room, and Back to School night on Sept. 20, starting at 7 pm in the Performing Arts Center.
Regarding transportation issues, Amy Tierney, assistant to the superintendent for business affairs, said bids for 18 new school buses were opened on August 31. She said she and the Vineyard Transit Authority staff were not happy with the trade-in values offered in the submitted bids for the school system's old buses. Ms. Tierney said she is checking with legal counsel to see whether the school department can set a minimum trade-in value and looking at alternative plans for perhaps replacing the buses six at a time.
The school committee also heard a report from Laurie Halt, who is beginning her first year as the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. Preliminary Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test results are in, Ms. Halt said, and each school will work on analyzing the data and preparing a report with recommendations for improvement for the All-Island Curriculum Committee. The focus at the high school this year is on science and social studies, she said, with the new freshman earth science course and a plan to provide students with two years of U.S. history.
In addition to Mr. Weaver, Ms. Regan ran down the list of new MVRHS personnel, including Kimberly Baumhofer, early childhood education; Andrew Berry, social studies; David Brand, earth science; Liane Dixon, physical education long-term sub and girl's field hockey coach; Amy Hewitt, Spanish; Kate Holter, English, Rebecca Amos Institute; Dianne Norton, part-time reading specialist; Stephanie Pavao, Spanish and Portuguese; John Stabile, driver's education; and Joel Weintraub, math (one year).
The school committee accepted the resignation of world language department chair Jill Gault-Moreis, a teacher at the high school for five years, who is leaving to take a job in Wisconsin. Ms. Gault-Moreis agreed to postpone leaving until October to help with the transition in finding her replacement, Mr. Weiss said.
The school committee also approved a one-year leave of absence for Annette Sandrock from the Rebecca Amos Institute while she teaches English this year at MVRHS.