News in Brief
Driver smashes into Circuit Ave. coffee shop
Oak Bluffs firefighters worked to remove a 2003 Acura sedan from the front of Mocha Mott's coffee shop Monday afternoon, just before 3 pm.
Oak Bluffs police Lieutenant Tim Williamson said Findley Hiaman, 86, of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, was pulling into a parking spot on Circuit Avenue when his foot hit the gas pedal instead of the brake. The car jumped the parking barrier and struck a metal staircase leading to a second floor shop, before coming to rest against the building.
The accident smashed a plate glass window and dislodged a building support beam.
An 80-year-old passenger in the car was transported to Martha's Vineyard Hospital as a precaution. Lieutenant Williamson said fortunately no one was walking along the sidewalk at the time of the accident.
Police cited Mr. Hiaman for a failure to use caution.
Shove leads to felony assault charge
An altercation on a rainy Friday night left a young man facing felony charges and an elderly man in a Boston area hospital with a broken leg.
According to Oak Bluffs police, Bill Anderson, 72, and his wife were walking from their residence on Circuit Avenue extension near the harbor to dinner Friday evening.
At the same time, Aldo Leone, 26, an employee of a nearby auto rental company, was moving a Jeep that was due to be picked up by a customer.
Police said Mr. Anderson approached the Jeep and angrily accused Mr. Leone of almost striking the couple. The exchange became heated and Mr. Leone allegedly pushed Mr. Anderson, who fell.
Mr. Anderson was transported to the hospital. Mr. Leone went to the police station where he provided a statement. Initially Mr. Anderson's injuries were not thought to be serious.
When police learned that Mr. Anderson was transported to a Boston hospital with a broken femur, they arrested Mr. Leone on a charge of assault and battery causing serious injury and assault and battery on a person over 60 years of age, said Lieutenant Tim Williamson.
SSA anticipates no rate hikes in 2009
The Steamship Authority (SSA) does not expect to raise rates to cover operating costs in 2009. That was one bit of good news contained in a $67,771,070 proposed 2009 operating budget reviewed Tuesday by Authority members who met in Nantucket.
Treasurer Bob Davis presented the SSA members with the budget numbers for their review and comment. In a synopsis of the meeting provided by management, Mr. Davis said operating expenses are expected to increase by $268,000 in 2009, an increase of three tenths of one percent over the most recent estimate for 2008.
Maintenance costs are expected to drop by $1.9 million while wages ($1.3 million), health care and pension costs ($250,000) and payroll taxes ($160,000) are expected to rise.
The largest single factor that affected the budget in 2008 was the cost of fuel. Mr. Davis said, "Vessel fuel oil is expected to decrease by $400,000, or 3.8 percent, assuming that the price of oil remains around $105 per barrel and we reduce the number of vessel trips so that we operate 10,000 fewer miles in 2009 than we operate in 2008."
The SSA estimates operating income of $4.3 million. Operating revenues are based on traffic.
The SSA expects to carry slightly fewer passengers (2,714,664), autos (456,592) and trucks (146,382) in 2009.
A vote on the budget is expected at the October meeting.
Tuesday the SSA approved a change in the head start program. Ticket holders will now be able to change a reservation 30 days before a trip is scheduled to take place, rather than by a May 15 deadline.
The members also approved a change in the year-round residency criteria used to qualify Islanders for discounted excursion rates. Instead of submitting an SSA affidavit Island residents will now need to be listed on a town's so-called street list, an annual census of all the residents in a town compiled by the town clerk.
High school mourns teacher's death
The regional high school community reacted sadly this week to news of teacher David Jon Brand's death Sunday (see obituary, Calendar).
Assistant principal Carlin Hart said the high school canceled sports games on Monday. Practices took place, but students were excused if they did not feel up to participating. A large message board has been set up outside the cafeteria as a memorial, where students have posted photos of Mr. Brand from school field trips, written remembrances of him, and condolences to his wife Julie, daughter Camille, and family. Mr. Brand's photo and an expression of sympathy to his wife and daughter appears on the homepage of the high school's website.
Yesterday MVRHS principal Steve Nixon and some of Mr. Brand's colleagues from the high school's science department attended a memorial mass for him in St. Paul's Church in Wellesley.
Mr. Brand, who was 39, joined the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) faculty last year to start up a new grade nine earth science class. He arrived in June 2007 to begin writing the curriculum and to purchase books and materials for the course, which the high school added in response to a change in the state curriculum frameworks.
"He was establishing a life with his wife and daughter here and was suddenly pulled away from us - it's truly sad," said superintendent of schools James Weiss.
The problem is us (Chilmarkers)
Chilmark Police Chief Timothy Rich told the town selectmen Tuesday that residents are the main source of speeding violations on Middle Road. Chief Rich cited recent traffic data collected by his department showing that the majority of violations occurred during the peak commuting hours, implicating residents speeding to and from work.
Chief Rich asked for the selectmen's guidance on how the department should deal with the problem, indicating that ticketing residents would "incur ramifications" for town officials. Chief Rich recommended other methods to make residents aware of speeding violations without ticketing locals, including more signs and written warnings. He acknowledged that these measures might not affect the local population, and that more tickets may have to be issued to stem concerns.
In other business, the selectmen commended police Officer Sarah Briggs for her rescue of a teenager swept up in strong currents caused when Chilmark Pond was artificially opened to the ocean in August.
The selectmen also agreed to allow the Martha's Vineyard Film Festival to take place at the Chilmark Community Center, March 13-15. The selectmen discussed recommendations on the Chilmark School's carbon neutral initiative and moved to look into their costs.
Selectman J.B. Riggs Parker read a statement criticizing what he called "distorted and misleading" reports in the Vineyard Gazette concerning a town proposal to purchase the Home Port restaurant property. Mr. Parker has been a leader among the selectmen in negotiating the town's agreement to buy the restaurant property. He urged the newspaper to be more careful reporting on the issue in the future.
Moujabber addition clears Oak Bluffs board
The latest twist in the long and bitter battle over Joseph Moujabber's attempts to build a garage on his Seaview Avenue Extension property played out last Thursday night, when the Copeland District Plan review board approved a new plan to demolish the partially finished three story garage, and build a two-story addition to the existing home.
Three days earlier, the same board rejected the new plan, but Mr. Moujabber returned with minor modifications, enough to swing one vote in favor of the project.
The final vote was 4-1, with four votes, a majority of the full board, needed to approve the project. The lone dissenting vote was Kerry Scott, who chairs the Copeland board.
The town board was created by the Martha's Vineyard Commission to review changes to any existing structure, with an eye toward preserving architectural integrity and parks, as originally conceived in a plan by Robert Morris Copeland in 1871. The Copeland district includes much of the downtown area outside of the Circuit Avenue commercial district, and the Martha's Vineyard Camp-Meeting Association.
Edgartown attorney Skip Tomassian represented Mr. Moujabber before the Copeland board. Mr. Tomassian did not return phone calls from The Times requesting comment.
The Cottage City Historic District Commission must now review the project. A public hearing is scheduled before that commission on October 1.
State MCAS results show improved math scores
The overall state results for the spring 2008 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests are very good, according to a statement released yesterday by Mitchell D. Chester, commissioner of the Massachusetts department of elementary and secondary education (DESE).
Individual school and district scores will be released next Wednesday.
For the second year in a row, the percentage of students performing at the proficient level in mathematics increased at every grade (3-8 and 10) tested.
The class of 2010, this year's junior class, is the first to be required to pass the MCAS science and technology/engineering (STE) exam in addition to the English and math exams in order to graduate. About seven percent of the class of 2010 passed the English and Math exams, but have not yet passed the STE exam, according to a press release from DESE.
Among grade 8 students taking the STE exam, however, the percentage of those scoring proficient and higher went up 6 points between 2007 and 2008.
Under rules adopted last week by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, students with high performance in the classroom and a 95 percent attendance rate who fail the STE exam once may file an appeal. Appeals will be granted to students whose classroom work is comparable to that of other students who received a passing grade on the exam.
On English language arts (ELA) exams, results declined in the elementary schools and were flat in middle schools compared to 2007. Grade 4 students in particular showed a significant decrease in the numbers performing at the proficient level on the ELA test. In contrast, grade 10 students made significant gains on the ELA exam.
"Our young people are achieving at high levels, and that is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and commitment of our students, teachers, and administrators," said Mr. Chester. "That said, I remain concerned about the performance of students in our lower grades. It is our responsibility as educators to meet the needs of every child, in every grade, from every community, and these scores indicate we are not there yet."
Youth Task Force wins $625,000 grant
The Dukes County Youth Task Force has won a federal grant of $625,000 to reduce alcohol and substance abuse among Island teenagers. The task force will receive $125,000 for the next five years to administer a comprehensive program of surveys, education, and "social norms" marketing targeted at high school students. The organization is already implementing a similar program, funded through a state grant, for middle school students.
Previous surveys of high school students show the rate of alcohol abuse is significantly higher for Island teens than the state and federal averages for the same age groups.
Theresa Manning, program coordinator for the task force, is confident the grants will lead to improving those statistics.
"We're going to lower those numbers, every number in every grade, and we think pretty dramatically," said Ms. Manning. "If we lower the onset of use it's less likely that they'll have an alcohol problem in the future."
She said social norms marketing has proved effective in other programs. Part of the grant money will be used to spread the word that most kids are making good choices. She said surveys have shown peer pressure is a powerful factor for teenagers, yet many mistakenly believe that the percentage of their peers using drugs and alcohol is much higher than it actually is. Through advertising, seminars, and community programs, the task force hopes to reinforce the message to teenagers that most of their peers are making good choices.
Farm Neck Foundation offers nonprofit grants
Island nonprofit organizations whose goal is to improve the quality of life in the Martha's Vineyard community are invited to apply for a 2008 Farm Neck Foundation grant.
The foundation is a charitable organization created in 1989 and funded by contributions from the membership and supporters of Farm Neck Golf Club. "The aim of the foundation is to provide charitable assistance to the Island community in the form of donations and grants to civic-minded organizations in need of funding," according to a press release.
Organizations are invited to submit a concise proposal describing their project, its benefits, budgetary requirements, and grant amount requested. Proposals, which must be received by Nov. 1, should be sent to Farm Neck Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 1656, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.