High school driver’s education program canceled


Although the school year is off to a good start at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), the driver’s education program hit a roadblock this semester.

Superintendent of schools James Weiss told the school committee at a meeting Monday night that the high school received only one response to a request for proposals (RFP) for a driver’s education program from a certified instructor who lives on the Island.

Mr. Weiss said the instructor was hired, but notified the school shortly before he was due to start teaching the course at the end of September that he did not want to do it.

“We don’t have a back-up plan now, and it is unlikely we’ll have a program in place for the second semester,” Mr. Weiss said. Since some off-Island driver’s education groups did inquire about the RFP, he added, “We haven’t given up.”

Mike Dulles, the driving instructor, told The Times in a telephone call that he was never hired by the school. Mr. Dulles said he and the school official negotiating the contract failed to reach agreement in a timely manner and he ultimately took another job after which he was contacted by school officials.

The high school’s driver’s education program was launched through the efforts of Martha’s Vineyard Drive for Life (MVDFL), a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving teen drivers’ safety.

MVDFL raised about $60,000 to furnish a classroom and equip it with two driving simulators and computers with software for training. The high school offered driver’s education as an elective for two years before it was cut from the fiscal year 2010 (FY10) budget.

In response to discussions with MVDFL board members during budget meetings last fall, the MVRHS school committee authorized reinstating a driver’s education program.

The Registry of Motor Vehicles granted approval to the high school to continue the program, and the teachers’ association agreed the instructor’s position could be offered as a fee-for-service, rather than a union position. The high school’s FY11 budget included $25,000 to fund the program.

On a more positive subject, Mr. Weiss said that MVRHS librarian Sandy Mott received the Massachusetts School Library Association Super Librarian Accolade. Her award was presented at a conference in Sturbridge last weekend.

As a librarian at MVRHS for 19 years, Ms. Mott was instrumental in bringing the high school library from one room with no card catalog to the technologically up-to-date facility it is today, Mr. Weiss said.

He also recognized MVRHS biology teacher Elliott Bennett for her selection as one of five representatives from the National Association of Biology Teachers chosen for a 12-member delegation of high school and college educators to visit northern Peru as a potential site for student research.

This year Principal Stephen Nixon added a “Student Spotlight” as a regular agenda item, which features a brief presentation by an extraordinary student selected by the high school staff. The first honoree, senior Sarah Johnson, showed slides and talked about the two activities that matter most in her life — her volunteer work as a counselor at Camp Jabberwocky, a small summer camp for the disabled near Lake Tashmoo, and as a student in India.

Ms. Johnson was chosen as one of 35 students for a U.S. State Department scholarship program and spent 10 months in India for half of her junior and senior years. In addition to attending classes, Ms. Johnson worked with special education classes during school and with underprivileged students after school.

In other business, Mr. Nixon gave a recap of the high school’s 2010 MCAS results. Students achieved high performance ratings in English language arts and math, and made adequate yearly progress for the second consecutive year in all aggregate and subgroup categories, he noted.

Director of guidance Michael McCarthy provided the results of SAT scores for the class of 2010 (see related story on p. 2), as well as copies of the high school profile that he sends to colleges, trade schools, and employers with students’ transcripts.

Mr. McCarthy also discussed a senior exit survey by the American College Testing Program, completed by 112 students in the class of 2010. The survey asks students to rank characteristics of the high school in terms of satisfaction in categories such as instruction, activities, guidance and counseling, facilities, and general characteristics.

“This is data we use to fuel our School Improvement Plan,” Mr. Nixon noted.

Turning to school finances, finance manager Mark Friedman pointed out several budget variances, many of them due to salary increments and longevity pay.

New budget line items for boys’ and girls’ swim teams made a splash, heralding the high school’s long-awaited access to the new YMCA’s swimming pool across the street. Mr. Friedman said $5,000 from athletic stipends were set aside for funding the teams next spring.

The school committee approved a list of budget transfers Mr. Friedman recommended for FY11 to cover unanticipated expenses. Retirements and changes in salaries resulted in about $233,000 in savings, and offset $419,577 in expenses such as longevity pay due to collective bargaining and salary adjustments due to staffing changes, leaving a total of $186,000.

In other business, the school committee accepted Katharine (Kate) Poole Murphy’s resignation as managing director of the Performing Arts Center (PAC), effective November 1. Ms. Murphy is not resigning from her three-fifths position as a drama teacher, however.

Art teacher Scott Campbell submitted a letter of retirement, effective at the end of the year. Mr. Campbell taught for over 30 years, 11 on the Vineyard, and plans to continue to work within the arts community, on and off-Island.

The high school FY12 budget subcommittee set meeting dates, with the first this morning. The next meeting is Oct. 21 at 6 pm in the library conference room.