Another school year is on the horizon, and the district has spent the summer cleaning and upgrading buildings, making necessary hires, and finishing up contract negotiations. I hope that all have had a chance to rest, refresh, and reflect over the summer. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you the state of our schools as we begin the academic year on Martha’s Vineyard.
Over the summer, the administration spent time reviewing our district strategic plan and refining our focus for the coming school year. One of our priorities will be the continued implementation of the health and wellness recommendations that resulted in the evaluation completed by MedStar. We will ensure that all students pre-K to grade 12 will be receiving instruction using the Michigan Model for Health curriculum that the district officially adopted last year. Additionally, Jim Shillinglaw will return to complete an evaluation of our building-based special education programs. Mr. Shillinglaw has previously assessed our shared services and high school programs, and will complete the final piece this year. Through his recommendations, we have developed action plans for implementation of changes that have benefited our special education population. We will conduct a similar evaluation of our English Language Learner (ELL) program to make sure we are providing the best education possible for this growing population. Our number of ELL students has swelled to over 324 from approximately 135 students only five years ago. This assessment will allow us to look at best practices to consider for application in our program. Finally, we will continue our focus on our writing curriculum. The importance of effective communication in writing for student success cannot be overstated. Administrators and teachers will engage in important professional development to improve instructional strategies
Building improvements continue to be a priority so students are provided with a clean, safe, and well-maintained facility with a state-of-the-art infrastructure. The high school continues to be a challenge. Last year we had several issues with the heating and ventilation that jeopardized the opening of school. The front portion of the building, which was originally constructed in the 1950s, has many of the original systems and components. The building envelope, heating system, fire alarm, roof, and infrastructure are old and tired, and we need to move forward on a building project that will better serve our students in both the immediate and in future years. Along the same lines, we have continued to make upgrades in our elementary schools. The Oak Bluffs School rebuilt its roof this summer, and the Tisbury School took steps to ensure our students have a healthy learning environment. The up-Island and Edgartown schools have also used the break to make facility improvements.
The track and field project at the high school continues to move forward, thanks to the towns graciously supporting the use of $350,000 of excess and deficiency funds to bring the project to construction documents. Upon completion of this phase, we will present the project to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for final approval and begin the fundraising process. The project is on schedule to be completed during the summer of 2020. On behalf of the school district, I want to express great appreciation to all who have actively supported this project. A new track and field will not only serve our high school students, but will be utilized by community members and youth organizations. The project strongly aligns with our initiative to improve the health and wellness of our students.
Finally, using the recommendations that resulted from building-security audits conducted by Synergy Systems last year, we will make safety upgrades that will continue to make our buildings safer. Controlling building access and allowing facilities to isolate sections of the building allow for administration to better manage the security of students and staff.
As always, I greatly appreciate the strong support that the Island community consistently shows for our schools. The district is honored that you have entrusted us with the education of your children.
Matthew D’Andrea is the superintendent of schools.