MVRHS sends regional agreement to towns

Correspondence includes agreement, summary, and building committee composition.

Robert Lionette (left), shown here at a meeting in 2019, voiced concern at a special MVRHS school committee meeting about the composition and authority of a building committee. — Lucas Thors

A letter containing three documents related to the process of solidifying and enacting an amended regional agreement and establishing a building committee for a school rebuild project is being formally submitted to Island select boards by the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

Thursday’s meeting of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School committee dealt with a singular agenda item — the review and approval of an amended regional agreement and summary contained in a transmittal letter, to be sent to all Island towns. The committee has been working under stringent deadlines set by the Massachusetts School Building Authority to finalize a regional agreement and set up a building committee that would include representatives from all the towns and specific community groups. 

Committee chair Robert Lionette said he believes the outreach to select boards and other respective local entities involved with the school should be the work of the MVRHS administration, and the school committee should ultimately maintain a position of pure authority in the matter. “I assume that given the time frame, we have to move with a sense of alacrity. I am concerned about the letters sent to select boards about formal presentations, because I think it is ultimately the job of the administration to do this work,” Lionette said. “Ultimately, this is what they all get paid for — our guidance is important in supporting them, but this is their job.”

Committee member Kimberly Kirk made a motion to approve the letter (including all three documents) as it stands, and send it to the towns for consideration. While some committee members wanted to have a discussion on the content of the correspondence, school business administrator Mark Friedman said the actual amended regional agreement was already approved on Sept. 1, when a vote was taken to send it to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. 

In the “spirit of getting work done,” Lionette said the summary document has also been looked over, and Friedman added that town administrators and select board members are aware of the content to a large degree. Friedman said he hasn’t received any questions from town officials regarding the capital assessment formula, but some are wondering about the amendment related to foundation enrollment. “The reason for foundation enrollment as a way to assess this budget going forward is to take into account all the pupils for whom a school district or town is financially responsible for on Oct. 1 of any given year,” Friedman explained. “It doesn’t change the budget, it doesn’t change the amount the towns will pay in the long run, but in the short run any reset of a formula could have a small effect.”

Friedman added that school legal counsel and representatives from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees said most districts use foundation enrollment, and the districts that aren’t are perhaps still operating on a “very old” regional agreement similar to the one MVRHS has used. 

A motion by Kirk to send the transmittal letter and intent summary to the towns was approved unanimously. Lionette said he would like to hear any thoughts or concerns about the part of the letter speaking to the composition of a building committee. Coordinator of special projects for MVRHS Sam Hart said he sent out an email about the building committee, and has since heard back from Edgartown, West Tisbury, Aquinnah, and Oak Bluffs. “All members of their respective towns have been copied on those responses, and most of the towns have already reached back out about meetings,” Hart said. 

Committee member Mike Watts said some of his constituents in Tisbury are wondering who the final decisionmaking authority is that will confirm the makeup of the building committee. To Watts’ inquiry, Kirk said she doesn’t agree with Lionette that the administration should be designated with the power of the school committee. “I thought Sam’s letter was nicely handled, and I am hoping we have an opportunity, once that building committee is put together, to discuss, not just approve, the composition [of the committee] — I don’t want this to be a rubber stamp,” Kirk said. 

Lionette suggested that representatives from the school committee who will be on the building committee could attend weekly check-in meetings and report back to administrators. He added that he is concerned about being able to achieve a quorum with the number of members who will be on the committee, particularly as building committee meetings are planned for Friday.


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