School officials approve shared-services budget

Salaries and contracts add to the budget.

West Tisbury School is one of the locations for the Project Headway program. — MV Times

The shared-services budget was unanimously approved by the All-Island School Committee during a Monday evening meeting. 

During the previous All-Island School Committee meeting, school officials decided to gather more information before making a decision. 

“There have been a couple of changes since that last iteration,” Martha’s Vineyard Superintendent Richie Smith said. These include a $3,079 salary increase for the administrative support personnel, and a $5,000 salary increase for financial administrative assistants. 

Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools business administrator Mark Friedman led the committee through the budget. The majority of the increases came from salary adjustments and contractual obligations. In particular, the $82,940 teachers’ salary line for the Project Headway preschool program was a substantial addition to the budget. 

“We’re actually feeling the need currently,” Friedman said about the Project Headway teacher hire proposal. 

There were also some reductions in the budget, such as research and development by $5,000, which Friedman clarified as temporary for the next school year. Additionally, Friedman said, certain budget line items were chosen to be reduced since “they’re not direct effects or direct impacts to students or programs in the classroom.” One teaching assistant’s salary will be covered by a grant to “mitigate the increases to this budget for next year,” according to Friedman. The reductions in the budget were made to offset the increases in the budget. However, this means that the school program will be looked at more closely to recognize needs, alongside using grants where necessary. “We’ll look to juggle those needs as they come up,” Friedman said. 

The shared-services budget is expected to be $8.2 million, an increase of 5.97 percent.

Committee chair Skipper Manter and committee member Robert Lionette expressed concerns over the proposed cuts in the budget. “It may not have a direct impact on the student, but it does have a direct impact on those educating our students,” Manter said. 

Lionette pointed out that “the impact of COVID hasn’t just affected our kids significantly, but clearly, we know it’s also affected our staff,” both emotionally and professionally. 

“I understand there’s not a lot of meat to cut in this budget,” Lionette said. However, he said he was “very concerned” about how the cuts will affect the professional development of the Island’s teachers. He wanted to know how much of the professional development lines were traditionally used in the past. 

Smith replied by saying the cuts were made “looking at prior year expenditures.” 

Another concern Lionette brought up was the Project Headway teacher positions, and whether there would be enough funds to hire education support professionals (ESP) if needed. Hope MacLeod, Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools director of student support services, said ESPs would be hired using money from the Project Headway preschool tuition, of which there is enough for this year. 

“If it was a continuing need, we would have to then come back and fund out of the budget for the following year,” MacLeod said. 

The committee approved the budget as presented. 

Later, the committee voted 8-1 to approve the Project Headway teacher positions. Each position will be a part-time job with a salary of around $27,000. MacLeod said a part of the salaries will be paid for using the school psychologist salary line, who will not be starting until the end of February. Manter, who was concerned about how the personnel needs will be funded next year, was the sole dissenting vote.