Martha’s Vineyard Superintendent Richie Smith received high remarks from members of the All-Island School Committee for what was his first review in the position.
Smith is embarking on his second year as superintendent; he was appointed to the position last year under a two-year contract, with a one-year evaluation period.
Personnel subcommittee chair Kris O’Brien said at a meeting Thursday that after reviewing the evaluations submitted by school committee members, the “overall feeling” was that significant progress has been met, and that Smith has done a “great job.” Additionally, O’Brien said, different targets, like student learning goals and professional practice, were either met or exceeded.
All-Island School Committee chair Amy Houghton agreed with this assessment. “Most people feel that Richie does a great job communicating, and he keeps people informed, and that has been a strength of his,” she said. “He relates to families very well, and he’s doing a great job in most areas.”
Still, there are areas where people are hoping to see improvements within the school system. “I know people are concerned about the [Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System] scores and the culture up at the high school,” O’Brien said.
Smith said there were various goals he was aiming for on top of what O’Brien mentioned, including getting the district fully staffed, improving students’ educational outcomes, and supporting more culturally sensitive curriculum and practices for students. Smith said a “school community approach” would be needed.
“One of the areas we need — the schools have a strong interest in, I have a strong interest in, but we are not strong in — is our family engagement,” Smith said, adding this was a goal the schools needed to work toward this school year.
Additionally, Smith said some initiatives were underway based on the previous year’s goals, such as co-teaching.
Committee member Alex Salop said next year the committee will be looking for quantitative and qualitative improvements Smith brings as superintendent.
Houghton asked the committee members to draft their thoughts on Smith’s goals.
The committee also considered whether to vote on extending Smith’s contract during the Thursday meeting. Committee member Skipper Manter moved to renew Smith’s contract and to refer it to the subcommittee to work out the details, including salary, and return with a proposal. The motion was unanimously approved.
But Manter later pointed out that the vote itself was not on the agenda, and members of the public might want to comment before the committee made a decision. Rather than rescinding the vote immediately, the committee decided to let the vote stand to allow negotiations to move forward, and to rescind the vote at the next All-Island School Committee meeting to allow a discussion to occur.
A discussion was also held by the committee members on whether there could be an option to host its own website to post meeting notifications. Currently school committee meetings have to be published through each of the town websites, which can make it difficult to update agendas if a town office is closed while others are open. No decision was made.
Meanwhile, the committee was not as keen on approving a $9.6 million shared services budget Smith has proposed for fiscal year 2025. The proposed budget is about an 18 percent increase compared with the previous fiscal year, much of it stemming from contractual obligations and potential pay increases to some staff members.
A final decision was not made on the budget during the Thursday night meeting, and the discussion will continue at a future meeting.