New teachers and in some places new leaders will populate the classrooms and corridors of the public schools on the Vineyard when the school year begins next Thursday.
And the West Tisbury School has a practically new building.
At a little more than 2,000 students, overall enrollment in the five elementary schools and regional high school is roughly the same as last year, although it has gone up and down in a few places, Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss said this week. The Chilmark School has added a new kindergarten-first grade classroom due to a spike in enrollment at that small school; the Oak Bluffs School lost about a dozen students and enrollment at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School will increase slightly.
Key changes in administration were announced earlier in the summer. Former Tisbury School principal Richard Smith has moved to the Oak Bluffs School as principal, while John Custer, former assistant principal in Tisbury, moved up to become principal at that school. Sean Mulvey, former assistant principal at the West Tisbury School, is now assistant principal at the Tisbury School.
There are 49 new hires in the school system this year; 12 are new teachers who have never taught on the Vineyard before.
“I’m very pleased with the way things are going so far; there’s a smattering of new people across the Island,” Mr. Weiss said.
Mr. Weiss said there will be 12 new staff members at the Edgartown School, where eight people retired last year; they include a new librarian, industrial arts teacher and English language learner teacher. “Dynamite people,” the superintendent said. “Some are Island folks and some folks are from far away. I think it will be really good for Edgartown,” he said.
The Tisbury School has nine new staff members on the roster.
And the high school has 13 new teachers including new Spanish and French teachers.
“Unfortunately for us some of the biggest transitions will be in the foreign language department and that’s always hard for us,” Mr. Weiss said. “Those teachers are limited in number nationally, and the Island has its own added difficulties for teachers moving here and all of that makes it even more difficult.”
The pool of applicants for French teachers was extremely small compared to the social studies applicants, he said. There were 50 applications for social studies and under 12 for the French teacher job.
The high school will also see the return of the driver education program this year. The school has contracted with Vineyard Driving School to begin teaching during the school day. Sophomores can take the class as part of their daily curriculum, Mr. Weiss said.
And following a national trend, the Vineyard public schools are aiming for healthier lunches this year; Mr. Weiss said the school committee is in the final stages of negotiating a new contract with Chartwells to provide food to the high school and up-Island schools.
“The contract has very significant changes in terms of what’s served,” he said. “How much local food, how much high quality food, low fat food, things like that. We believe the same director, Leslie Floyd, will be back and hopefully it will all work out.”
The West Tisbury School building renovation project that has been under way all summer is also expected to be finished in time for the first day of school next week. The building now has new windows, new siding, a new roof and a new cafeteria wall.
The contractor for the $1.14 million project is Builder Systems Inc. of Auburn, and Mr. Weiss had high praise for their work.
“They’ve done a phenomenal job,” he said. “In 71 days they did all this work . . . we ended up with really good people who worked really hard. I said to the [principal] Michael Halt and [assistant principal] Donna Lowell-Bettencourt, there’s a serious curb appeal, I’ll make you an offer. It really looks wonderful.”
He continued: “This is going to be an exciting year in our schools, we’ve got a lot of fresh faces. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone back in school.”
At the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School in West Tisbury preparations are also under way for the new year to begin next week. Charter school director Bob Moore said the school is full with 180 students, and all the same staff. Goals for this year include examining bullying from a bystander’s perspective, Mr. Moore said, as well as examining the school’s professional evaluation process.
He said the school will also explore revisions to the scope and sequence of math, social studies, English and English language learner curriculums.
A new initiative this year involves a themed approach to learning for the 11th and 12th graders.
“This year we’re looking at sustainability and the ocean and whaling as a theme of the first semester, and we’ll tie math, literature, social studies and science through that theme,” Mr. Moore said. “It also gets them out of the classroom and an opportunity to engage in experiences in that theme off campus, in a way that’s both meaningful in terms of learning and in academic success.”
He concluded: “We’re excited about a new school year. We just came off our 15th year and we’re in our new five-year charter. We’re looking at the next 15 years and our goal is to feel as good as we do now in 15 years.”