A point of purchase system for the cafeteria, two hybrid vans and a mobile language lab — these are some of the projects whose funding was approved Monday at the last Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School committee meeting of the fiscal year.
An additional $100,000 for new football field bleachers also got a green light from the committee, using money from the high school excess and deficiency fund which must be allocated before July 1.
In total the high school committee spent $247,853 of this money Monday on capital projects which were not included in budgets presented to towns. The requests were approved 7 to 1. Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter, who expressed his discomfort at spending money without going through the official budgeting process, cast the dissenting vote.
Incoming high school principal Stephen Nixon presented most of the funding proposals at Monday’s meeting, which was not attended by current principal Margaret (Peg) Regan, who leaves her post Monday. Mr. Nixon requested $20,000 for the purchase and installation of a debit card system at the high school cafeteria which would allow parents to top up student accounts. The system will streamline the cafeteria, he argued, and crucially increase student financial privacy.
“Students have 20 minutes in which to acquire, pay for and eat lunch,” Mr. Nixon said. “It’s a small space of time. Also it [the debit card system] saves the embarrassment of kids who are on financial assistance.”
High school committee member Leslie Baynes welcomed the request, lamenting that it had taken so long to make this change.
“That children have had to stand in another line — that something like that could slip through — is unconscionable,” he said.
The committee also approved $15,000 for a Rosetta Stone mobile language facility, money for air conditioning in the staff copy room, and 15 scanners to help keep track of class textbooks. Mr. Nixon said the texts cost up to $100 each and are being lost at a rate of ten books per year. He guaranteed payback on the $6,000 investment within two years. Two additional vans were also approved for off-Island travel. Costs are estimated at $48,000 for the two vans.
The bleachers project which is being managed by assistant principal Neal Weaver currently has a completion date of sometime in fall next year and a total estimated budget of $300,000. The $100,000 approved Monday completes the funding for a new set of bleachers and a press box on the football field behind the school.
The E& D fund is the school’s equivalent of town government free cash — any revenue that is made over the amount anticipated in the annual budget. Legally the high school is allowed to retain five per cent of total annual budget in the fund, which this year makes $825,000. The rest must either be spent or sent back to towns. Ahead of Monday’s meeting assistant to the superintendent for business affairs Amy Tierney predicted the fund will stand at $1.6 million and that some of this will find its way back to towns.
The meeting was immediately followed by an all-Island school committee meeting, which was chaired by Daniel Cabot and focused on salary hikes for the superintendent’s office.
Using the same method he applied to other top high school administrator pay increases last month, superintendent of schools Dr. James H. Weiss presented pay increases for his staff. Using five per cent of the total salaries budget — a figure recommended by the budget subcommittee earlier this year — Mr. Weiss gave an across the board 3.5 per cent cost of living increase and then additional hikes to certain individuals based on a combination of performance and comparison to salaries elsewhere in the state. He said that in most cases it wasn’t enough, but it was all he had.
“Some are still earning significantly less than their counterparts,” he said, “it doesn’t put some people up where there need to be. But we don’t have the cash.”
Despite skepticism from Mr. Manter over the increases the new salaries were ultimately unanimously approved. They are: assistant to the superintendent for curriculum and instruction Laurie Halt from $80,000 to $85,000; Ms. Tierney from $85,000 to $90,000; student services director Dan Seklecki from $108,873 to $115,000; English language learning director Deborah Hart from $65,920 to $68,000; administrative assistant Edith Rousseau from $57,394 to $60,000; administrative assistant/accountant Janet Sylvia from $57,394 to $60,000; administrative assistant/accountant Donna Michalski from $46,666 to $48,066; grants coordinator Pat Ingalls from $25,0608 to $27,000; and transportation manager James Flynn from $66,628 to $68,960. Mr. Weiss’s salary is managed in a separate contract.
The committee had quite a time of deciding their annual goals for the superintendent, working for more than half an hour trying to refine the headline aims for 2009 academic year into a manageable list. Ultimately, four points of focus were decided on — to increase communication with the community, continue mathematics and writing programs, seek ways to foster leadership at a teacher level and to look at ways to recruit and keep capable teachers.