School Statement on Koines Incident Reveals Job Change for His Supervisor

By CHRIS BURRELL

In an attempt to quell concerns and anger about the handling of a scandal uncovered at the regional high school last June, the principal and Vineyard schools superintendent this week shed more light on how they plan to clean house at the school.

A jointly signed statement issued to Island newspapers (please see Page Ten) comes less than five weeks after culinary arts teacher Peter J. Koines admitted in Edgartown District Court that he diverted $20,000 of student activity funds to his own use and stole school-owned kitchen equipment valued at $7,000.

"We respectfully request a period of trust and restraint from the community," high school principal Peg Regan and superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash wrote in their statement.

Mr. Koines this week also tried to lower the temperature on the controversy, issuing his own statement to the press, apologizing to the Island community for a previous letter in which he denied his responsibility for the events. The earlier letter set off a flurry of comment, much of it critical of Mr. Koines and the high school.

This week Mrs. Regan and Mr. Cash promised to release a complete and detailed report by Oct. 20 and also agreed to a deal that will demote vocational director Kevin Carr next year. Mr. Cash, in an interview, said he believed Mr. Carr had "definite lapses" in his role as Mr. Koines' supervisor.

The move will relieve Mr. Carr of an administrative role and cut his $95,000 annual salary by roughly $20,000, while keeping him on staff until June of 2006.

Meanwhile, Mr. Carr will be part of the team charged with plugging the procedural gaps that allowed Mr. Koines to use school funds to order pie fixings for his own business and to steal mixers, tables and a refrigerator from the culinary department - items later seized by Oak Bluffs police, who executed a search warrant of his house.

"During the current school year, [Mr. Carr] will remain in his full administrative team role to help us clean up our internal control procedures," the statement said.

Last week, two Tisbury finance committee members demanded that regional high school committee members not only provide a full accounting of what happened in the Koines affair but also overhaul the administrative team that should have been watching over the culinary arts teacher.

"Administrators do have responsibility. There's no dodging that," Don Amaral, a member of the Tisbury finance committee, told school leaders last week. "You can change systems ... but systems are not the answer. People are the answer. Otherwise, the results will be the same."

But while this week's statement promises a full report within a month, Mr. Cash said yesterday that the document will not delve any deeper into what Mr. Koines did or whether anyone else in the school knew about it.

Instead, the report - prepared by Mr. Cash and Mrs. Regan - will focus on new financial policies and controls aimed at preventing future thefts. An official audit for last year is scheduled for release at the Oct. 20 school committee meeting and will also be part of the housecleaning effort.

"We are re-examining all the current policies and procedures regarding internal controls and procedures," Mr. Cash told the Gazette yesterday.

They will recommend keeping tighter track of the inventory and payment processes and instituting a calendar system that lists all fund-raising events and any jobs done by vocational students from landscaping to catering events.

"Kevin is working a big calendar piece," said Mr. Cash. School officials have touted the calendar idea as a new policy, but creating a calendar of vocational events was actually part of Mr. Carr's job description for the last three years.

Last month, an audit of culinary accounts and an investigation by police found that Mr. Koines had pocketed thousands of dollars from the annual breakfast for the Martha's Vineyard Rod & Gun Club catered by his culinary students.

According to last month's balance sheet at the regional high school, the flow of money coming from these student activity accounts is sizeable, totaling more than $70,000.

Mr. Cash said yesterday that he will visit some schools off-Island that have dealt with similar cases of wrongdoing to see how they have fixed the holes in their fiscal procedures.

Another recommendation in the report will likely require the school committee to take an official vote whenever they accept donations of goods to the school or when the school loans school-owned items to anyone.

"Even when you're getting rid of or loaning something, you have to have a clear statement," Mr. Cash said.

While the Cash and Regan statement refers to new policies and corrective actions, it also clearly attempts to present a unified front from the two leaders.

The gesture comes less than a week after Mr. Amaral also attacked school committee members and the superintendent for failing to back Mrs. Regan, who had taken action back in June, writing a letter to Mr. Koines firing him and then demoting Mr. Carr.

Mr. Cash pushed for a hearing process for Mr. Koines and reversed her demotion of Mr. Carr, while then-school committee chairman Gail Palacios criticized Mrs. Regan for prematurely calling for Mr. Koines' dismissal.

This week's statement shows both the superintendent and principal reaching agreement, particularly on the status of Mr. Carr, who quickly came under fire in the aftermath of Mr. Koines' arrest last July.

Mr. Cash told the Gazette yesterday, "There were definite lapses in Kevin's supervisory role. He'd have to get a low mark on that."

But he added, "A lot of us own a little bit of it."

Both Mr. Cash and Mrs. Regan told the Gazette that the shake-up next year in the high school administration will not create any new jobs. Mr. Carr's duties as a senior administrator will be given to a colleague, but "he will maintain his position as chairman of the vocational department," said Mrs. Regan.

Mr. Cash said he was not sure whether the deal worked out with Mr. Carr would allow him to collect a full pension upon retirement in three years, but Mrs. Regan confirmed that Mr. Carr would reach his 30th year in 2006 and be eligible to retire with a matured pension.

The statement released this week seeks to deflect criticism about the deal Mr. Koines received last month from the Cape and Islands district attorney's office, in which he was ordered to pay back the $20,000 within 18 months, perform nearly 1,500 hours of community service and resign from his teaching post. At the end of a year and a half, he will have a clean record.

As part of the deal, he also retains a pension.

"We believe it was fair for Mr. Koines to be allowed his pension benefits," the statement said.

The community service piece of the puzzle, Mr. Cash said, will require Mr. Koines to work 1,400 hours at a rate of $15 an hour, totaling $21,000. The work might involve catering a council on aging event with the proceeds being divided evenly between a community fund for the Island and another account devoted to student travel for the culinary students.

"That's another good, acceptable settlement," said Mr. Cash.

The statement makes reference to a fail-safe measure that will allow the school to reduce Mr. Koines' pension if proof of any more thefts or diversion of funds comes to the surface.

But for now, the police and the internal school investigations are over.