Pending the ability to hire an accredited teacher, high school leaders announced this week that driver education will return to the regional high school next fall.
Former head of the state police, Neal Maciel, is set to begin teaching in the fall once he receives the proper teaching credentials from the department of motor vehicles.
“It’s all predicated on the fact that we need to get a licensed instructor to go forward,” Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss told the regional high school district committee on Monday night. “The driving portion is not something we’re involved in at all; students find that outside the high school . . . but there aren’t a lot of people who are interested in [teaching drivers education] on the Island.”
Students receive the classroom instruction portion of driver education through the high school and take the driving portion through private lessons.
The school committee has a $25,000 line item for driver education in its budget this year, but the position has remained open due to the lack of a qualified instructor.
Committee member Lisa Reagan said a parent told her some students were waiting until they were 18 to get their license and passing up on driver education because they could not afford to pay for the private driving lessons. She asked Mr. Weiss if money allocated for this year’s program could go toward student scholarships for the private training.
“I’m thinking about the money in this year’s budget and am concerned about students driving around with no experience,” Ms. Reagan said.
Mr. Weiss said he did not believe the budget money could be used for scholarships, but said he would look into the matter further. Nearly all of public high schools in Massachusetts have stopped providing an in-school driving program, he added.
But if Islanders Tom and Barbara Furino have anything to say about it, driver education will be a permanent fixture in the high school. The Furinos’ teenaged son David and his friend Kevin Johnson were killed in a car accident in 2004; since then the Furinos have made driver education a personal cause from Beacon Hill to the Vineyard and back.
“We’re trying to change everything — driver education is outdated and has been the same since the 1950s,” Mr. Furino, founder of Martha’s Vineyard Drive for Life, said yesterday. The Furinos support Mr. Maciel as the instructor.
“We all want [Neal] to do it,” he said.
Thanks to Drive for Life, the high school has two classrooms with advanced computerized driving simulations for students. And by having the teaching portion of driver education in school, students are able to log 45 to 60 hours of classroom time compared with the state requirement of 30 hours, Mr. Furino said.
In other business Monday night, the school committee signed a five-year license with the Sharks, the new summer collegiate baseball league, that will allow the league to use the high school baseball field this summer. The Sharks are currently building a maintenance building on the edge of the field that includes an indoor hitting tunnel and the league will also buy an array of equipment to maintain the field in top shape.
“If you put all of those things together, they’ve expended somewhere in the $100,000 range, and they believe over time they’ll recoup that,” Mr. Weiss said.
The license agreement includes a provision for an internship in sports management for a high school student. If the team decides to not return, the equipment will remain at the high school.
“It’s all the things we wanted and more,” Mr. Weiss said of the agreement. “We’re looking forward to opening day.”
And in other sports news, high school principal Stephen Nixon announced that boys’ varsity basketball coach Mike Joyce was named Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 3 coach of the year. Mr. Joyce led his team to the state semifinals this year.