With the start of the new school year a little more than a week away, the Up-Island Regional School District committee on Monday heard a report on the nearly-completed West Tisbury School kitchen and discussed an array of fiscal issues.
West Tisbury School principal Michael Halt said the kitchen project represents the end of a long road.
“I remember being at the first meeting six years ago when we talked about what would be our hopes and dreams for the West Tisbury School, and for us to now be about three days away from achieving that goal is phenomenal,” Mr. Halt said.
Committee members agreed that without the help of dedicated plumbers, electricians and a slew of volunteers, the $100,000 project, which began on July 1, would not have been completed in such a short time frame.
“It’s a kitchen now,” said school business administrator Amy Tierney. “It was kind of scary looking at that dirt and cement floor for awhile . . . But it surely looks like it’ll be done on time.”
Building and board of health inspections are due next week.
Ms. Tierney said $63,000 of the $100,000 budget has been spent. The project will allow West Tisbury to prepare lunches on-site for the up-Island district instead of having them delivered from the regional high school.
Ms. Tierney said last year the school lunch program went over budget by some $24,000, partly because of add-ons in the program including a salad bar, bread from Orange Peel Bakery and water from Vineyard Bottled Waters. “The school lunch deficit was higher than I anticipated,” Ms. Tierney said. “We will be watching that this year now that we are doing something totally different.”
In other business, Mary Boyd was welcomed by Vineyard Schools superintendent Dr. James Weiss as the interim West Tisbury School assistant principal. The introduction sparked a conversation about the administrative job search process in the public schools.
The school system struggled last year to find a replacement for Dan Seklecki, director of student support services, who retired after 29 years. When the person hired to take his place left after four days on the job, Mr. Weiss appointed Donna Lowell-Bettencourt as an interim director while a new search is conducted. Mrs. Lowell-Bettencourt is the assistant principal in West Tisbury. Mrs. Boyd, a fourth grade teacher, will now fill that post.
Laurie Halt, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the search to replace Mr. Seckclecki was hampered by salary constraints. Mr. Weiss agreed. “I would say that [the salary] is at the low end of the off-Island salaries,” he said, adding: “And if you add in the Island factors, we had a problem. Those salaries don’t lure people. Now the question is, is it just salary? And the answer is no. It’s more than that, but it certainly limits the pool.”
School committee member Michael Marcus said it seems clear salary guidelines need to be changed. “I think it has to,” Mr. Marcus said. “I think this is evidenced in the failure of the process.”
Mr. Weiss also reported that the West Tisbury School is still seeking a head custodian to replace Manuel Estrella.