It is the mission of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School to create a public school that will cultivate life-long learners in a multi-aged, project-based setting.
Within an environment that models interdependence as the foundation of society,
It is the goal of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School to provide learners with individualization and carefully monitored progress.
MVPCS offers the following features:
MVPCS philosophy centers around the personalizing of learning for each student. Education is most meaningful when the student is invested in the studies by choice.
Together with teachers and parents, students develop a Personal Education Plan with proposed areas of study with short- and long-term goals. Each student is engaged in developmentally appropriate, challenging, in-depth course work.
The curriculum evolves out of student needs and student choice in conjunction with Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. Within the study of core subjects students practice basic skills that enable them to discover and follow their interests through hands-on learning, questioning, problem solving, and creating.
In addition to preparing students for higher education, the MVPCS aims to prepare the individual for life outside the classroom. Students are encouraged to study and work in our unique island community. Community members are invited to share their expertise in modeling professional working roles. The symbiotic relationship between individual and community are at the foundation of the school.
The original charter application read: “The MVPCS is prepared to begin school….with 60 students ranging in ages from 10 to 16. We will, within the next three years, expand the population of students to include ages 5-19. The ultimate enrollment goal is 160 students.” An amendment in March, 1996, read, “The MVPCS will begin school in September, 1996, with up to 75 students ranging in age from 9 years old as of Sept. 1, 1996, to age 14 years. We shall, within the next four years, expand the population of students to include ages 5 years, as of Sept. 1st to age 19 years. The ultimate enrollment goal is 180 students.”
The Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School is open to all students, through a lottery, on a space-available basis, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, creed, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, age, ancestry, athletic performance, special need, proficiency in the English language, or academic achievement. The Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School adheres to Charter School Law (MGL Chapter 71 Section 89) and Regulations (603 CMR Section 1.06) regarding all enrollment and admission procedures.
The application process includes, but is not limited to, conversations with prospective students and their families in conjunction with visits to the school. Prospective students and their families must also show a willingness and desire to design, in concert with their advisor, a Personal Education Plan. Students who wish to apply to Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School but do not have a family able to support and work with them, will be matched with a sponsor who will help the child apply to the school, plan a PEP, and be a support throughout the child’s school career.
It is critical that a child experience success at the charter school. It is important to have a good match between the student’s personal goals and the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School’s stated philosophy. Academic accomplishments are not a criterion for admission. We want to develop students who are motivated, curious, and tolerant of others.
Our open, non-discriminatory policy provides a choice for all eligible students and families living on Martha’s Vineyard, thus helping to create an integrated all-island community where diversity is celebrated with the common goal of learning.
To achieve a racial and ethnic balance among its pupils the school employs the following means:
An outreach initiative to make the MVPCS known throughout the Island, which actively seeks enrollment from under represented persons and groups.
Curriculum and policies which create a school atmosphere that is understanding and appreciative of diversity.
Because MVPCS is organized around diverse and extensive multi-age groupings, as well as peer groupings, actual group sizes will vary, however the student-teacher ratio is 10-15 students per one teacher.
Needs for ancillary staff are determined as the school evolves. We organize and fully utilize a Volunteer Program, a Mentor Program, an Experts-In-Residence program, and part-time teachers.
At the core of the MVPCS educational program is the belief that self-directed learning is the deepest learning. The educational program of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School is designed to empower students to learn how to direct their own learning while sharing in the community’s resources. With adviser and parents, each student will develop a Personal Education Plan (PEP), custom-designed to fit the individual’s needs, interests, and learning styles. The PEP becomes a continuous tool for goal setting and assessment.
Guided by the Massachusetts Core Curriculum Frameworks, individual students construct a personal body of knowledge in the areas of humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, mathematics, world language, physical education, the arts, and health that is developmentally appropriate for them. The school aims to produce young people prepared for further learning, productive employment, and responsible participation in society.
Advisors, teachers, and parents help each individual student take responsibility for his/her own learning and continually monitor progress toward short and long-term goals. It is the belief of the school that students who have their own sense of purpose and goals, who are supported and guided toward them as individuals, are far more likely to achieve.
MVPCS places a high value on the individual’s learning style and personal interests. We support the student’s decisions and needs, thereby nurturing self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-knowledge. In this process the intellectual, physical, mental, and emotional health of the whole child is considered. An environment of mutual respect is fostered, where success is applauded and mistakes become part of the daily learning process.
Thinking Skills — Students will learn to think clearly and creatively, to solve problems, to make decisions and generate new ideas, to recognize patterns in people, events and the world, and to predict from those patterns, and to make connections between seemingly unrelated things.
Communications — Students will learn to understand others and make themselves understood using reading, writing, speaking, listening, the arts, a second language, technology, and the media.
Essential Knowledge — Students will gather a body of basic knowledge in mathematics, scientific thought, language, literature, culture, the arts, history, geography and civics.
Tolerance — Students will gain an awareness of multi-cultural, multi-age, and inter-generational issues and recognize and respect the beliefs and practices of others.
Life-long learning — To prepare them for a life of learning, students will learn to access information, to identify and develop their own learning styles, to become actively curious about their world, and to set and achieve goals.
Contributions to the larger community — Students will understand democracy, civility, citizenship, and their rights and responsibilities as members of their society, and will participate in community work and service.
Human relations — Students will learn to recognize their feelings and handle them safely as they work cooperatively with others.
Students are expected to demonstrate the following competencies, according to their developmental level:
I. Arts and Humanities
a. Constructive use of oral language and oral presentation.
b. Analysis and personal response to literature, through discussion, artistic or graphic representations,
writing, and oral or dramatic presentation.
c. Reading enrichment, reflecting a broad range of reading choice.
d. Skill, in narrative, expository, creative, and work-related writing.
e. Artistic analysis, including demonstration of aesthetic judgment in music, art and theater.
f. Performance and evaluation of individual or group performances.
g. Demonstration or display of visual arts of student’s own making.
II. Social Science
a. Historical investigation: ability to investigate a problem, issue, or event using primary and secondary
b. Functional citizenship literacy: demonstration of a growing understanding of basic facts and concepts
1. Basic elements of U.S. government and history, including identification of current leaders and
knowledge of how our form of government works.
2. Political geographical knowledge of the U.S. and the world.
3. Historical time line individually constructed over the years of developmental learning, culminating in an understanding overview of historical trends.
c. Analysis of current issues: ability to explain a current political, social, or economic condition with reference to history, geography, and any other pertinent domain, and over time, the ability to demonstrate understanding from multiple perspectives.
d. Service or action: Yearly community service, often as an outgrowth of # 3 again, will be a part of student life.
e. Cultural analysis: Demonstrated understanding of the diversity of peoples in our local and national communities. Students will grow to show understanding of the changing diversity of the U.S., and discuss ways in which a pluralistic society functions. Emphasis will be on differences and similarities among cultures, and how they contribute to community. Students will use sources from different disciplines to present a picture of how people in this country and others approach life in ways that are consistent and divergent.
f. One’s own historical narrative: demonstrated growth of understanding of one’s personal history, sense of self, evolving goals for life, ways of relating to others.
III. Natural Sciences and Mathematics
1. Systemic understanding of the human organism as a set of interdependent subsystems and an integral part of larger life systems.
2. Conceptual understanding of principles and theories of energy.
3. Science skills: systematic building of scientific skills including computational, manipulative and observational, communication and critical response skills. Students will learn methods of conducting experiments and field work, growing in ability to construct and solve scientific problems. By later years, defining and demonstrating depth of understanding in at least one specialty area of science.
4. Integration in experiment design: ability to design and implement a scientific experiment that demonstrates connections among mathematics, technology. and science.
5. Science, technology and society: ability to identify, examine and act on a current issue that has scientific implications. Growing understanding of policy development and decision making for these issues.
6. Mathematical procedures: ability to perform accurately standard mathematical procedures, including among many others operations in arithmetic, measurement, estimation, graphing, solving for unknowns, writing proofs.
7. Conceptual understanding of mathematical content: ability to examine and analyze mathematical topics, explaining “why and how” of underlying concepts.
8. Use of mathematics to synthesize and communicate information, using the language of mathematics to organize, convey, and predict. Awareness of ways mathematics brings order in what appears to be a random and chaotic world. Ability to demonstrate the integration of mathematics and other disciplines.
9. Problem solving: ability to collaborate in problem-solving activities, to look for patterns, make conjectures, develop models and validate conclusions. Ability to observe, support, and question problem-solving work of others.
a. Technological literacy: ability to use technology as a tool for creation, information, learning and communication.
b. Information literacy: ability to locate and choose appropriate resources and information, and to evaluate, apply, and use this information.
Basic skills acquisition and practice are presented within the fundamental guiding competencies:
Upon graduating from the MVPCS a student will also have achieved these non-academic goals:
1. Mastered basic skills for life-long learning.
2. Clearly demonstrated the ability to set goals and achieve them.
3. Worked and served in community businesses and organizations.
4. Developed a strong sense of what is important to him/her and experience in that field(s) of interest.
5. Acquired knowledge of what it means to be a member of a democracy where one’s opinion is valued.
Our outline of academic competencies, as well as our focus on social and emotional growth and physical wellness, coincide with the goals established by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Common Core of Learning. In emphasizing interaction among the students, teachers, community members, businesses and non-profit organizations, we seek to become a model for the state’s ambitions to make education a broad-based, inclusive experience which benefits the entire social fabric of communities.
Not only do we expect our students to progress steadily in learning, we expect that they will demonstrate exemplary achievement on required tests; in their portfolios of written, oral and visual work; in the results of projects which they complete, for themselves and for the community; and in the way they participate in the operation of the school and the life of the school community.
It is not simply the convergence of MVPCS goals with the Common Core and its Frameworks that promises student achievement and performance beyond state standards. It is our fundamental trust and support for the autonomous learner’s urge toward growth and mastery that seals our claim. With challenging models, authentic responsibility, the ownership of their process, and the help of their village, children will learn and grow and accomplish the works of their lives on their own initiative.
A variety of teaching methods is used depending upon the general and specific goals of projects and learning activities. The variety of ways in which learners follow and develop their interests calls for imagination, flexibility, and responsiveness as well as organization, consistency, and dependability. Learning processes that address the wide range of diverse learning styles include the following:
Learning is supported in a variety of contexts and settings, including the following:
Advisory Group: small, mixed-age group of students meet regularly with the same teacher/advisor. This meeting is for program planning, helping and caring for one another academically as well as socially, and studying school problems. The sessions are to provide a school “family” unit, a sense of community on a scale a student can relate to.
Interest Group: a basic unit of the school which is a group of diverse learners united by a shared passion for exploring a specific direction. Motivation and interest inspire and direct challenges through which basic skills and fundamental competencies are acquired and developed.
Social and Developmental Peer Group: a safe group atmosphere for learning, exploring and playing with peers, offering a chance for social relationships for recreation, working on skills, or projects.
School Meeting: large group, organized democratically
Family: the school actively supports and involves the family as the student’s primary context for meaningful and enduring learning.
Island Community: a unique microcosm, Martha’s Vineyard offers the Charter School opportunities to be immersed in the local island communities, cultures, lifestyles, and political and social issues as well as the Vineyard is enduring traditions of farming, seafaring, and stewardship of the land.
World Community: communications and information technologies provide many methods for thinking and acting globally and locally.
Projects, experiments, and experiences are the foundation of the educational program. When students are motivated to do, they are motivated to learn. Inherent and documented within each project or task that a student sets out for him- or herself, individually or within a group, are the skills necessary to complete the project. These are the same skills necessary in the context of day-to-day living. Identifying and acquiring these skills is a job for each student with the support of staff and family.
Children involve themselves as learners and participants in the day-to-day workings of the community.
Learning opportunities within many projects are integrated across many disciplines. Designed by students and teachers, projects provide opportunities for learning and developing competencies across traditional subject lines. Lessons and skills are presented within the context of the project as they are needed by the students to accomplish the project. The goals in pursuing subject knowledge not only provide students with factual background, but help them acquire information and tools to learn and practice processes: to synthesize, analyze, personalize, think creatively, make connections, and apply complex, dynamic thinking to current problems.
Inherent in the Personal Education Plan is the continuous assessment of learning outcomes with respect to learning goals. Students continually evolve as learners. Within the framework of cooperative learning and exploring, individual issues and learning styles are addressed through a supportive team approach. Through collaboration, knowledge, and strategy building, children, including those with special needs, are assisted in taking new steps toward educational growth.
MVPCS operates in full compliance with MGL Chapter 71B.
Considerable success has been achieved with special needs students when there is a focus on cooperative learning techniques, teamwork, peer teaching, student-centered learning, and use of individual education plans. All of these are part of the design of the Martha’s Vineyard Charter School. Through collaboration, knowledge, and strategy building, children are assisted in taking new steps toward their educational growth.
In order to meet the needs of specific students, liaisons are set up with programs that already exist within our community. Critical to our charter school design is the pooling of resources with established institutions, organizations and programs including the existing public schools, the M.V. Hospital, M.V. Community Services, and IPAC (Island Parents Advisory Council). A system of support exists so that the entire community operates collaboratively to ensure student success and work together to integrate the needs of the individual with those of the family and the community.
The Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School operates in full compliance with MGL Chapter 71A. Instruction in English as a second language is offered to students whose first language is not English. These students need help in mastering the English language and in survival skills necessary for life in a different culture. Support and consultation is offered to their families, our school community, and classroom teachers. MVPCS works as a community to accommodate the needs of all bilingual students.
Learning concepts and plans at MVPCS are based on and informed by many current educational curriculum design initiatives based on learning theory research and methods. We have borrowed from a variety of educational models including:
* NASDC Design Teams (New American Schools Development Corp.)
* Community Learning Centers, Minnesota
* Expeditionary Learning/Outward Bound, Massachusetts
* CoNECT Schools, Massachusetts
* ATLAS Communities, Massachusetts
* Sudbury Valley School, Massachusetts
* San Carlos Charter Learning Center, California
* Sonoma County Charter School, California
* Santa Barbara Charter School, California
Student assessment takes a variety of forms and serves to let the student, teacher and parent and school director know how the student is doing at any given time. Students progress through the Charter School on the basis of accomplishment, not “seat time” or credits earned. Our assessment tools reflect the depth of student understanding and knowledge. Assessment information is shared at parent-teacher-student (PEP) conferences and by written Progress Reports.
Students at the Martha’s Vineyard Charter School participate in MCAS testing at designated grade levels. All students, ages 8 and up, are also evaluated through the CTB-McGraw-Hill Terra Nova. This standardized group test provides both normative and performance-based information regarding the student’s level of understanding and skill.
In addition to these external instruments, the school shows evidence of academic growth through its internal assessment tool. The original charter stated, “Two types of standards in all areas are examined: performance outcomes and content mastery. Assessment of achievement is in part embedded into daily work and the objectives of the Personal Education Plan. Competency is evaluated by a variety of means developed by the director in consultation with students and teachers, including exhibitions or presentations. These achievements are compared to national standards.” In response to this approach to assessment, in 1998 the faculty began the process of creating a tool which provides assessment of student progress, guides instruction and curriculum development, serves as a vehicle for professional development, and informs parents of the educational growth of their children. This performance-based measurement tool is aligned with the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks and serves as a model of authentic assessment. It documents progress by using informal published assessments, teacher-made tests, portfolios, juried exhibitions, projects, student self-evaluations, written work samples, video and audio tapes, mentor feedback, and teacher anecdotes as a means of evaluating student performance. Although qualitative in nature, the school is developing a formula whereby progress can be reported in a quantitative fashion. Using this instrument 5 skill levels are identified: beginner, novice, apprentice, practitioner, and flyer. Progress is measured over time through observable performance and evidence of knowledge and skills.
This tool is in place for all age groups. All strands of Math, Social Studies, Science, Language Arts and World Languages are addressed. The faculty is committed to continually improve this instrument and sets aside time during each month for collaboration that addresses curriculum development and the refinement of this assessment tool.
The Assessment Tool is used for each student together with a Personal Education Plan. The PEP is one way that education is individualized at MVPCS. The PEP, in addition to being a goal-setting device for students, is also a tool for documenting progress. It is a key tool for helping students become “charter learners”–students who develop understandings about how they best learn and work and who take charge of their own learning, both within and beyond the curriculum. Students, teachers, and parents together plan, implement, and revise the student’s PEP. Conferences are held three times a year or as often as needed for everyone to reassess, adapt or alter the plan. Each party of the conference accepts some responsibilities for carrying out the Personal Education Plan.
Students meet regularly in their peer group with their advisor, who is responsible for keeping track of each advisee’s PEP, as well as social issues and emotional well-being. It is important to make a regular assessment to be sure everyone is on track. The advisor monitors progress and keeps records of each student in his or her care.
Each student has on file a summary of all major projects and activities that demonstrates the scope of his/her knowledge and experience.
Different groups in the school are held accountable in the following ways:
• The Board:
Accountable to the State and the Charter
Responsible for the viability of the school, both fiscally and philosophically
• The Director:
Accountable to the Board
Responsible for implementing policies of the Board. Responsible for supporting, coordinating, and evaluation the educational program.
• The Staff:
Accountable to the Director
Responsible for the education of the students, collaboratively designing curriculum.
• The Students:
Accountable to their teachers
Responsible for doing the best job they can at school
• The Parents:
Accountable to their children and children’s teachers
Responsible for supporting their children’s learning and the school through active participation
Accountability is monitored in many ways, in addition to student assessment described above. Examples include:
The objectives of the MVPCS Professional Evaluation Process are to encourage professional growth and to show growth over time. Staff members update their professional growth plans regularly, identifying strengths, areas for improvement, and long- and short-term strategies planned for achieving these goals. Each staff member can be part of a support team whose members help each other develop their goals and objectives. Support teams can meet periodically to discuss, reflect upon, and revise their goals.
The Director meets regularly with each staff member and observes classroom life. S/he completes written evaluations during the yearly process of contract renewal, seeking evaluative input from students and parents. S/he follows the Evaluation Process that is developed collaboratively by the Director and staff, with approval of the Board.
The Director is responsible for the overall operational and educational management of the school, guided by the vision of the charter and the laws and regulations of the Commonwealth. The Board of Trustees hires and evaluates the Director according to a detailed job description, which is developed by the Board and reviewed by the Board and Director periodically. Key responsibilities of the Director include: working effectively with the Board; personnel management, including regular evaluations and final decisions regarding employment; creating and implementing appropriate curriculum and staff development; resolution of conflicts; supporting active parent and student involvement in the operation of the school; financial planning and operating the school within the budget; and developing and maintaining appropriate relations with other island school districts, other charter schools, and the State Charter School Office.
Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School follows state requirements for charter school teacher qualifications. The Director hires all full and part-time faculty and staff on a yearly or temporary basis.
The Charter School publicizes available positions in the local and regional papers with advertisements reflecting the school’s philosophy. A measure of professional standing is requested of all applicants. Criteria for teacher candidates may include evidence of the following abilities:
For full-time positions, an interviewing team composed of the director and representatives of the Board of Trustees, faculty, parents, and students reviews applications and schedules interviews and presentations. The interviewing team then makes recommendations on hiring to the director.
Staff development is a priority, the most essential ingredient being time built into the working schedule for staff for professional development opportunities. A portion of the school budget is set aside for teachers to take additional courses, seminars, and/or workshops. Grants are sought to supplement the budget for additional staff development projects.
Salaries, Contracts, Benefits
The Board approves the salary structure annually. Teachers sign yearly contracts. The Martha’s Vineyard Charter School offers a health insurance package, acceptable and available to all full-time staff members.
Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School aims to foster a community environment based on trust, cooperation, and respect. Its goal is to model democratic principles through an inclusive process of shared problem-solving and decision-making by consensus. This process is being formalized with the creation of a constitution which describes a structure and process for democratic school governance. It includes the constituencies of students, faculty and staff, Director, parents, and Board members. All members of the school community are responsible for the well-being of the school. The constitution will reflect how democracy functions in the larger society of the United States, including town, state, and federal level. It will clarify for the school community how the school’s governance roles function. Most importantly, the democratic governance structure defined by the constitution will enhance the operation of the school and prepare students to become active members in the democratic processes of their larger communities in the future.
Committee and task forces are convened to address a variety of school issues, with each appropriate constituency represented. All school meetings are open and participation by school community members is welcomed. Recommendations are made at meetings whenever possible by building consensus through a process of listening and discussing. Recommendations are made to the Director or to the Board, according to their respective responsibilities. The Director is responsible for final decisions in matters regarding the operation of the school. The Board of Trustees hires and supports the Director, and is responsible for decisions regarding policies, and for decisions which ensure that the school’s academic program is a success, that the school is financially sound, and that the goals of the charter are being fulfilled.
MVPCS strives to make trust, cooperation and respect an implicit part of the interaction between the students and staff in their peer groups, multi-age groups and advisor/advisee relationships. These values also guide the interactions between Board, Director, parents, and staff.
Members of the Board of Trustees must share the common vision, philosophy and goals of the mission statement of our charter school, in order to ensure the continuity of the school. The Board has nine members with staggered three-year terms. Each year the Nominating Committee follows a process in order to select a slate of candidates to fill expiring terms. Following approval by the Board, the slate is presented for approval by the school community at the Annual Meeting in May.
Board of Trustees members are public agents authorized by the state as responsible for the governing of the school. The Board defines the mission of the school, develops school policies and changes them when appropriate, hires the Director to manage the school’s day-to-day operations, and formulates a long-range plan that will ensure the school’s continued stability. In consultation with the director and faculty, it is responsible for the school’s curriculum. In consultation with the Director and the Business Manager, the Finance Committee prepares the annual budget for Board approval. Among many other responsibilities, the Board must ensure that the school is complying with all of the state and federal laws that apply to the school and that the Board itself complies with applicable Massachusetts laws and regulations.
Individual Board members accept dual responsibilities: those of public employees and those similar to non-profit board members. They must be diligent, responsible, and loyal, avoiding any personal profit from performing their role.
The Board is charged with responsibility to ensure that the school is (1) an academic success, (2) a viable organization, and (3) faithful to the terms of its charter, including the effective dissemination of innovative practices, so that the school can meet these criteria for periodic charter renewal.
The Board is responsible for maintaining state-approved by-laws.
The Board fulfills its duties as outlined in and in accordance with MGL Ch. 71, Sec. 89 and 603CMR 1.00, including developing a code of conduct, a disciplinary and expulsion policy, personnel policies including the terms and conditions of employment, a grievance policy, a management operations plan, and enrollment policy.
The Board oversees school standing committees, receives reports from them, and sets up the process for task force formation. Standing Committees provide leadership within the following areas of school management: Finance, Personnel Policy, Teaching and Learning, Development, and Nominating. Other committees, or task forces, are formed as the need arises.
In accordance with the school’s commitment to community consensus-building and participation, representatives from parent, staff and faculty, and student constituencies serve with Board members on committees.
The Board acts as the official liaison between the school, the larger Island community, and the State.
An Advisory Board to the Board of Trustees exists to support our goal of community outreach and dialogue. It is made up of key members of the community representing the cultural, social, and ethnic diversity of the Island. This group, which also includes parents, former Board members, and school founders, is advisory only but helps keep the Board of Trustees aware of community interest and issues in a formal way.
Parent and Student Involvement in Decision-Making
Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School considers parent involvement in all areas of the school crucial. As documented in Secretary of Education, Richard Riley’s report, Strong Families Strong Schools, “Greater family involvement in children’s learning is a crucial link to achieving a high quality education and a safe disciplined learning environment for every student.”
Parents and students are an integral part of the school. Their involvement in decision-making matters is vital. The time and effort spent on including parents and students in group policy making is valued as part of the community-building process of the school, and as part of the educational experience our school can offer its members.
Parents are involved in the development of their child’s PEP (Personal Education Plan). Advisor, parent, and student conferences are held three times a year or as often as needed to review the PEP. Parents have ongoing communication with their child’s advisor and the director, if needed
Parents can engage in the life of the school by serving as Parent Representatives of classrooms, who facilitate parent volunteerism in support of the teachers and curriculum. Monthly Parent Roundtables create a forum for information sharing. All MVPCS families are encouraged to contribute to the school through volunteering in a variety of ways: assisting in the classroom or office, serving on the Board of Trustees, on Board committees and task forces or other school committees, helping with special events or projects, contributing to the Annual Drive, providing lessons of special interest, assisting with field trips, helping with the physical plant, becoming a family “sponsor” for children in need, or participating in our Experts-In-Residence program, which taps the expertise of individual parents and community members. We are dedicated to finding a way for every family to participate and feel welcomed in the school. We also recognize the new definitions of “family” and respect and work with every child and his or her family.
Involvement in the community beyond the school’s walls is an important aspect of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. Our hope is that as the boundaries between school and community become blurred, each will feel more a part of the other. When students graduate from MVPCS, they will not be leaving one community and entering another; they will already feel themselves to be part of the larger community.
MVPCS provides opportunities for community involvement through apprenticeships, partnerships, and mentorships. The island’s population includes many talented men and women who are interested and excited about this kind of educational exchange. In addition, the community is invited to participate in on-site school programs by sharing their knowledge and learning from others in the form of lectures, workshops and seminars.
At some point each young person who grows up on Martha’s Vineyard needs to make a decision: Do I stay, or do I go? Many Vineyard adults are multi-talented and create a career out of several occupations. Community interaction with the MVPCS demonstrates these creative living options to students and strengthens the bond between students and their community. Whether students decide to stay on the Vineyard or move off-island, MVPCS hopes to have fostered a life-long love of learning and the skills to self-teach. In the future, it is clear that the job market will be searching for creative problem solvers. Graduates will have this skill because much of their school experience centers around being responsible for their own learning, and knowing how to find the proper resources to solve problems.
MVPCS has an open door policy for anyone who wishes to visit the school: educators, parents, students, and community members, available for casual visiting as well as for students who wish to sample programs. MVPCS will offer, on a space-available basis, participation in classes and projects to children outside the charter school. Our workshops and assemblies are open to the public.
District/Charter School Relations
MVPCS realizes the importance and value of working as a team with our colleagues in the public school system, sharing resources, ideas, and students. The school exercises in a variety of ways its mandate from the state to disseminate innovative practices.
Before filing the charter application with the state, Steering Committee members met with the Island Wide Counselors, a group made up of school counselors from each elementary school and the high school. The group also met with the Principal’s Cabinet, which consists of principals from each school, including the high school, and the superintendent. At both of these meetings the positive aspects of the relationship between the Charter School and the existing public schools were discussed, as well as the possible sharing of resources, ideas and students to the benefit of all students island-wide.
The Steering Committee characterized the Charter School’s educational philosophy as a place where all children are considered to have their own gifts and talents, and that through the PEP system, each student would have an individual learning plan.
Community and parent involvement is further fostered by regular publication of a newsletter discussing school activities, by maintaining a school website (www.mvpcs.org), and by a weekly letter to the community.
Building and Facility
Criteria for a building site for the MVPCS included:
• A central location easily accessible to all island residents, and reachable by existing public school bus lines and public transportation;
• A rural setting with open space. Natural areas for the children to be able to run, walk, explore, and experience learning with an outdoor focus.
• Building and land that allow for expansion.
Options in Education
Charter schools receive per pupil allocation monies from the Commonwealth for only operational costs, and therefore must rely on private fundraising for capital improvements, building and site fees. In April 1994, a group of MVPCS founders formed a non-profit support organization, Options In Education, Inc. (OIE). The goals of OIE are to:
1. support and promote innovative educational programs on Martha’s Vineyard, especially for children,
2. raise funds for the Charter School
3. possibly operate a summer program offering educational activities for children, and create employment opportunities for young people.
Fundraising is necessary to supplement the basic educational program for children.
Options in Education and the Board of Trustees Finance Committee suggest, explore, and enact a variety of methods to meet the short- and long-term goals of the Martha’s Vineyard Charter School.
• Complete annual school budget
• Explore and promote philanthropic and corporate partnerships.
• Secure grants.
• Meet with private donors.
• Explore state and federal funding.
• Encourage our legislators to support funding for education on a state and national level
• Explore partnerships with other organizations.
• Sponsor fundraising and public outreach events.
• Establish a permanent endowment fund that will secure the future of the school.
School Budget and Financial Records Review
The MVPCS conducts its financial operations in accordance with MGL Ch. 71, Sec. 89 and 603 CMR Section 1.00, and through procedures established by the MVPCS Board of Trustees. The Finance Committee presents an annual budget for approval by the Board and at the Annual Meeting. The Business Manager is responsible for budget control, purchasing, payroll, insurance, contracts, audits and other fiscal matters. A final budget at year-end is included in the Annual Report. An annual independent financial audit is conducted.
School Records - Dissemination of Information
Policies for maintenance of school records and dissemination of information including the Annual Report comply with public school law, as set forth in MGL c.71, s.89.
At the end of each fiscal year the Director submits an Annual Report to the Secretary of Education, and makes it available to each parent or guardian of its enrolled students, and to each parent or guardian contemplating enrollment in the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. This includes a balance sheet that reflects the school’s assets, liabilities, and equities and statement of expenses and revenues.
The following is also prepared:
* projections for the upcoming school year
* short-term and long-range goal
* any additional information that the Secretary of Education requires
In accordance with the provisions outlined in MGL Chapter 71 section 89, the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School negotiates with the Up-Island School Committee to ensure transportation on the same terms and conditions as transportation provided to children attending their schools.
The Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School owns one vehicle that is used to carry children to and from field trips.
MVPCS contracts with bus services to transport children outside the Up-Island region to our school.
Transportation needs arising from any extended day or year programs will be implemented in coordination with other existing public schools, the public transportation on the island, and parent-operated car pools if permitted.
Liability and Insurance
The school purchases 24 hour a day coverage for students. It also maintains sufficient property and liability insurance for the building, employees, and Board members.
The Pillars of the Charter were identified in consensus-building community-wide discussions in the second year of the school. The Pillars express core values of the school
These rights were identified by the students and teachers together during the very first days of the MVPCS.
Each person has the right:
1. To feel safe in mind, body and spirit.
2. To have personal property reserved for personal use, unless loaned or given to someone else.
3. To have needs, aspirations and responsibilities acknowledged and respected.
4. To be him/herself as long as s/he is responsive to others.
5. To have a clean, tidy and vandalism free campus.
Charter Schools - An Innovation of Massachusetts’ Education Reform Act of 1993
A Charter School, as defined by Commonwealth of Massachusetts 601 CMR. 1.00:
is a public school operated under a charter granted by the Secretary of Education. Charter schools operate independently of any school committee and are managed by a board of trustees. The trustees, upon receiving a charter, are public agents authorized by the Commonwealth to supervise and control the charter school.
Charter schools are a new approach to public education in which the goals of school-based management, school choice and parent and teacher creativity and control are fully realized. These schools share many legal characteristics of traditional public schools, but are free of the political control of local school committees and bureaucracies. This autonomy from central control over critical decisions affecting the school’s performance is granted by the state in return for the school’s acceptance of accountability for educational results.
Charter schools are funded by the average per pupil tuition payment of the district, an amount determined by the Department of Education in accordance with the most recent Department data for each school district.
Reasons for forming a charter school, as cited in Ch. 71 section 89 of the Ed Reform Act of 1993 are as follows:
1) to stimulate the development of innovative programs within public education;
2) to provide opportunities for innovative learning and assessments;
3) to provide parents and students with greater options in choosing schools within and outside their school districts;
4) to provide teachers with a vehicle for establishing schools with alternative, innovative methods of educational instruction and school structure and management;
5) to encourage performance-based educational programs
6) to hold teachers and school administrators accountable for students’ educational outcomes.
Persons or entities eligible to submit an application to establish a charter school include, but are not limited to, a business or corporate entity, two or more certified teachers, or ten or more parents. Applications may be filed in conjunction with a college, university, museum, or other similar entity. Private and parochial schools are not eligible for charter school status.
Charter schools are open to all students on a space available basis and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, creed, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, age, ancestry, athletic performance, special need, or proficiency in the English language, and academic achievement. Charter schools may limit enrollment to specific grade levels or areas of focus of the school, such as mathematics, science, or the arts.
Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School:
A Community-Developed Educational Vision
The original founders of MVPCS came together because of their interest in education and commitment to children, the development and progress of the Education Reform Act of 1993, and a seminar offered by the state called “Charting the Course: Public School Options for the 1990’s”. This group of Vineyard parents, teachers and community members lead a series of well-attended intense community discussions (open meetings were advertised in local papers) to brainstorm and develop a vision for a public alternative school.
A Steering Committee emerged from a network of over 150 interested island families to research and write the formal application. The group as a whole had no affiliation with “existing schools, educational programs, businesses, or non profits,” but its individual members were connected across the island through its schools, libraries, and non-profit community service organizations. Steering Committee members had a wide variety of backgrounds, bringing to the project experience in education, parenting, the arts, business, fundraising, health, social services, and start-up ventures. All were actively involved in their communities through the schools of their children, the local hospital, public libraries, community service and other non profit organizations. In addition, all members of the Steering Committee had teaching experience; eight of its ten members were certified teachers.
The Steering Committee met weekly for a year to research specific island needs, philosophy, structure, facilities, staffing, community involvement and budget, as well as recent cognitive research of how and why students learn. From these sessions emerged a school design proposal which was submitted to the State Department of Education. Endorsements included in the application from over 50 individual school personnel, community organizations, students, and parents from all six towns gave a broad base of support. The first submitted proposal was returned for additional clarification, and the group spent almost another year of revision before submitting it again to compete for charters which were to open in 1996.
On March 15, 1995, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education authorized the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. Two years of hard work by a dedicated group of parents, educators and community members had won a new option for island families. The birth of MVPCS reflected the same spirit of Vineyard self-sufficiency that had created many other social and educational institutions that are integral to the fabric of island life.
On July 1, 1996 the MVPCS began its five year contract with the Commonwealth and each Board of Trustee member became a public agent of the state. The MVPCS opened the doors on September 16, 1996 to — students, ages — to —. Additional age groups—both younger and older—were added each year until the 2000-2001 school year, when we reached a toal enrollment of approximately 160 students in grades kindergarten through 12. In 2000, during an early-scheduled review, the state review board unanimously recertified the MVPCS to operate for another five years, through June, 2006. The first class of seniors graduated in June, 2001.
Background: “Statement of Need” for Creation of MVPCS
Martha’s Vineyard is an island with six distinct towns, five of which operate K-8 elementary schools governed by their own elected school boards. Students must attend either their town’s school or be home-schooled; there are no private school options available on the island for children over preschool age. A regional high school with an academic and vocational program currently based on ability grouping provides the only secondary education. Families who want alternative educational opportunities for their children must either home-school, move off the island, or send their children to off-island private schools, an option few prefer or can afford, since Martha’s Vineyard has the lowest median year-round income in the state.
Martha’s Vineyard is also a unique economic community. There are few corporate models here. Many individuals run their own businesses and work for themselves, demonstrating the possibilities of independent on-island livelihood for our children. Active involvement in the community will enable our students to see the options that exist for them and give them the tools and traditions they need to build their own futures.
Massachusetts charter school legislation presents a great opportunity for a growing group of Martha’s Vineyard families, teachers, and citizens who share an educational philosophy and want to remain on the island, taking part in a public school We want our children to have the option of attending, on the island, an experiential, learner-centered school that encourages individualization, cooperation, innovative learning, and authentic assessment strategies. Site-based management available in a charter school model would allow our school to be “light on its feet”: responsive to students’ personal education plans and able to adapt and change quickly. Our focus is also to connect to Martha’s Vineyard’s unique and diverse resources through apprenticeships, mentorships, and partnerships, enabling students to explore avenues for meaningful, productive livelihoods that could exist for them on the island. The current public school system is not able to meet the needs of our island-wide group because significant educational and political restructuring would be needed to present this type of program. A regional charter school offering a truly learner-centered alternative to children would be a welcome choice for island families.