NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 28, 2014

Board to discuss track, tennis plans

BY JENNIFER SOLIS
CORRESPONDENT

---- — WEST NEWBURY — The Pentucket Building and Ground’s subcommittee meets tonight to discuss two possible options for improving the track and tennis facilities on the regional district’s secondary school campus. The meeting, which is open to the public, starts at 6 p.m. in the superintendent’s conference room at the Pentucket Middle School.

In an update to the school board last week, Superintendent Jeff Mulqueen said an analysis of site development was completed and “two good plans” have emerged.

One option moves the tennis courts to a spot behind the middle school and creates an additional field where the current courts stand. A second option keeps the tennis courts in the front of the campus but moves them out of wetlands. Wetlands and subsoils may prove challenging for the project, Mulqueen said.

In other business, Mulqueen told the committee he is working with high school videography teacher, Stevin Bartholomew, to improve the district’s website, which Mulqueen feels does not represent the district’s “world class view.”

The school board was updated on planning process for five Innovation Schools at Pentucket.

The Innovation Schools initiative, first introduced by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2010, seeks to provide students ways to more meaningfully engage in a particular educational area of focus. The district’s five proposed Innovation Schools are the Design and Engineering Academy and the International Baccalaureate at the elementary school levels, and the Pentucket Arts Academy, the Safety and Public Service Academy and the Movement Science and Athletics Academy for middle and high school students. Teachers and community members are working together on the initial planning phase, which Mulqueen expects to be completed by the end of February.

After that he will be more able to answer specific questions about its implementation, but he stressed that the Innovation Schools are part of the regular public education system and will not require additional tuition.

High school Principal Jonathan Seymour recognized several groups that partnered with the district to purchase a new $19,000 electronic sign installed at the entrance to the secondary school campus. Contributions were made by Pentucket’s graduation classes of 2007, 2011 and 2013; the nonprofit Pentucket Arts Foundation, the West Newbury Fire Company and police Chief Lisa Holmes of West Newbury, whose donation was made in memory of her sister, Heidi. “It’s a great new look for the district,” Seymour said.

The committee briefly discussed a five-year district Improvement Plan and the possibility of creating a high school master plan committee. They appointed Paul Tucker as a representative from Merrimac to Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School and talked about the need to better communicate with the district’s representatives on the Whittier board.

The Pentucket board agreed to hold a business meeting to discuss the FY2015 budget on Feb. 4 and then have its public hearing and vote on the budget on Feb. 25. Both meetings will take place at 6:30 p.m. in Modular Classroom #3 at the high school.

At the end of open session last Tuesday, the board went behind closed doors to discuss strategies for contract negotiations or collective bargaining for non-union personnel. Chris Wile of West Newbury did not attend because his wife is a teacher in the district and his participation would pose a conflict of interest.