Charter renewed for Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School

Izabella Morris reminded the gathering of the pillars that hold up the school — Freedom, Trust, Respect, Democracy, Responsibility, and Cooperation. — Photo by Lynn Christoffers

A few minutes after 2 pm on Friday, May 20, the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School community came together in the hall that serves as the building’s hub — its thoroughfare, theater, and assembly room.

The occasion was the official announcement of the renewal of the school’s charter from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the third such renewal since the school opened in September 1996.

Paul Karasik, the school’s director of development, opened the ceremony by pointing out that most of the current students weren’t alive when the school opened 15 years ago. “Today we’re here to celebrate the fact that we passed our test,” he said.

In granting the renewal, DESE Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester recognized the school’s “academic success, organizational viability, and faithfulness to the terms of its charter.”

Mr. Karasik then acknowledged several special guests: James Weiss, superintendent of schools; “Skipper” Manter West Tisbury selectman; and state representative Tim Madden, who was accompanied by his Vineyard liaison, Nell Coogan.

Mr. Madden presented the citation for the charter renewal to Bob Moore, the school’s director. After saying that he was impressed with how quiet and respectful the students were as a group, Mr. Madden reminded them that wherever they went in the world, people would have heard of the island they came from. “People everywhere have heard of Martha’s Vineyard,” he said.

Mr. Moore then said a few words about the genesis of the school. After recognizing Bruce MacNelly and Linda Cohen, the architects who designed the building, he cited two of the school’s founders who were in attendance — Roberta Kirn and Claudia Ewing. “With several other people, they said, ‘let’s create a school’ 16 or 17 years ago,” he said, “You people — students, faculty, parents — have made them true believers. You have made their dreams come true.”

Mr. Moore then called on several students who had prepared remarks to share with the school community. “We use our school pillars,” said second-grader Isabella Morris, speaking of the school’s guiding principles. “Our school pillars are Freedom, Trust, Respect, Democracy, Responsibility, and Cooperation…. All of the students are artistic and very nice, helpful, and friendly.”

Willa Welch, another second-grader, said, “We have very helpful teachers. Our teachers are the best. Bob, our principal, is really nice. He comes to the first and second grade and reads every Friday.”

Next up was Morgan Taylor, a seventh-grader, who said, “This school has helped me grow in my academics and also as a person. I have learned so much at school. The people here have taught me to be everything I can be. The first day I came here I felt so welcomed.”

Kyra Whalen, also in seventh grade, said, “We as a family are growing every year. We are becoming much closer and creating many long-lasting friendships…. Thank you, everyone at the charter school, for making my learning experience amazing and accepting me for who I am.”

The sense of community was echoed by eighth-grader Alistair Rizza. “Charter School make you feel like you are a part of a family,” he said. “Laughter and support, like we have here, can get us through everything! Charter School is an amazing, always welcoming, one-on-one place. I can be who I want to be. It’s my kind of school, and I love it here.”

At the end of the speechifying, kindergartener Lincoln Marino and ninth-grader Olivia Olenick combined to cut the first slice of a ceremonial cake, provided by Amy Miller of Chilmark Cottage Bakery. Students then headed for their classrooms to calorie-up on satellite cakes that awaited them there.