MVRHS principal Stephen Nixon resigns

MVRHS principal Stephen Nixon resigns

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Superintendent James Weiss last week granted Mr. Nixon a leave of absence for health reasons. A letter to parents announced his resignation.

Martha's Vineyard Regional High School principal Stephen Nixon, who submitted his resignation last week, is shown greeting students on the first day of school last September. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Updated 5:25 pm, Monday, April 28, 2014.

In a letter to parents sent Monday afternoon, Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS) Superintendent James Weiss announced that Stephen Nixon, principal of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) for the past six years, had submitted his resignation effective at the end of the current school year.

Mr. Weiss also announced he had granted Mr. Nixon a leave of absence. “I know I speak for everyone when I wish Steve the best,” Mr. Weiss said.

Principal Stephen Nixon entertained students at the 2011 MVRHS graduation ceremonies.
Principal Stephen Nixon entertained students at the 2011 MVRHS graduation ceremonies.

In response to an inquiry last week from The Times about the status of Mr. Nixon, Mr. Weiss said Mr. Nixon, 57, had requested a leave of absence for health reasons. Mr. Weiss said he granted that request. Last week Mr. Weiss said there was no time period specified.

In his letter to parents dated April 28, Mr. Weiss said he has appointed Assistant Superintendent Matthew D’Andrea as acting principal. “Over the next few weeks, we will begin the process to select a new high school principal,” he said.

The news arrived at the same time that students returned from a one-week spring vacation break.

“Steve has been principal for almost six years, and on the staff for 16, as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal,” Mr. Weiss told The Times in a phone conversation Monday. “Certainly he’s had a good career at the high school.”

Mr. Weiss said he would present Mr. Nixon’s letter of resignation at a meeting of the MVRHS school committee on May 5. Over the next few weeks, he said he would begin the process to select a new principal, starting with the appointment of a search committee.

“We will be contacting the NAACP and the Tribe, and the committee will involve students, staff, community members, and school committee members, as well,” Mr. Weiss said. “I’ll be working out the details.”

Wonderful years

In an email to The Times late Monday, Mr. Nixon said he asked Mr. Weiss for a medical leave for the remainder of the school year, based on his doctor’s advice.

“The health issues are something I have been dealing with throughout this school year,” Mr. Nixon said. “While I was out we had some conversations as a family to decide what was best for us in the long run. Based on our decision we decided it was best at this point in time to resign.”

Mr. Nixon provided The Times with a copy of his resignation letter.

“After spending 16 wonderful years at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School I realize that I have accomplished many of the goals I set out to tackle when I moved into administration. We have an in-house alternative program, a Therapeutic Support Program, some of the highest test scores in school history, a Freshman year that totally changes our perspective on the transition year, and the introduction of a new nursing program to name a few.

“Recently our family has looked at a lot of opportunities that have presented themselves to us, most being off-Island, and we feel the time is right for us to take advantage of these, as we look to the final years of our professional careers. So, it is with great sadness, and yet a feeling of excitement, that I would like to announce my resignation as Principal of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School effective June 30, 2014.

“It has been an honor to work with some of the greatest teachers and administrators in education. It has been a privilege to work with so many dedicated, parents, community members, and town governments. Most of all it has been life changing working with the greatest students anywhere.

“I wish you all well and our family will always have fond memories of you and you will be greatly missed.”

Mr. D’Andrea takes over

Mr. D’Andrea, a former elementary school principal in Mattapoisett, was named the new assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the MVPS in August 2013 and joined the Vineyard school system that fall. He filled a position left vacant by the resignation of Laurie Halt.

Mr. D’Andrea has a doctorate in policy and law from Northeastern University and a master’s degree in elementary education. He is state certified as a superintendent/assistant superintendent, principal/assistant principal, and teacher.

At the time Mr. Weiss announced the selection of Mr. D’Andrea, he commented on what made Mr. D’Andrea stand out from the other candidates. “I would say two things were really important,” Mr. Weiss said. “I think he brings strong interpersonal skills to the job, and he’s got some good experience in terms of working with curriculum and working with teachers.”

Successful in life

Stephen Nixon was named principal of MVRHS in February 2008. He took the reins from Principal Margaret (Peg) Regan on July 1.

Mr. Nixon had served as the regional high school’s assistant principal since 2004, and he had been on the faculty since 1998. He emerged as the only local candidate among four finalists chosen by a high school principal search committee from a field of 12.

In making the appointment, Mr. Weiss cited Mr. Nixon’s knowledge of the Island and his experience.

In the final stages of the principal search process, 65 Island teachers endorsed Mr. Nixon as their choice for their next principal.

At the time, Mr. Nixon said his goal  “is not just to make our young people successful in school, but to make them successful in life. And so we’re going to look at what it takes in this day and age to get them prepared for what’s ahead for them so we’ve given them everything possible to be successful.”

Mr. Nixon earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from Montclair State University in New Jersey, where he grew up. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Mr. Nixon became a high school history teacher, taking night classes to earn his master’s degree.

He began working as a history teacher at MVRHS after he and his wife, Maryellen (Talon), moved to the Vineyard in 1998. Between 2002 and 2004, Mr. Nixon took his first administrative position as the interim dean of students, and he was appointed assistant principal in 2004.

While working as assistant principal, Mr. Nixon pursued his doctorate degree in educational leadership online at the University of Sarasota in Florida. It took him several years to achieve his goal, because he first had to complete coursework in residence at the university on weekends and during school vacations before his acceptance into the doctoral program. He successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation at the university in 2009.


  1. We say once again Dr Nixon a great many of us still strongly support your decision when 10 radical graduating seniors who were Brazilian Demanded to wear scarves in their native country’s colors over their graduation gowns and you denied their request citing school policy, but was later overruled by the school committee. You were correct!!!!

  2. Please pardon my honestly… We basically moved off island due to his inability to perform as a Principal. To dodge the bullying. His ability as well as the administrations ability to cover up the bullying that truly happens at MVRHS has been stellar. My daughter sat down with Dr. Nixon to request to partake in an internship which she set up (she was an honor student at the high school)… He couldn’t even look up to address her. The guidance counselor was shocked! Please explain to me how children can respect a principal that doesn’t respect those willing to excel in life. I could write a book on the mis-management of MVRHS. Sadly enough… a friend/on island lawyer asked me if I wanted to sue the schools administration. My response… I simply don’t have the time/energy to do so… As long as my children have moved on and are healthy in other school environments I am pleased… yet, the amount of money we have spent leaving the island to keep our children healthy and happy has been an expense we cannot re-coop. Anyone would be a better fit for MVRHS than Dr. Nixon!!!!

  3. I am confused. According to this article Nixon is on paid medical leave for the remainder of the school year and at the same time Nixon states” Recently our family has looked at a lot of opportunities that have presented themselves to us, most being off-Island, and we feel the time is right for us to take advantage of these, as we look to the final years of our professional careers. ” Are we paying him to look for another job? Something doesn’t add up here.

    1. You are very insightful. More will not add up as the onion is peeled back. Many parents are feeling there is more to this.

      1. There always is. The goings-on of school related matters such as these are cloaked in secrecy and deception and camouflaged as “contractual confidentiality.”

    2. we’re paying him regardless. We’re paying him if he looks for a job or sings in a bar. Who cares? He’s gone. His contract I am sure calls for it. Who cares what he did, how he did it, with whom he did it and how long he did it. He’s gone and we should be moving on.

      1. What he did, how he did it… Do I detect from your comment, as I believe, there might be more to Nixon moving on than “health” reasons? As far as who cares? … I do. We can handle the truth! There might be a “TEACHABLE MOMENT” here.

        1. lifemv. You need to get a life. I agree with tcoach. You infer to much and have nothing to offer except drama. Moving on for you is impossible so I won’t comment to you beyond this. You live through others misfortune and thrive on stepping on people when down, nothing I want my life to be on mv. Teachable moment is to respect people in life.

          I wish you the best Dr. Nixon.

          1. Donald, as taxpayers we are Nixon’s true employer and we should know the circumstances of his employment considering we pay the salary. I don’t know you or teachcoach, but I would say that there are some mixed messages stemming from the article and as it regards a public position, it is our right and duty to ask for clarification and highlight the oddities so they can be professionally addressed. I also note that you discuss teachable moments and respect in your comment, as an unbiased reader, I see no respect to teachcoach’s exercise of his first amendment rights and perhaps this disrespect and needless vitrol from you is a teachable moment. Thank you teachcoach for reminding us of the muckrakers and of Ray Bradbury who wrote something to the effect of the most dangerous threat to civilization is the slow, unmoving heard of the majority. Glad to see that someone has individualistic thought enough to ask questions!

          2. unbiased is a joke. You are just like the others and want drama. It’s really non of your business, especially if it’s medical. HiPPA gives the employee the rights and not the “taxpayer true employer”.

        2. You detected wrong from my comment. Life is to short to worry about this. You care? I believe all the answers to your questions have been answered in the letters from Dr. N and from J Weiss. You can’t handle anything but speculation.

    3. Let’s try to add this up: What do Kriner Cash, Leo Frame and Steven Nixon have in common – other than having collected a million plus taxpayer dollars during their collective employs?

  4. Steve, don’t let the door hit you on the way out! Maybe we’ll get someone with more understanding and compassion than Dr Nixon has shown for our children. Hopefully the draconian rule at the Regional High School is over. Its high time for the superintendent to follow him out the door as well. We can use some new leadership in the MV school system. Sweep it clean and start over.

    1. I also feel the superintendent should pack his bags as well . And stop hiding behind that s*** eating grin. He knows of the many issues going on in the school system . And he just wants to make everything look like its so perfect . And many things have been swept under the carpet . These are our children. Do what’s right to help the children . And do not just worry about your image.

  5. Steve I would like to say “thank you” for implementing programs like the freshman academy and the alternative education program. What you lacked in warm and fuzzies you more than made up for in insightful, thoughtful, and helpful feedback to the staff. You were appreciated.