Requests remain unanswered

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To the Editor:

As a member of the now defunct Tisbury School building committee, I as well as the majority of my fellow committee members remain committed to follow and support whoever is in charge of adding, building, and renovating the existing Tisbury School. To that end, I attended a variety of selectmen meetings, but was especially looking forward to the joint school committee and selectmen meeting on June 19.

The general dialogue between the two committees was definitely that of cooperation and willingness to have an open mind and to start from scratch.

What made me scratch my head was the fact that practically in the next breath, Jim Rogers reiterated his opposition to building a new school, and Tristan Israel repeated his arbitrary cost limit of $27 million. Not sure what Melinda Loberg said, but is this what “open mind and start planning from scratch” mean? Two major roadblocks before the journey even got started.

Thus I took the opportunity to ask two questions and proposed a practical solution, which were entirely based on a letter to the editor published in the Martha’s Vineyard Times on April 19 with the heading “A new suggested size for Tisbury School” and on April 20 in the Vineyard Gazette with the heading “Opponents Press for Alternative Plan.” The letter was signed by the following people, with Ben Robinson credited as the author of the letter:

Paul Cefola (FinCom at that time),Tristan Israel (selectman), Marie Laursen, Bruce Lewellyn, Melinda Loberg (selectman and member of the Tisbury School building committee), Rachel Orr, Tony Peak, Ben Robinson (chairman of the planning board), Jimmy Rogers (at the time selectman candidate), Katherine Scott, Dan Seidman (planning board member and Tisbury School building committee) Henry Stephenson, and Denys and Marilyn Wortman: a team of 14 influential and well-respected Tisbury citizens.

Their letter published a variety of dimensions of classrooms in other schools and towns which might have influenced the voters. However, it is my strong belief that what tipped the vote was this group’s assertion that their plan to renovate and add 8,000 square feet to the existing school would save $11 million. Building a new school would have cost the town after MSBA’s $14.5 million reimbursement a total of $32.5 million.

The group of 14 announced in that letter that they had a plan that would cost the town $11 million less, which brings the final expense to $21.5 million.

When a select group of 14 distinguished citizens claim to have a plan to save that much money, they obviously have spent much time together drawing up plans, however preliminary, as well as crunched all the money details.

That’s why I approached the board of selectmen, as all three signed the letter, and requested that they make available those plans for the reno/addition as well as the financials that produced the $11 million in savings.

I also suggested that there does not seem to be a need to form an exploratory committee to create a new building committee.

I am submitting this letter because no one responded to my requests or suggestion, including Mr. Robinson, who was present.

The group of 14 mentioned above already did much homework, planning, research, and investigating in order to come up with the findings published in their letter. So why waste time and money? This group of 14 seems ready to go. Let the game begin, instead of kicking the can down the road with more meetings and new committees. Perhaps the group of 14 might want to include a few major stakeholders such as present parents of Tisbury School students, as well as future parents. A teacher or two might be helpful in clarifying some of the intricate Board of Education rules and regulations.

On the other hand, the letter stated that “the largest contributing factor to the overbuild is having two classrooms per grade … etc.” This group must have researched the educational plan as well. Overstaffing of Tisbury’s faculty was also mentioned in one of the planning board meeting minutes in the spring.

Didn’t realize staffing and educational plans were in the purview of the planning board. I was reminded by Ben Robinson at this morning’s school committee meeting that I (the TSB) lost and failed. Yes, I absolutely agree with that, and that’s why I pledge to make sure that Ben and his group will share their winning building plan and the accompanying financials in order for future generations of Tisbury students to have the proper and safe facilities needed.

Board of selectmen, please call a special town meeting before school starts, present the $21.5 million override, lead us to victory, and start fixing the Tisbury School.

Wiet Bacheller
Vineyard Haven