Authors Posts by Janet Hefler

Janet Hefler

Janet Hefler

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation plans a makeover of Beach Road. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Tisbury selectmen hosted a public discussion Tuesday night on a proposal from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to improve Beach Road. At times, members of the MassDOT team, which included civil engineers from Greenman-Pedersen, Inc. (GPI), an engineering and construction-services firm hired to design the project, appeared confused and flabbergasted by the comments, as the discussion detoured away from the design options on the table for consideration.

The $1 million MassDOT Beach Road project, from Five Corners to the Wind’s Up watersports shop, is in a preliminary design phase. It is expected to receive federal funding in 2017.

The project evolved from a pre-feasibility study done in May 2009 regarding the extension of Martha’s Vineyard’s network of shared-use paths (SUPs). In August 2013 MassDOT contracted with GPI to design bike and pedestrian improvements along Beach Road.

At a meeting on July 29, John Diaz, director of traffic engineering at GPI, MassDOT project manager Thomas Currier, and District 5 project development engineer Pamela Haznar presented three conceptual plans with different options for sidewalks, bike lanes, and an SUP. They said they would return and ask the town which one it prefers to advance.

Tuesday night they returned for public discussion, attended by planning board members, Martha’s Vineyard Commission staff, other town board members, and interested residents.

Mr. Diaz said he went out Tuesday and put some pink stakes along a section of the road from Five Corners to the Shell station to provide an idea of Beach Road’s existing 40 to 40.5 feet right of way.

Town administrator Jay Grande asked about the possibility of utilizing “sharrows,” markings placed in the center of travel lanes, to indicate that a bicyclist may use the full lane, instead of a bike lane. Mr. Diaz said although that had not been discussed as a possible option, it would require a 43-foot right of way, as opposed to the existing one.

Mr. Currier explained that the state defines full bicycle accommodation as a width of five feet with defined shoulders, and a minimum of 11 feet for travel lanes. Anything less would be “shared use,” utilizing a wider-than-typical travel lane with sharrows. Mr. Currier said it would require approval of a design exception in the process and a sign-off from the state’s secretary of transportation.

Frank Brunelle of Vineyard Haven presented a petition with signatures he said he collected from Beach Road business owners. The petition opposed any takings of property by eminent domain, and opposed shared-use paths from Five Corners up to Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard. Mr. Brunelle, a Beach Road property owner, said the signers favor putting sidewalks on both sides of Beach Road and all utility lines underground, and suggested more crosswalks are needed.

Sam Dunn, Tisbury Marketplace developer and the owner of Saltwater Restaurant on the south side of Beach Road, suggested the selectmen talk to property owners on the north side about allowing a sidewalk to be built on their property.

Vineyard Haven Marina general manager Liz Wild disagreed.

“I’m here representing a property owner who owns properties on the north and south side, and he’s adamantly opposed to giving up an inch of land,” she said.

Former MVC commissioner Ned Orleans suggested cutting off the discussion about a bike path on Beach Road, because the real problem is Five Corners. “We’re going to draw pretty pictures and show where the cars are going to go and how the bikes are going to go, and what the pedestrians will do, except that they don’t do it,” he said.

Ms. Haznar assured Mr. Orleans that MassDOT recognizes there is an issue at Five Corners and has plans to do a safety audit that formalizes the beginning of the process to address it.

“But as far as the Beach Road project, the purpose and need really is to improve pedestrian, cyclist, and vehicular movement along Beach Road from Five Corners to the Lagoon Pond bridge, where that project ends,” she said.

Harold Chapdelaine, the selectmen’s MVC appointee and a member of the Tisbury Historical Commission, said he thinks the town should focus its energy on developing the off-road SUP that starts at Tisbury Marketplace, instead of adding two bike paths along Beach Road that will add traffic to Five Corners.

Craig Whitaker, a New York architect and seasonal resident who is an advocate of maintaining rural roads, said MassDOT should give Tisbury more time to make a decision on the project.

No give

“The Beach Road project is in the 2017 TIP funding year, and we’re running out of time to discuss it,” Mr. Currier said. “We need to make a decision very soon, hopefully by the end of this month, on which concept, if any, you want to advance if we’re going to meet the funding deadline.”

“Tonight I hear a whole new avenue of discussion that hasn’t come up before,” he added, “which is to not to have any bikes on Beach Road and get them on a backcountry path, no bike accommodation at all, and to convert it all to sidewalks, which was never in the proposal.”

“We’re hearing two very different sides here,” Mr. Diaz said in agreement. “We’re hearing that you want a road that’s safe, that has wider sidewalks, but that you don’t want to give up anything to do it. Something has to give here.”

Mr. Grande concluded the public discussion after about an hour and turned it back over to the selectmen.

“I think we need to come to some kind of consensus in the near future that we can make clear to the state what it is we want and what we don’t want,” Selectman Tristan Israel said. “I haven’t heard anybody supporting a mixed-use path. I would like to schedule a meeting with the business people, especially on the north side, and find out what they’re amenable to.”

Selectman Chairman Jon Snyder and Selectman Melinda Loberg agreed.

Sign stays

Fishermen are unhappy with the placement of a no wake sign at the end of Eastville jetty.
Fishermen are unhappy with the placement of a no wake sign at the end of Eastville jetty.

In other business, the selectmen took no action on Mr. Israel’s request to have a “no wake” sign on the tip of the Eastville jetty removed because it interferes with fishermen who like to stand on the tip and cast. Harbormaster Jay Wilbur installed the sign on the jetty. They also approved a licensing agreement with NSTAR for an LED streetlight program through Cape Light Compact.

The All-Island School Committee kicked off a new school year with a two-hour meeting Tuesday night in the high school's library conference room.

The All-Island School Committee (AISC) voted Tuesday night to accept a letter of resignation from superintendent of schools James Weiss, effective June 30, 2015, and to set a plan in motion to hire his replacement. In addition to announcing his retirement plans last year, Mr. Weiss said he submitted his resignation letter now to allow the AISC ample time for the process.

The AISC on June 25 approved a bid of $11,500 from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) to conduct a superintendent’s search, starting this fall. That included the cost of the search process and consulting services, expenses, and advertising.

MASC field director Jim Hardy, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, warned the committee that the pool of candidates would likely be small and require a salary increase for a new superintendent. Mr. Weiss currently earns $158,000.

His suggested timeline includes advertising the position beginning Oct. 15; conducting search-committee interviews of semifinalists in the first two weeks of December and finalists the first week in January; site visits with finalists the first two weeks in February; and the appointment of a new superintendent by the first week of March to allow the candidate time for contract negotiations and to give notice to his or her employer. The search will be open to candidates nationwide.

AISC chairman Susan Mercier said she and the other personnel subcommittee members met over the summer, and voted to recommend conducting an internal search for possible local candidates, while preparing for an external search at the same time.

After a lengthy discussion, the AISC voted eight to six in favor of conducting one search instead, which would be open to all candidates. The AISC also voted to create an 11-member search committee made up of representatives from the education community and other stakeholders in the Island community. Ms. Mercier said the personnel subcommittee would send letters out this week to solicit volunteers, with the hope of appointing the search committee by the AISC’s next meeting on Oct. 16.

In other business, the AISC voted to ratify a tentative three-year agreement approved by the secretaries’ unit of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional Teachers and Educators Association on Aug. 14. Under the new agreement, secretaries received a job title change to administrative support personnel. Salary increases are two percent retroactively effective July 1, 2013; two percent effective July 1, 2014; and three percent effective July 1, 2015. The agreement also creates a new year-round, full-time job category, and includes stipend increases for longevity, substitute calling, and sick leave buyback.

The AISC also voted to appoint Dr. Jeffrey Zack, head of emergency services at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, as the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools physician for the third year. He receives a stipend through the superintendent’s shared-services budget, to which all Island school districts contribute. He received $8,500 for FY14.

At Mr. Weiss’s recommendation, the AISC voted to approve a pool of money up to 2.5 percent of combined administrators’ and nonunion employees’ salaries for raises in FY16. He also gave an overview of issues he faces in his FY16 budget, including negotiated salary increases, special-education enrollment increases, and additional staffing needs, for which he suggested adding a facilities manager and food-services director.

The Martha's Vineyard Regional HIgh School Committee met with central office and school administrators Monday night in the library conference room to kick off a new school year.

In a brisk one-hour meeting Monday night, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) school committee launched into the new school year with the decision to assume ownership and management of the Up-Island Regional School District’s (UIRSD) school bus fleet.

Currently the regional high school owns and manages a fleet of buses, and also manages and pays all drivers, including the UIRSD’s, and transportation manager Jimmy Flynn through its budget. The Tisbury, Edgartown, and Oak Bluffs elementary school districts pay the high school a fee of $31,000 a year per bus to transport their students, which covers trips to and from school, on-Island field trips and activities, and a portion of maintenance. Tisbury, for example, has 181 runs twice a day in a school year, totaling approximately $62,000.

School committee member Robert Lionette of Chilmark explained that the UIRSD’s proposal to turn its buses over to the high school stemmed from discussions last year about liability concerns. Should students from Edgartown, Tisbury, and Oak Bluffs be injured in an accident while riding on a UIRSD-owned bus on a field trip, for example, the UIRSD would be responsible for those costs — unlike the high school, which apportions insurance deductible costs among the towns. Special education transportation costs are included in the superintendent’s shared services budget.

Under the proposal accepted by the high school committee, the UIRSD’s six buses, valued at approximately $120,000, will be folded into the high school’s 20-bus fleet, and the UIRSD will pay a per run fee as do the down-Island elementary school districts.

Although the change shifts $120,000 in bus transportation expenses from the UIRSD to the high school, superintendent of schools James Weiss said the new arrangement is a plus for both.

“It’s a win for the up-Island school district, because they get out of the liability and bus business, and it’s a win for you because you have control of the system and everybody will pay, based on a fair, per-run fee,” he told the school committee members.

In other business, the school committee approved the first reading of a new Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools policy on employees’ background checks. Once adopted, MVPS will obtain federal and state background check information through both Statewide Applicant Fingerprint Identification Services and Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI). Mr. Weiss said fingerprinting would be required only for volunteers that have direct and unsupervised contact with children, for example, a chaperone on an overnight trip. The cost for fingerprinting is $55 for professional educators and $35 for volunteers, and is available at the superintendent’s office by an employee paid by MVPS and the state’s contractor.

The school committee meeting was a first for new staff members that included principal Gil Traverso, School Resource Officer Sgt. Michael Marchand, and special education director Nancy Dugan, as well as for former teacher Elliott Bennett in her new role as assistant principal.

In his first report to the committee, Mr. Traverso said the high school staff pulled off a successful opening day like a “well-oiled machine.” He also praised guidance director Mike McCarthy and his department for doing an excellent job with students’ schedules, and assistant principal Andrew Berry for his part in making freshmen orientation “the best I’ve seen in all my years in education.”

The committee’s budget subcommittee set dates for Fiscal Year 2016 budget meetings: Oct. 6, 6 pm; Oct. 15, 8:30 am; Nov. 3, 6 pm; and Nov. 19, 8:30 am. A public hearing on the budget will be held at 7 pm on November 24, with certification by the school committee on December 1.

Vineyard Medical Services off State Road in Vineyard Haven, the Island's only walk-in clinic, is under new ownership.

Michael Loberg, a retired scientist and chairman of the Tisbury board of health, confirmed on Wednesday that he is the new owner of Vineyard Medical Services (VMS). The well-known primary and walk-in care clinic on State Road, across from Cronig’s Market in Vineyard Haven, was established in 1976 by Dr. Michael Jacobs. The new clinic will be known as Vineyard Medical Care (VMC).

Dr. Gerry Yukevich of Vineyard Haven, who has been on the VMS primary care staff for about seven years, is the new medical director, Mr. Loberg told The Times in a phone conversation yesterday.

Established in 1976 by Dr. Michael Jacobs, Vineyard Medical Services provides a convenient alternative to the hospital emergency room.
Established in 1976 by Dr. Michael Jacobs, Vineyard Medical Services provides a convenient alternative to the hospital emergency room.

Lena Prisco of Oak Bluffs, formerly the laboratory director and director of infection control at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, is serving as director of operations. Ms. Prisco holds a master’s degree and doctorate in pharmacology.

Mr. Loberg said that he met Dr. Jacobs, Dr. Yukevich, and Ms. Prisco while serving with them on the medical education subcommittee of the Martha’s Vineyard Boards of Health Tick Task Force.

“Between them, their job is to continue to give the same quality care that was given under Dr. Jacobs’s leadership,” Mr. Loberg said. “They’re the operations people that are going to make it happen.”

“Our first goal, from the patient’s point of view, is to ensure this is a seamless change, and we’re already doing that now,” he added.

The newly organized clinic was in operation and the first patients seen on Tuesday.

Dr. Jacobs has served as the director of the clinic for the last several years, but has not been seeing patients, Dr. Yukevich told The Times in a phone call Wednesday.

“He goes around the country, teaching wilderness medicine, which he really loves,” Dr. Yukevich said, adding that Dr. Jacobs will likely continue to serve as a consultant or advisor at the clinic.

Dr. Jacobs had been trying to sell his practice for the last several years, but had been unable to find a buyer, Dr. Yukevich said. Martha’s Vineyard Hospital expressed an interest at one time, but decided against it.

“I’m indebted to Michael Loberg for recognizing this clinic needs to be preserved,” Dr. Yukevich said. “Even though we’re going to change the name, we will be keeping the same philosophy of making walk-in care available to people without hassle, and also to maintain the same continuity of care with our patients that we have provided over the years.”

Dr. Yukevich said the clinic has plans to expand into additional areas of public health.

“There will be a research wing at this operation, primarily for tick-borne illnesses,” Dr. Yukevich explained. “We’re kind of excited about that; we’ve been hashing it out over the past six months or so.”

The deal has been in the works for some time. Mr. Loberg said he and Dr. Jacobs spoke for several months about how to preserve the legacy Dr. Jacobs had built over the years.

“It’s not only a responsibility we have to continue the service, but also an opportunity, because Dr Jacobs didn’t just build a system that can provide quality health care, but also a platform that can be used to develop many additional medical services,” Mr. Loberg said. “We don’t have a clear vision of what that might be yet, but we recognize that with the acquisition of the practice he built, we have the opportunity to do that.”

Mr. Loberg said there are immediate plans, however, to expand the clinic’s laboratory services, which he will be involved in.

Mr. Loberg retired in 2010 as a scientist with 12 years of drug development experience and 21 years of senior management experience. During his career, he served as chief executive officer of Inotek Pharmaceuticals and NitroMed, following a number of senior management positions at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Mr. Loberg also served as an associate professor of medicine and pharmacy at the University of Maryland. He and his wife, Melinda, a Tisbury selectman, have lived in Tisbury full-time since 1997.

“I wanted to see this important source of medical care continued on the Island,” Mr. Loberg said of his decision to buy the practice. “And it’s a way to give to the community, to give to the Island.”

The Times was unable to reach Dr. Jacobs for comment prior to deadline.

Associate principal Sean Mulvey teamed up with the school's mascot, the Tisbury Tiger (teacher Reuben Fitzgerald), to greet people in the Performing Arts Center lobby. — Photo by Janet Hefler

The murmur of excited voices echoing in the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Performing Arts Center Tuesday morning might have easily been mistaken for those of students as Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS) administrators, teachers, and staff gathered for what was officially billed as an opening day convocation in anticipation of their return to work for the start of a new school year today, but it was more reminiscent of a high school pep rally.

The opening day rally for school personnel at the Performing Arts Center generated considerable enthusiasm.
The opening day rally for school personnel at the Performing Arts Center generated considerable enthusiasm. — Photo by Janet Hefler

Superintendent of schools James Weiss called on everyone to raise their hands and make their presence known as he named the five Island elementary schools and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS). In turn, school staff members raised their hands to cheers and applause.

Many in the audience got into the pep rally spirit with suitable attire. Tisbury School administrators and staff wore matching blue and gold sports jerseys and tee-shirts emblazoned with their school’s name. Despite the heat and humidity, grade 7/8 social studies teacher Reuben Fitzgerald gamely donned the school’s tiger mascot’s heavy, fur fabric costume and greeted folks with a few grrr’s. Some in the Oak Bluffs School crowd wore blazers to match their school’s colors.

In his remarks near the end of the 30-minute program, Mr. Weiss said he was inspired by an Op-Ed piece a friend sent him, “The Four Rules of Getting A’s,” published in the Hartford Courant on August 14 by Frank Harris, a journalism professor at Southern Connecticut State University.

“Basically, he’s talking about being on time, following directions, always giving 110 percent, and finding a way to overcome obstacles,” Mr. Weiss said. “And if you do those four things, you will do well in his class, and in our classes, as well. Those are also good goals for us, as we work with young people on the Island: be on time, give 110 percent, and make sure you can help kids overcome obstacles.”

Mr. Weiss told the audience he felt very fortunate to be standing before them. “This Island is an incredibly special place in which to live and work,” he said. “Our communities are extremely supportive, and our students are blessed to have caring, dedicated educators working with them every single day. And schools are well resourced with rich programs.

No, our little world is not perfect,” Mr. Weiss added, “but as I talk with my fellow superintendents at the superintendents’ association’s Cape Cod meetings, I know how great the Martha’s Vineyard public schools truly are. And that’s because this is a people business, and you are the great people that make it so. Thank you.”

Earlier in the program Mr. Weiss called Susan Mercier, the All-Island School Committee (AISC) chairman, to join him onstage. Having confessed her discomfort as a public speaker at last year’s gathering, Ms. Mercier nonetheless braved it again to deliver a message of support and encouragement to Island educators.

She suggested that they savor the moment, and think back upon the energy, excitement and anticipation of the morning’s new school year celebration in the weeks and months to come, when they are immersed in duties such as meetings, back to school nights, and parent conferences.

Ms. Mercier said she has been constantly amazed and proud of the dedicated professionals in all of the Island’s schools.

We live in a community that puts a very high value on education, and for that, I am thankful,” she said. “But what I am truly thankful for is all of you, a community of educators that work tirelessly to ensure that each of our children have the best education possible.”

Ms. Mercier also took the opportunity to pay tribute to Mr. Weiss. She said he became her mentor nine years ago, when she was elected to the Edgartown School Committee and he was starting his career with the Vineyard school system.

“He is a kind, gentle man who never ceases to amaze me with his professionalism, intelligence, and compassion,” Ms. Mercier said. “In June of 2015, Dr. Weiss will be retiring, with the Vineyard being his last stop in an incredible career in education.

So Jim, on behalf of myself, the Island community, educators, staff, students, and parents, I just want to thank you for all you’ve done,” she added. With a catch in her voice, she then turned to Mr. Weiss and told him, “You will be missed.”

The audience gave Mr. Weiss a standing ovation. With his eyes glistening, he bowed his head and raised a hand in appreciation.

The program also included brief remarks by Ena Thulin, president of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional Teachers and Educators Association (MVRTEA), and Corinne Kurtz, the high school’s building representative. Mr. Weiss introduced new personnel at the high school, and Sam Hart, the director of ACE-MV (Adult Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard).

Let’s go to our school buildings and have a wonderful school year,” Mr. Weiss said in closing.

The public school system is the Island’s largest employer, with approximately 550 total full- and part-time employees, according to Mr. Weiss. Teachers represent approximately 275 of that total.

Oak Bluffs police sergeant Mike Marchand will be a familiar presence at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School this school year. — Photo by Michael Cummo

This week, Sergeant Michael Marchand traded his desk at the Oak Bluffs Police Department (OBPD) for one at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS). On Tuesday, Sergeant Marchand will assume full-time duties as the School Resource Officer (SRO).

Superintendent of Schools James Weiss and Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake announced his appointment in a press release last week. Mr. Weiss and Chief Blake waited to formally appoint an SRO until the high school’s new principal, Gil Traverso, started work full-time on August 11.

Sgt. Marchand told The Times in a phone conversation Monday that he had a 90-minute meeting last week with Mr. Traverso, who has experience working with an SRO in his former job as principal of the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy in Springfield.

“He seems to have the same understanding of what the basics are, and we seem to be on the same page,” Sgt. Marchand said.

Plans for creating the SRO position have been in the works for several years, but funding was delayed by budget constraints. The MVRHS school committee approved $100,000 for salary and benefits for an SRO in the high school’s Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) budget, approved by town meeting voters Island-wide last spring.

Asked if he sought the SRO appointment, Sgt. Marchand said he had expressed an interest during the planning process to create the position. “I wanted to see a program get started, and I wanted to see it started in the right way,” he said.

Sgt. Marchand has both a professional and personal interest in making the SRO program successful. One of his four children is a student at the high school, and two other children will attend in the next few years. A fourth child is a graduate.

While working the day shift, Sgt. Marchand said he has spent a lot of time at the high school and had a lot of interaction with the assistant principals there.

“When they heard I was interested in the position, they thought it was a good fit,” he said. “I’ve been around the high school quite a bit, in over 20 years of policing. I know a lot of the kids and a lot of the teachers already.”

What does an SRO do?

His duties and responsibilities are outlined in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the high school and OBPD, signed by Mr. Weiss, Chief Blake, and Oak Bluffs town administrator Robert Whritenour.

The SRO’s primary responsibility is to provide police services in the school environment and cooperate with school officials in developing education programs, emergency plans, law enforcement activities, and specialized counseling to faculty, staff, students, and parents, according to a copy of the MOU that Mr. Weiss provided in response to a request from The Times.

Sgt. Marchand will work an eight-hour shift Monday through Friday at the high school and will not be pulled to cover patrol shifts or court appearances for the OBPD, according to the MOU. He also is expected to attend or participate in extracurricular activities and after-school parent and community functions when possible. Depending on the activity he is involved in, he will wear a uniform or a modified version that identifies him as a police officer, and display his badge.

“The biggest priority of any SRO, myself included, is to make sure the students and faculty are safe,” Sgt. Marchand said, “and that they feel safe at school and they feel safe at work. And that lends itself, in turn, to an environment that is conducive to learning.”

His duties and responsibilities are categorized in the MOU under the headings of education, specialized counseling, law enforcement, and general. Duties under education include conducting programs and training for school personnel, participating in classroom presentations, and providing information about criminal or juvenile law to students.

Counseling duties include providing career counseling to students interested in law enforcement, discussing alcohol and other drug prevention, and meeting privately with students to discuss a wide variety of issues.

Law enforcement duties include investigating criminal activity committed in the school or on school property, and enforcing the law. The MOU stipulates that school officials, not the SRO, remain responsible for imposing discipline for infraction of school rules and policies that do not amount to criminal or delinquent conduct. Sgt. Marchand also will coordinate and be responsible for law enforcement and security at extracurricular events, as determined by the principal.

Sergeant Marchand said he has not set specific goals yet, because he is building the SRO program from the ground up.

“We know what type of program we want to model ours after, but we don’t know yet exactly what it will look like at the high school,” he said. “It will take a little while to figure that out. We’re excited about it.”

Sgt. Marchand’s office is located next to the two assistant principals’ offices, near the high school’s main entrance. It will be equipped with a police department phone line and a computer to allow him to connect with both the school’s and police department’s record systems.

Chain of command

Although Sgt. Marchand will be considered an MVRHS staff member, Chief Blake remains his boss.

In a phone conversation with The Times on Monday, Chief Blake said he weighed his decision to appoint one of his more experienced officers with supervisory responsibilities very carefully. “When Sergeant Marchand said he was interested in this job, what made me consider him were his skills as an administrator, the way he handles people, his experience and knowledge, and very importantly, his willingness to take on this assignment,” he said. “I picked the person I felt would best get the program going properly, and make sure it is stable for years to come.”

“With the commitment by the school monetarily and the commitment from the school administration and myself to get a program that would be beneficial and good, I felt I would make the sacrifice in the human capital in my department to get it done correctly,” he said, adding that he felt the SRO program was worth it.

“We’re going to lose a sergeant, but we have two others in which I have extreme confidence that they’ll be able to pick up whatever Sergeant Marchand does for me,” the chief noted. “The beauty is, I get him back in the summer, when I really need him.”

Chief Blake said the $100,000 budgeted for the new full-time, school-based SRO’s salary, benefits, and operating costs is based on the estimated cost to hire a first-year police officer. The annual base pay for an OBPD sergeant is $120,000, excluding overtime, stipends, and benefits, according to the Oak Bluffs personnel department.

Mr. Marchand will continue to receive his sergeant’s salary through the police budget and the $100,000 budgeted by the high school for the SRO will be used to pay the costs associated with a newly hired patrolman.

SRO programs Island-wide

The idea of having a full-time SRO at the high school has been under consideration since 2012, when the school committee voted unanimously to explore creating the position. The establishment of the SRO position this year appears to be well-timed.

On August 13, Governor Patrick Deval signed, “An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence.” In addition to strengthening gun laws, the legislation also requires the assignment of a school resource officer to each school district.

Law enforcement presence varies from school to school on the Island. In a previous interview on the subject, Mr. Weiss said each school and police department has tried to develop the best possible solution for their situation.

Edgartown police officers David Rossi and Stephanie Immelt share part-time SRO duties at Edgartown School. Tisbury police officer Scott Ogden serves as an SRO for four hours a day, three days a week, at Tisbury School.

Last year, Oak Bluffs police officers began a simple, cost-effective plan to increase their presence at Oak Bluffs School by assigning a day shift officer to complete arrest reports or other clerical work in a small office near the gym and cafeteria.

After much discussion last fall, the Up-Island Regional School District school committee decided not to add an SRO to this year’s budget, but they said they would continue to consider the idea in the future. Currently, officers from the district’s member towns of Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury make random visits to the Chilmark and West Tisbury Schools and attend field trips, according to school officials.

Ty Hobbs is the new career and vocational technical education department head at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. (Photo Courtesy Ty Hobbs) — Photo courtesy of Ty Hobbs

Robert “Ty” Hobbs exchanged one island for another when he joined the staff at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) on July 1 as the new career and vocational technical education department director. Mr. Hobbs, who owns a home in Petersburg, Alaska, on Mitkof Island, previously worked for a year as the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program manager for that state’s department of education.

“There’s a difference between vocational education and CTE,” Mr. Hobbs told The Times in a telephone interview last week. “CTE is really about modern, current, academically infused learning, and that’s what we want to do here.”

Before moving to Alaska, Mr. Hobbs worked at Greater Lowell Technical High School. He taught computer science engineering and electronics engineering for seven years, before moving into administration as the technology department chairman for eight years.

Mr. Hobbs said he has owned his home in Alaska for 11 years and had been wanting to move there, so the state education job in Juneau gave him that opportunity. Although he was told that Alaska had plans to make its CTE program similar to the one in Massachusetts, Mr. Hobbs said it didn’t come to fruition.

“Working for the state of Alaska was kind of like working for the Registry of Motor Vehicles,” he said “It wasn’t really why I’m in education. I can do all the paperwork and everything that needs to be done, but I just prefer to be working with teachers and students.”

Although Mr. Hobbs had planned to make a one-way move to Alaska, the opportunity at MVRHS brought him full circle, back to the Bay State.

When asked about his background, Mr. Hobbs said he started his career in education in 1998, when he was 36, after gaining extensive technician work experience in applied technology and applied engineering.

“When I was in the classroom, and then in administrative jobs that I’ve been in, I feel like I really understood vocational work and what it means, and how to make money,” he said.

After joining the U.S. Navy at age 17, Mr. Hobbs served in the engineering department on the U.S.S. Georgia, a nuclear ballistic missile submarine now deployed as a cruise missile submarine. After his Navy service, he ran the nuclear reactor at UMass Lowell for about six years, and then worked overseas dismantling chemical weapons for Raytheon Company.

Mr. Hobbs started teaching electronics and computer science classes in 1988. By that time, he was a licensed stationary engineer working in the power industry. His job involved installing ozone generators to purify water, all over the country, for a division of Boston Edison Company.

With all of that experience under his belt before entering education, Mr. Hobbs said, “I feel like I can really help kids learn about how to take what they should learn in school and apply it to the workplace.”

Future plans

Asked if he has any plans yet for his department, Mr. Hobbs said that during his first year at the high school he wants to engage in dialogue with teachers and students about what learning really is, and to familiarize himself with the school’s culture.

He said that one area he does plan to address is the high school’s work study program.

“My intention is that we’re going to add a few things to make it more robust on the student’s end,” he said. “We’re not doing simple recall. What we want to do is talk about what the kids should be learning on the job. There are a lot of things, and it can vary. Not every kid is going to be the same; it’s going to be based on where they are.”

Mr. Hobbs said he would like to convey a message to the Island business community to help him boost the work study program.

“Any employer or potential employer, I would ask that they please call me, and let’s talk about placing a student,” he said.

Mr. Hobbs has created a Twitter account, vineyarderjobs, and is working on linking it to a blog site he is developing, as well as the school’s website. He said it will serve as “information central” for all interested students, parents, vocational teachers, and employers.

“Really, I want to learn about communicating with everybody as much as possible, to find out how can we help and do better,” Mr. Hobbs said. “I’m looking for any and all feedback from anybody.”

In the meantime, Mr. Hobbs, who had never been to Martha’s Vineyard before, is learning about the Island. Since he was already used to island life in Alaska and taking a ferry twice a week there, “I have not had any shocks here,” he said.

“I’m very happy, and I really like what I see here,” Mr. Hobbs added.

Martha's Vineyard Regional High School will begin the school year with a school resource officer. — File photo by Susan Safford

Oak Bluffs Police Sergeant Michael Marchand has been appointed the School Resource Officer (SRO) for Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), Superintendent of schools James Weiss and Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake said in a joint press release emailed to the Times late Wednesday afternoon.

Sergeant Marchand will assume his full-time duties at the high school on September 2. With the urging of the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Task Force, the MVRHS school committee approved $100,000 for salary and benefits for an SRO in the high school’s fiscal 2015 budget, approved by town meeting voters Island-wide last spring.

In addition to the salary and benefits for the position, Mr. Weiss said the high school would provide Sergeant Marchand with an office and a computer to allow him to connect with both the school’s and police department’s record systems. The town of Oak Bluffs will provide him with a vehicle and replace him with a new officer.

The high school staff and Oak Bluffs town officials drafted a memorandum of understanding detailing the SRO’s duties and responsibilities last spring. They waited to formally appoint an SRO until the arrival this month of the high school’s new principal, Gil Traverso. Mr. Traverso and Sgt. Marchand met earlier this week, Mr. Weiss said.

Chief Blake said he was happy that the school and police department worked collaboratively to fill the vital position, according to the press release.

“The officer chosen, Sergeant Marchand, will be instrumental in strengthening the relationship with school staff and, most importantly, students,” Chief Blake said.

Participants in Cape Light Compact's new energy monitoring program will be able to check on their electricity usage through a variety of smart phone displays like these. — Graphic courtesy of Cape Light C

What does it cost to keep your air conditioning on when you’re not home? How much electricity does your home or business use when you’re there — or not there?

A new initiative launched last Friday by Cape Light Compact (CLC) will allow an initial 600 residential and commercial customers the opportunity to use smart devices or computers to track electricity usage and learn ways to increase energy efficiency.

Program participants will install a monitor that uploads data on electricity usage to a cloud-based software program for analysis. The results are then transmitted back to the participant’s smart device or computer. The monitor and software are provided by CLC’s vendor, People Power, based in Silicon Valley, California.

You can see how much electricity you are using in near real time, and compare it with prior days, weeks or even years,” CLC administrator Maggie Downey said in a press release. “The detailed feedback will also include recommendations for how you can reduce electricity usage, and ultimately the program is designed to help consumers gain a better understanding of how they use electricity and what drives their electric bills.”

Signing up

Those interested in participating in the behavior feedback initiative may apply online to see if they qualify at There is no cost to participate.

When you take the survey, it will immediately tell you if you met the minimum requirements, and then you’ll get a follow-up notification,” Briana Kane, CLC senior residential program coordinator, told The Times in a phone call Tuesday.

To be eligible, residential and commercial participants must live or have a business on Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard, and have an active residential or commercial NSTAR electric account with more than 6 months of usage per year. That does not rule out participation by seasonal homeowners, however.

If someone who owns a second home on the Cape or Martha’s Vineyard leaves the electricity on and it’s generating usage when they’re not there, they can participate,” Ms. Kane said.

Participants must have access to their electric meter to install a monitor on it.

There is no electrical wiring that requires installation by an electrician or anything like that,” Ms. Kane explained. “Basically, you just plug in a relay — it’s actually called a doughnut — into an outlet, and then you get the monitor and devices to start talking to each other. So in addition, you’ll download an app[lication] for that.”

The app also includes an installation guide.

It will do some of the Internet connection components for you, instead of you having to manually type in a lot of the information,” Ms. Kane said. “But you do need to have a Wi-Fi router that is always on, because that’s how the monitoring device gets the feedback.”

The device currently is not compatible with solar photovoltaic systems because of the net metering component, Ms. Kane said. “The technology cannot yet differentiate between demand from the house and the generation of electricity.”

Evolving technology

The new initiative is phase three of CLC’s Smart Home Energy Monitoring Pilot, Ms. Kane said. In phase one, launched in 2009, GroundedPower of Gloucester installed monitoring systems that  it developed in the homes of 100 residential customers on Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod. They received information about their energy consumption on an online “dashboard,” along with suggestions about how to save energy, which resulted in a 9.3 percent reduction in their daily energy use, according to a consultant’s report.

Phase two, implemented in 2011, opened the program to an additional 280 Cape and Vineyard residents. The technology supplied by the energy platform company Tendril included whole-house wireless monitoring, an in-home display, and a wireless base station designed to upload near real-time data to a web monitoring program.

Ms. Kane said phase three builds on lessons learned from the first two, as well as opening the program to both residential and commercial customers.

What we had heard from evaluations on phase one and phase two was, ‘I want to be able to do more,’” she said. “People also told us they would like the technology to be more up to date and allow them to view their energy usage on the go, because they aren’t always in front of their computers. This initiative will allow them to download an app to their iPhone, Droid device, or iPads or tablets, as well, and see their current consumption and usage history, and get in some real-time feedback.”

In addition to providing information about energy usage, the app includes a video component, Ms. Kane said.

So if you have an old smart phone — and it doesn’t need to be on a data plan — you can set that up anywhere around your home and connect it to the phone or device you carry,” she said. “It could be set up to detect motion or to record a video, and it will actually be viewable on your phone or smart device or from your desktop computer. That’s an additional feature, for people interested in some ‘bells and whistles.’”

Customers have also told CLC they would like to be able to control energy usage in their home remotely, Ms. Kane said. With that in mind, CLC is looking at technology such as a control plug that customers could purchase that would allow them to turn a lamp on or off or control the thermostat in their home from their smart device.

Space still available

Ms. Kane said although she has sent approvals off to a number of people that signed up for the energy monitoring program since last Friday, there is still space available.

What would be awesome would be to get the initiative fully subscribed, with 600 participants, and get everyone up and running over the next month,” she added. “Then, as we evaluate this, if it continues to be a program that people are interested in, we can look at continuing to offer it and allow additional people to sign up. But right now, we’re kind of managing the number at this launch, and seeing where the interest still is. You always hear people say these are things they’re looking for and are interested in, and we just want to make sure that is the case.”

To help get the word out, CLC reached out to organizations in its 21 member towns on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, inviting them to participate in recruiting residents and businesses to take part in the initiative.

Seven organizations responded, including the Chilmark selectmen’s office, Harwich Council on Aging, Dennis-Yarmouth Regional Schools maintenance department, Mashpee recreation department, and energy committees in Bourne, Dennis, and Yarmouth. They will be able to earn up to a total of $10,000 in prizes, based on the number of people they recruit.

That being said, you don’t have to be a resident or a business in one of those towns to participate,” Ms. Kane said. “Everyone on the Cape and the Vineyard can apply to participate.”

About CLC

When the electrical industry was deregulated, power companies had to choose whether to be in the distribution or supply business. CLC is a public energy services organization created in 1997 to work with the combined buying power of the region’s 200,000 electric consumers to negotiate for low-cost electricity and other public benefits related to energy, including energy efficiency programs.

CLC is authorized by 21 towns and two counties on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard to choose the electric supplier for their residents and businesses. NSTAR still owns and maintains the poles and wires, and is responsible for billing.

For more information, visit CLC’s website at


A seven-year effort by a group of Tisbury residents to get a crosswalk installed at the intersection of State Road and Causeway Road has stalled. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has said the specific area does not meet its requirements for a crosswalk. But the town is not giving up on the effort.

In a letter dated May 29, Tisbury department of public works (DPW) director Glenn Mauk told MassDOT of the town’s interest in creating the crosswalk due to pedestrian safety concerns. MassDOT responded on June 23 that it could not honor his request, also citing safety concerns.

“The Town has previously requested a crosswalk at this location,” MassDOT said. “At that time personnel from the District Traffic Operations Unit conducted a field review to determine if minimum sight distance requirements were met. The conditions at the intersection do not provide the minimum sight distance required for the installation of a crosswalk.”

At Mr. Mauk’s suggestion, Tisbury selectmen agreed to follow up on the matter with a public records request to MassDOT, in order to review the documentation on which its crosswalk decision was based. Town administrator Jay Grande sent a letter dated June 17 requesting copies of all written correspondence related to the proposed crosswalk dating back to 2007, including emails, texts, letters, memoranda, and plans.

MassDOT legal counsel Ulysses Jacks acknowledged the town’s request in a letter on June 26. “We will attempt to retrieve the document(s) you have requested…,” he said, adding that MassDOT would notify Mr. Grande of a fee for assembling and reproducing the documents that are located.

The stretch of State Road between Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road and Main Street, also known as South Main Street, is the Island’s busiest, according to past traffic studies conducted by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and MassDOT, especially in the summer as more vehicles travel to and from the Steamship Authority. Foot traffic to Veterans Park, located off Causeway Road, increases seasonally as well, as sports and other recreational activities ramp up.

The crosswalk initiative began as a neighborhood petition in 2007 signed by 30  people, including not only Vineyard Haven residents who lived nearby but also some Oak Bluffs and Edgartown residents. In addition to a crosswalk at Causeway Road, the petition called for replacement of the existing speed limit sign on State Road and the addition of one near Causeway Road, and the posting of a hidden driveway sign near Delano Road.

Since then, a major sidewalk reconstruction program was undertaken on State Road along the stretch from Main Street to Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in May 2012.

It did not solve all of the neighborhood group’s safety concerns, however, and they have continued to bring up the crosswalk request every spring, when it is time for MassDOT to repaint the stripes on State Road.

At one point several years ago, town officials were told by MassDOT that the department had run out of paint and had none to do crosswalks, Deborah Medders, a State Road resident and Tisbury town moderator, recalled in a recent conversation with The Times.

Given the 20 mph speed limit on State Road and the slight downhill curve the road takes going towards Five Corners, Ms. Medders said she and her neighbors anticipated that MassDOT would deny the crosswalk because of the sight distance issue.

“We understand what DOT is saying, but the need is still there,” she said.

Another area resident, Lorraine Parrish, said she often sees people trying to cross State Road as she looks out her kitchen window, which has a full view of Causeway Road.

“Where else can they cross?” Ms. Parrish said in an email to The Times. “The only choice is to walk down State Road, which doesn’t even have a shoulder to walk on, much less a sidewalk. If there isn’t enough sight distance to put a crosswalk, then doesn’t that make it an even more dangerous spot for people crossing without one?”

The neighborhood group has also been concerned about the use of the one sidewalk on the north side of State Road. Although bicyclists are generally prohibited from riding on sidewalks by state law, many of them do not get off and walk their bikes.

The residents don’t expect a decrease in traffic, Ms. Medders said, but they would like MassDOT to tell the town what can be done to make the street safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.