Authors Posts by Janet Hefler

Janet Hefler

Janet Hefler
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Although the operating budget increased by only a quarter of a percent, Island towns will see a five percent increase in assessments next year.

Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. — File photo by Susan Safford

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) school committee unanimously approved a fiscal year 2016 (FY16) budget on Monday night, after a brief discussion.

The committee voted 9-0 to certify a total operating budget of $18,589,492, an increase of $43,242, or .23 percent, over FY15. The committee also voted to certify a total of $16,038,670 that will be assessed to Island towns, an increase of $769,262, or 5.04 percent, over FY15.

MVRHS account manager Mark Friedman said the biggest change in the high school’s FY16 budget is in revenue and reimbursements, which total $2,550,822. That amount reflects a decrease of $726,020, or 22.16 percent, from FY15, due to the end of state reimbursements for the addition of the gym and performing arts center in the 1990s, he explained.

Although the total operating expenses are going up only slightly, the drop in revenue, and the end of the annual reimbursements in particular, resulted in an increase in net expenses assessed to the towns.

Superintendent of schools James Weiss reminded the committee that they previously voted to use the state’s statutory formula to determine the town assessments for FY16, pending Governor Deval Patrick’s release of his state budget.

Total statutory assessments are determined by a complex formula that takes a number of factors into account, including enrollment, local contributions from the towns, net school spending apportionments, transportation, other operating costs, capital costs, and debt service costs.

Since enrollment from each town figures into the formula and drives assessments up or down accordingly, Mr. Weiss noted that changes this school year include an increase of five students from Aquinnah, 11 students from Oak Bluffs, and one student from West Tisbury. Chilmark has 11 fewer students and Tisbury’s enrollment remained the same.

Mr. Friedman noted that the sixth and final version of the FY16 budget had been updated to include the high school’s portion of the superintendent’s office and shared services budget, approved by the All-Island School Committee on November 20. Mr. Friedman said the adjustment decreased the budget by about $200 since it was presented at a public hearing last week by principal Gil Traverso.

The FY16 budget also includes $175,000 for maintenance and building repairs to be determined and made on a priority basis.

In the principal’s report, Mr. Traverso announced that 20 MVRHS players from six teams were named “All Star Athletes” by the Eastern Athletic Conference. Assistant principals Elliott Bennett and Andrew Berry read off their names.

Mr. Traverso also gave the committee members a page-long list of facility issues that he said would be analyzed in more detail and organized by priority. In regard to parent conferences held November 17–21, Mr. Traverso said they were a success overall but not as well-attended as last year’s, with 28 fewer parents and 46 fewer students.

In other business, the committee approved a proposal to add winter track as a club sport for a year. The team will participate in five meets to be held at Wheaton College.

In a follow-up to several previous discussions about adding student representatives to the school committee, the committee voted to approve the addition of senior Russell Shapiro and junior Kyra Whalen as non-voting members. Mr. Traverso said they were elected to serve by the student government.

The committee also heard reports from Island Grown Schools (IGS) coordinator Noli Taylor and school committee member Lisa Reagan of Oak Bluffs, who serves on the MVRHS wellness committee.

Ms. Taylor said the high school’s IGS program includes activities such as dinners featuring local foods prepared by high school culinary arts students, films and discussions about nutrition, monthly taste tests of local foods in the school cafeteria, and summer programs for teens at Island farms.

Ms. Reagan said the wellness committee’s idea to install a refrigerated vending machine in the cafeteria has been a big success, offering students options for cold and hot snacks before heading to sports practices or other activities after school hours.

The student spotlight this month featured senior Rasmus Sayre, who won the 2014 Kona World Championships in wind-surfing last month in Islamorada, Fla. The event included 108 competitors from 13 countries and four continents.

The school committee concluded the meeting with a vote to elect Ms. Reagan as the new chairman and Robert Lionette as vice chairman. Committee member Susan Mercier of Edgartown thanked outgoing chairman Colleen McAndrews for “three fantastic years.”

The school committee’s next meeting will be on January 5, 2015.

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—Photo by Michael Cummo

The Tisbury selectmen breezed through a relatively short meeting Tuesday night, after keeping the public and department heads waiting while they met in executive session for 75 minutes beforehand.

They began their regular meeting with an update from Craig Whitaker, a New York City architect and urban planner who lives part-time in Tisbury, on plans by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s (MVC) Island Roads Committee to create a “highway manual,” a document that would guide future road projects on Martha’s Vineyard, as well as guide improvements and maintenance on current public roadways.

The highway manual would govern road features such as lane width, shoulders, barriers, drainage, utilities, lighting, vegetation, and maintenance, Mr. Whitaker said.

“I like the idea of us being empowered to do our own work,” he said. “It clearly has a number of attributes, one of which is the Island economy depends on the way it looks, and people come here because it’s different. And to the extent that sense of being special erodes, it becomes less special.”

Mr. Whitaker said another reason to pursue the manual is the possibility of saving money. “I heard for the first time the other day the words that MassDOT uses, that are having roads ‘go on a diet,’” he said.

In addition to suggesting that making roads smaller could reduce the Island’s carbon footprint, Mr. Whitaker said, “I think in political terms, it also means that this is very likely the kind of project which would attract national attention, because as you may know in following the newspapers, the current transportation act has nearly expired, and it will be a new Congress that will write the next one.”

Mr. Whitaker said preliminary consultation work on the manual concept got underway last year, funded by $5,000 from the MVC and $5,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). Representatives from the consulting firm of McCormick Taylor will visit and tour Martha’s Vineyard on Thursday before attending the Island Roads Committee’s meeting at the MVC at 4 pm, he said.

Mr. Whitaker estimated that the manual would cost about $150,000, depending on consultation fees, and that funding sources are the question right now.

After further discussion, the selectmen voted to ask the MVC to support and put together the Island roads manual initiative it had already approved and to help find the funding, and also to engage a consultant as soon as possible in order to develop a scope and budget for the manual.

In other business, the selectmen approved Police Chief Dan Hanavan’s request to seek a reserve fund transfer of $12,000 through the Finance and Advisory Committee for uniforms and equipment for new police officers. At FinCom chairman Larry Gomez’s recommendation, the selectmen advised Chief Hanavan to look for funds within his operational budget first to cover the overage, before tapping the town’s reserve funds.

As suggested by finance director Tim McLean, the selectmen voted to schedule next year’s special and annual town meetings on April 14, followed by town elections on April 28, in order to avoid conflicts with the Passover holiday and spring school vacation.

The selectmen also approved beer and wine license renewal applications for the Black Dog Tavern, Black Dog Bakery/Cafe, Little House Cafe, Rocco’s Pizzeria, and Copper Wok.

Tuesday night’s meeting was the third in a row at which the selectmen met in executive session before, instead of after, their regular, public session. The agenda stated the executive session included a step two department of public works grievance hearing, collective bargaining strategy discussions, and real estate, litigation and contract negotiations.

Before a vote to adjourn at 7:30 pm and reconvene in executive session, chairman Jon Snyder said he would ask that executive sessions be scheduled after the regular meeting sessions on future agendas.

The selectmen will meet again at 5:30 pm on December 9 for a tax classification hearing and other miscellaneous business.

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Stop and Shop shelves beckon shoppers. —Photo by Michael Cummo

When it comes to grocery shopping, many Vineyarders prefer to shop at one particular store. Others, however, make the rounds to purchase certain brands and specialty foods or to take advantage of sale items. But no matter what aisles they shop, they find Island food prices to be a common topic of discussion.

Anecdotes abound about price differences among local grocery stores, and between local and mainland stores. To put some starch into those stories, The Times recently examined prices in grocery stores on Island and off. Visits were made on November 13 to the Stop & Shop and Shaw’s grocery stores in Falmouth. On-Island visits to Cronig’s Market in Vineyard Haven, Reliable Market in Oak Bluffs, and Stop & Shop’s Edgartown and Vineyard Haven stores followed on November 14.

The Times put together a shopping list of 20 food items a family might commonly purchase, culled from one used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine monthly average food prices. The same brands and quantities were included to ensure “apples to apples” comparisons.

The chart reflects regular prices and does not take sale prices or the Our Island Club card into account. For example, although Stop & Shop’s regular prices for butter, flour, and sugar came in at the highest, those items were on sale for about half-price on November 14 with coupons or use of the store’s free shopper’s discount card. Cronig’s offers a 15 percent discount off groceries to members of Our Island Club, who pay an annual fee of $59 to $99, depending on the type of membership.

How prices check out

As the accompanying chart shows, the results were a mixed bag Island-wide. Prices were highest in the two Stop & Shop stores on 10 items and in Cronig’s on 8. Stop & Shop prices came in lower than Cronig’s on 6 items, and Cronig’s prices came in lower than Stop & Shop’s on 8 items. Reliable Market’s prices were lower than Stop & Shop’s on 14 items and lower than Cronig’s on 13.

Arnold’s bread and Cape Cod potato chips cost the same on-Island and off, as prices are set by the manufacturers and stamped on the packages.

Although most of the prices were the same in the Edgartown and Vineyard Haven Stop & Shop stores, there were a few discrepancies. For example, a pound of Land O’Lakes Butter was 21 cents higher and a dozen large brown eggs 50 cents lower in Vineyard Haven.

The Falmouth grocery stores won out with the lowest prices, compared to the four Island stores. Shaw’s had the lowest prices overall on 10 items and Stop & Shop on 7. The Falmouth Stop & Shop beat the Island Stop & Shop stores’ prices on 13 items.

Last week The Times emailed Annmarie Seldon, public relations manager for Stop & Shop’s New England Division, to ask what accounts for the pricing differences between the local Stop & Shops, and between the Island and Falmouth stores.

“To answer your question in general, the cost to do business on an island, prices are higher,” Ms. Seldon replied by email.

The “Island factor” includes transportation on the Steamship Authority (SSA), which costs approximately $500 per round trip for a tractor trailer truck to deliver groceries to the Island, according to an SSA spokesman. An average load for a tractor trailer would be about 22 tons, according to Greg Carroll, manager of Carroll’s trucking.

As for price variations between the two Island Stop & Shops, Ms. Seldon said, “Our specific pricing policies are proprietary information.”

Cost and convenience

While checking prices at Island grocery stores, The Times asked numerous shoppers the same question: Are you a regular shopper here, and if so, why? Many people said they preferred to keep their opinions to themselves and their names out of the paper to avoid getting an earful from others in the small Island community. Among those who did offer comments, convenience and prices were the key factors they said influence where they shop.

In the Vineyard Haven Stop & Shop, it took more than a half hour to find two shoppers willing to be quoted, out of 10 approached. Matthew Fielder of West Tisbury said although he lives closer to the two Cronig’s stores, he shops at Stop & Shop most of the time because he thinks the prices are lower overall.

Mr. Fielder said he understands that Island stores have to mark up prices because of transportation costs, but he thinks Cronig’s prices exceed that.

“The down and up-Island Cronig’s are pretty great, and I love their meat department, but I’d like to be able to get a pound and a half of Cabot cheese without having to take out a mortgage,” he said.

Mr. Fielder said although the discount Cronig’s offers to Our Island Club cardholders softens the blow somewhat, it isn’t enough.

“It’s definitely nice, but a two-liter bottle of soda, for example, is an extra dollar,” he said. “Even with the savings of 15 percent off, if you get a few bottles of soda a month, it adds up to the cost of a tank of gas after a while.”

Liz Luce of West Tisbury said she was shopping at the Vineyard Haven Stop & Shop because it happened to be on her way home.

“I prefer Cronig’s, but we can’t always afford it,” she said. “This store is convenient, and I do shop at Cronig’s, too. If I do a big shop, I try to go to the Edgartown Stop and Shop and pay attention to the flyers. Honestly, every chance I can, I head off to Market Basket or Trader Joe’s or places like that.”

For Jan Van Riper of Vineyard Haven, the down-Island Cronig’s has been her go-to store for more than 30 years.

“I shop at Cronig’s because I moved to the Island a stranger, and my mother-in-law had recommended it highly,” Ms. Van Riper said. “I started going there and I liked it, and I’ve been going there ever since. The ease of me getting there and parking is also a factor, because I can avoid traffic in downtown Vineyard Haven, especially in the summer.”

Evelyn Vertefeuille of Oak Bluffs said she almost always shops at Reliable Market, but does pick up sale items occasionally at Stop & Shop.

“I come to Reliable because I think the prices are great overall, it’s convenient to where my house is, and this is my number one grocery store,” Ms. Vertefeuille said. “The people are great; I love that it’s family-owned. In summer, it’s a little tough to park, but people wait in the lot, and when someone pulls out, someone else pulls in.”

Ben Biron of Edgartown said he especially likes shopping locally, at a non-chain store. “It’s family-owned and their prices are reasonable; those are probably my two biggest reasons for shopping here,” he said.

Stacey Smith, accompanied by her three-year-old daughter Annie at the Edgartown Stop & Shop, said she shops there because it is close to home and has a better selection than the Vineyard Haven store.

“The deals are awesome, and I love watching and seeing how much I save every time I come here,” she said. “I’ll think, wow, I saved about $40. You can make a game out of it.”

For Matthew Vanderhoop of Aquinnah, the decision on where to shop takes some careful consideration, since it involves a 40-mile round trip from his home.

“I take advantage of Stop & Shop’s shopping card discount and sale items, which makes it worth it to shop here,” he said of the Edgartown store.

Putting prices in perspective

Despite the higher food prices that Islanders pay, they and other Americans still spend less on groceries than consumers in any other country in the world, due in large part to U.S. agricultural productivity.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 6.7 percent of Americans’ household expenditures, or $2,394 per person, were for food in 2013. By comparison, the percentage of consumer expenditures on food was 9.3 percent in the United Kingdom, 9.5 percent in Canada, 15.7 percent in Brazil, 27.4 percent in Serbia, 37.3 in Belarus, and the highest in Nigeria, at 56.7 percent.

Grocery Price Comparison List   
Cronig'sReliableShaw's
Vineyard HavenOak BluffsFalmouth
Apples, red delicious/lb. 1.891.690.99
Bacon (1 lb. Oscar Meyer)7.496.896.99
Bananas/lb.990.890.49
Bread, Arnold's 100% whole wheat4.494.494.49
Broccoli, crownsl/b.1.991.891.49
Butter (1 lb. Land of Lakes)5.495.694.99
Cheese, Kraft American 16 singles5.594.493.49
Chicken brsts boneless Perdue/lb.N/AN/A5.99
Coffee, Folger's classic roast 11.3 oz.5.594.595.49
Eggs, brown, dozen large3.393.292.19
Flour, Gold Medal 5 lb.2.892.792.29
Ground beef, 85% lean/lb.6.794.49 (87%)5.49
Ice Cream, Hood's 1.5 qt.4.394.294.49
Iceberg Lettuce (head)2.192.691.49
Lemons (price each)0.790.890.75
Milk, gallon 2%6.49 (Hood)4.49(Shurfine)4.19 (Hood)
Peanut Butter, Skippy 16.3 oz.2.992.992.99
Pork Chops, bone-in/lb.5.893.694.49
Potato Chips, Cape Cod __ oz. 3.793.793.79
Sugar, Domino's 4 lb.2.53.193.99
Grocery Price Comparison List Continued
Stop & ShopStop & ShopStop & Shop
EdgartownVineyard HavenFalmouth
Apples, red delicious/lb. 1.291.291.29
Bacon (1 lb. Oscar Meyer)8.998.998.99
Bananas/lb.0.390.390.39
Bread, Arnold's 100% whole wheat4.494.494.49
Broccoli, crownsl/b.1.991.991.69
Butter (1 lb. Land of Lakes)5.585.794.99
Cheese, Kraft American 16 singles4.794.793.69
Chicken brsts boneless Perdue/lb.5.995.995.99
Coffee, Folger's classic roast 11.3 oz.5.795.793.49
Eggs, brown, dozen large3.893.392.69
Flour, Gold Medal 5 lb.4.194.193.99
Ground beef, 85% lean/lb.5.49N/A0.99
Ice Cream, Hood's 1.5 qt.4.994.993.49
Iceberg Lettuce (head)2.992.991.49
Lemons (price each)0.990.990.99
Milk, gallon 2%5.39 (Garelick)5.39 (Garelick)4.29 (Hood)
Peanut Butter, Skippy 16.3 oz.3.693.693.39
Pork Chops, bone-in/lb.4.994.993.49
Potato Chips, Cape Cod __ oz. 3.793.793.79
Sugar, Domino's 4 lb.4.154.193.99

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Gil Traverso discusses the public budget meeting regarding the 2016 fiscal year high school budget. —Photo by Janet Hefler

Gil Traverso, the new principal of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), conducted his first budget public hearing on Monday night at the Performing Arts Center. The high school’s $18,589,692 fiscal year 2016 (FY16) budget includes an increase of $43,443, or .23 percent, over FY15. Mr. Traverso noted that the .23 percent increase in operating expenses amounts to about $63 per student, based on an enrollment of 686.

Despite the minor increase, town assessments are expected to rise by 5 percent to make up for a drop of $726,020 in state aid next year, Mr. Traverso said.

He began his presentation by highlighting the high school’s many positives, including a low drop-out rate and high graduation rate, high performance on MCAS and advanced placement testing, a wide range of courses and career technical education, and an array of 36 clubs and activities. He livened up his Power-Point presentation with video clips of students, present and past, who praised the high school’s supportive environment and wealth of resources and programs.

In looking at areas to improve, Mr. Traverso noted that a high percentage of students participate in the high school’s vocational education program. As a percentage of the student body, enrollment drops off significantly after grades 9 and 10, he said.

“I’m certain it’s the way we’re delivering instruction, and what type of instruction and services we’re providing to the students,” he said. “I don’t think it’s where it needs to be, and we really are going to be focusing on improving that area.”

Mr. Traverso said the school also needs to improve its attendance rate, which was 93.9 percent for the 2013-14 school year. He noted that attendance impacts the school’s MCAS participation rate, which at 94 percent last year was a factor in the school’s drop from a level one to a level two school.

About 20 people attended the hour-long presentation, including a few parents, superintendent of schools James Weiss and central office administrators, school committee members, and high school administrators and faculty.

Mr. Traverso thanked all of the Island school committee members for their hard work, and long-serving former members Roxanne Ackerman and Dan Cabot for their years of commitment and dedication. He also thanked the Island towns for picking up the slack as revenues dropped and their assessments increased.

The MVRHS school committee will meet at 7 pm on Monday, December 1, to discuss and vote on the budget’s certification.

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After an almost 90-minute debate that included some local versus regional arguments, the All-Island School Committee (AISC) voted 11-3 at a meeting on November 20 to approve Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS) superintendent James Weiss’s proposed $5,776,254 fiscal year 2016 (FY16) budget. That figure represents an increase of $399,562 or 7.43 percent over FY15.

The superintendent traditionally leads the way in the school budget process. The superintendent’s budget includes expenses not only for his office but also shared services, which primarily support special education, as well as other programs provided to students in five school districts Island-wide. Occupational, physical, and vision therapies, as well as psychological evaluations, are among the special education services. Each of the Island towns pays a proportional share of the superintendent’s shared services budget in addition to school assessments based on each town’s pupil census.

“This budget that I’m presenting to you this evening is made with a lot of consultation with folks on our staff, looking at enrollments, and talking to people in the early education community, ” Mr. Weiss said at last Thursday’s meeting. ”And we’ve made some adjustments that we feel we can live with and offer you a fiscally prudent budget.”

The final budget balances school committee requests and includes contractual and non-contractual salary increases. For example, the English Language Learners (ELL) director’s job was increased to full time on the request of the school committee.

Mr. Weiss was able to shave some personnel costs from the Bridge Program, located at Edgartown School, which serves students with autism spectrum disorders and communication and social interaction disorders, and Project Headway, which provides preschool special education services in two classes housed at West Tisbury School. The preschool classes combine special education students and regular education students designated as “peer models.”

Divisive debate

Up-Island Regional School District school committee chairman Michael Marcus of West Tisbury and fellow committee members Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter of West Tisbury and Robert Lionette of Chilmark, who all raised numerous questions, voted against the budget.

“On principle, I can’t support this budget,” Mr. Lionette said. “Since our last meeting, I’ve been trying to poll a lot of different stakeholders, and found a nearly uniform consensus, that the shared services department is administratively top-heavy.”

To start, Mr. Lionette questioned the need for a full-time ELL director. Oak Bluffs School principal Richie Smith noted that there are currently 177 ELL students in Island schools, compared to 77 in 2012, and that state has also increased its mandates for ELL services significantly.

Mr. Marcus turned the discussion into a local versus regional debate by asking for a breakdown of how many ELL students attend each school. Mr. Weiss said the students are in schools across the Island, with the majority in kindergarten and first and second grades. He estimated that about 10 to 15 percent of the up-Island schools’ enrollments are ELL students.

“From our selfish perspective up-Island, we don’t have the same need,” Mr. Marcus said. “I’m not in favor of increasing this; I’m actually in favor of decreasing it or shifting it away from the all-Island [shared services] budget.”

Lisa Reagan of Oak Bluffs pointed out that under the regional agreement for the school bus transportation system run by the high school, Oak Bluffs pays the same per run cost, even though its students’ trips are shorter than those for up-Island students.

“I’m totally in favor of paying for your trips and my trips, and hope you would pay for my ELL students,” she told Mr. Marcus. “it would be nice to get along, and it seems like an even wash.”

Mr. Weiss said he doesn’t like to see the shared services program budget go up, either, and also pointed out that if each school district had to duplicate the services now provided regionally, the cost would be much greater.

“I think we have to remember that even though we’re separate districts, we all send our kids to the high school,” MVRHS school committee chairman Colleen McAndews of Oak Bluffs said. “It’s not beneficial to get into situations where feelings get hurt and where we’re not thinking about the whole.“

“At the end of the day, this budget is affecting all of our districts’ budgets,” Mr. Lionette said. “I would love to look at some of the big ticket items in here and the organization, such as Project Headway, Bridge, and some of other programs Dr. Weiss has started.”

Mr. Lionette said that attacking a budget increase is not an attack on the quality of services. “I’m not comfortable that every year we keep pushing it up,” he said. “The effect this is having on individual town assessments is untenable.”

Facilities manager revisited

Ms. McAndrews sparked another major discussion with a recommendation to

add $89,000 to the superintendent’s budget for a new Island-wide facilities manager. Ms. McAndrews said she and the other committee members went on a tour of the high school last week and saw maintenance and repair issues that opened their eyes to the need for someone who would oversee facilities management not only in the high school, but all Island schools.

Although the additional cost would bring the budget’s increase to 9.1 percent, Ms. McAndrews said it was important.

Mr. Weiss proposed adding an Island-wide facilities manager to the superintendent’s staff about six years ago, but that request fell victim to budget constraints that year and in subsequent years. Last year, the AISC agreed to include $25,000 to hire a consultant to conduct a study of facilities management in schools Island-wide and make recommendations for improvements.

Mr. Weiss hired a consultant, Kevin Segalla, a custodial supervisor for the town of Quincy’s school department, who has visited the Island schools and will provide a report and his recommendations on December 2.

Kate DeVane, a newly elected UIRSD member from West Tisbury, cautioned the committee against adding a new full-time position, which she said would add not only the salary cost but also benefits and step increases for years to come.

“I’m painfully aware of the need for a facilities manager,” Kris O’Brien of Edgartown said. “However, it’s not only going to be a salary increase; once people put on the table what needs to be done, that all has to be paid for. Where’s that money going to come from?”

Mr. Marcus said he thought each school district should handle its own building problems locally, and “not lard it into the all-Island budget.”

Mr. Lionette suggested that the committee should wait for the consultant’s report before making any decision, to see if a full-time facilities manager would be necessary.

A motion to add the facilities manager position failed. A motion to add another $25,000 to the budget to continue with the consultant was approved 9 to 5.

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The Chilmark School. —Photo by Susan Safford

The vast majority of Island teachers ranked proficient in performance ratingsreleased last Thursday by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Within those numbers, a percentage of teachers earned exemplary ratings, ranging from 1.9 percent in the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD), which includes West Tisbury School and Chilmark School, to 15.2 percent in the Edgartown School. Teachers ranked proficient ranged from 82 percent to 95 percent among Island schools.

Teachers ranked in the needs improvement category included 2.2 percent at Edgartown School, 6.5 percent at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, (MVRHS), and 7.7 percent in the UIRSD.

Three years ago, the state’s board of ESE adopted regulations that place educator practice and student learning at the center of evaluations, according to a press release. All educators, including superintendents, principals, and teachers, take part in a five-part evaluation cycle that includes self-assessment; analysis, goal setting and plan development; implementation of the plan; a formative assessment/evaluation; and a summative evaluation.

Every educator evaluated in 2013-14 received a summative performance rating of exemplary, proficient, needs improvement, or unsatisfactory. There were 279 teachers, including both those with professional status and those with non-professional status, evaluated in Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS) and 12 at Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School (MVPCS), according to school and district profiles available on the DESE website.

“I haven’t had a chance to look at the results in great depth, however I’m struck by the large percentage of our teachers, in the high eighties and nineties, who are ranked proficient, which is what you would want,” MVPS superintendent James Weiss told The Times in a phone call Monday. “There is a small number, anywhere from 4 or 5 to 10 to 15 percent, ranked exemplary, and that doesn’t surprise me.

“We have some outstanding teachers, and although being rated an exemplary teacher under these standards is extremely hard to get, some people did,” Mr. Weiss added. “There are a few folks who need improvement — many of them are new teachers, but not all — and there’s nobody on the list, looking at all the zeroes that I see, that is unsatisfactory.”

Some data for districts and schools, including MVPCS, was not included in last week’s report. For confidentiality reasons, the DESE did not post performance ratings for individual educators, nor for schools or districts where fewer than six staff members were evaluated, or in cases where all staff evaluated in the same group received the same rating, or when all educators were evaluated and a single educator had a different rating than the rest.

In an email response to a request from The Times for comment about the Charter School teachers’ results, MVPCS director Bob Moore said, “The faculty at the Charter School is talented, highly knowledgeable of their curriculum, and bring multiple strategies to the classroom to ensure positive growth for each of their students.”

Chart

State and local results

Statewide, close to 71,700 educators in 372 districts were evaluated using systems aligned to the new state framework in the 2013-14 school year, according to a DESE press release dated November 13.

“Massachusetts leads the nation in student achievement, and our educators are the driving force behind those results,” Secretary of Education Matthew Malone said in the release. “We know that these evaluations help educators inform their practice and will positively impact student outcomes.”

Mr. Weiss said that using the new system has involved a learning curve.                           “I think it’s a process that we’re trying to get teachers to understand all of the standards, and teaching is more than any one of those things,” he said. “It’s how you work with kids, it’s how you work with other professionals, how you communicate with the larger community and parents, all of those things.”

And as Mr. Weiss noted last year, the evaluation results are affected by many factors, including how experienced a teacher or educator is.

Principals and assistant principals did the evaluations at the elementary school level. At the high school, the evaluators included the principal, two assistant principals, and directors of guidance, special education, and vocational education. The superintendent’s staff was involved in some of the educator evaluations, as well.

Among the results, those rated as exemplary were: 15.2 percent of the teachers evaluated at Edgartown School, 5.7 percent at Oak Bluffs School, 4.7 percent at Tisbury School, 1.9 percent in the up-Island schools in Chilmark and West Tisbury, and 9.4 percent at the regional high school.

The percentage of teachers ranked proficient included 82.6 percent at Edgartown School, 94.3 percent at Oak Bluffs School, 95.3 percent at Tisbury School, 90.4 percent in the up-Island schools, and 85.7 percent in the regional high school.

How the process works

The new evaluation system applies to all professional educators, including administrators such as superintendents, principals and assistant principals, and non-administrators such as guidance counselors, as well as teachers.

The evaluation system includes four broad statewide standards for administrators and teachers. The process involves five steps.

Previously on Martha’s Vineyard and elsewhere, teacher evaluations focused on classroom observation and a checklist of topics such as instruction, professionalism, and the classroom environment. Two significant changes in the new evaluation system are the requirement for evidence or documentation, and a set of very specific standards for teachers to follow.

Both teachers and administrators do self-assessments. They also gather evidence, then exchange and discuss it, Mr. Weiss explained to The Times in a previous interview. Evidence gathered by administrators includes reports on two kinds of classroom visits — formal observations, either announced or unannounced, and 5- to 10-minute walk-in visits on a regular basis.

The new evaluation system utilizes a chart that links impact on student learning to educator practice. If a teacher teaches an MCAS subject, it will be one of the determinants of his or her performance rating for impact on student learning.

An evaluation rating is not tied to compensation. However, a teacher or administrator with poor ratings in educator practice and/or student achievement who does not demonstrate improvement could lose his or her job.

According to the DESE regulations, a teacher with a low rating in impact on student learning would be put on a growth plan and be given one year to change his or her practice.

Next steps

The framework for the educator evaluation system is designed to help teachers and administrators collaborate and receive meaningful feedback that lets them recognize their strengths and address areas where they could do better, DESE Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester said in last week’s press release.

Teachers ranked in need of improvement, for example, would have a higher level of supervision and work on improving skills specified by their evaluator, Mr. Weiss said, which may include sending them to workshops, doing more observations of their classrooms, and pairing them with other teachers.

“The goal is to move them from ‘needs improvement’ to proficient,” he added. “This isn’t a gotcha kind of thing; it’s a matter of helping them to refine the things that they need to improve on.”

In an opening day program for MVPS educators for the 2013-14 school year, Mr. Weiss said he would try to make the new evaluation system less stressful by reducing some of the paperwork requirements. He also noted that a Joint Labor Management Committee, made up of some administrators, teachers, and representatives from the Island’s two educator associations, was meeting monthly to discuss how the evaluation system was working and how to make it better.

“We were able to reduce some of the paperwork by consolidating some of the forms, and although there is still quite a bit, it is less than before,” Mr. Weiss said this week.

“And we tried to assure all of the staff members that really what we’re talking about here is ways to improve instruction for kids,” he added. “Most of our staff are proficient or above; that’s where we want them. We want to honor a few who do exemplary work, and we want to help those folks who need a little improvement, especially if they’re probationary teachers.” Mr. Weiss said the level of observation is high for these teachers over the course of their first three years.

“So if people make it through those first three years, they’re going to be in a good place,” he said.

Mr. Moore said the Charter School’s staff has been divided into three groups, and that each group will go through the full evaluation process every three years. “Our teachers are asked to create goals each year that include their professional growth goals as well as school wide initiatives,” he said. “It is very much in line with how we always have evaluated staff.”

How the new system evolved

The educator evaluation system was piloted by DESE in 2012 in 233 school districts, including Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools, that received state Race to the Top (RTT) funds. Massachusetts received a $250 million grant in 2010 as one of 12 winning states in the U.S. Department of Education’s RTT funds competition. Of that grant, Martha’s Vineyard public school districts will receive $118,129 over four years.

The funds are being used to promote educational reforms in grades K-12 in standards and assessment, teachers and leaders, school improvement, and data systems, which includes the development of a model system for educator evaluation.

Under the state’s rollout of the evaluation framework, RTT school districts were required to implement the new system and evaluate at least 50 percent of licensed educators during the 2012-13 school year. About one quarter to one third of licensed staff in the Island public schools were selected for evaluation that year. They included all probationary teachers who were in their first three years of teaching, and a portion of other teachers.

In the 2013-14 school year, RTT school districts such as the MVPS were required to evaluate all of their licensed educators, and non-RTT school districts, such as the Charter School, at least 50 percent of licensed educators.

The evaluation system applies to all professional educators, including administrators such as superintendents, principals and assistant principals, and non-administrators such as guidance counselors, as well as teachers.

In the 2015-16 school year, in addition to their summative performance ratings, educators will receive a student impact rating of high, moderate or low.

An educator’s student impact rating will include at least two years of data that identifies trends and patterns using multiple measures of student learning, growth and achievement, according to DESE. Student growth scores from state assessments, for example, MCAS, must be used as one of the measures when possible.

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Many windows in Martha's Vineyard Regional High School have rotted sills and frames. —Photo by Janet Hefler

Exterior doors with rotted frames and gaps where they meet the floor. Sagging, discolored ceiling tiles in most classrooms. Torn, threadbare carpets with permanent stains. Chipped floor tiles throughout the corridors. A cafeteria oven that no longer works.

Those were some of  building maintenance and repair issues observed by school committee budget subcommittee members and town finance committee representatives Wednesday morning during a tour of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS). It proved to be a game-changer in the fiscal year 2016 (FY16) budget meeting that followed.

The meeting was the last in a series in the budget process, which began in October. On Monday, November 24, MVRHS principal Gil Traverso Traverso will present the final draft version of the FY16 budget at a public hearing that starts at 7 pm in the performing arts center.

Mr. Traverso led yesterday’s hour-long building tour, which also included school administrators, superintendent of schools James Weiss, and some of his staff prior to the subcommittee’s budget meeting, run by chairman Susan Mercier, starting at 8:45 am.

“We were in the lobby of the performing arts center today; it’s probably the place I frequent most, and I looked at the ceiling for the first time and Gil was saying, look at that, holes, things are going to fall down,” Tisbury finance and advisory committee (FinCom) member Bruce Lewellyn said in discussion of the tour later in the meeting. “I’d never looked at that, so I’m assuming the entire Island could pile in and out of there several times and not be aware of the fact it’s really a Third World country.”

The budget nuts and bolts

The FY16 budget includes total operating expenses of $18,414,692, a decrease of $131,557 or 0.71 percent from FY15. Island towns, however, would pay total assessments estimated at $15,863,870, an increase of $594,462 or 3.89 percent, compared with FY15.

MVRHS accounts manager Mark Friedman noted that since the subcommittee’s last meeting on November 3, adjustments made to the draft FY16 budget included the addition of $32,118 to the transportation budget to cover cost increases for special education and off-Island transportation, $13,264 for hockey players’ ice time based on a proposed rate increase by Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena, $10,000 for vocational education machinery, and $19,428 for the high school’s portion of the superintendent’s shared services budget, pending the All-Island School Committee’s vote Thursday night.

The most recent budget version also includes $78,214 for a new intervention coordinator, approved by the school committee on November 3, to handle alternative educational services mandated by a new state law regarding discipline and attendance policies. Also, $50,860 was added to a line item for non-special education tutoring for students with mental and physical health issues, as well as discipline problems.

As he explained at a previous budget meeting, Mr. Friedman said one of the FY16 budget’s biggest challenges is that although the high school will decrease its debt service expense by $490,000 with its last payment on a bond for a building addition, it will also lose $881,000 in annual revenue it receives as reimbursement for the project from the state.

To help offset that loss of revenue next year and lower the resulting increase in town assessments, Mr. Friedman said he and school business administrator Amy Tierney recommended using $175,000 from expected excess and deficiency (E and D) funds. He said they are confident the E and D funds will be up this year from last year, when certified by the state, and that amount will be available for the offset.

Mr. Weiss assured the school committee that the use of the E and D funds would be used to soften the blow of the loss of the state funds in the first year and “not something we’re going to do on a regular basis.”

Group reactions

Several school committee members and FinCom representatives objected.

“I don’t like that idea at all,” high school committee chairman Colleen McAndrews of Tisbury said. “We just toured this building, and I’m thinking about what $175,000 could do here this year.”

If the school has an unexpected big expense come up next year, she added, “Where is that money going to come from?”

Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter, a West Tisbury selectman and longtime school committee member, said he thinks all E and D funds should go back to the towns. By law the high school is allowed to keep an amount of the funds that is less than than five percent of the operating budget to use for unanticipated or emergency expenses.

“If we need to spend money to improve the building, I think we should ask for it and have public participation on how we spend their money,” Mr. Manter said.

“What I’ve seen by walking around this building is staggering,” Chilmark FinCom member James Malkin said. Noting that he once ran global businesses, he said he has never seen the amount of moisture damage and rot around windows and frames, doors and frames, carpeting, and skylights, other than in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

Mr. Malkin said repairs and maintenance would likely require thousands of dollars, and perhaps millions, to be spent over time. He suggested prioritizing projects and presenting them to the Island towns as soon as possible.

“After the tour this morning, I would like to see a top ten list of things that realistically we can fix this year,” Ms. McAndrews said. “We can’t fix some things, such as the air system this year, but others we can do immediately. I’m in shock, too. It’s unacceptable. It’s not fair to the kids and teachers.”

Mr. Friedman said the high school has already begun to take steps to address its deferred maintenance, which dates back to budget constraints related to the economic downturn in 2008, by reintroducing a five-year capital planning process.

Oak Bluffs finance and advisory committee representatives Maura McGroarty and Steve Auerbach also weighed in.

“I come from a town hard pressed for money,” Mr. Auerbach said. “I appreciate the gesture to put E and D money in to decrease our assessment, which would help us prevent having to ask voters for an override.”

Ms. McGroarty reminded everyone that every budget has a bottom line. “If you have 100 dollars and 20 dollars has to go into maintenance, that means only 80 dollars is available for everything else in your budget,” she said. “That’s what hits people who write the checks and go to town meeting. Unless you stay within the requirements of [Proposition] 2.5, you’re between a rock and a hard place.”

Mr. Manter suggested coming up with a five-year capital plan for the projects under discussion, which may require bonding, and then asking the towns for the money over a period of time.

The budget subcommittee came to the consensus that they would leave the $175,000 in E and D funds in the budget to offset the revenue loss, and instructed Mr. Friedman to look at possibly increasing the school’s maintenance budget by $175,000, as well.

Ms. Mercier reminded everyone about the budget public hearing Monday night and how important it is for not only the school committee members but also the Island community to attend. “Gil and Mark are working hard on the presentation, and we should be imploring people from the towns and on the high school committee to get the word out and get people there,” she said.

After the public hearing, the MVRHS school committee is scheduled to discuss and vote on the FY16 budget at a meeting on December 1.

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Members of the newly elected up-Island school committee attended a meeting at the Wampanoag Tribe administration building on November 10. From left, Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter of West Tisbury, Kate DeVane of West Tisbury, Theresa Manning of Aquinnah, Michael Marcus of West Tisbury, and Robert Lionette of Chilmark. —Photo by Janet Hefler

The Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) school committee met at the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah (Gay Head) administration building in Aquinnah Monday night, instead of at its usual venues, the West Tisbury and Chilmark schools.

To start, committee chairman Michael Marcus asked superintendent of schools James Weiss, school committee members, and school administrators to introduce themselves. The committee welcomed newly elected members Kate DeVane of West Tisbury and Theresa Manning of Aquinnah, and also paid tribute to Roxanne Ackerman, who did not attend the meeting. Ms. Ackerman was not reelected, after serving on the school committee for 31 years as a representative from Aquinnah.

“I want to welcome you all to tribal lands,” Wampanoag chairman Tobias J. Vanderhoop said. “Thank you for making the time to have your meeting here, and I look forward to participating in the evening’s event.”

Wampanoag education director Leigh French, Aquinnah selectman Jim Newman, and Aquinnah police sergeant Paul Manning, parent of a third-grader at West Tisbury School, also attended the meeting.

On the agenda was an annual review of Indian Policies and Procedures (IPP), as titled by the Federal government, that were jointly established by the district and the tribe. The IPP are required by the Federal government in order for the school district to qualify for Impact Aid funds. The intent of the IPP is to ensure equal participation of Wampanoag Tribe children in school education programs, and to encourage communication between the schools and the Wampanoag community.

The Impact Aid Program provides financial assistance to local school districts that have lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt Federal property, including Indian lands and military bases. It has been the UIRSD school committee’s tradition since 2008 to return the money to Aquinnah, since the town receives no property tax from Wampanoag tribal housing that would go towards its school district assessment.

School business administrator Amy Tierney said the funds have diminished over the last several years and are down to about $11,000 a year. Children counted for Impact Aid are ones who live in tribal housing in Aquinnah, Ms. Tierney said, and account for three percent of the UIRSD enrollment, which qualifies the district for the funds. There were 12 children in fiscal year 2014 and 13 in fiscal year 2015.

School superintendent James Weiss said that some significant changes were last made to the IPP a few years ago. Ms. French, who is in her second year as Wampanoag education director and does not regularly attend up-Island school committee meetings, had a few questions. She noted that the IPP refers to student assessments, which include confidential information.

“How does that work?” she asked. “If most of the parents don’t want to participate, then is this agreement null and void?”

Mr. Weiss said the MVPS are required to have parents’ permission to exchange information with her, and that it would be helpful on both sides to have that permission for all tribal students.

Ms. French also asked whether the agreement between the UIRSD and Wampanoag Tribe extends to high school students who live on tribal land. Her concern was that elementary school students would lose monitoring and needs assessment services upon entering high school.

Mr. Weiss said the IPP document does not extend to the high school and is an agreement between the UIRSD and the tribe only. However, he added, “In the past we’ve tried to keep up with all of the students from the Tribe.”

The school committee agreed to discuss the IPP at its December meeting and to send a copy of any proposed changes to the tribe for its members’ approval before a final discussion and vote in January.

Full time SRO not wanted

In other business, the committee resumed a previous discussion about adding funds for a school resource officer, possibly full-time, to next year’s budget. Mr. Weiss read the committee the exact language from a new state law that went into effect last August that requires every chief of police, in consultation with the superintendent and subject to funding, to assign at least one school resource officer to serve the city, town, or regional school district.

Mr. Weiss said that he and the West Tisbury and Chilmark school principals met last Friday with the police chiefs from the district’s member towns of Aquinnah, Chilmark and West Tisbury. Based on their discussion, he put together a draft proposal for an SRO’s responsibilities, which would not include acting as a school disciplinarian or involvement in discipline enforcement.

Mr. Weiss said that although there is no commitment to anything yet by the police departments or the UIRSD, West Tisbury and Aquinnah are considering assigning a half-time officer and Chilmark an officer 15 hours a week to implement the requirement for an SRO in the West Tisbury and Chilmark schools.

Each officer would attend an SRO training program and wear a modified uniform. The officer would have a vehicle available and carry a weapon.

After a lengthy discussion, the school committee members came to a consensus

that the decisions about SROs would be left up to the individual police chiefs and the funding for the position included in their department budgets. The committee also agreed that a full-time SRO would not be necessary.

At Mr. Marcus’s suggestion, the committee agreed to discuss the SRO proposal further at a budget workshop at 7 pm on November 17 at the Chilmark School. They will also discuss funding bathroom repairs that must be made now at the West Tisbury School and a proposed playground design contractor.

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Pedestrian traffic was one of the topics discussed at the meeting. The street fair, shown above, is one of Tisbury's main summer events drawing pedestrians. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Main Street in Tisbury topped a list of town treasures named by participants in a comprehensive planning effort led by the Tisbury planning board that was designed to set a path forward into the future.

The planning board held workshops last Wednesday at the Tisbury Senior Center and on Friday morning at the American Legion Hall to report the findings from a series of three community vision planning workshops held in September.

“We had a good turnout at both workshops, probably around 40 people at each,” said planning board member Cheryl Doble, who initiated the vision planning process, on Monday.

“Some were new, and a number of them had attended the first workshop,” she added. “So we’re getting this active group that’s growing, and we’re continuing to get a turnout that leads to really good conversations. That’s what we’re after, along with a better understanding on our part as we start to think about the responsibilities of the planning board and where we should be focusing.”

The goal of the vision planning workshops is to involve the community in town planning by identifying shared values, discussing concerns, and establishing a manageable set of goals and an action plan, according to Ms. Doble.

At the September workshop sessions, members of the Vision Planning Committee led groups seated at four large tables through a series of activities and recorded their responses on charts. Participants were asked to list Tisbury’s treasured places, opportunities the town has to make improvements, and the challenges it faces in doing so. For the last activity, participants were asked to describe their vision of what Tisbury should look like 10 years from now.

Over the past several weeks Ms. Doble and planning board member Ben Robinson pored through the charts and organized the information according to areas of consensus among the responses. Mr. Robinson said that what struck him while helping Ms. Doble with the data analysis was how important it is for people who live in Tisbury and other people who use the town to share their opinions and experiences.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s nice to see that people are willing to put the time in,” Mr. Robinson said.

Community member Steve Zablotny, who participated in the first workshop, helped condense its findings into a PowerPoint presentation for last week’s workshops. In addition to Main Street, Tashmoo overlook and preserve, the harbor and waterfront, Owen Park, a working waterfront, and the Vineyard Haven Public Library received the most mentions, between 30 to 60.

Determining the findings about challenges and opportunities proved more difficult, Ms. Doble said. She and Mr. Robinson came up with eight themes for the challenges and six for the opportunities, and then narrowed them down to the four for each that had the greatest number of responses.

For challenges, the topic areas were financial, town government, condition of property, and community. For opportunities, the topic areas were government, infrastructure, downtown, and community.

Ms. Doble said there were a few surprises in the first workshop responses. For example, biking was listed as a bigger challenge than walking in Tisbury.

“And that’s because people think that the community is basically walkable but that the safety issue of biking is huge, and that it’s critical that we do something,” she said.

Ms. Doble did a narrative for the PowerPoint presentation, which she said will be added as text and the whole package put up online soon on the town’s website at tisburyma.gov. At its conclusion, participants were asked to divide up into groups by choosing one of four topics they thought was most important to them.

The topics included parks, beaches, open space and neighborhood connections; a vibrant and connected downtown; waterfront and harbor; and pedestrian and bike networks.

After a 40- to 50-minute discussion, the workshop participants changed tables to discuss their second choice of topic. The information from those discussions will be incorporated into the next phase of the vision planning process.

“I think we’ll come out of this with some good information to present and be able to say, this is what you want, and here’s a way to achieve that,” planning board chairman Dan Seidman told The Times in a phone call Monday. “Now we need to put our shoulders into it and prioritize.”

Mr. Seidman said the workshop participants had a lot of ideas about opportunities for improving the town, but found it more difficult to figure out planning challenges and how to meet them.

“For example, people said they want more open space, but the challenge is how do you get it; where does it come from,” he said.

Mr. Seidman also pointed out that town planning is not just a matter of making decisions about building new facilities.

“What do you do with the Katharine Cornell Theatre, if town hall goes away? And if we build a new school, what do we do with the old one?” he said. “All of these things are interconnected and some people don’t take into account that when you increase infrastructure, you also have to plan for the costs.”

Mr. Seidman said the planning board would try to start with the goals easiest to achieve, and then move up from there.

“The vision plan helps guide the process, but turning the process into reality is going to be the toughest part of the problem,” he said. “If people have given their input, though, we think they will be more willing to handle the changes required to get to what ultimately will make this a more self-sustaining, viable town.”

Ms. Doble said the planning board is looking at hosting a public forum in January to present a summary of the workshops to date and to discuss what comes next.

“We’re thinking that there should continue to be some presentations followed by workshops over the winter, on topics such as climate change, sea level rise, environment, traffic, and parking, because these are things we need to talk about,” Ms. Doble said. “And we also may need to bring in people who either worked on these kinds of projects in their communities or are from a community that has tackled some of them, to share their experience.”

Future workshop and presentation dates will be announced.

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The U.S. Coast Guard Station Menemsha color guard, flanked by Island veterans, leads the parade to Ocean Park.

Flags waved in a crisp breeze under a cloudy sky Tuesday morning as Island veterans marched down Lake Avenue, to the applause of Islanders who lined the street, to Ocean Park for a ceremony that began at the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month, in commemoration of the time and date of the signing of the Armistice with Germany that ended World War I in 1918.

From left: Judy Williamson, Emma Williamson, Maggie Moffet and Peter Williamson lent their support.
From left: Judy Williamson, Emma Williamson, Maggie Moffet and Peter Williamson lent their support.

The marchers included Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, color guards from Coast Guard Station Menemsha and the Dukes County Sheriff’s Office, Oak Bluffs selectmen, a contingent of first responders from Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, State Police, and a representative from the Martha’s Vineyard Harley Riders. Family members and well-wishers gathered at the start of the short parade route at the head of Oak Bluffs harbor in front of Nancy’s restaurant for the start of the annual Veterans Day parade, one of hundreds of remembrances large and small across the country, to honor those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

At the end the short march, Peter Herrmann, a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 9261 and long-time parade organizer and host, called upon Lt. Col. David Berube, USAF, a chaplain in the National Guard Reserves and Oak Bluffs police officer, for an opening prayer.

“As we gather today, we remember our comrades who have been deployed throughout our country and around the world on behalf of our nation and our freedom,” Colonel Berube said. “Give to them and their families a sense of your peace, be with those who are prisoners or missing in action, and be with the families of the fallen, Lord.”

Emily Hewson, a student at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, sang the National Anthem during the Veterans Day ceremony, as veteran Peter Herrmann saluted the flag.
Emily Hewson, a student at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, sang the National Anthem during the Veterans Day ceremony, as veteran Peter Herrmann saluted the flag.

Mr. Herrmann led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. Emily Hewson, a freshman at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, performed a solo of the National Anthem. Mr. Herrmann noted in his remarks that for the fourth year in a row, Oak Bluffs was designated a regional site for the observance of Veterans Day by the Veterans Day National Committee. He and Dukes County director of veterans services Jo Ann Murphy were responsible for submitting the application that led to Oak Bluffs being selected as one of 67 regional sites this year, and the only one in Massachusetts.

Mr. Herrmann introduced Ms. Murphy and noted her recent selection as the Massachusetts Veteran Service Officer of the Year by state Secretary of Veterans’ Services Coleman Nee, which brought applause from the crowd.

Dukes County director of Veterans Services Jo Ann Murphy delivered a Veterans Day message sent from U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald.
Dukes County director of Veterans Services Jo Ann Murphy delivered a Veterans Day message sent from U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald.

Ms. Murphy read a message from U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald sent for inclusion in the ceremony: “On Veterans’ Day, we pause to express our gratitude to those who have served our country, and to remember the sacrifices, large and small, physical and emotional, they have made. These individuals prioritized our country over themselves.

“We must continue to honor and provide them the benefits and services they have earned and deserve, no matter if those who wore a uniform never saw combat or never left U.S. soil. Each one is a veteran, and deserves to be honored, not only on Veterans Day but every day.”

Secretary McDonald also expressed appreciation for the support shown to the Veterans Administration by so many Americans, and offered special thanks to the Oak Bluffs Veterans Day regional site organizers.

“You recognize the bravery veterans have shown, and the many sacrifices they have made,” Mr. McDonald said. “We know we can rely on you to continue being an example of how all Americans should honor those who have defended our everyday freedom.”

Kristin Pucino-Gibson and her son, Aden ,laid a wreath at the Oak Bluffs World War I memorial in memory of her cousin, Staff Sergeant Matthew A. Pucino, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2009.
Kristin Pucino-Gibson and her son, Aden ,laid a wreath at the Oak Bluffs World War I memorial in memory of her cousin, Staff Sergeant Matthew A. Pucino, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2009.

Mr. Hermann invited Kristin Pucino-Gibson of Tisbury and her son Aden, 11, to place a wreath in front of the World War I memorial in memory of her cousin, Staff Sergeant (SSG) Matthew A. Pucino.

A member of the U.S. Army Special Forces’ Green Berets, SSG Pucino was killed in action on November 23, 2009, in Pashay Kala, Afghanistan. A gun salute followed the wreath-laying, in honor of soldiers who lost their lives during their service.

The ceremony concluded with “Taps,” played on the trumpet by American Legion Post 257 member Edson Rodgers, followed by a solo of “Amazing Grace” sung by Ms. Hewson.

Veteran Edson Rodgers played "Taps" at the conclusion of the Veterans Day ceremony.
Veteran Edson Rodgers played “Taps” at the conclusion of the Veterans Day ceremony.