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Sawyer Klebs at the Mountain School in Vermont.

After 18 is an ongoing series written by graduates from the class of 2014. This week’s dispatch is the first from Sawyer Klebs, of Chilmark.

It is now just over a year since I graduated from high school. The highlight of my high school career was when I left [Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School] in the fall of my junior year to attend the Mountain School, a semester program in Vershire, Vt.  As well, I had the opportunity to aid in a service trip to Thailand and Cambodia in the summer of 2012. I never enjoyed the process of sitting in classrooms to learn. Just sitting for the length of time required in a regular school day is a true test of obedience, and has the makings of a sedentary lifestyle. I sought a way to get out of the classroom and into a place where I was really engaged, so it was a natural fit when my guidance counselor suggested that I graduate a semester early.

January 2014

Sawyer's first pair of turnshoes. -Photo courtesy of Sawyer Klebs
Sawyer’s first pair of turnshoes. -Photo courtesy of Sawyer Klebs

I officially graduated from the [MVRHS] high school and was already accepted, early action, into Oberlin College in Ohio, and now I had a semester to do what I wanted. I began by traveling to Portland, Ore., to study with shoemaker Jason Hovatter and create a pair of shoes. I stayed for three full days, and left having made my first pair of professional-looking shoes.

February, March, April, May 2014

From there I went on a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) semester in the Rockies for spring. I was in a group of 15 men. The semester has five sections, and we began with the winter section in the Absaroka Mountain chain. Twelve feet of snow fell in the first 16 days. The average snowpack ranged from 9 to 19 feet deep, and I was outside in most of that. Our group skied from campsite to campsite with backpacks and sleds full of gear and food. I won’t go into my relationship with skiing, but I will tell you that telemark skis are not the best at traveling long distances, nor are they the easiest things to go downhill with, especially when there is a 60-pound sled strapped to your waist that may decide it would rather lead you down hills, versus letting you lead.

Next came my Wilderness First Responder training and certification, the primary reason I had chosen this NOLS semester. It was 10 days of (simulated) plane crashes, being hosed down in boxers outside in the cold of a Montana winter by instructors, and treating all types of bodily injury.

Sawyer Klebs hiking in Cedar Mesa, Utah. Photo courtesy of Sawyer Klebs
Sawyer Klebs hiking in Cedar Mesa, Utah. Photo courtesy of Sawyer Klebs

The Green River is the chief tributary of the Colorado River. A section of the 180 or so miles I canoed down on that river is the farthest point from any maintained road in the contiguous United States. There is quite a bit more to tell about this section, but most important is that the group began to progress down the five stages of group development.

We had gone from the meet and greet of “forming,” where no one wants to make friction, to the great and terrible process of “storming.” Conflicts arose, and our group began to be forged.

From individuals, a unit formed. We were in the state of “norming,” becoming a group with one another and not just because our program leader was directing us.

The next two stages would be “performing,” where we reach the highest state of group function and interdependence, and then “adjourning,” when the group disbands.

Not all groups reach the stage of performing. Instead they go straight to adjourning. My group did just that. We never quite got to that level of interdependence in personal relations and problem-solving in group function. Because of this we stayed in the norming stage through the canyoneering section in Utah and the rock-climbing section in Colorado. In fact, my semester ended with a regression into storming, as greed got the better of some people. Several group members organized an unfair drawing of sticks in order to give themselves fewer ending chores and the choice of who they wanted to do which jobs. One boy had been the scapegoat of the semester. He had been given the short stick in choosing who would clean the “groover,” the vessel in which a month’s worth of 18 people’s stool would be carried out of the backcountry. The scheme [of the short-stick planters] was discovered, and it gave me a great disappointment for a group that had been forming for three months.

I did not quite like the men who were in my semester, but I was convinced at the beginning that a group can come together and grow to trust one another by other forces than liking one another’s personalities and interests. This was not so on my semester. It is something I reflect on to this day, and a question that has different answers every time. Can a group of people come to trust and support one another when their goals are shared? Or do people always pack a cloak and dagger just in case? Something I can add since then is that my group was made up of only men, and human group dynamics are different when the sexes mix. The mixed semesters, I was told by my group leaders, often get along quite a bit better, and in my pursuits since then I have seen the interplay between men and women be a force for good in an openly communicating society.

June, July, August, September 2014

Last summer I spent going slow and enjoying the warmth of my home on Martha’s Vineyard after living outside in the cold. College started at the end of summer, and I took a nice and forgettable road trip from Woods Hole 11 hours over to Oberlin, Ohio.

I am no longer at school, and I am no longer in Ohio. More on that next time.

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Bryce Nelson and Steven Brown try to push the puck in during a scramble in front of the Nantucket net.

In a Saturday afternoon match against their island rivals at MV Arena, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys varsity hockey team unleashed its offensive firepower and defeated the Nantucket Whalers by a score of 9-1.

Senior captain Austin Morley slides a near post shot past the Nantucket goalie for the first goal of the game.
Senior captain Austin Morley slides a near post shot past the Nantucket goalie for the first goal of the game.

The first period began with a bang when senior captain Austin Morley’s near post shot slid past the Nantucket goalie after only 3 minutes into the game. Martha’s Vineyard skated well and kept possession for the majority of the first period, limiting Nantucket to very few offensive opportunities. With 4 minutes remaining in the first, the Vineyard dialed up the pressure. Off three consecutive face-offs, Emerson Mahoney, Joe Davies and Nainoa Cooperrider all had shots on the Nantucket net.

Emerson Mahoney doubled the Vineyard’s lead only 3 minutes into the second half following a slick pass from Austin Morley. The Vineyarders continued to pressure the Whalers and with 2:49 left in the second period, Jonas Lukowitz received the puck at the blue line, skated through the Nantucket defense and slotted the puck into the corner of the net for a beautiful unassisted goal, increasing the home team’s lead to 3-0.

Emerson Mahoney skates towards the Nantucket goal.
Emerson Mahoney skates towards the Nantucket goal.

Just 72 seconds later, Nantucket got one back after Vineyard goalie Nick Kent’s save ricocheted into the path of a Whaler.

With a score of 3-1 entering the third and final period, Nantucket increased the pressure. After just 30 seconds, Martha’s Vineyard goalie Nick Kent was forced into making a double save that kept his team’s two goal lead intact and changed the momentum of the game.

The Vineyard responded to the saves with tremendous gusto, scoring six goals in the final 14 minutes of the game.

A scramble in front of the net allowed Tristan Araujo to find an open Emerson Mahoney, and he would not be denied, scoring his second goal, and increasing the Vineyard lead to 4-1. The Vineyarders next goal came 150 seconds later when Greg McCarron slotted a goal through a pile of skaters that had fallen in front of the Nantucket goal.

During the celebration, Vineyard forward Steven Brown and a Nantucket defender had words for each other but were quickly separated by an official. Following that incident, the remainder of the hockey game was scrappy. The refs called several penalties and the players had several tangles, none escalating further than a shove and a shout.

With 11:29 left in the third period, Barry Macdonald’s goal put the Vineyard up 6-1. To the delight of the supporting student section, Nantucket’s goalie was replaced with their backup to a cacophony of cheers rising from the stands.

The prettiest goal of the game was unquestionably Tristan Araujo’s that put the Vineyard up 7-1. The sophomore defenseman received the puck at Nantucket’s blue line, fought off pressure from two Nantucket defenders and slid the puck through the legs of Nantucket’s goalie, making it look effortless.

Tristan Araujo races past a Nantucket defender on his way to putting the puck in the back of the net.
Tristan Araujo races past a Nantucket defender on his way to putting the puck in the back of the net.

Freshman forward Jacob Gundersen scored with 4:22 left in the game. The final nail in the Whalers coffin was hammered in by junior forward Jeremey Mercier with 77 seconds left to play.

The Vineyarders will look to continue this dominant performance when they take on Coyle & Cassidy at 5 pm, Wednesday at MV Arena.

On the occasion of Martin Luther King’s birthday, Islanders share their memories of racism.

Lois Mailou Jones and Mary Holman. – Photos by Ellen Sudow (left) and Linsey Lee, courtesy of the MV Museum

Excerpted from interviews that appeared in Vineyard Voices and More Vineyard Voices by Linsey Lee and the Oral History Center of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. More oral histories and links to interviews on YouTube are available atmvmuseum.org.

We were not welcome to show in galleries

Louis Mailou Jones – Photo by Ellen Sudow
Louis Mailou Jones – Photo by Ellen Sudow

My career was really formed on this Island when I was about 17. We used to swim at the Highland Beach, which is over there near where we lived. One day, I was on the beach with Harry T. Burleigh and Meta Warwick Fuller talking about my career, and Meta’s career in France. They both said, “Lois, you know you’re not going to make it in this country. It’s true you’re very talented, but because of the situation, you’re not going to have any success with your career. You’re going to have to go abroad.”

And so it was in 1937 that I went abroad on a fellowship.

When I got back to the states, I went to 57th Street and they said, “You are an excellent artist. Impressionism is excellent, but you are black, so we can’t show your work. We can’t exhibit your work.”

There was one gallery in Boston that gave me a first show. They wanted to promote me, but I couldn’t get into the major shows because of my color. So I shipped my work to the National Academy of Design, the Philadelphia Academy, and the major galleries of Chicago and all. Invariably they were hung, because they never knew that Lois Jones was black. I had to do that for a number of years until I made my niche, and then I let them know who I really was.

So they didn’t know for many years that I was black, and it was a shock to them. I mean they just didn’t think a black artist could do that type of work, and if you could, they weren’t going to give you a chance anyway.

So it hasn’t been easy.

I have had to keep a whole lot of my feelings within. So, I’d go to Martha’s Vineyard, where, frankly, people are, it seems to me, more friendly. Sometimes you would be walking along the street in Vineyard Haven and somebody would say, “Good morning, nice day isn’t it?” You don’t even know them. There is a certain warmth that I feel here, that I didn’t feel in those early days in Boston and New York.

The Vineyard was not perfect. In the early years, none of the hotels would receive black people. That is why the Shearer Cottage turned out to be so important. It was the one place where they could come and stay for the summer, as I recall. But, I think, most restaurants were open to us. We couldn’t buy land in West Chop, but neither could the Jewish people. I mean, there was no way that either race could buy on West Chop.

 Lois Mailou Jones, Edgartown, was an artist active in the Harlem Renaissance who exhibited worldwide. She was born in 1905, and died in 1998. Linsey Lee interviewed her in 1993.

We were not welcome to wait on customers

Dean K. Denniston. – Photo by Linsey Lee
Dean K. Denniston. – Photo by Linsey Lee

Let me tell you this story. My father was an outstanding citizen of Oak Bluffs. Oak Bluffs had a school committee of three people. One of those persons in office died, a Mrs. Vincent. … This was sometime in the ’30s, I think. It became the task of the other two school committee members, Dr. Clement Amaral and a Mrs. DeBettencourt … to select a person to finish the term of the deceased member. They selected my father. When time came for re-election, my father took out papers. The two members of the school committee stood behind him 100 percent.

My father was defeated. He was defeated because he was a black man. Some of the people said, direct quote, “If we elect Mr. Denniston to the school committee, there’s a possibility we will have black teachers in the schools.”

So there was — you did find prejudice on Martha’s Vineyard. … It might not have been in the front page or in the front line, but it was there. It was definitely there. The Vineyard was second-hand prejudiced. Unwritten. They didn’t not allow you, they just were “full.” They didn’t have any room. “All reservations taken.” That’s backdoor prejudice.

There were certain jobs black people just did not get. They didn’t say, “We won’t hire him because of his color,” but it just didn’t happen. … You didn’t see black people working in the stores, the grocery stores. You did not have black people, black guys, dealing with the public. You could work in the back room – that’s in Oak Bluffs. I got a little job, and my brothers and I, we got jobs at A&P and McNeils, but we were behind the scenes. You did not wait on customers.

At one time there were four of us going to Boston University … my two sisters and my brother. We were able to get good rooms in the South End … We had to stay at people’s houses because, in days gone by, people of color were not allowed to stay in the dorms. If you can believe that. Seems like a thousand years ago. People of color, I don’t know, we were contaminated.

I think I can adjust to any situation except cruelty. But you can’t go through your life moaning and groaning. You make the best. You grab the bull by the horn, and you throw him …

Dean K. Denniston Sr., 1913–2006, was a railroad worker and school principal who lived in Oak Bluffs. Linsey Lee interviewed him in 1996.

We were not welcome everywhere

Dorothy West. – Photo by Mark Lennihan
Dorothy West. – Photo by Mark Lennihan

When we first came down here there were places — boarding houses — where colored people could stay. Black families were not welcome everywhere. At some restaurants and certain beaches. We went to Highland Beach, but it became a “private” beach. We were not welcome. But so much has changed. Would you like to hear that story?

The Bostonians, the black Bostonians, and perhaps the Bostonian whites, too, boast a little to the New Yorkers that they were the original settlers of Martha’s Vineyard.

And I must say, I remember when it started. This man’s name may not mean anything to you, Harry T. Burleigh. He was a composer of many of the spirituals you hear. He was the one who went South — an educated man — and heard these spirituals and preserved them. Put them to music. He was from New York, and he came here every summer because he knew many Bostonians, and he fell in love with the Island.

But the original summer families were Bostonians. And when the colony grew, it grew to about 12 families. When we went to the beach, we went to Highland Beach. Now, we sat on the beach, and we behaved well. Then the New Yorkers came.

Now, half the things I say are in gentle fun. Then the New Yorkers came because Harry T. Burleigh told them about the Island. … They never had such freedom, because you had the whole Island here, whereas at the various beaches they came from, they had only a section. And the women were — they were good-looking women in good-looking clothes. But they had paint on their faces. And they smoked cigarettes. But even worse than that, you see, they were boarding, and they wanted to stay at the beach all day. So they had food in baskets. Mostly chicken. Chicken, I think, travels well in baskets. But, you see, we have a reputation for eating chicken and watermelon.

So there they were, and we said, “They’re going to lose the beach for us! They’re going to lose the beach for us!” And I swear to God, one summer we came down, and it said, “Private.”

Dorothy West, a writer who lived much of her life in Oak Bluffs, was born in 1910 and died in 1998. She was interviewed in 1983.

We were not welcome to dance at the Tivoli

Mary Holman. – Photo by Linsey Lee
Mary Holman. – Photo by Linsey Lee

I was born in a small town in southeast Georgia; Waycross, Georgia, August 31, 1906. My maternal grandparents were slaves. … My father was a Methodist minister, and he believed in his children having an education, so they sent me to a boarding school that was run by the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church … I was the valedictorian of the class. Then I came to Boston to live with my older sister, Mattie, in the South End, and finished high school. In high school, I wanted to take a college course, and one teacher said to me, she said, “Well, why don’t you train to be a maid?” I said, “For your information, I am not going to be a maid, I’m going to take this college course and I’m going to college, and you’ll see me teaching right here in Boston.” And that’s what I did.

I started coming down here when I was a teenager … I’ve seen things change on this Island. You can go most anywhere now, but when I first came down here, a black person couldn’t. There were certain places that we were not welcome. Now the Wesley House, for example, did not hire black girls or black waitresses. They had a cook who was black, but other folks who worked there had to work in the kitchen. On Circuit Avenue, blacks couldn’t go to all those restaurants, they could only go to some of them … This woman, Ms. Lewis, had a restaurant in her house on School Street. Anybody could go to the Lewis restaurant. Her daughters used to wait tables there. That’s where all the black people went when they had their days off.

At first they wouldn’t sell blacks a house in the Campgrounds. You could walk around the Campgrounds, but, you know, those folks that had cottages there, they didn’t want people hanging around. So we would go through there to go to Circuit Avenue very quickly. The only blacks that lived in the Campground were maids, chauffeurs, and cooks.

Blacks weren’t allowed to go to the Tivoli to dance. If you were black, you didn’t go there, because they wouldn’t let you dance. So there was prejudice right here on this Island. It wasn’t that long ago. We had our own places where we could have private parties and go to dance, but you just didn’t go where the whites went.

Mary Louise Holman, 1906–2004, was a social worker and teacher, and lived in Oak Bluffs. She was interviewed in 1997.

We were not welcome at Pay Beach

Leona Coleman Flu. –Photo by Linsey Lee
Leona Coleman Flu. –Photo by Linsey Lee

It was in the late ’30s that my parents bought the property on the Vineyard. The house was an old farmhouse, and it had land and it had rambling roses on a white picket fence. This area has always been a little neighborhood. Everybody knew everybody. They still do … it’s always been the same, all my life.

We would go swimming all the time. When I used to swim at the so-called Inkwell, it wasn’t called the Inkwell then. We named it the Inkwell much later as an inside joke. At that time they had the “pay beach” and the blacks couldn’t go there. They had all the little stalls where they could change their clothes. I think it cost a nickel a day, which is ridiculous when you think about it. And they put a fence that separated the “pay beach” from the Inkwell. We didn’t care because we dove under the fence just to bug them, and we’d go in and swim. We just did it to irritate them, because that beach was lousy. They had no sand and they had many wooden changing bins that cast a shadow, so the beach was not nice. We had the better beach.

It was utopia for us kids here, because no one bothered us as children. I didn’t even think about race, to tell the truth. As kids you’re too busy having fun, as long as nobody comes right out and calls you a name or something. If they’d done that, I would have smacked them. My mother taught me that.

Leona Coleman Flu, born in 1924, was an artist, politician, and antiques dealer. She lives in Oak Bluffs; Linsey Lee interviewed her in 2004.

Martin Luther King and me

From interviews by Keya Guimarães

Time to focus on the family

I was born in 1932, and grew up in segregated Jacksonville, Fla., so you can imagine my schooling experience right through high school. I attended all-black high schools, all-black movie theaters; you know, our world was divided. The discrimination was obvious and always there, you knew there were certain parts of town you’d never go to, you wouldn’t be caught walking in those areas. I went away to school to Detroit in 1960 and I met my husband there. He was very active in NAACP, and I became active with him. We were involved with uncovering how illegal housing segregation was occurring, through redlining applicants who tried to move into white neighborhoods. Black applicants with all the right financials were being turned away for the same houses that white applicants were being approved for.

In 1963 we had a sit-in at Detroit’s First Federal Savings and Loan; I was arrested and served a year of probation for civil disobedience. My husband and I were able to participate and travel to Washington, D.C., for Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech — a friend put us up for the night, and we stood with the thousands to hear him speak.

Since then, I feel we’ve achieved so much; we’ve listened to Dr. King’s message and done what he asked us to do: improve our neighborhoods, our families, and especially our civil participation. But discrimination is still out there, that’s my opinion, and we just can’t stop. We can’t stop being aware, conscientious, and supportive. It’s time to focus on the family, like Dr. King modeled in his life; this is the core to the health of our community.

––Trudy Ulmer, civil rights activist, Edgartown

Not for a select few

Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake was inspired by Martin Luther King while he was in grade school. — File photo by Christy Aumer
Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake was inspired by Martin Luther King while he was in grade school. — File photo by Christy Aumer

My first memories of Dr. King’s legacy came in grade school. During a morning meeting our teacher, Pat Gregory, talked about Dr. King and what he meant to the civil rights movement.  During this discussion he read the “I Have a Dream” speech. Even years after Dr. King’s death it still is a powerful and historic piece of history. I consider myself lucky in the fact that African-American people were part of my life since I was born. Two of my parents’ best friends were Wanza and Betty Davis, both African American and educators on the Vineyard. I knew them as family. My entire upbringing, although never directly quoted, was rooted in Dr. King’s message of being judged on the content of character and not the color of skin.

Dr. King’s message as it pertains my work is so important. I believe Dr. King thought America could be the greatest nation on earth as long as we stuck to the values on which our country was founded. That all men are created equal under the law, that our constitution applies to everyone and that justice isn’t for a selected few.

 Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake, president of the Martha’s Vineyard NAACP chapter.

In our thoughts

1968: The moments we learned of the assassinations of MLK and RFK are burned, I’m sure, in all our memories, as was JFK’s earlier in that tragic decade. King was a hero to Bill [Styron] and me and our young family members through his inspiring words and brave acts decrying violence, racism, the Vietnam War. We cheered his Nobel Prize.

April 4th was my birthday. Susanna, 13, thought she had ruined our party at home in Connecticut by getting a bad bloody nose. Then the phone rang.

In the years following as we fought and still fight for civil and human rights, MLK is ever in our thoughts.

– Rose Styron, human rights activist and poet, Vineyard Haven.

School expenditures in Oak Bluffs push the town budget to the brink. — Martha's Vineyard Times file pho

While Oak Bluffs finances have been trending in a positive direction in recent years, when town administrator Robert Whritenour delivered his proposed budget to the selectmen Tuesday night, he also delivered some sobering news — education costs will once again push the town budget to the brink of a Proposition 2.5 override.

“Things are tightening up quite a bit,” Mr. Whritenour said. “I’m not picking on the school system by any stretch of the imagination, but my major concern is the education portion of the town budget. Educational spending is very much pressing the town’s financial limits.”

Mr. Whritenour’s proposed $26,516,245 budget for the next fiscal year, which next goes to the financial advisory committee (FinCom) for vetting, proposes a modest 1.7 percent increase in town expenditures. However, the overall increase in the budget with education increases factored in is 3.34 percent. The $581,000 increase in the Oak Bluffs high school assessment and the proposed $402,015 increase for the Oak Bluffs school budget bring the total educational spending increase for Oak Bluffs in FY16 to just under $1 million, more than the requested increase for the entire town.

“We’ve had very intense discussions with educational leaders,” Mr. Whritenour said. “It’s probably not realistic to keep the education below the Proposition 2.5 levy limit. There are just too many state requirements combined with the growth in the number of students.”

Mr. Whritenour said the town should “squeak by” in FY16 without an override; however, the $600,000 override approved by town taxpayers last year will be completely spent. “Last year we took half the override and set it aside for FY16. We won’t have that luxury in [FY17],” he said. “If we have another year of high growth in education expenses, we’re going to have big problems.”

State aid is a particular sore point. The total amount of state aid is determined in large part by real estate values, not earned income. This puts Oak Bluffs, and many towns on the Cape and Islands, at a disadvantage in qualifying for funds. Mr. Whritenour estimated that Oak Bluffs will be assessed with $150,000 in negative funding, e.g. the town will have to pay $150,000 to the state in FY16. “The state aid is actually getting worse,” he said. “The first $150,000 that this town raises has to go to the state, not to the classrooms in our town. Since 2008, state aid has not been there for the town, and it’s absolutely shameful.” Mr. Whritenour said the charter school is also a drain on town finances, since Oak Bluffs has to pay 100 percent of the tuition for each student. Mr. Whritenour said he will meet with state representative Tim Madden and a small group of town officials in a closed meeting next week to discuss the putative structure of state education funding. Selectman Gail Barmakian suggested that Oak Bluffs would stand a better chance of affecting change at the state level by forging alliances with other Cape and Island towns.

FinCom chairman Steve Auerbach said he’s optimistic that the financial burden on Oak Bluffs can be mitigated. “Our reception at the all-Island school committee and at the high school committee was very positive,” he told The Times on Wednesday. “I think they understand that with the constraints of Prop 2.5, there is a limit to what we can spend.” Mr. Auerbach said increase in health insurance for school employees is budgeted at 10 percent, but it could be considerably lower, depending on rates set by the Cape Cod Municipal Health Care Group, which are due to be announced in a few weeks. “School officials are not unsympathetic to what we’re trying to do,” he said. “They get unfunded mandates from the state, so it’s not an easy equation.”

Mr. Whritenour also had good financial news for the selectmen. “Revenues are quite strong, and there are things we can do to continue to make revenues strong,” he said, adding that revenue growth is currently pegged at 3.35 percent. “For estimated receipts last year we collected about $200,000 more than we budgeted,” he said. “Having over $3 million in estimated receipts is awesome. This year’s collections, halfway through the [fiscal] year, we’re $80,000 above last year’s collections. We’re not going to see $1 million in surpluses, we don’t have that luxury, but the days of negative numbers are over.”

Staffing shuffling
Mr. Whritenour proposed freezing the vacant administrator position at the Council on Aging (COA). In addition to cutting costs, this will allow the COA to replace the retiring part-time outreach coordinator with a full-time outreach coordinator. “We want to lower administration costs and increase our outreach efforts,” he said. “That’s where the need is greatest in our community. Economically, that’s where we can have the biggest impact.”

Cost-of-living raises for union employees will be capped at two percent in FY16, and there will be no step raises.

Mr. Whritenour proposed additional funding to the highway department for seasonal restroom maintenance.

To improve efficiency in town hall, Mr. Whritenour proposed additional administrative support for both the assessor and town treasurer, as well as eliminating two part-time administrative positions in the health department and replacing them with one full-time position. In the building department, he proposed eliminating the half-time code enforcement position and adding a full-time administrative assistant.
“We’re recognizing the need for administrative support for the planning board,” Mr. Whritenour said. “We were able to double [the administration budget], but it’s a work in progress.”

Mr. Whritenour said he supports continued consolidation of the fire and EMS departments, and he informed the selectmen that Oak Bluffs homeowners are going to see a reduction in homeowner insurance due to an improved rating of the town’s fire department by the insurance industry.

In other business, Mr. Whritenour informed the selectmen that due to the delay in FEMA funding, dredging at Little Bridge, the channel between Sengekontacket Pond and Nantucket Sound that is completely choked with sand and gravel, will not take place until June 1 at the earliest.


The Edgartown planning board considers a development off Mullen Way. Martin "Skip" Tomassian (back to camera) represented developer Michael Kidder.

The Edgartown planning board Tuesday unanimously approved an application from Chappaquiddick resident Michael Kidder to build nine 2,800-square-foot, four-bedroom houses on a 7.1-acre lot off Mullen Way, following a contentious public hearing continued from Dec. 16.

The approval comes with a list of improvements Mr. Kidder offered to make at his expense, and set as conditions by the planning board. These include installation of a new eight-inch water main and fire hydrants, public access to extend Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank trails, 1.7 acres of open space, and a prohibition on guest houses or any further subdivision.

The vote to approve the project came after the five-member board voted unanimously not to refer the project to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), over the objection of attorney Ellen Kaplan, who represented many of the Mullen Way homeowners opposed to the development. The threshold for mandatory planning-board referral is a 10-lot development.

Several residents argued that Mullen Way, a 17.2-foot-wide, town-owned road off Pease Point Way, with pavement covering about 14 feet of the right of way, is not adequate to safely support extra traffic that would be generated by the new development.

“If you allow Mullen Way to become a driveway to this development, you’ll destroy the special character of Mullen Way,” Robert Coad, a Mullen Way homeowner, said.

“Most of what I’ve heard centers on the issue of change,” board member Robert Sparks said, just before he made a motion to approve the application. Edgartown “is a resort community, which has its appeal because old Edgartown was able to exist over 3.5 centuries of change. Is it going to change the world as we know it? I don’t think so.”

Second time around

Mr. Kidder is one of the founders of the FARM Institute, and heads a charitable foundation that has provided generous support to a number of Island institutions that include Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. He purchased the land for $3.6 million in 2005, according to assessors’ records. It is currently assessed at $1.1 million. Mr. Kidder submitted a slightly larger development proposal to the Edgartown planning board in 2005, but subsequently withdrew his application in the face of strenuous opposition from area residents, which included a petition submitted to the MVC in 2006 to declare the neighborhood a district of critical planning concern (DCPC). Such a designation, which would have been unprecedented for a specific neighborhood, would have allowed for the imposition of a layer of regulatory control above and beyond that which exists at the town level. The MVC rejected the designation.

Mr. Kidder, doing business as MRK Mullen Realty Trust, submitted a new development application to the planning board on Nov. 19, 2014.

The application sparked a blizzard of correspondence. At Tuesday’s hearing in town hall, attended by about 20 people, the board presented copies of 10 letters in support of the project, and eight opposed. Also distributed were letters from the chief of police, fire chief, board of health, water department, wastewater department, and selectmen, expressing support for, or no opposition to, the plan.

The location of the planned development is shown in this map.
The location of the planned development is shown in this map.

Water Superintendent William Chaplain wrote that a new eight-inch water main would be a considerable improvement over the current four-inch main.

“While this approach to the design and construction may require the developer to incur additional costs over the original design, this approach will serve the community in a better and more reliable fashion, [and] may afford the residents with a reduction in homeowner insurance rates,” Mr. Chapman wrote.

David Young, a Mullen Way seasonal resident, spoke in opposition at Tuesday’s hearing, and submitted a letter outlining his objections. “It is important to note that the very modest homes on Mullen are frequently rented in summer, and there are always a good number of children of all ages on the street,” Mr. Young wrote. “When our grandchildren come, we rent another house, as ours is too small for them. Obviously we’re looking at a dangerous personal-safety situation as well as emergency-vehicle and fire-safety issue along with the dramatic degradation of a classic Edgartown neighborhood.”

Road warriors

The objections of Mullen Way residents about the adequacy of the narrow road to accommodate more traffic held little sway for board members, despite the case made by Ms. Kaplan. She noted that Mr. Kidder recently sold two adjacent house lots that are no longer part of his development proposal, but may also bring more residents to the neighborhood.

“It is almost double the amount of homes, it is at least double the amount of bedrooms,” Ms. Kaplan told the board. “The road as it exists with no turnouts is insufficient and incapable of handling the resident traffic and the service-provider traffic. You’re going to have more landscapers, more cleaning people, more FedEx trucks.”

Lawyer Martin “Skip” Tomassian, who represented Mr. Kidder, countered with large pictures of several Edgartown roads in congested neighborhoods that he said were considerably narrower than Mullen Way.

“This isn’t an unusual situation,” planning board member Michael McCourt said. “Narrow roads exist all around the Island, with plenty of houses on them. I can’t vote against this project because of the width of the road.”

Ms. Kaplan also argued that the project triggers several provisions that require mandatory MVC review, including a provision that requires referral of any land subdivided into 10 or more lots, even though one of those lots is to be designated open space in perpetuity. “I would suggest you deny the project, but at the very least it should be referred to the MVC,” Ms. Kaplan said. “That’s where it belongs.”

Chairman Fred Mascolo disagreed about the need for review by the Island’s powerful regulatory and planning agency, which has wide authority to reject a development or impose conditions.

“So you’re saying this is regional impact?” Mr. Mascolo asked. “I’m really kind of sick of people saying that. We are a town board. I think this is an Edgartown decision. I don’t see this as regional impact, where somebody from West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah needs to weigh in.”

The project still needs approval from the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species program (NHESP), because it lies within protected habitat. Mr. Tomassian assured the planning board that after more than a year of consultation, NHESP has given preapproval to development plans.

The project also needs approval from the town conservation commission.

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The Army Corps of Engineers will put off a project to widen and deepen the channel into Menemsha Pond due to permitting delays.

he Menemsha jetty and the facing Lobsterville jetty are scheduled to be repaired this winter. – Photo by Michael Cummo

A Rhode Island marine construction firm is scheduled to begin work this week on a $1.3 million federal project to repair the two stone jetties that guard the entrance to Menemsha harbor and Menemsha Pond. The jetties were damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

The channel will be dredged next year. –U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map
The channel will be dredged next year.
–U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map

RC&D Inc., of Pawtucket, R.I., the contractor awarded the bid for the repair work by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is working within a tight window because of environmental restrictions and the desire of Chilmark town officials that the work not interfere with the summer tourist season.

Construction on the west jetty on the Aquinnah side of the channel must be completed by March 31, to avoid interfering with the migration of piping plovers on Lobsterville Beach and adjacent dunes. Work on the east jetty in Chilmark can continue through May 21, until the town needs full use of the town parking lot. The work will involve transporting heavy construction equipment, armor stone, and other project materials to Menemsha, much of it by water.

The Army Corps of Engineers will supervise the project. “The repair work will involve reconstructing both the east and west jetties to prestorm conditions,” said Craig Martin, project manager for the Army Corps New England District. “Approximately 1,950 tons of armor stone will be placed for the project.”

“Displaced armor stone will be retrieved and reused where applicable, and new stone will be set in place to fill existing gaps in the jetties,” the Army Corps wrote in a news release on Jan. 5. “Repairs will require substantial moving and rehandling of existing stones to obtain the required interlocking placement and construction tolerances.”

Funding for the project comes from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, a $60 billion program authorized by Congress.

Dredging delayed

Another phase of the Army Corp’s project to repair Hurricane Sandy damage, a $2 million plan to dredge the Menemsha channel, was scheduled to begin this winter, but will be delayed until next winter because of delays in securing the necessary state and federal permits. The dredging project will be limited to the months of October through January.

“Unfortunately, because of the extremely limited window to complete dredging,” Mr. Martin wrote in an October memo, “we are not going to be completing the dredging project this year. We simply couldn’t fit what we expect to be 2 to 2.5 months of work into a 1.5-month period left after the contract award and mobilization of equipment.”

The Army Corps was also concerned that it might not be able to find a company able and willing to take on the dredging project this winter. A similar-size project in Cohasset did not draw a single bid when it was offered last September.

“Due to all the Hurricane Sandy work from other districts and states in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, we are finding a saturated market in the hydraulic dredging sector,” Mr. Martin wrote.

The federal government intends to push forward with a request for bids in the early months of this year, so the dredging can begin in October.

Depth of unhappiness

In 1945, Congress authorized periodic maintenance dredging and repairs to the jetty, to insure safe passage of vessels seeking refuge from storms. The current project is designed to restore the channel between the jetties to a depth of 10 feet above mean low water, and eight feet deep along the 1.2-mile channel into Menemsha Pond. The Army Corps says parts of that channel have shoaled to depths of less than three feet, creating hazardous conditions for commercial and sport fishermen as well as recreational boaters. Sand dredged from the project will be placed on Lobsterville Beach, to reduce the impact of coastal erosion. Under the planned terms of the dredging project, the contractor will be allowed to work 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

The dredging project does not have the support of Chilmark selectmen. The town of Aquinnah and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) both favor the dredging project, as a way to improve the health of the pond by increasing water circulation, and to allow vessels access to Menemsha Pond.

Chilmark officials are worried about the effect on the scallop fishery and the potential for more and larger boats to use the federally designated channel to enter the pond. However, those town concerns were not enough to outweigh the Army Corps mandate to protect navigation through the federal channel.

Virginia Munro plates servings of Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Curry which she's prepared for the class. -Photos by Michael Cummo

Dust off that old, slow Crock-Pot that you received years ago as a wedding gift. Scour the thrift shops for discarded ones. Sneak into your mother-in-law’s basement and snatch one. Slow cooking is back and, as performed by Virginia Munro, flies way beyond the standard chili and chicken stew.

Ms. Munro, adult programs director for the Edgartown Library and longtime cooking and dining aficionado, makes it her mission to take her favorite recipes and transform them into slow-cooker wonders. She has begun to share her prowess once a month during the winter with demos at the library.

For January, she demonstrated Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Curry, adapted from Islander Uma Datta’s recipe.

Virginia Munro shares tips and recipes for the Crock-Pot.
Virginia Munro shares tips and recipes for the Crock-Pot.

Although we remember slow cookers best as the most duplicated wedding shower gift of the 1970s, it was actually patented in 1940 by its inventor, Irving Naxon. Then called the Naxon Beanery, the design was sold in the early ’70s to Rival Manufacturing, which rechristened it the Crock-Pot. At that time women were beginning to work outside the home, and since microwaves were not yet available to consumers, it was a terrific solution for preparing a meal: Dump the ingredients into the liner in the morning, arrive home to a fully cooked and hearty meal. As Ms. Munro explains it, “Put it together in 15 minutes before work and it’s like Mummy has been cooking all day.”

Early slow cookers had one knob and two settings — “on” and “off.” Now, enjoying a comeback, they are available with removable inserts, multiple settings, computer timing, and a variety of accessories. According to ConsumerReports.org, 83% of families owned a slow cooker in 2011. No wonder Ms. Munro enjoyed a capacity crowd at her January demo.

The lower level of the library — not really equipped for cooking — became a temporary kitchen with a double hot plate, sauté pans, a cutting board and knives, and a large slow-cooker sitting atop a bookcase. The 12 or so viewers (a good turnout for an especially cold day) lined up chairs along a narrow aisle. The sightlines were surprisingly good. Ms. Munro began by apologizing. “This is my first cooking demo in about 20 years,” she confessed. “But now I’m so much better a cook.”

While Ms. Munro was sautéing chicken and chopping onion, garlic, ginger, and cilantro, she explained how she discovered slow cooking. “With all the great [dairy] farms on the Island,” she said, “I wanted to start making my own yogurt. It went from there to all of the special things I like to cook with.” She cited the French sour-cream-like crème fraîche as an example: “I wouldn’t give you two cents for what’s available in the supermarket, and it’s expensive. But you can make your own in a slow cooker.”

She also advocates using the slow cooker in summer, instead of heating up the kitchen. On low heat, the cooker gives off about the same amount of heat as a 75-watt light bulb. At high, it’s about the equivalent of a 300-watt light bulb — still a lot less than a standard oven would produce. And, she adds, slow-cooked meals freeze well.

The participants asked questions and nodded their enthusiasm as Ms. Munro cooked.  Almost as one, they inhaled the piquant aroma when she warmed the spices in the sauté pan. Mouths begin to water and midday stomachs growled. Everything was in the pot and ready for its one-hour stint on high before the heat was lowered for the duration.

Virginia Munro prepares the ingredients for Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Curry, one of her favorite Crock-Pot recipes.
Virginia Munro prepares the ingredients for Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Curry, one of her favorite Crock-Pot recipes.

Sampling of the finished product is de rigueur at cooking classes and demos, but unfortunately, a slow-cooked recipe can’t be rushed, and of course, no one was going to stay the four hours until completion. Ms. Munro had that covered. She’d made a batch of the Indian Chicken Curry the night before, and the viewers were treated to lunch-size portions of the recipe — accompanied by rice and two kinds of Indian bread.

Eyes closed and heads fell back in appreciation of the flavors. Some oohed. Others ahhed. All agreed that the dish has a nice spicy kick, but not enough to alienate the pepper-phobic.

As napkins wiped the last of the sauce from mouths, Ms. Munro invited all to return on Feb. 12, when she’ll be demonstrating Slow-Cooked Beef Bourguignon in honor of Valentine’s Day. It’s a recipe she adapted from the famous one by Julia Child.

As the participants leave, one woman remarks that the 20-year absence did not seem to make a difference in Ms. Munro’s demo skills. “She’s a great teacher AND a great cook.”

Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Curry

Adapted for the crockpot from Uma Datta’s recipe

Serves 6–8

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp. salt
½ cup cooking oil (canola recommended)
1½ cup chopped onion
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1½ Tbs. minced fresh ginger root
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 Tbs. curry powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. garam masala
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 cup hot water or chicken broth
1 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. cilantro (reserve one tbsp. for garnish)
salt to taste


  1. Quarter the chicken thighs and sprinkle with 2 tsp. salt. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat; brown chicken in oil. Transfer the browned chicken to slow-cooker insert.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium high; add the onions, garlic, and ginger to the oil remaining in the skillet and cook, continuously stirring, until the onions wilt (about 5 minutes). Add to slow-cooker insert. Drain (do not rinse) tomatoes and add to insert — spread evenly.
  3. Mix the curry powder, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cayenne pepper, garam masala, lemon juice, and 1 cup hot water (or broth) well in a mixing cup and then add to slow cooker. Stir well for one minute.
  4. Cook on HIGH for 1 hour.
  5. Add yogurt, butter, and 1 Tbs. of chopped cilantro. Stir well, stirring the chicken until coated with the sauce, and cook on LOW for 4 hours.
  6. Garnish with 1 Tbs. chopped cilantro. Serve with basmati rice.

    Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Curry is served over basmati rice and accompanied by bread.
    Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Curry is served over basmati rice and accompanied by bread.

Island swordmaker Michael Caughwell is featured on a new Discovery Channel show.

Swordmaker Michael Caughwell at his shop in West Tisbury. – Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel

West Tisbury’s resident giant swordmaker and Irishman Michael Craughwell makes his official television debut next week when his “Big Giant Swords” reality show premieres on the Discovery Channel.

Since 2003 Mr. Craughwell has been making larger-than-life replica swords as a passion project. He is a welder by trade and a former sculpture student of Cluain Mhuire Art College in Ireland, where he began building “regular-sized” swords. Mr. Craughwell gained notoriety in the past several years for his “big swords”after he began filming his process and posting the videos on his YouTube channel in 2007.

With the help of fellow Islander Mike Robinson, he had the idea to document “just how ridiculous it was” to make the sculptures. The two originally met playing board games, and given what Mr. Craughwell describes as a “shortage of nerds on the Island,” the two hit it off. He enlisted Mr. Robinson for filming his process. “A lot of people on this island are able to help, but not everyone knows what they’re doing with the camera,” he said.

Mr. Craughwell affectionately refers to Mr. Robinson as “AmeriMike” because “it’s weird calling someone else Mike, that’s my name.” As the duo’s videos started taking off (his most popular video now has more than 550,000 views on YouTube), people across the world started taking note of his skill.

“I started getting these messages [from viewers], ‘If you can make that [sword,] you can make this one.’ I ignored them at first,” Mr. Craughwell says of the initial communications. Before long he realized the legitimacy of the requests, and started accepting orders, mostly from men who wanted replica swords from video games or comic books. One of his first tasks was to build a life-size, ornamental replica of a sword from Final Fantasy VII.

"Big Giant Sword" maker Michael Caughwell poses with a buster sword that he constructed. – Photo courtesy of Michael Caughwell
“Big Giant Sword” maker Michael Caughwell poses with a buster sword that he constructed. – Photo courtesy of Michael Caughwell

Mr. Craughwell soon realized the uniqueness of his craft and the shortage of giant swordmakers in the world: “If there is something just wrong enough in your brain that you actually need one, it’s me or no one. I’ve found one or two other guys that do it, but they don’t make them as often or as detailed.”

He responded to an initial request from someone in Argentina by suggesting they try to find a local builder because the shipping would cost too much. Six months later, the same person emailed him again when he couldn’t find anyone closer to fulfill the order. To date Mr. Craughwell has sent giant swords as far as Canada, England, Ireland, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia.

He notes that one of the hardest parts of the job in the digital era has been working out how to accept payments from people far away. He typically takes an order and receives a deposit. When the work is done, he sends it via FedEx and collects the rest of the money. He admits that he wishes he was better about pricing the swords more accurately in his initial quotes, but it’s hard to know the time and value that will go into each custom job.

“I like taking on a unique one and making something for the first time, something that you haven’t thought of fully. I like taking it on, but sometimes it can be nightmarish.” Many of the replica swords that Mr. Craughwell is hired to build have never appeared in reality, and transferring them into a physical thing can often create design challenges. He says an ideal situation is when someone commissions a sword from him and pays the deposit, but when it’s complete he’s disappeared. This allows Mr. Craughwell time to price the sword more accurately and sell it at its true cost.

For reference, a regular sword averages about three feet long, and weighs three to five pounds. Mr. Craughwell’s giant swords come in at around six feet long and weigh somewhere between 40 and 50 pounds. Given their large size, they are often not usable as weapons, which gives him peace of mind. Sometimes the swords are ordered for gaming conventions and as costume accessories — someone might have every other element of the outfit in place, but they’re missing the best part, and that’s where Mr. Craughwell’s skills come in. Recently an unprecedented order came in from a fashion model in Brooklyn looking to commission a sword for a photo shoot: “It doesn’t need to be usable, she’s just posing beside it. I’m not sure why she needs it to be steel, but OK.”

Mr. Craughwell’s past work as a welder lends itself well to the physical process of big sword making. “As a welder I have the steel on the table and tools in my hand. [Other swordmakers] work with fixed tools and hold the swords, which wouldn’t work with the big ones. As a welder I’ve fabricated bridges and warehouses, like sculptures.” The craft is clearly second nature to him, and after watching a couple of his videos it’s obvious to see his talent, and his entertainment value.

Michael Caughwell olds up one of his token giant swords. – Photo courtesy of Michael Caughwell
Michael Caughwell olds up one of his token giant swords. – Photo courtesy of Michael Caughwell

A production company recognized both and messaged him in January 2014 regarding a possible television show about his work. “When I first saw the message I thought it was a scam,” he said. After confirming the authenticity of the note he went through rounds of discussions and Skype interviews, going “up and up the ladder.” A couple of “Hollywood guys” as he calls them, visited the Island, but most of his initial interactions were done remotely. Once the show was decided, filming occurred on-Island in late summer.

The challenge for Mr. Craughwell wasn’t getting used to being followed and filmed; he was accustomed to that because of his YouTube videos. The hard part came with relinquishing creative control. “Having other people decide what would look good … If I was sitting around dreaming of having a reality show, maybe I would have been nicer. And there were some shouting matches. … In my videos I like to add some little Easter-egg nuggets, obscure references. They were anti-hyper-obscure-references.”

Prior to filming Mr. Craughwell was still working part-time for another artist on-Island, but he is now focusing on his giant swordmaking full-time. Due to high demand, he hasn’t taken new orders in more than a year, but once he’s finished with one more sword he’s “open for business,” which will align nicely with the premiere of his television show.

The first of six one-hour episodes of Big Giant Swords premieres on the Discovery Channel at 10 pm on Tuesday, Jan. 13. Mr. Craughwell hasn’t seen any of the show’s content yet: “I’’ll be just as surprised as anyone else.” When asked if he was doing anything special for the premiere, he mentioned a Reddit AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) Q&A interview online at 5 pm Tuesday. Then he’ll be at The Wharf with anyone who wishes to join him in watching the premiere, because he doesn’t own a television. “If me being on TV wasn’t reason enough to buy one, I probably never will.”

You can watch Mr. Caughwell’s YouTube videos of his swordmaking process at www.youtube.com/user/michaelcthulhu

Oak Bluffs Principal Richard Smith and Assistant Superintendent Matthew D’Andrea are the two finalists.

Richard Smith, Oak Bluffs School principal, shown in this 2012 file photo, is a finalist for the job of superintendent. – Martha's Vineyard Times file photo

The All-Island School Committee (AISC) announced Tuesday that the search for a new Martha’s Vineyard school superintendent has been narrowed down to two finalists. Assistant Superintendent of the Martha’s Vineyard Schools Matthew D’Andrea and Oak Bluffs Elementary School Principal Richard Smith are the two finalists in the search to replace James H. Weiss, who will retire on July 1st.

AISC chairman David Rossi of Edgartown outlined the schedule for the final chapter in the search process. It calls for interviews of the two candidates by all 12 committee members on Wednesday and Thursday of next week and a final vote on Wednesday, Jan. 21.

Matthew D’Andrea is the current assistant superintendent of the Martha's Vineyard Schools and one of two finalists. — Photo by Michael Cummo
Matthew D’Andrea is the current assistant superintendent of the Martha’s Vineyard Schools and one of two finalists. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The committee will interview Mr. D’Andrea from 5 pm to 7 pm on Jan. 14 and Mr. Smith on Jan. 15. The interviews, as well as the discussion on final selection and the vote, will take place in the high school library and are open to the public.

The selection committee received information packets from 18 candidates and then conducted interviews with five. James M. Hardy, a consultant with the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, which was retained to advise on the process, facilitated the search.

In a telephone call Wednesday, Mr. Smith said, “The whole process with Jim Hardy has been very professional. When necessary, things were held in strict confidence, and the whole community was well-represented in the search committee. I am very excited to have made it this far, and while it is a bit nerve-wracking to be so clearly in the public spotlight, that is the nature of the superintendent’s role, and I am getting used to it. I’ll be ready for all the questions next week. I am honored to be a finalist. It’s really good when people feel confident in you. It’s an exciting day.”

Mr. D’Andrea said he thought the process had been complete and informative. “The screening committee clearly represented groups from across the Island, and I am pleased to have gotten this far,” Mr. D’Andrea said. “Despite all the challenges facing the education budget process, in the end it is a matter of coming together as a community in order to meet the needs of the children. I look forward to the opportunity next week to answer the school committee’s questions about how to do that efficiently. I am honored to be a finalist, and hope to be named superintendent.”

In other business Tuesday, the committee approved a new school calendar that includes dates for fiscal years 2016 and 2017.

Mr. Weiss said that many people had requested school calendars be prepared two years in advance so that Island residents can better plan their schedules and vacations. As a result, a committee was formed to develop a calendar for two years in advance. The calendar will be distributed over the coming weeks and posted on all the school web sites.

AISC members also heard from Sam Hart, the director of adult community education (ACE MV). The organization wants approval to use the high school procurement process as a way to channel $50,000 in funding requests placed on town warrants to support ACE programs in FY 2016.

Using this approach, the program received $90,000 last year to help underwrite its wide range of adult evening classes. When asked about ACE’s “financial sustainability” in the future, Mr. Hart noted that ACE had doubled the number of gifts received in the past six months from its fundraising efforts. He also pointed to an expansion of career-development programs as a critical future requirement based upon data gathered from surveys of potential students on the Island. A motion to approve the use of the procurement (RFP) process as a conduit for funds passed with a unanimous vote.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported  the date of the vote to choose a new superintendent as June 28. It is Jan. 28.

Minutes after police distributed his photo, the suspect unwittingly crossed paths with an alert town police chief.

The Mermaid Farm farm stand is now protected with surveillance cameras. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Increasingly, Martha’s Vineyard farmers are wrestling with a challenge unrelated to weather or harvests. Thievery from farm stands is hitting the bottom line.

The Mermaid Farm on Middle Road in Chilmark was the most recent target. Allen Healy, co-owner of the farm with his wife Caitlin Jones, didn’t discover he’d been robbed on Dec. 29 until he took inventory and counted the cash from the can the next morning. He checked the footage from his recently installed security cameras, and it clearly showed the alleged perpetrator in the act and the car in which he drove away. Chilmark police detective Sean Slavin responded to his call.

“The suspect didn’t look familiar, and his vehicle had out-of-state plates,” Detective Slavin told The Times. “He made four trips to his car, carrying as much as his arms could carry.” The suspect took milk, cheese, yogurt, and other goods worth $103, according to Detective Slavin. The video showed he left a $20 bill in the can.

Detective Slavin took a photo of the video footage on his cell phone and texted it to police officers in all six towns at 10:44 am.  At 11:05 am, off-duty Chilmark Police Chief Brian Cioffi was driving in his truck when he saw the suspect’s vehicle drive by going the other way on South Road. “I’d received a photograph of the suspect from Detective Slavin, and the pictures matched,” Chief Cioffi told The Times. “I followed him to Alley’s [General Store], and with the assistance of West Tisbury police, we blocked him in. We’re happy we caught another person stealing from the honor system.”

Police arrested Daniel Levin, 41, of Washington, D.C. According to Detective Slavin, Mr. Levin gave police permission to search his home, where they found stolen goods and psilocybin mushrooms. Mr. Levin was arraigned in Edgartown District Court on charges of shoplifting by concealing merchandise and possession of class C drug.

Mr. Slavin said the Mermaid Farm theft had no connection to a prior string of up-Island farm-stand thefts. “We caught one adult for the farm-stand thefts this fall, and more recently we caught the kids who stole a cash box,” he said.

The 100-acre Mermaid Farm has a devoted following for its milk, yogurt, yogurt drinks (lassi), cheeses, beef, lamb, and produce. It’s one of few farms on the Island that sells raw milk, which goes for $14 a gallon.

Troubling trend
Mr. Healy estimates he lost about $50 a week to shoplifters in 2014. “When I did the numbers for last year, we were alarmed at how much was being taken,” he said. “The week of Thanksgiving, we lost over $400. I think the honor system is done.”

Three weeks prior to the theft, Mr. Healy had upgraded from a self-installed security camera to a professionally installed system, which he said cost him about $1,500. “I had four cameras installed,” he said. “There’s one on the cash can, one at the gate, one at face level, and another covering the general area. If you steal, you will get caught,” he said.

Mr. Healy said his new system, with bigger, more visible cameras, appears to be deterring would-be thieves. “I’ve actually gone three, four days without anything being stolen,” he said. “I have footage of a woman who took some yogurt and pulled cash out of the cash can, then she notices the camera and put it back. The look on her face was priceless.”

Mr. Healy said he’s considering hiring someone to work at the stand this summer. “It’s a tradeoff between how much you pay someone to be there and how much you could lose,” he said.

Other merchants are also feeling the pinch from pilfery, according to Mr. Healy. “Or maybe we’re just noticing it more,” he said. “Either way, just about everybody I know has cameras now. There’s a honey farmer I know who hasn’t, and he’s always getting robbed.”