Martha’s Vineyard residents were understandably shocked to learn that new Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Principal Gil Traverso had resigned only one year into a three-year contract, and just one month before the start of the new school year.
The news generated a range of comments on mvtimes.com. Some readers complimented, and others disparaged, Mr. Traverso’s short tenure. Whatever he may or may not have done, it is water under the bridge. It will be up to the next school principal — interim or permanent — working with faculty members and school leaders to review last year, and map out future policies and procedures.
On Tuesday, Superintendent of School Matt D’Andrea announced that retired high school principal Margaret “Peg” Regan had agreed to step into the breach for the 2005-16 school year. Ms. Regan, who retired in 2008, is a well respected member of the community and will be a steady hand on the helm.
Predictably, whenever an off-Island hire does not work out, there is a tendency to fault the search process and suggest that we would all be better off if we looked within and favored Island candidates over individuals with no local ties.
Island living is not for everyone, we are told. True enough. Living and working on Martha’s Vineyard carries its own set of challenges, but none is insurmountable, and it would be wrong to suggest that professionals cannot adapt to our small community any differently than they do in small communities across the country. Sometimes, in an employment situation, for whatever reason, personally or professionally, things just don’t work out. When that happens, it is better to recognize reality and move on, which is what Mr. Traverso appears to have done.
It would be a mistake to let his departure affect future hiring decisions. Martha’s Vineyard benefits when school leaders cast a wide net in an effort to seek out individuals with good ideas and fresh perspectives. Doing so does not preclude looking to draw from the Island’s pool of bright, talented, committed individuals who live and work within our community, but the notion that because someone already lives and works here, he or she may be a better candidate than someone who does not is shortsighted.
One issue Mr. Traverso raised and which ought not to be overlooked is the effect the Vineyard’s high cost of housing will have on the ability of the school system to continue to attract qualified candidates to apply for teaching and administrative positions.
Taxpayers in the six Island towns provide generous support — about $50 million total — for a school system comprised of about 550 employees and more than 2,100 students.
Mr. Traverso earned $140,000 annually, a handsome salary by most Island standards, and nearly double the average wage of most teachers. Yet he cited the Vineyard’s high cost of living and housing as factors in his decision to leave. His new job in the New Haven school system will pay him just as much, but his cost of living will be less, he said.
Mr. Traverso said that after he was hired he was pretty much left to his own devices when it came to finding a place to live. He quickly learned it can be pretty tough, even on a good salary, to find year-round housing to rent.
There is a shortage of high-quality, moderately priced rental housing, and condos of the sort that would appeal to professional administrators and teachers, individuals who do not necessarily plan to make the Vineyard their home but may move here as part of a career and personal trajectory that will lead them elsewhere in the future.
The Dukes County Regional Housing Authority manages more than 70 apartments. The upper limit a single person may earn to qualify for one of these apartments is $46,000, or 80 percent of the median income in Dukes County. A new teacher with a bachelor’s degree starting at step one earns $48,383.
School leaders, working in tandem with Oak Bluffs officials, have an opportunity to help address the shortage of housing for Island professionals, and those who for better or worse might be termed the Island’s middle class.
Oak Bluffs owns a seven-acre parcel just opposite the high school next to the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena. A long-unconsummated land swap between the town and the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank could add an additional 24-acre parcel of developable land in the same general location. How might a development that includes condos and rentals benefit the town and Island?
There is plenty of room for creativity. It might start with a conversation among town leaders, school administrators, Island housing officials, and developers capable of taking on big projects.