Letters to the Editor
Thank you all
To the Editor:
On behalf of my entire family, I would like to thank the Oak Bluffs police department, the staff and teachers, and all of the parents and students of the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School and the Oak Bluffs School. My family is so lucky to live in what I believe is one of the last places where the world community still has a tangible meaning.
Last year, when my daughter Hannah was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, the outpouring of support for my family was overwhelming; from kids having a rock-a-thon to dinners being sent to Hannah's home. I was awestruck with the way people stepped up to help out with all of the added burden that comes from such a long hard journey both mentally, physically and financially. A battle that, by the end of last June, we thought Hannah had won.
However, when Hannah called me on Nov. 3, complaining of hip pain and wondering if her cancer had come back, I reassured her that we were just at the Jimmy Fund clinic two weeks earlier, and surely the doctors or nurses would have seen something to indicate a recurrence. But any of you who know Hannah will know that she is nothing if not persistent.
So, I called her oncologist and made an appointment for her the following Tuesday. Her mother, Amy, and she packed a lunch and hopped on the bus for a day-long excursion to the Jimmy Fund on Nov. 7, the last morning Hannah woke up in her own bed.
She was diagnosed with leukemia (secondary aml) a very aggressive form brought on as a side effect from one of the original chemotherapy drugs she was given. She is now about to receive a bone marrow transplant, and hopefully in some months this too will be a battle which she has won.
When news of Hannah's new fight spread, the response from friends was and is still so unbelievable, words can hardly capture the feelings that arose. From families offering to help watch Emma and Olivia (Hannah's sisters) to teachers staying late to help with homework or just to talk. Not to mention Hannah's classmates, venturing up to visit and brighten up an already amazingly cheerful hospital floor, with the help of their teacher, who drove them to Boston and back on her day off.
So, to every student and teacher who folded a crane, thank you. To every family who has offered to help, thank you. To every teacher who sent home a letter asking families to donate money instead of buying them holiday presents, thank you. To every student and family who donated money, thank you. To the Oak Bluffs police department who heard of our situation and donated money, thank you.
During this holiday season I know that my family and I are fortunate to live in a community where there are so many heroes in our everyday lives. If I forgot anyone, thank you, thank you, all.
Answers needed on school formula
To the Editor:
This letter is a follow up on the reporting about the Implementation of the Massachusetts Department of Education's New Chapter 70 Formula in the MV Times (Oct. 26) and the Vineyard Gazette (Dec. 15). While both mentioned some basic issues surrounding this new ruling, many more questions remain.
The taxpayers of the town of Tisbury stand to lose in the vicinity of $314,000 for fiscal year 2007 and will continue to be assessed hundreds of thousands in excess of what is normally paid to support the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School budget in the following three or four years. Those of us who are seeking answers from our state legislators and officials at the Department of Education are not trying to shirk away from Tisbury's financial responsibility towards the high school. What we are asking for is a copy of the new formula. We also need the data, its sources and the method used to determine the foundation budget for each town of Martha's Vineyard.
To date, our superintendent of schools, the school's financial officer, and the Tisbury selectmen have not been able to gain any concrete answers, nor have they received the information needed to clear up this seemingly indiscriminate way of assessing funding responsibilities for the high school.
Should Tisbury taxpayers accept this "financial sentence" without due process? Do Tisbury taxpayers have the right to withhold the extra assessment and fund the regional high school according to the present regional agreement until such time that the proper state officials can prove that Tisbury's apportionment must be the greatest in this transition period of four years? What happens after the four-year transition period? Any guarantees of abatement?
Jeff Wulfson, Associate Commissioner of Education, has told Tisbury officials that the wealth of our Island towns do not play a role in the new formula because we are all too wealthy. Since personal wealth is one of the factors used in determining the foundation budget, what then is the cause of the significant disparity between Tisbury and the other towns?
If our towns have not been in compliance of the new foundation budget since 1993, why was the news of its upgraded implementation for the new fiscal year not been made public until August or September of 2006? Just in time for the November elections? Just in time for the State House to go into recess? Add to conflicting deadline dates for registering public opinion: October 27, some time in November, December 1, December 4 or December 19?
If this letter sounds like a "mumble jumble" to the readers it is because the information and responses that I am getting are exactly that.
Please help the concerned citizen of Tisbury by e-mailing, writing, or calling our state representatives. Flyers with this information are available at the Tisbury town hall, the Vineyard Haven Public Library, the Tisbury Senior Center, and the Bunch of Grapes bookstore. In his MV Times interview, Richard Dreyfuss said that "civics is the teaching of reason and logic." He also speaks of the importance of "upholding the values of dissent, debate, and civility." The town of Tisbury shall be innocent until proven guilty.
It's all about
To the Editor:
I listen to the complaints from some of the property owners around the Tisbury Great Pond, and I think their concerns are more hollow than real. Over the years the Land Bank has shown itself to be the very best protector of land resources. All the numerous sites they've made available to the public are a treasure that Island residents desperately need. As land has become more and more dear, the scramble to protect access to the beach has become truly amazing to watch. Guards with guns, people who spend a good deal of their time watching out to see who's sneaking onto what beach. Please, why don't the "concerned" owners admit what's really bothering them? The "unwashed masses" invading their private, rich-person beaches. Hiding behind "protecting the pond" when they're really trying to limit access to protect their property values. I applaud the Land Bank and the efforts they've gone through to provide beach access to Island residents. To the property owners I say, you've taken advantage of the fact that Massachusetts and Maine are the only states in this country that allow you to own beach. This is what happens when that goes too far.
To the Editor:
We live in a society governed by rules. There are reasons we stop at red lights. Zoning rules were created for a purpose. I have no issue with rules. As a society we couldn't function without them. I was told by a zoning board member, "We can't look at each case individually."? But, what makes Martha's Vineyard unique is the eclectic group and diverse backgrounds of the individuals that make up our community.
Does it make sense to completely destroy the charm and esthetics of a home for a few feet? I was told, "You have enough property."? In other words, why worry about esthetics when I can rip apart a perfectly functioning house so that I can adhere to rules. I may have enough property, but I don't have limitless funds. Many of the rules that were created to protect this island are in turn causing people to sell their homes and leave the Island, making way for more trophy homes.
Is a trophy home that adheres to zoning rules a better choice than a charming Cape Cod home (filled with Island history) that's a few feet non-conforming?
A personal anecdote: Years ago, while affiliated with a pilot program at the University of Washington, I was assigned to a classroom and school district with a special needs child. Her name was Hillary, and she didn't talk. Some labeled her autistic. Individually trained by the Experimental Education Unit connected with the university, I was given three weeks to make her "normal" by her school district. The task was impossible. Due to rules, Hillary was written off and to some extent institutionalized.
I later dropped out of the pilot program. Penalized by the head of the program for dropping out, the Dean of Education "broke the rules"? and found a way for me to receive certification. The following fall I was hired at the Experimental Education Unit. Hillary was accepted as one of my students. My training at the Experimental Education Unit combined with my frustration, arguments, advocacy and tears on Hillary's behalf allowed her the opportunity for a better life. Today, she is almost a full-functioning adult and lives in Europe.
"If we do it for you, we will have to do it for others," is a lazy excuse. This island is slowly becoming the Island of "no." Should an 85-year-old woman be denied an apartment for full-time assistance due to rules and regulations? In adhering to zoning rules and regulations, let's not lose sight of what makes this community unique; a rare population of "individuals,"? each with our own special needs.
Perhaps it's time to look at the bigger picture of what we want this community to be, and address each person's needs on a case-by-case basis. What I'm trying to express is that there are times in life when one should adhere to rules, as well as times when one should make individual exceptions. The wisdom is in knowing the difference.
Janice Fouks Blum
To the Editor:
My congratulations to Timothy Walsh at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital for completing the Martha's Vinyard Commission process that will result in a badly needed upgrade in the health care of our Island community. In addition, the agreement with Mass. General and their extensive health care network will be a great asset to our medical professionals and the people (us) in their care.
These are bold and welcome improvements.
What will be hard to improve upon is the quality of care that the hospital staff provides. Several members of the Edmunds family have spent time in the care of the hospital staff in past weeks, and we are grateful for the thoughtfulness and thoroughly professional approach to our care. Please know of our appreciation to Drs. Bigby, Casper, Frank, Frazier, Fudem, London, MacArthur, and Pil. Also to the nursing staff made up of Helen, Betsy, Mary Ellen, Donna, Rick, and Mike, and also for others whom I have missed mentioning in the fog of the medical anxiety of the moment.
Our care was, in every case, promptly and carefully delivered by people who cared not only about the outcome, but about us as people. New facilities will help us to attract and retain quality staff at all levels of the hospital's operation. New facilities will allow for more opportunities to offer a wider range of services to improve the health of our island community. This is all good. But a building is not the heart and soul of a hospital. The staff is what gives the place life, and this is one family who is thankful for physicians, nurses and administrative staff who so generously shared their expertise and their lives with us.
And, this is a copy of a letter to the board of the Edgartown Council on Aging.
It has been my privilege to serve on the council from 1993 through 2004 and then again in the past year. The program continues to be exciting for our seniors. The staff continues to do a great job in meeting the needs of our aging population. Laurie Schreiber deserves a great deal of credit in her ongoing efforts to balance the needs we see coming in the future with the need we have to care for our seniors today. It's not an easy task, and she does this with considerable grace, dignity and professionalism.
The board members with whom I have served have always been a great group to be with at every meeting. They too are a talented and committed group of citizens whose interest is the common good for all of our elderly. Our town is fortunate to have members of the community of such high caliber and compassion serving in this capacity.
Thank you for this opportunity to be of service, and I took forward to being available to our community again in the future.
Robert D. Edmunds, Rector St. Andrews Church
To the Editor:
This is a comment to Don Lyons regarding his coverage of the basketball games in today's times. Notice the large text devoted to the boys' games and then five or six sentences to all three of the girls' teams' winning. No pictures of the girls' games; three pictures (one very large) of the boys. This isn't right and just reinforces the notion that only boys' sports are important. Why did you do that? You should be aware of these things in your future coverage, and if you aren't, then the editor should be.
To the Editor:
I have attached a copy of the letter I sent to President Bush. The letter was sent along with more than 60 knitted caps to Save the Children.
The mindful knitting group at the Edgartown Council on Aging has been knitting for Muriel Laverty's clinic for a couple of years, and when this opportunity came along, the knitting needles began flying.
Please let people know that this is but one way to reach out of those less fortunate than us, and we can creatively protest policies we disagree with. The possibilities are only limited by our imagination.
Dear President Bush,
I am the facilitator of a weekly knitting group. The group decided to take on this project of knitting caps for babies in developing countries. The women knit a total of 60 caps. Some wrote notes to you, others chose not to. They asked me to.
Most of the women are mothers and/or grandmothers. They want you to allocate more federal funding toward health programs for mothers in the developing world. Knowing that as many as two million babies die within 24 hours of birth is something to be ashamed of. You have the power to help.
Please reflect on the time, energy, and thought that went into these caps. Mothers reaching out to prevent another mother's intolerable suffering when her baby dies. You can fix it.
To the Editor:
The death knell currently tolls for the Tashmoo-Main Street location in Vineyard Haven. The once formerly large Tashmoo Inn area, already divided into two small homes and the Vineyard Montessori School, will be marched into a totally saturated, dense, minimum-sized, four housing lots, loss of the Montessori parking space, and installation of a private road, in order to access three of the new house lots. Mr. Roger Seasonwein of Greenwich, Conn., owner of this property, obviously wishes to maximize his profit but at the town's, the school's, and the abutting taxpayers' expense. This may be his right, but the cost in future is great to everyone else.
As a concession to the Montessori School, Mr. Seasonwein has granted them rights to the private road for access to the school, but without parking privileges. They are constricted by having permission only to discharge and pick up the attending children, whose parents will be confined to their cars. As one proponent of this new subdivision stated at the very first planning board meeting, "The parents will have to be educated like the children!"
Obviously, as any child educator, parent, or advocate is aware, parents and young children are reluctant to separate. The teachers will need to be outdoors awaiting the arrival of their charges quickly, so the next car in line on the private road may then discharge likewise, circle around and depart. Meanwhile with 30 or more children in attendance at the school, one can easily envision twice daily, the line of cars extending out onto Tashmoo, the only two-way street from Main to Franklin in our entire town.
A much-needed stop sign was put in place at the corner of Tashmoo and North William streets owing to speeding of vehicles up and down Tashmoo. Now, drivers of school buses, construction trucks, and passenger cars exiting from Main onto Tashmoo will almost immediately encounter, after passing only one house, my own, this private road, with the possibility looming of unanticipated exits and entrances, bearing school staff, parents and children and cars of the anticipated new home owners.
I have personally talked to the police chief, the fire chief, wrote letters to the selectmen, attended all three planning board meetings on this proposal, and voiced my concerns to Ken Barwick, the town building inspector. Only he seemed aware of potential problems with such saturation in this section of town, on this particular street Tashmoo Avenue. I foresee cars being parked up and down both sides of this already over-utilized street as parents will be loathe to merely discharge their children without accompanying or retrieving them, themselves.
Only time will tell if my pessimistic vision for traffic disaster and accidents will indeed occur. But the future, based on living over 30 years at the Tashmoo-Main Street location, does not bode well.
We, the aggrieved and concerned abutters', pleas for consideration at the planning board's meetings were heard, duly registered in their records, but totally ignored. So Mr. Seasonwein will indeed now maximize his profit, return to Greenwich, at the expense of us, the taxpaying abutters, the Montessori parents, children, and staff, and the townsfolk. Therefore, Iet the mourning begin, because of this iII-conceived plan which brings only trouble to our neighborhood.
To the Editor:
I would like to thank the Island Community for coming out the evening of Dec. 2, for a very special event that helped a group of people in extreme need, very far away from our beautiful shores.
There was a very successful fund-raiser for the refugees of Darfur held at the M.V. Hebrew Center. It was attended by more than 100 people and raised $3,500 that was donated to the American Jewish World Service, which has many operations in Sudan. And that was only part of the success.
It was also a coming together of groups of people from many spiritual traditions to support a cause that we all feel in our hearts to be enormously important.
The Social Action Committee of the Hebrew Center, together with the Sangha of the Bodhi Path Buddhist Center and our beautiful Hindu cooks, created an evening of compassion in action - and had a good time doing it.
Cronig's Market, the Natural Food Barn, and Vineyard Bottled Waters donated the food and beverages for the event.
Uma Datta and Kiran's Catering were the masterminds of the fabulous Indian feast created that night. Beth Kramer, Chrissy and Drew Kinsman, Arlan Wise, and Zee Gamson were indefatigable in the kitchen, with the help of Martha Flanders and Linda Cohen. The food was served by four high school students - Jonah Lipsky, Julius Lowe, Leigh Hammond, and Caetlyn Hutchinson - looking sharp in their black and whites.
Sharon Gamsby welcomed the guests and arranged the centerpieces with the help of Peggy Pinney and Eleanor Stanwood.
The music for the evening was of two varieties. David Stanwood created a welcoming atmosphere and calming background with his solo piano pieces in the early evening. And after dinner, a group of three musicians from Gloucester entertained the crowd with acoustic guitar, vocal selections and percussion. They were Greta Bro, Ricardo Frota, and Hermanes Abreu, who was visiting from Brazil.
Of course at the end of the evening, the clean-up is a challenge, and Alan and Joy Ganapol stayed to the very end, with a good attitude.
Again, thank you to everyone who attended, assisted in any way, and to those who brought potluck offerings. Our efforts produced a very real way to reach out and assist those in desperate need.
To the Editor:
My family and I are spending our first ever New Year's Eve, or "Last Night, First Day" as you call it here, at our new home on Hines Point. While our main residence is in Los Angeles, we have come to love the Vineyard during the warm summer months so much that we decided to see what it would be like to try out our fireplace and experience at least part of the holiday season here. We are very excited at the prospect. I am enclosing a copy of a holiday letter that we sent to friends everywhere this Christmas to share with you a cause that become a great passion of ours. Have a Merry Christmas and a peaceful 2007.
This isn't just another one of those "holiday letters."
Yes, our kids are doing well. They are fortunate, but others are not.
I want to briefly share a few details of my recent trip to Kenya on behalf of the St. Francis orphanage, which you have all been so generous to support this year.
I was able to meet with representatives from England, Australia, Kenya, and Norway. First let me tell you that all of them are extremely positive, energetic, and intelligent people. The work they are all doing to improve the lives of the children at St. Francis is truly remarkable. The fact that individuals from five countries have found each other and joined together in this effort should give all of us hope for the world as we look ahead toward the New Year.
The Australians are mostly young medical students who gave up their winter break (summer down under) to pay their own way to Kenya and volunteer to work with the children and staff at St. Francis. They have photographed and profiled all of the children. Their initial assessment: "All of the children are suffering from malnutrition, as well as a variety of severe health issues..."
Will Ellis from England is concentrating on securing the land for building our new orphanage, and his dealings with the local officials have been challenging to say the least. The bottom line is that he is close to finalizing the purchase so that building can start early in the New Year.
I was able to have meetings with a Kenyan attorney who will help us set up our charitable trust, and with government officials who oversee issues that deal with child services. It is important that we satisfy the Kenyan government's regulations so that we have their support when we open the doors at our new home.
Meanwhile the day-to-day work at St. Francis continues. The children are beautiful, and despite their situation, they seem mostly happy. They are also much better clothed since my first visit a year ago, thanks to the generosity of some of our Los Angeles donors. Mary Kibathi (the founder) continues her commitment to the welfare of the children despite her own health problems.
To summarize, I was inspired by my visit and rededicated to working for the children and staff at St. Francis Integrated School. The coming year will be very exciting. Locally, the non-profit corporation will be set up so that donations can be accepted for a child sponsorship program that will support the children now and in the future. We will see the new orphanage rise up on the beautiful land overlooking the river in Ongatta Rongai.
My wife, Shelley, will visit St. Francis in January to work with some of the teachers there to set up a play therapy program to help the children deal with some of the psychological issues they are facing. Hopefully some of you will have the opportunity to visit Kenya and see for yourselves what your efforts are providing.
Meanwhile, until our non-profit is set up in the United States, I will accept donations in the form of checks made out to: Paul Miller (St. Francis funds) which I will forward to Hands of Help in Australia, which is a non profit organization that can provide you with a receipt for your contribution.
Thank you for being so giving of your time and resources this year and thank you for your commitment to the children of St. Francis Integrated School in Kenya.
Happy Holidays and Best wishes for the New Year.
Los Angeles and Vineyard Haven
reaction to civics
To the Editor:
Having read "Citizen Dreyfuss"? by Katrina vanden Heuvel in The Nation magazine, I was curious to the reaction by the people of Martha's Vineyard to Richard Dreyfuss's plea for reviving civic education in our nation's public schools. Because of my fondness for Martha's Vineyard, I checked out on the Internet the Letters to the Editor in your Times. I was disappointed to find only one letter, by Mev Good of Tisbury. Mr. Good's remarks were disappointing, in that he was a part-time educator and deeply admired the high school teachers who made up the history and social studies department.
I have no reason to question the teaching abilities of your high school civics teachers, but I do question why Mr. Good's letter is so defensive when the practice of true participatory democracy is being assaulted on all fronts in our nation. To any educator, this assault on democracy should be an obvious fact, unless one is duped into the ideology or theology of American "Exceptionalism?" that "Might makes Right?," and that the supremacy of corporate rule and the rights of capital should rule over all interests. As Americans, we are citizens of the American Empire, and because of that, we tend to choose not to know how our nation affects other people and other nations. For those who do choose to know, they have to look to teachers and professors, and sad to say, to a small alternate civic press rather to rely on our nation's dominating and misleading mainstream corporate media.
The critique of our present day democracy by Richard Dreyfuss was meant to provoke reflection, discussion, and dialogue. I guess I just have to remain confident that the majority of the citizens of Martha's Vineyard, and particularly educators, have reacted in a positive manner.
Stephen V. Riley
Tahoe City, Calif.