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MVRHS

The team that finished in first with 48 Latches consisted of Tim Roberts, Russell Shapiro and Eli Hanschka. —Photo courtesy of Ruda Stone

Each month, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School students are given the opportunity to compete in an engineering challenge. The goal of the challenge, according to school officials, is to give students an opportunity to experience the work process of engineering a design challenge, and to collaborate with one another to get the job done well, in a different competition than the yearly science fair.

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The winning design. —Photo courtesy of Ruda Stone

The students are issued a design challenge at the meet. Working in teams of two or three, they have 45 minutes to complete the task. Then the designs are evaluated to determine the meet winners.

The October challenge was to create a lockbox with the most locks or latches to hold a package of M&Ms. They were given cardboard, string, paperclips, wooden sticks, and rubber bands. Latches that were tied or tape-based were not allowed. The students had to use at least three different types of latches that were also re-latchable.

First place went to Eli Hanschka, Tim Roberts, and Russell Shapiro (48 latches); second place to Kevin Montambault, Peter Ruimerman, and Willow Wunsch (40 latches); and third place to Maddy Moore, Charlie Morano, and Ellie Reagan (38 latches).

All members of winning teams accumulate points over the season and are eligible to become grand winners of the challenge at the end of the school year.

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Island life on Vanuatu.

On the Island of Malekula, in the far away nation of Vanuatu, Vineyarder Laura Jernegan teaches English to children, and trains others to become teachers. (Courtesy Laura Jernegan).
Malekula is in Vanuatu. (Courtesy Google Maps)
Malekula is in Vanuatu. (Courtesy Google Maps)

Laura Jernegan was born and raised on Martha’s Vineyard and graduated from MVRHS in 2009. After graduating from American University in Washington, D.C., in 2013, she signed up for the Peace Corps and was posted to Malekula in Vanuatu in January 2014.

Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014.

Laura holds a baby on Malekula, in Vanuatu, where she's working with the Peace Corps.
Laura holds a baby on Malekula, in Vanuatu, where she’s working with the Peace Corps.

Around 5:30 am the sounds of roosters, dogs, and church bells combine to create the surprisingly peaceful melody that prompts me out of bed every morning. After a little stretch and a few minutes of enjoying the sounds of the morning from my hammock, I unzip my mosquito net and touch my feet down to the cool concrete floor.

My day has begun. From there I turn on some tunes — these days it’s usually Ayla Nereo or the Velvet Underground — and head out to my bush kitchen to build a fire so I can boil water and make some coffee. From there my day will go in a variety of directions, but never fails to provide new adventure, a few laughs and the ever-present reminder that my life on Malekula — the second biggest island in the archipelago nation of Vanuatu — is really, really great.

This is how I start most of my days in Vanuatu, but one Sunday morning I was motivated to go for a run that ended up taking me on an adventure that truly encompasses the life, culture, and beauty that exists everywhere on this island paradise.

Laura Jernegan and friends. (Courtesy Laura Jernegan).
Laura Jernegan and friends. (Courtesy Laura Jernegan).

After climbing out of my hammock — Peace Corps gave me a mattress, but I prefer sleeping in my hammock — I changed into my culturally appropriate running gear (long pants and a T-shirt), laced up, and headed out to the road. There’s one road that runs through my village connecting my community to Lakatoro, the provincial center on Malekula — approximately two and a half to three hours in the back of a truck, Monday–Friday only. The road is dirt and full of holes and stones of varying sizes, so as I run I have to be sure to keep my eyes on the ground or else suffer another fall that will be just as painful and embarrassing as the first. It’s hard to do anything in Vanuatu without everyone in the village, or even island, knowing. While this sounds like an affront to privacy, it’s really not. Lacking the ability to communicate constantly and affordably as in the United States, “coconut wireless” carries news of births, deaths, family updates, and scandals that often get skewed throughout the villages and islands of Vanuatu.

For example, in May I purchased a goat from a nearby village. I live in the middle of a coconut plantation, so I figured the goat could just live in the plantation, frolicking with the other goats and enjoying all the grass it could want for two years. Before I leave I will ask one of my host brothers to help me kill it, and we will all roast it on the beach as a farewell dinner. I didn’t mention my goat purchase to the other volunteers on my island, but about a month later I got a call from one telling me that I was the talk of his village (which is about a five-hour truck ride south) — the white girl from Northwest Malekula who bought a goat. I find this endearing because I know that the only reason that this story got around was because the idea of a white girl buying a goat was actually one of the craziest things that happened recently and everyone wanted everyone else to know.

By the end of one recent Sunday, Laura had four eggs given to her by locals she'd seen on her walk/run around the island of Malekula.
By the end of one recent Sunday, Laura had four eggs given to her by locals she’d seen on her walk/run around the island of Malekula.

So I run with my eyes on the ground to make sure I don’t fall — wanting to avoid the painful scrapes more than the rumors — and decide to go see one of my host sisters. My sister, Makenah, is pregnant, and her husband is currently working as a seasonal laborer in New Zealand — a popular and very fruitful option for Ni-Vanuatu men (and some women) who are able to save up enough for the plane ticket — so she ends up working much harder to clean, cook, and take care of her 3-year-old, Samio, than an 8-month-pregnant woman should. I arrive at her house in about 15 minutes, where she greets me by handing me a freshly picked mandarin and telling me that I work too hard.

My favorite, and perhaps the most important, element of Vanuatu culture is called storian (literally story-on). To storian you simply spel (rest) and chat about anything and everything. Men and women in Vanuatu work very hard, taking care of their gardens, which provide all the food they could ever need, from avocados and mangoes to yams and cassavas depending on the season, to raising sometimes as many as nine children, so when they take the time to spel they just relax on a mat woven from natangura leaves and talk. Sometimes there is big news from the capital, but most times storian focuses on the weather, work being done in the village, or coconut-wireless messages about who is getting married or news of a new truck that will be servicing our village.

This Sunday morning the storian focused on me telling my sister not to work too hard and her telling me how excited she is for her husband to come back. Of course we also talked about how it hadn’t rained in a few months, and how excited we are for the rainy season to come to fill our rain tanks with drinking water and bring life back into our crops. After about an hour of storian I decided it was time to head back and get on with all the chores I had to accomplish before the end of the day. As I was about to begin running back to my house, my sister ran into her kitchen and came back with two freshly laid eggs. Eggs make me really excited, because if I want to buy them I have to ride into Lakatoro and pay about $10 round-trip, so when someone gives me eggs it’s a good day. Of course, acquiring these eggs meant I wouldn’t be running back home, so instead I made a pouch out of the front of my T-shirt and carefully walked through the coconut plantation and out onto the main road with two local eggs in tow.

A few minutes down the road I ran into one of my brothers-in-law and was swiftly carried into another storian session. He asked me if I would be willing to help his daughter apply for scholarships to go to university in New Zealand or Australia. She is currently in secondary school at one of the best schools on Malekula, and has been at the top of her class for the past few years. She is passionate about becoming a doctor, and is ready to work hard to achieve this goal. As the sole “whiteman” in the village, I am part of conversations like these often, and my responses are always the same. Of course I’m glad to help in any way that I can, but that’s all I can do — help. As a Peace Corps Volunteer I’m a partner in sustainable development; unfortunately, I can’t just make money appear. My primary assignment is as an English language teacher/teacher trainer, but I am glad to help with anything that my community wants. Luckily the people in my community understand this because I am the fourth Peace Corps Volunteer they have had, so they know that whatever kind of project we venture in on, they are equal partners. This is important for ownership as well as accountability, because once I am gone, the projects I work on need to continue — sustainability is the only goal.

After another 45 minutes of storian with my brother-in-law, ending with me telling him I would be calling my program manager in the Peace Corps office to ask him about scholarships to study abroad, I got ready to head back home. As I was turning to go, he asked me to wait. He ran into his kitchen and came back with two freshly laid eggs. I laughed to myself at how beautifully humorous this was, added them to my T-shirt egg pouch and headed back down the road. Now that I was cradling four eggs, I took my time walking back home. About 30 minutes later I arrived at home. It was now 9 am.

What should have been a casual 30-minute run ended up being a 2.5-hour run/walk adventure filled with family, good storian, and the acquisition of four freshly laid eggs. Long Vanuatu laef hemi olsem nao — in Bislama, “In Vanuatu, life is like this.” Whenever I go anywhere, I try not to have an agenda or a time limit. When walking to the well to get water, I always leave time for spur-of-the-moment storian, and when I walk to school in the morning I am always sure to leave at least 15 minutes early so I can stop to chat with anyone I meet along the way. Understanding “island time” is the key to success in Vanuatu, and is encompassed in the local saying Sipos yu ras bae yu kras, or “If you rush you will crash.” Don’t rush things — if it’s important, it will happen.

It has been only eight months since I arrived in Vanuatu, but my experiences have already instilled invaluable positive changes in my overall mental and physical well-being that any other post-graduate experience just could not compare to. I will probably never speed again in my life — whether it be while driving, spending time with someone, or deciding on the next step in my future. Whatever I would be rushing to do can wait — being careless of the opportunities or dangers on the road along the way can only lead to accidents and missed opportunities.

I came to Vanuatu with the typical Western development-worker mentality that it was my job to change my community, forgetting that with this I would be changed as well. Life isn’t always easy, but when I have to struggle is when I learn the most. This isn’t something specific to my life in Vanuatu; it’s something I believe we must acknowledge every day, wherever we are, so that when our time on earth is over we can be confident that whatever we did, we did it right — without regrets, avoidable accidents, or missed opportunities. Laef hemi olsem nao.

A conversation with Laura Jernegan

Tell us about the Peace Corps application process. You apply online, then wait to be contacted for an interview. After the interview you get a nomination, and then wait to hear where you’re being sent, what kind of work you’re going to be doing, and when you’ll be leaving. You don’t have much control over any of these things, except for your work/volunteer experiences, which funnel you into a job placement. I was at work at Katama Airfield in July 2013 when I received an email saying I’d be going to Vanuatu in January 2014.

How’s the weather? Can you drink the water? Weather is subtropical — really, really hot and rainy from November to March, then still very hot but dry from March to November. My drinking water comes from rain tanks at my school, but the only other rain source is a well where everyone else in the village goes for water. Once our rain tanks are dry, I use the well water but filter it through a water filter given to me by Peace Corps.

Does anyone there know where Martha’s Vineyard is? No, but it’s always great when they ask where I’m from and I get to tell them I’m from a small island too. I joke that growing up on an island prepared me for life on Malekula, but really that would be far less than accurate. Besides being used to taking a boat or plane to get home, not much could have prepared me for life here. They are always astounded when I tell them that no, my island doesn’t have coconut plantations or papaya trees everywhere, or that the water is pretty cold most of the year, so swimming isn’t an everyday thing. Being able to share information about my life on Martha’s Vineyard has been a really special part of life here because for Ni-Vanuatu people, it’s hard to think about life on any other kind of island. My connection to the Vineyard has only intensified since settling into life on this very beautiful but very different island paradise, but I know that it will last for the rest of my life.

Follow Laura’s story at laurajergs.wordpress.com.

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Athletes were on the field running, jumping, kicking and sweating.

The football team takes a brief water break during an early morning hell week practice on Tuesday. (Photo by Michael Cummo) — Photo by Michael Cummo

Several hundred Island high school athletes are catching their breath as pre-season practices wind down in advance of competitive play next week.

While pre-season doesn’t include the “Hell Week” of two-a-day practices common a decade ago, coaches here push their charges with two or more hours of conditioning and drills to prepare often under-manned squads for Eastern Athletic Conference play.

Football coach Don Herman, in his 32nd year, pushed play repetition in the early going with QB Mike Mussell returning after missing a season with a thumb injury. With only 50 candidates for the varsity and JV programs, Mr. Herman is maximizing skills and minimizing the potential for injury. “The fact is that most injuries occur in practice, not in games, and the days of using JV players as tackling dummies is long past,” he said.

Firs-year soccer coach Esteban Aranzabes has installed a system he learned in his native Uruguay and which served him well as coach of the Island’s U-18 squad. “The game begins in the locker room, not on the field. We stress constant movement in practice for conditioning and drills. Players move 80 percent of the time in games, we want to simulate that in practice. We use drills that stress a unitized team effort, including walking to the field in two lines,” he said.

Cross-country and track coach Joe Schroeder, in his 27th season, has learned over the years that the key to preparation lies in mental preparedness and goal-setting. “Cross-country is more of a mental sport and a team sport than many realize,” he said. “The kids are better prepared when they come in pre-season. They have to prepare themselves for the course. This sport requires athletes to be mentally strong. We’re not memorizing plays. Our work is goal-setting and belief in self, understanding that the gap in distance between first place and fifth place is important to the team, for example.”

The first games of the season begin next week. The varsity and junior varsity golf teams play Somerset Berkley Regional High School on Tuesday at 2:45 pm at Farm Neck golf club. Both the boys and girls soccer teams play on Wednesday, with the boys travelling to Nauset Regional High School for a 4 pm game and the girls taking on Nauset at home at 3 pm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Future plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Martha's Vineyard Regional High School will have a new high school assistant principal, Elliott Bennett, when school starts. — File photo by Janet Hefler

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School science teacher Elliott Bennett of Edgartown has been promoted to assistant principal. A science teacher since 2000, Ms. Bennett fills a position left vacant by Matthew Malowski when he was appointed adjustment/guidance counselor for the high school’s therapeutic support and alternative education programs.

Elliot Bennett
Elliot Bennett

Ms. Bennett joins Andrew Berry as one of two assistant principals. She will oversee 11th and12th grade students. Her duties also will include handling discipline issues, coordinating independent study and senior projects, and evaluating teachers.

Ms. Bennett has been a classroom teacher for 25 years. She has primarily taught biology at the high school and was the science department’s chairman for the last three years. She also served as the faculty advisor to the high school’s popular forensics club.

She said she decided to apply for the assistant principal job to gain a new perspective in the field of education.

“I was very happy in the classroom, but saw the coming of Gil Traverso as the new principal as being an opportunity to work in a leadership role and also help in the transition,” Ms. Bennett said.

Although she will miss the contact she had with students in the classroom, Ms. Bennett said she plans to keep in touch with them in her new role.

“I think it’s important for administrators to be visible to students and for them to recognize assistant principals are there for all the students, not just if they get in trouble, but as another adult there to help them in the school or as a mentor,” she said.

What many of her former students may miss most as the result of her move from the classroom is not having access to her pet gecko, Eric, Ms. Bennett said. Since he is not allowed in her new office, he has gone into retirement at her home.

Ms. Bennett’s two children will join her at the high school in the fall. Her daughter, Caley, 17, will be a senior, her son, Cooper, 14, an incoming freshman.

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Martha’s Vineyard students must now choose whether to retake the exams.

— File photo by Susan Safford

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) students must retake advanced placement (AP) exams based on an allegation that improper seating during the testing could have led to cheating. Despite appeals by Island school officials that there were no improprieties during the exam, the state’s College Board invalidated the results of tests taken this spring and will require a retest by Island students.

Acting MVRHS principal Matt D’Andrea sent a letter to parents Wednesday, notifying them that students would need to re-take AP exams in U.S. History, English Language and Composition, English Literature and Composition, and World History.

“Based on an anonymous allegation of testing impropriety to Educational Testing Service, it was determined that during the AP testing there was a violation of one of the seating protocols for test security,” Mr. D’Andrea explained in his letter. “Consequently, the College Board has invalidated the results of the exam. The school has aggressively appealed this decision, arguing that despite the one oversight, the testing environment was secure and that test results are valid. Nevertheless, the appeal was denied.”

To help students prepare for retaking the exams, Mr. D’Andrea said the high school has arranged two-hour study sessions for them to review material with the course instructors the week before the retests, which will be conducted at MVRHS.

“Please be advised that all AP test retakes are optional,” Mr. D’Andrea said. “If your child chooses to not take the exam, your child’s AP designation with final grade will still be on his/her transcript, and the initial fee will be refunded.”

Mr. D’Andrea apologized for the error on the school’s part and for the frustration and inconvenience the College Board’s decision creates for students.

“I appreciate how hard these students have worked to prepare for the exam, and we will be sure that the retake, along with any future exams, will be successfully coordinated following all of the College Board’s testing protocols,” his letter stated. “Please accept my sincere apology for this error, as I am aware of the effect that this decision has on your family.”

The College Board is a not-for-profit organization made up of more than 6,000 educational institutions worldwide, according to the College Board website. It helps students prepare for transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and success, including the SAT exam and Advanced Placement Program.

The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program enables willing and academically prepared students to pursue college-level studies, while in high school. Many four-year colleges and universities, but not all, grant students college credit or allow them advanced placement in a higher course level, based on their successful AP exam scores.

The College Board contracts the Educational Testing Service, also a non-profit organization, to administer the Advanced Placement Program.

For some students, the retesting will be more than an inconvenience. In an email to The Times Friday, Louis de Geofroy of West Tisbury described the complications.

“In my daughter’s case, she will be out of the country,” Mr. de Geofroy said. “The AP exam is a test for college credit and the culmination of a year’s worth of study. This is a huge problem even for students who will be able to take the scheduled retest because they will have to revisit all the material in the entire course to prep again.”

Mr. de Geofroy also questioned the College Board’s decision, based on the testing experiences his two daughters have described to him.

“Both my older daughter, in college, and the one who took the test this year say that the seating plan required by the testing service is actually worse as far as cheating goes. Someone needs to be held accountable and perhaps enough bad press would cause the testing agency to reconsider.”

Those who wish to retake the exams must call Ruda Stone, administrative assistant to the principal, at 508-693-1033, ext. 126, or email her at rstone@mvyps.org by July 3, according to Mr. D’Andrea.

The study sessions will be held between July 7 and 10, from 9 to 11 am as follows: World History, July 7, Room 415; U.S. History, July 8, Room 102; English Literature and Composition, July 9, Room 515; and English Language and Composition, July 10, Room 413.

Exam retakes are scheduled on July 14-17 from 8 am to noon in the high school’s library conference room as follows: World History, July 14; U.S. History, July 15; English Literature and Composition, July 16; and English Language and Composition, July 17.

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) school committee wrapped up a laundry list of financial and other end-of-the-year items at a meeting Monday night.

Capital projects on the list for fiscal year 2015 include front entrance security upgrades, culinary arts kitchen equipment replacement, and a replacement alignment lift for the automotive department.

The committee voted to approve the capital budget as a planning document, as well as a list of expenditures from this year’s excess and deficiency funds. The committee also approved a five-year lease, at $2,700 a year, for a new refrigerated vending machine to make snacks available after school for students involved in sports and clubs.

In other business, superintendent of schools James Weiss said he is checking references and hopes to name a new high school principal by the end of this week. He thanked assistant superintendent Matt D’Andrea for serving as acting principal since late spring, and also Ruda Stone, administrative assistant to the principal, for all of her assistance.

Mr. Weiss also acknowledged a resignation letter from assistant principal Matthew Malowski, who has been appointed as a school adjustment/guidance counselor for the high school’s therapeutic support and alternative education programs. The school committee voted to accept his resignation and applauded him for his new role.

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The finalists plan to visit Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School to meet with staff and tour the facility.

— File photo by Susan Safford

Superintendent of schools James Weiss and a search committee has narrowed the field of candidates for the principal’s job at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

Gilbert Traverso and David Maxwell are scheduled to visit the high school this week to meet with the administrative staff, the faculty, school committee members, and students.

Mr. Traverso, principal of the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy in Springfield, will visit on Wednesday, June 18.

Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical High School provides academic and vocational instruction to students in grades nine through twelve for approximately 1,632 throughout the Springfield area.

Mr. Maxwell, assistant principal of West Des Moines Valley High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, will visit on Friday, June 20.

Valley High School is a three-year comprehensive high school with an enrollment of approximately 1,900 students, according to the school website. The campus is located in West Des Moines, a suburban community of approximately 55,000 residents bordering the western city limits of Des Moines.

The men will tour the high school and then be available for discussion with the various school constituencies in the library conference room, from 10 am to 3 pm. A schedule is posted on the school’s website, Edline.

The final decision of who to hire rests with Mr. Weiss.

Mr. Weiss announced the resignation of former principal Stephen Nixon, principal since 2008, on April 28. Mr. Weiss granted Mr. Nixon a leave of absence for health reasons. The next day, Mr. Weiss appointed Assistant Superintendent Matthew D’Andrea as acting principal to fill in until a new principal was hired.

At a meeting on May 5, the MVRHS school committee accepted Mr. Nixon’s resignation, effective at the end of the school year. Mr. Weiss gave the committee a copy of a principal search timeline, which he said would be a relatively quick process.

He had already posted the job on SchoolSpring.com, an online site for teaching and school jobs. Mr. Weiss put together a search committee of 8 to 12 people, including school committee members, administrators, teachers, parents, students, and community and organization members, by May 12. The position posting closed on May 21, and Mr. Weiss said he planned for the committee to review applications and select interviewees by May 27.

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All roads and walking paths led to the Oak Bluffs Campground Sunday afternoon as graduates, family, friends and well-wishers converged on the Tabernacle for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s 55th Commencement Ceremony. Even before the Tabernacle came into view the unmistakable sounds of happy voices, laughter, and the band tuning up filled the air.

Blessed by sunny skies, summery temperatures, and an Island community that had cheered, supported, and watched them grow, the seniors of 2014 giggled with anticipation as they adjusted white and purple robes and tasseled caps.

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Superintendent of Schools James Weiss addressing the graduates.

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Hartley Sierputoski receiving her diploma from Assistant Principal Andrew Berry.

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Avery Lazes was stylin' underneath his gown.

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Football Coach Donald Herman and Dawn Feinsmith.

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From left, Dori, Alex, and Tim Clark.

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From left, Claudia Taylor, Mariah Campbell, Jessica Campbell, and Ina Thigith.

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Hockey teammates Haven Huck and Callie Jackson capturing the moment.

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Isabel Smith, left, and Caroline Gazaille.

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Lily Lubin, left, and Anna Marques.

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Michael Ducatt and Keira Mercier.

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Class Essayist Nathaniel Horwitz.

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Patty Culkins, left, with daughter Sophie Ulyatt.

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From left, Master of Ceremony Sam Permar, Salutatorian Barra Peak, and Class Essayist Nathaniel Horwitz.

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Rick Bausman, left, and son, Hudson Bausman.

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Sarah Dawson hugs Vice Principal Andrew Berry

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Sarah Ortlip-Sommers, valedictorian.

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Shane Metters, left, and father Garry Metters.

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From left, Hartley Sierputoski, Isabelle Wadleigh, and Miranda Tokarz.

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Teo Azzollini (left) and Haven Huck.

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Taylor Brasefield (center) with aunt and uncle, Denise and David Brasefield.

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Chorus members Claudia Taylor, Sarah Dawson, Lorraine Menezes, Mikayla Tinus, and Emelia Cappelli.

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Juniors Elie Jordi and Emily deBettencourt were the marshals for the ceremony.

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Alistair Morgan, John Henry O'Shaughnessy, and Sarah Parece.

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Keith Dodge had advice for the students.

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Lucas Amarins and Charlotte Benjamin.

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Acting principal Matt D'Andrea presented an award to G. Galen Mayhew.

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Renata Lacerda, Edney Teles, Keilla Geddis.

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Sam Permar was the master of ceremony.

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Hats off to you grads!

Inside the Tabernacle benches began to fill early, everyone jockeying for a seat with a view. Black-robed faculty clustered at the entrance waiting to lead the procession, as giddy as their students.

Even the solemn march down the aisle to “Pomp and Circumstance” could not keep the seniors’ excited smiles and the sparkle in their eyes from shining bright. Girls in white, boys in purple, they stepped purposefully ahead while brave parents teetered on benches, cameras and iPhones held aloft. Even when the students were seated, the atmosphere still bubbled with exuberance, infectious and sweet.

Graduating senior Sam Permar emceed with style, befitting his plans to study acting at NYU Tisch. Welcoming the standing-room-only crowd, he graciously introduced speakers, songs, the Pledge of Allegiance, and kept the program moving smoothly. He issued a special welcome to Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone who was in the audience, as well as several elementary school teachers who had been influential in earlier years for the Class of 2014.

Salutatorian Barra Peak, on her way to Harvard, offered well-researched reflections on the history of public education and the ideals of school crusader Horace Mann.

“I think Horace Mann would be very pleased by The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School,” she said proudly, citing its public support, resources, tolerance, diversity, dedicated, highly trained faculty, and the fact that it is free and open to all.

“Wherever you go, I hope you will seek out new knowledge and new experiences and never close your minds to learning,” she said.

In his upbeat speech, Class Essayist Nathaniel Horwitz gave generous accolades to his classmates, singling out nearly three dozen for achievements in academics, athletics, community service, and the arts. Engaging and witty, the Harvard-bound grad had no qualms about poking fun at himself — his football career with one touchdown in three seasons, his crush on a female field hockey and lacrosse star.

“Every member of this class has been special to me, and to everyone,” he said, “Thank you for a perfect four years.”

Superintendent of Vineyard schools James Weiss, crediting a book by David McCullough Jr., exhorted students to remember they are “works in progress,” to seek a passion — “to do something for no other reason than because you love it.”

“Of course, you, the graduates of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School for 2014 are special,” declared Mr. Weiss, citing the seniors’ unusual Island upbringing, their multiple achievements and commitment to helping others.

“It is my hope that you will continue your education beyond this commencement, trying new things, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, but always learning, growing and exercising your passion,” Mr. Weiss said. “It is also my hope that you will move from here, allowing the world to know what we have already come to understand — that you are the Vineyard’s special gift, our very special graduates.

“Congratulations and thank you!”

Then, lauding her achievements in art, dance, academics, and school activities, Mr. Weiss presented the Superintendent’s Award for Academic Excellence to Valedictorian Sarah Ortlip-Sommers, who will attend Stanford.

Choral performances gave a moment to breathe and reflect: “Defying Gravity” and “Choose Something Like a Star,” the haunting senior song, Robert Frost’s poem set to music by Randall Thompson.

Praise and advice

Acting Principal Matthew D’Andrea gave high praise to Andrew Jacobs-Walsh, who will attend the University of Maine, and Jade Pine, heading to Framingham State University. Listing their many achievements, he presented each with the Vineyarder Award. The annual award honors one male and one female graduate for showing outstanding growth throughout their four years of high school.

For his outstanding leadership skills both in and out of school and “a disciplined approach to life in everything he does,” Mr. D’Andrea presented G. Galen Mayhew with the Principal’s Leadership Award.

“Princeton University will be fortunate to have him as a student next year,” Mr. D’Andrea added.

Student Council President Mary Ollen began her speech with a loving shout-out to her father, John Ollen, who was watching the ceremony from Massachusetts General Hospital via Skype. After resounding applause from the compassionate audience, she gave heart-felt thanks to high school Technical Director Woody Filley for arranging the Skype.

Ms. Ollen expressed appreciation for the Island’s generosity, from filling the seats at school plays and athletic events to contributing more than $700,000 in scholarships.

“Thank you to both Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and the Island community for supporting us,” the Wellesley-bound Ms. Ollen said. “We owe you everything.”

“Everything you do matters,” said Sarah Ortlip-Sommers in an inspiring valedictory send-off, encouraging her peers to do something positive for society. “Every good intention is important in the process of living a good life. Small kindnesses make a difference to everyone around you. So make sure that every day you do something that brings some small joy to even one person.”

She too acknowledged the uniqueness of the Island, “a community that takes care of people in need, celebrates people’s lives and looks out for one another… the sense of community and shared traditions will provide us with a source of strength for the rest of our lives.”

Retired English teacher Keith Dodge told a cautionary tale of his misspent early college days, counselling seniors to make the most of their lives and educations, and not be afraid of change and “never stop learning.”

The popular former teacher’s tips included: travel, buy property, save money, plan ahead.

“Please don’t live accidentally,” Mr. Dodge urged. “Try to know where you’re going and even make a list.”

At long last the big moment arrived. One by one the students made their way to the stage, received their coveted diplomas from Regional District Committee Chairman Colleen McAndrews, handshakes and hugs from smiling school officials.

Camera-wielding relatives pressed ever closer to the stage. Applause and cheers were nearly deafening after each name was called, well-wishers unable to contain their delight despite the program’s futile request: “Please reserve your applause until all diplomas have been awarded.”

Then it was back up the aisle to waiting hugs from proud family and joyful friends, bouquets, group photos, an evening of parties, and finally, the rest of life waiting just beyond.

Tomorrow would begin a short summer, packed with work and preparations, then transition to new lives filled with challenges and uncertainties. But for today this class of 2014 could bask in the secure love, caring, and admiration of family, friends, and its small yet formidable community.

Off to the future

Outside the Tabernacle on the sunny lawn happy pandemonium reigned, the traditional post-commencement chaos. Relatives, friends, and graduates searched for each other in the swirling crowd.

“I don’t know where my family is!” mock-wailed one pretty blonde grad.

Cameras and cell phones were everywhere, handed back and forth so everyone could get in the shot. Mothers and fathers thrust lush bouquets at white-robed girls. Graduates were deluged with hugs and slaps on the back then corralled into place for family photos. Some still wore their robes neatly, others had already divested themselves, leaving graduation garb, like high school itself, gladly behind. Everyone laughed, some cried too, caught up in emotion. It was hard to tell whether it was the ecstatic graduates or their proud parents who were smiling the widest and brightest.

Caroline King smiled joyfully for the camera, standing between her dad, Sandy King, and stepmother, Rose Walsh. But the first chance she got she dashed off to catch up with waiting friends.

Not yet college-bound, Caroline is looking forward to a year off “to figure out what’s next,” according to Ms. Walsh. She added that she is glad Caroline is taking the opportunity to explore while she is young.

Isabel Smith, headed to Elon University in the fall, was receiving hugs, greeting well-wishers, and making plans. She was excited to be hosting a party soon at her home along with two close friends, Mary Ollen and Sarah Alexander.

Teo Azzollini had party plans too. Enjoying a moment with her mother, Roberta Kirn, dad, Nicky Azzollini, and her sister, Marta, a May UMass grad, Teo, who will also attend UMass, said she had attended eight parties on Saturday and was counting on at least three more later in the afternoon.

She said her day’s highlights were Mary Ollen’s speech “and celebrating with my family.”

John Henry O’Shaughessy was all smiles, surrounded by male friends and wearing a colorful scarf patterned on the Irish flag around his neck. His next step is Westfield State University.

Also grinning from ear to ear was Keira Mercier, posing for photos with her sister, i-coming senior Taija Browne. Keira reported she is joining the U.S. Army and will head for training to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. She follows in the steps of relatives and a close family friend who have served in the military.

“Walking across the stage, knowing I’m done with high school,” was the best part of the ceremony for her, she said mischievously.

Smiling just as broadly was her mother, Lindsey. “I’m very proud!” she said, holding her daughter’s flowers while the exuberant grad flew off to hug classmates.

“I’m very excited!” said Molly Wallace about her plans to attend Northeastern University’s Pre-Med program. Her goal: to be a pediatric neonatal cardiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Family resemblance was unmistakable as she posed for the camera with her mom, Patty.  Big brother Jordan stood patiently nearby, taking care of Molly’s big bouquet.

While brimming with pride, Ms. Wallace admitted she would miss her daughter’s cheerful presence at home. “I’ve already made hotel reservations for a September visit,” she said happily.

“I think this was one of the nicest graduations ever,” said Megan Alley of Oak Bluffs, here to celebrate and congratulate track star Jeremy Alley-Tarter, her grandson who will be attending Assumption College. “The speeches were wonderful and I heard a lot of love.”

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Valedictorian Sarah Ortlip-Sommers, who is headed to Stanford in the fall, told her class, "small kindnesses make a difference to everyone around you." — Photo by Ralph Stewart

All roads led to the Oak Bluffs Campground Sunday afternoon as graduates, family, friends and well-wishers converged on the Tabernacle for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s 55th Commencement Ceremony.

Sam Permar, left, MC'ed the ceremony. Barra Peak, center, is the class salutatorian and will attend Harvard in the fall, along with Nathaniel Horwitz, right, the class essayist.
Sam Permar, left, MC’ed the ceremony. Barra Peak, center, is the class salutatorian and will attend Harvard in the fall, along with Nathaniel Horwitz, right, the class essayist.

Blessed by sunny skies, summery temperatures, and an Island community that had cheered, supported, and watched them grow, the seniors of 2014 giggled with anticipation as they adjusted white and purple robes and caps. Even the solemn march down the aisle to “Pomp and Circumstance” could not hide their excited smiles and the sparkle in their eyes.

Graduating senior Sam Permar emceed with style, welcoming the standing-room-only crowd, graciously introducing speakers.

Sarah Shaw Dawson, headed to UVM  in the fall, gets a hug from vice principal Andrew Berry.
Sarah Shaw Dawson, headed to UVM in the fall, gets a hug from vice principal Andrew Berry.

Superintendent of Vineyard schools Dr. James Weiss  urged students to remember they are “works in progress,” to seek their passion – “something you do because you love it.”

“You are the Vineyard’s special gift, our very special graduates,” he concluded. “Congratulations!”

“Thank you to both Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and the Island community for supporting us,” said student council president Mary Ollen. “We owe you everything.”

Lily Lubin and Anna Marques give the thumbs up to graduation.
Lily Lubin and Anna Marques give the thumbs up to graduation.

Soon would come an all-too-short summer packed with work and preparations, then transition to a new life filled with challenges and uncertainties. But for today this class of 2014 could bask in the secure love, caring, and admiration of family, friends, and its small yet formidable community.

Tallula Brodsky listens to the speakers.
Tallula Brodsky listens to the speakers.

“Everything you do matters,” said valedictorian Sarah Ortlip-Sommers in an inspiring send-off to her classmates. “Every good intention is important in the process of living a good life. Small kindnesses make a difference to everyone around you. So make sure that every day you do something that brings some small joy to even one person.”

Lucas Amarins and Charlotte Benjamin.
Lucas Amarins and Charlotte Benjamin.

At long last the big moment arrived: the awarding of diplomas. One by one the students made their way to the stage, received the coveted diploma with warm handshakes and hugs.

Graduated!
Graduated!

Applause and cheers were nearly deafening after each graduate’s name was called, well-wishers unable to contain their delight despite the program’s futile request: “Please reserve your applause until all diplomas have been awarded.”

Then it was back up the aisle to waiting hugs from proud family and joyful friends, bouquets, group photos, an evening packed with parties, and finally, the rest of life just beyond.

Avery Lazes might win the prize for most interesting under-gown outfit.
Avery Lazes might win the prize for most interesting under-gown outfit.