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Superintendent James Weiss last week granted Mr. Nixon a leave of absence for health reasons. A letter to parents announced his resignation.

Martha's Vineyard Regional High School principal Stephen Nixon, who submitted his resignation last week, is shown greeting students on the first day of school last September. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Updated 5:25 pm, Monday, April 28, 2014.

In a letter to parents sent Monday afternoon, Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS) Superintendent James Weiss announced that Stephen Nixon, principal of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) for the past six years, had submitted his resignation effective at the end of the current school year.

Mr. Weiss also announced he had granted Mr. Nixon a leave of absence. “I know I speak for everyone when I wish Steve the best,” Mr. Weiss said.

Principal Stephen Nixon entertained students at the 2011 MVRHS graduation ceremonies.
Principal Stephen Nixon entertained students at the 2011 MVRHS graduation ceremonies.

In response to an inquiry last week from The Times about the status of Mr. Nixon, Mr. Weiss said Mr. Nixon, 57, had requested a leave of absence for health reasons. Mr. Weiss said he granted that request. Last week Mr. Weiss said there was no time period specified.

In his letter to parents dated April 28, Mr. Weiss said he has appointed Assistant Superintendent Matthew D’Andrea as acting principal. “Over the next few weeks, we will begin the process to select a new high school principal,” he said.

The news arrived at the same time that students returned from a one-week spring vacation break.

“Steve has been principal for almost six years, and on the staff for 16, as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal,” Mr. Weiss told The Times in a phone conversation Monday. “Certainly he’s had a good career at the high school.”

Mr. Weiss said he would present Mr. Nixon’s letter of resignation at a meeting of the MVRHS school committee on May 5. Over the next few weeks, he said he would begin the process to select a new principal, starting with the appointment of a search committee.

“We will be contacting the NAACP and the Tribe, and the committee will involve students, staff, community members, and school committee members, as well,” Mr. Weiss said. “I’ll be working out the details.”

Wonderful years

In an email to The Times late Monday, Mr. Nixon said he asked Mr. Weiss for a medical leave for the remainder of the school year, based on his doctor’s advice.

“The health issues are something I have been dealing with throughout this school year,” Mr. Nixon said. “While I was out we had some conversations as a family to decide what was best for us in the long run. Based on our decision we decided it was best at this point in time to resign.”

Mr. Nixon provided The Times with a copy of his resignation letter.

“After spending 16 wonderful years at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School I realize that I have accomplished many of the goals I set out to tackle when I moved into administration. We have an in-house alternative program, a Therapeutic Support Program, some of the highest test scores in school history, a Freshman year that totally changes our perspective on the transition year, and the introduction of a new nursing program to name a few.

“Recently our family has looked at a lot of opportunities that have presented themselves to us, most being off-Island, and we feel the time is right for us to take advantage of these, as we look to the final years of our professional careers. So, it is with great sadness, and yet a feeling of excitement, that I would like to announce my resignation as Principal of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School effective June 30, 2014.

“It has been an honor to work with some of the greatest teachers and administrators in education. It has been a privilege to work with so many dedicated, parents, community members, and town governments. Most of all it has been life changing working with the greatest students anywhere.

“I wish you all well and our family will always have fond memories of you and you will be greatly missed.”

Mr. D’Andrea takes over

Mr. D’Andrea, a former elementary school principal in Mattapoisett, was named the new assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the MVPS in August 2013 and joined the Vineyard school system that fall. He filled a position left vacant by the resignation of Laurie Halt.

Mr. D’Andrea has a doctorate in policy and law from Northeastern University and a master’s degree in elementary education. He is state certified as a superintendent/assistant superintendent, principal/assistant principal, and teacher.

At the time Mr. Weiss announced the selection of Mr. D’Andrea, he commented on what made Mr. D’Andrea stand out from the other candidates. “I would say two things were really important,” Mr. Weiss said. “I think he brings strong interpersonal skills to the job, and he’s got some good experience in terms of working with curriculum and working with teachers.”

Successful in life

Stephen Nixon was named principal of MVRHS in February 2008. He took the reins from Principal Margaret (Peg) Regan on July 1.

Mr. Nixon had served as the regional high school’s assistant principal since 2004, and he had been on the faculty since 1998. He emerged as the only local candidate among four finalists chosen by a high school principal search committee from a field of 12.

In making the appointment, Mr. Weiss cited Mr. Nixon’s knowledge of the Island and his experience.

In the final stages of the principal search process, 65 Island teachers endorsed Mr. Nixon as their choice for their next principal.

At the time, Mr. Nixon said his goal  “is not just to make our young people successful in school, but to make them successful in life. And so we’re going to look at what it takes in this day and age to get them prepared for what’s ahead for them so we’ve given them everything possible to be successful.”

Mr. Nixon earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from Montclair State University in New Jersey, where he grew up. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Mr. Nixon became a high school history teacher, taking night classes to earn his master’s degree.

He began working as a history teacher at MVRHS after he and his wife, Maryellen (Talon), moved to the Vineyard in 1998. Between 2002 and 2004, Mr. Nixon took his first administrative position as the interim dean of students, and he was appointed assistant principal in 2004.

While working as assistant principal, Mr. Nixon pursued his doctorate degree in educational leadership online at the University of Sarasota in Florida. It took him several years to achieve his goal, because he first had to complete coursework in residence at the university on weekends and during school vacations before his acceptance into the doctoral program. He successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation at the university in 2009.

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Engineering Challenge first place team members Emma Johnson (left) and Barra Peak display their ribbons. — Photo by Natalie Munn

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.

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 April challenge, held last week, was to create a lunchbox and an insulated beverage container. Requirements for the lunchbox were a functioning handle and the ability to carry some Pringles chips and eggs without breakage if the box was shifted around or dropped. The beverage container, which students created from a water bottle and a variety of insulating materials, had to maintain water at a set temperature.

Winners were determined by scoring a lunchbox drop test and carrying test, and a beverage container temperature check.

First place went to Emma Johnson and Barra Peak, second place to Jared Livingston and Chris Aring, and third place to Peter Ruimerman.

The April challenge concluded the 2013-14 school year competition. All members of winning teams accumulated points since last fall, and those with the most points received awards as the grand winners.

Peter Ruimerman took first place overall, Galen Mayhew, Kevin Montambault, second place, and Zach Bresnick, third place. Connor Downing, Thorpe Karabees, Andrew Ruimerman, and Willow Wunsch earned honorable mentions.

MVRHS science teacher Natalie Munn organized and ran the meets, with the help of a team of teachers including Chris Connors, Anna Cotton, Catherine DeGrandpre, Dana Munn, and Dawne Nelson.

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Martha's Vineyard's Austin Chandler gains a stride on a Nauset Warrior. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Tyler Paulson, Tony Canha, Matt Davies, and Taymon Brown scored two goals apiece as the Vineyard varsity boys lacrosse team doubled up the Nauset Warriors 12-6 Saturday afternoon in a non-league contest at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.

Andrew Fournier gets checked by a Nauset player as Vineyard teammate Luke McCracken (right) runs in to assist.
Andrew Fournier gets checked by a Nauset player as Vineyard teammate Luke McCracken (right) runs in to assist.

The Vineyarders (4-3) seized control of the game by outscoring the Warriors 5-1 in the third quarter. Sam Burke, Mike Morris, Spencer Schofield, and Wayman Harrison scored the other Vineyard goals. Sam Burke (2), Taymon Brown, Austin Chandler, and Tyler Paulson had assists.

“All in all, I thought it was a pretty good win,” Vineyard coach Chris Greene said. “We still have some work to do but that was definitely the effect of a great practice yesterday. As I just said to the fellows, if we continue to work that hard every day in our practice sessions, then it translates on to the field.”

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Emerson Mahoney (left) and Mitchell Chaves celebrate after the final out. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Mike Mussell drove in Silas Berlin with a single down the left-field line in the bottom of the sixth inning as Martha’s Vineyard shutout Bourne, 1-0, Friday at Vineyard Baseball Park.

Berlin singled, then stole second and third base, before crossing the plate with the winning run.

Vineyard starter Tim Roberts pitched a complete game to earn the win, conceding just three hits, striking out four, and walking none. The Canalmen went down 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh on a pop-up to second, a line-out to second, and a fly ball to center.

The Vineyarders (3-4) had four hits in the game and avenged a 3-2 opening day defeat April 2 at Bourne.

“It’s nice to get one of those; we haven’t gotten one in a while,” Vineyard coach Gary Simmons said after his team’s first win in four games. “The kids played well, pitched well, played good defense — that’s what it takes. We hit a little bit. It was nice to use the advantage of our team speed.”

Jayvees beat Bourne in nail-biter

The Vineyard jayvee baseball team avenged a 15-run defeat two weeks ago by beating Bourne, 5-4 Friday, in Oak Bluffs. Elias Fhagen-Smith pitched five strong innings, giving up three hits for two runs and striking out seven batters. Aidan Aliberti closed out the win, pitching the last two innings, giving up two runs while striking out three, including the last two batters with the tying run at third and go-ahead run at second base in the seventh inning. Aliberti also chipped in with two hits. James Sashin had a hit and two RBIs.

The jayvees also defeated Blackstone Valley, 8-3, on April 14 and Bishop Stang, 8-6, on April 9.

On government day, the students met lawmakers and learned about the legislative process.

Left to right, MVRHS teacher Olsen Houghton, August Welles, Rep. Tim Madden, and Russell Shapiro in front of the Senate rostrum in the Senate Chamber on student government day. — Photo courtesy of Rebecca Rochel

Representative Tim Madden hosted Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School students August Welles and Russell Shapiro, Island representatives to the 67th annual Student Government Day at the State House on April 4.

“Russell and August were treated to a unique experience, spending the day with government officials, and observing the process of government up here in Boston,” Mr. Madden said in a press release. “I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet these wonderful students, and to have them join in the celebration of Student Government Day.”

Since 1947, Student Government Day has afforded students from across the Commonwealth an opportunity to take on the roles of governor, constitutional officers, legislators and court justices to see what it is like to run the State Government, according to a press release.

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The Vineyard boats finished 1-2 in the decisive fifth race.

A recent photo of the Vineyard sailing team returning home on the ferry following a big win over St. George's. The team will proceed for the first time to the New England championships. — Courtesy Andrew Burr

The Vineyard sailors achieved an historic victory Saturday in Newport, Rhode Island, by defeating the host St. George’s School for the first time ever.

Vineyard coach Andrew Burr has high expectations for his team this season, with a goal of competing for the Mark Trophy as one of New England’s top eight teams. After a rough start against Cape Cod Academy in the season opener, the Vineyarders have reeled off five consecutive victories, punctuated with the 3-2 win in Newport.

The Vineyard sailors raced against Pope John Paul II on Lagoon Pond Wednesday afternoon.
The Vineyard sailors beat Pope John Paul II 3-0 on Lagoon Pond Wednesday afternoon.

The Vineyarders took the best of five series with some superb seamanship in the decisive fifth race. With a St. George’s boat out front, skipper Eli Hanschka and crew Zana van Rooyen out-jibed the leaders, taking out the St. George’s boat and allowing teammates Raz Sayre and Adam Bilodeau to move into first place. The Vineyarders claimed the top two spots.

“The final race was competitive down to the wire,” Coach Burr said. “Eli Hanschka and Zana van Rooyen were the standouts. They sailed their butts off.”

Skipper Charlie Morano and crew Ellie Reagan were the third Island combo to race in Newport. Team veterans Anna Flaherty and Russell Shapiro also made the trip.

Coach Andrew Burr was justifiably proud of his team after the big win. “It wasn’t just the win, it was what they accomplished — to beat this team for the first time.”

The Vineyarders also defeated Dartmouth, 3-0, on April 3.

On Wednesday afternoon, The Purple continued their winning streak by triumphing 3-0  over Pope John Paul II of Hyannis.

The sailors travel to Greenwich, Connecticut, Saturday for an 8X (eight schools) race.

 

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Jessica Sonia deals to the plate in Thursday's opening day win over O' Bryant of Boston. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Vineyard varsity softball team is off to a 3-0 start after the first week of play. The Purple swept a doubleheader, 14-2 and 13-6, Saturday at Randolph. In the opener, Sarah Strem pitched a complete game with 7 K’s to earn her first varsity win. Jessica Sonia went the distance in game two, striking out 10. Julia Sauter hit three doubles on the day and has five in the first three games. Alistair Rizza had the other big bat for M.V. and is 10 for 12 at the plate this season.

Cana Courtney hits a single during an eight-run third inning.
Cana Courtney hits a single during an eight-run third inning.

Vineyard coach Donald Herman is pleased with his team’s solid start at the plate but hopes for continued growth with his young pitching staff. “I’m encouraged by the way we’re swinging the bat,” he said. “Coming up, we’ll be seeing some much tougher pitching. The quicker our pitching improves, the more competitive we’ll become as a team because this game is so pitcher-dominated. Also, lowering the number of walks will also increase our chance of being competitive.”

The Vineyarders played at Bishop Stang Wednesday, host Bishop Feehan Friday, travel to Cambridge Rindge and Latin Saturday, and play Falmouth Monday in Oak Bluffs.

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Lee Hayman is off and running against Nantucket. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School girls lacrosse team picked up their first win of the season against none other than the Nantucket Whalers 15-9 Saturday afternoon at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.

Zoe Listro scored five goals and added three assists to pace the Vineyarders, who are 1-2.

M.V. broke a 5-5 tie and took control of the game by outscoring Nantucket 9-1 over the last 7:34 of the first half and the first 8:57 of the second.

In the second half, the Vineyarders executed a short passing game to perfection. Three goals in a two minute stretch, two by Issy Smith and one by Aubrey Ashmun all came as a result of pin-point 10-yard passes lobbed to the edge of the crease by Zoe Listro (twice) and Emily deBettencourt.

Vineyard goalie Sam Hargy also had a fine day, stopping 10 Whaler shots.

Issy Smith finished with four goals and one assist; Lucy Hackney had two goals and two assists; and Lee Hayman two goals with one assist. Aubrey Ashmun and Emily deBettencourt had a goal and an assist apiece. Charlotte McCarron and Molly Houghton each had one assist.

Emily deBettencourt led the way with ground balls, picking up six on the day, followed by Aubrey Ashmun (4), Alex Clark (4), Lucy Hackney (4), Lee Hayman (3), Zoe Listro (2), Charlotte McCarron (2), Olivia Ogden (1), Issy Smith (1), and K.C. Wallace (1).

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Vineyard pitcher Jessica Sonia winds up for a pitch in the second inning Thursday against O' Bryant. — Ralph Stewart

The Vineyard varsity softball team is off to a 3-0 start after the first week of play. The Purple swept a doubleheader, 14-2 and 13-6, Saturday at Randolph. In the opener, Sarah Strem pitched a complete game with 7 K’s to earn her first varsity win. Jessica Sonia went the distance in game two, striking out 10. Julia Sauter hit three doubles on the day and has five in the first three games. Alistair Rizza had the other big bat for M.V. and is 10 for 12 at the plate this season.

On April 3 in Oak Bluffs, Mariah Duarte crushed a grand slam to key an 11-run first inning as the Vineyarders romped to a 23-11 five-inning win over John O’Bryant of Boston in the season opener. Mariah singled in the third and finished 4 for 4 on the day. Alistair Rizza earned two walks to go 3 for 3, while Miranda Tokarz went 2 for 3 with a double.

Sophomore pitcher Jessica Sonia recorded her first varsity win.

Vineyard coach Donald Herman is pleased with his team’s solid start atthe  plate but hopes for continued growth with his young pitching staff. “I’m encouraged by the way we’re swinging the bat,” he said. “Coming up, we’ll be seeing some much tougher pitching. The quicker our pitching improves, the more competitive we’ll become as a team because this game is so pitcher-dominated. Also, lowering the number of walks will also increase our chance of being competitive.”

The Vineyarders played at Bishop Stang Wednesday, host Bishop Feehan Friday, travel to Cambridge Rindge and Latin Saturday, and play Falmouth Monday in Oak Bluffs.

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Senior captain Patrick McCarthy rallied for a three set win over Fairhaven's Anthony Joseph at first singles. — Ralph Stewart

The two-time defending state champion Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys tennis team is off to a 3-0 start under new coach Josh Schaan.

“It was a really good first week,” Coach Schaan said. “Fifteen matches played with only one loss: it’s definitely a good sign. This young group that we have is exciting for the future. Patrick [senior captain Patrick McCarthy] is doing a good job encouraging the younger players. He has the good qualities that you like to see in a captain.”

Monday, the Vineyarders defeated host Sandwich, 4-1. The Blue Knights are the first team in the young season to register a point against the Purple. They did it in the first singles match as Matt Martin topped Patrick McCarthy 6-3, 6-0. The Vineyarders turned the tables by winning both doubles matches, 6-1, 6-2. Zak Danz and Dunovan Belisle defeated James O’Brien and Justin Leach at first doubles, while James Kelliher and David Webster beat Jack Caseli and Jack Condin.

The final two singles matches were tough, but the Vineyarders prevailed. Connor Downing won, 6-3, 6-4, over Christian Rossomando at second singles, and Max Hammond outlasted Vincent Tanguilig, 4-6, 6-1 and 10-8, at third singles in a third set tie-breaker.

“We have some tough competition coming up,” Coach Schaan said. “Sandwich was a good test because they’re a bigger school.”

The Vineyarders won, 5-0, over Fairhaven in a non-league match Friday in Oak Bluffs. Patrick McCarthy, the lone starter from last year’s team, struggled early, losing the first set, 6-1, but rebounded impressively, 6-2, 6-3, to beat Anthony Joseph at first singles. The rest of the young Vineyarders rolled in straight sets. Connor Downing defeated Ted Bonnette, 6-0, 6-0. Max Hammond won the third singles match, 6-1, 6-2, over Alex D’Abruzzo.

Both Vineyard doubles teams posted big wins. First doubles tandem Zak Danz and Dunovan Belisle scored a double bagel against Connor Powers and Noah Aurelio, while James Kelliher and David Webster downed Theo Hennen and Andrew Bulhoes, 6-1, 6-1, at second doubles.

Wednesday afternoon in the home opener against Norton, the Vineyarders blanked the Lancers 5-0. Freshmen Max Hammond, Zak Danz, James Kelliher, and David Webster all picked up their first varsity career wins.

With the same lineup as Friday’s match, Patrick McCarthy defeated Brandon Jenkins, 6-0, 6-3; Connor Downing beat Robbie Douglas, 6-0, 6-0; Max Hammond topped Sean Murphy, 6-2, 6-0; Zak Danz and Dunovan Belisle defeated Alex Belinsky and Tony Chen, 6-1, 6-0; and James Kelliher and David Webster bested John Munger and Devin Kalnicki, 6-2, 6-0.

Coach Schaan cited Connor Downing’s win as the performance of the day and praised the aggressiveness and solid defense of both doubles teams.