Tisbury selectmen discuss school security and hiring policies

Tisbury selectman chairman Tristan Israel called for a moment of silence at a meeting Tuesday evening, in memory of the 20 students and 6 staff killed December 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. That led to a discussion about security at the Tisbury School.

Selectman Jeff Kristal noted that Tisbury School principal John Custer sent a letter to parents following the Friday incident, as did the other Island school principals. Mr. Israel said the selectmen have asked police chief Dan Hanavan and Mr. Custer to discuss school security in general at a meeting sometime in January, to assure and make the community aware of what is in place.

Mr. Kristal suggested that Fire Chief John Schilling and emergency management director Chris Cini be part of the planning process and incorporate the use of the new Emergency Services Facility across the street from the school. Chief Schilling said Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools superintendent James Weiss is already planning a meeting, which he will facilitate, with first responders and town officials in January to revisit school security procedures and plans.

Mr. Kristal segued from a discussion about school security to a critical discourse on the Tisbury School’s decision to hire former Tisbury Police sergeant Robert Fiske as an educational support professional (ESP) to fill the slot of an employee who is retiring. Mr. Kristal did not mention him by name, but there was no question who was the target of his remarks.

“One thing that I will mention is that the school has been operating in a vacuum the last several weeks,” he said. “They hired a terminated employee that had worked for the town for 20 years without any discussion with the police chief or with anybody at town hall. How that happened, with the newspapers we have, with the radio station and online websites, is beyond me, without a single notification or conversation with the town.”

Selectmen fired Mr. Fiske on November 2 following an investigation into his actions on July 23, 2011, during the arrest of a man later convicted for domestic assault and rape of a teenage babysitter.

Mr. Fiske will start work as an ESP after the first of the year, superintendent Weiss confirmed in a phone conversation with The Times yesterday. Mr. Fiske currently works as a substitute teacher at the school.

Mr. Weiss said the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools do not check with the Tisbury selectmen every time an employee is hired. He said that Tisbury School principal John Custer followed the school system’s standard process correctly. The job was posted and a search conducted by Mr. Custer and a team of teachers, who then evaluated the applications submitted and conducted interviews.

“They decided Mr. Fiske was the best candidate for the position, given the pool of applicants,” Mr. Weiss said. He said he has complete faith in Mr. Custer.

As with any employee, he said MVPS did a criminal history check on Mr. Fiske and also checked his references and previous employment history.

Other business

In other business, selectmen voted to support requests from the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Task Force and the Massachusetts Municipal Association to send a letter asking the state to delay implementation of a new law that allows the medicinal use of marijuana and its sale from dispensaries.

The law allows anyone over 21 to operate a dispensary, and as many as 35 would be permitted in the state. Mr. Israel said the details about such dispensaries are vague and that a lot of issues remain for the state to work out.

The selectman also voted to send a letter to the Tisbury Planning Board asking that it begin work on planning for zoning for the dispensaries, in advance of any state directives.

Selectmen approved Police Chief Dan Hanavan’s request to appoint Daniel Durawa, who currently works for the Chilmark Police Department, as a special officer in Tisbury.

The selectmen also briefly discussed recommendations from the Harbor Management and Tashmoo Management committees regarding possible amendments to the waterways regulations regarding mooring fees and a proposed pump-out regulation for commercial businesses that provide services to transient boaters. The selectmen agreed to schedule a public hearing to discuss the possible changes and also whether or not the town should buy or lease a dredge at 6 pm on January 22.

In a follow-up to discussion at their last meeting, the selectmen voted to send a certified letter to Rocco’s Family Style Italian Restaurant Pizzeria informing the owners they must attend the selectmen’s next meeting to discuss the terms of their beer and wine license renewal or face possible revocation. The selectmen set a deadline of last Friday for the restaurant owners to submit a written request for the extension of a waiver granted them last year from a regulation that requires dinnerware, not paper plates, be used for meals served with alcoholic beverages.

The selectmen’s next meeting is at 5 pm on Wednesday, January 2.