School superintendent Weiss marks 10th year running Island schools

Martha's Vineyard superintendent of schools James H. Weiss. — Susan Safford

The Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools are ready to open for students on Thursday, September 4, after a busy summer of hiring, planning, and facilities projects.

Unlike last year, the superintendent’s office in Vineyard Haven is fully staffed and ready for opening day. At this point last year, we were still awaiting the selection and arrival of a new assistant superintendent, director of student support services, and early childhood coordinator. Thankfully, those positions were filled during the year with Matt D’Andrea as the assistant superintendent, Phil Campbell as the new director of student support services, and Midge Jacobs and Alecia Barnes sharing the early childhood duties.

The big changes this year are at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), where we have an almost totally new leadership team. Leading MVRHS will be Gilbert Traverso, who comes to the Island from Springfield where he was the principal of the Putnam Academy. Joining Andrew Berry as an assistant principal will be long-time science teacher Elliott Bennett. The school’s new special education director is Nancy Dugan, who replaces Will Verbits. Nancy worked in Barnstable for many years and comes to the Island from Mashpee, where she served as assistant special education director. Finally, replacing Robert Drobneck as vocational director is Ty Hobbs, who traveled all the way from Alaska to head our vocational programs.

Guidance director Michael McCarthy and technology director Woody Filley will need to provide the historical perspective to their fellow teammates, based upon their many years of service to the students of the Vineyard.

Over the summer, we replaced roofs on the Tisbury and Chilmark Schools, moved several shared services programs to new locations, and did some renovations at the high school. We also purchased two new off-Island buses as well as several smaller special education buses. The process for replacing the superintendent’s office is moving forward with the selection of an owner’s project manager (OPM) and the investigation of various methods of construction – modular or stick-built, for example.

In the curriculum and instruction area, we are moving forward with the shift from MCAS to PARCC testing at the elementary level as well as the continued implementation of the new educator evaluation system. Elementary schools across the Island will all offer a full year of honors algebra to capable eighth graders, as well as pre-algebra to many more. This will have an impact upon the high school in years to come and is the result of many years of work. World language has also seen renewed emphasis at the elementary level with a more structured Spanish program. At the high school, Portuguese returns as an offering as we phase out German, and the nursing assistant program continues to grow into a full Chapter 74-approved program.

This year is special because in November there will be an election for the members of the Up-Island Regional School District school committee, which only happens every four years.

As I was preparing my comments for the opening convocation at the Performing Arts Center on September 2, I came across some interesting facts about the superintendent’s office that were researched a few years ago by Chris Baer, the high school’s art, technology, and design department chairman. These facts show how far we have come. Before 1895, each town on the Island not only had its own school, but its own superintendent. The first Island-wide superintendent of schools was Clifton Alden Snell of Edgartown, who served from 1895 to 1900. It is my pleasure to carry on that tradition and serve as the Island’s superintendent for my 10th year.

Superintendent James Weiss was hired to lead the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools in 2005.