Martha’s Vineyard students say goodbye summer, hello school year

Island schools are gearing up to welcome students back on Tuesday.

It does not seem that long ago that parents and teachers waved goodbye to children on their last of school. Now they return.— Sam Moore

The Martha’s Vineyard Public school year begins on Tuesday, Sept. 6. As parents and students say goodbye to summer and readjust to the school schedule, they can expect some changes at their respective schools. New teachers, innovative programs, and renovations are some of the things that they’ll see.

In conversations with The Times, Island school principals all said the same thing: They are excited about the year ahead, and look forward to having the students back in school.

Parents are reminded kindergarten in all public Island schools dismisses students at noon through Friday, Sept. 16. Full days begin on Monday, Sept. 19.


Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) begins the 2016/17 school year with a new principal, Sara Dingledy, who said there are no significant changes.

Martha’s Vineyard Superintendent of Schools Matt D’Andrea selected Ms. Dingledy (pronounced dingle-dee) last January following a several-month-long search process. She was most recently principal and founder of Westchester Square Academy in New York City.

She said that she will take the year to get to know the school and to see where they can grow.

“This year, I’m learning the ropes,” Ms. Dingledy told The Times in a phone conversation on Tuesday.

She said there will be a dean of students’ office to provide students with additional support during the day and to “streamline conversations at home.” It will help parents and staff follow up with incidents and ensure that the community is safe, kids are comfortable, and adults are being supportive.

Ms. Dingledy said this year the high school is placing an emphasis on communication, especially online. The school will be using Google Classroom and an online portal for parents. Ms. Dingledy said parents can access grade reports, messages directly from the classroom, and students’ attendance.

Ms. Dingledy also said that parents can anticipate “Coffee with the Principal,” a sort of informal parent/teacher conference. Faculty is still deciding on times.

School enrollment is 677 students.

Tisbury Elementary School

“We’re excited to welcome the kids back,” Tisbury Elementary School Principal John Custer told The Times. Mr. Custer is expecting roughly 310 students to start the year on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

This week, all school staff will take part in professional development training. Tisbury has contracted a consultant to provide training for school safety and security, according to Mr. Custer.

Mr. Custer said although there are no significant changes for the school year, they are looking forward to a potential building project to improve the school, but that won’t take place for another couple of years.

Tisbury Elementary School will welcome two new teachers this year. Emily Levett will be teaching second grade, and Meredith Goldthwait will be teaching fourth grade.

Edgartown School

Principal John Stevens of the Edgartown School said that the staff is “excited about the new year, and is looking forward to seeing students and their parents come back.”

Mr. Stevens said the PTA will host coffee and pastries in the front lobby at 8:15 am as a “welcome back to parents for the first day of school.”

There are a number of new teachers in Edgartown this year. Justen Foster will teach seventh and eighth grade math; Ken DeBettencourt will teach eighth grade algebra and sixth and seventh grade math enrichment; Laia Roig will teach Spanish, grades four through eighth; Jeff Majkowski will teach seventh and eighth grade English language arts; Kara Gelinas will teach science, grades five and six; and Sarah Vail will teach family and consumer science, grade six through eight.

Mr. Stevens said the curriculums are the same. He also said that staff has been working hard over the summer to get the building ready for the school year. He said the grounds are in “great shape.”

School enrollment is 364 students.

Oak Bluffs School

Oak Bluffs School Principal Megan Farrell said she was both excited for and confident of the year ahead. Ms. Farrell said that two interconnected, community-based programs will reenergize students and faculty.

Responsive Classroom is a program that deals with the social and emotional aspects of children and focuses on developing character and core values by creating “habits of goodness, kindness, and citizenship,” Ms. Farrell said.

STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, is another program that works in conjunction with Responsive Classroom. Ms. Farrell said STEAM has a new and multidisciplinary curriculum that focuses on project-based learning and critical thinking.

Oak Bluffs school will welcome some new staff members, both teachers and educational support staff. Ms. Farrell said the faculty is an “amazing community” of dedicated people, and that the school is a “unique and special place to be.

Enrollment is the highest it has been for Oak Bluffs, with about 448 students.

Chilmark School

There are no major changes at the Chilmark School, Principal Susan Stevens told The Times. She said they are “looking forward to an exciting year, the building is just about all ready, and we’re finishing up last-minute projects.” Ms. Stevens said they are ready to greet the students.

There will be a total of three classes at the school: kindergarten and first grade, second and third grade, and fourth and fifth grade. Ms. Stevens said there will be about 50 students enrolled this year.

West Tisbury School

West Tisbury Principal Donna Lowell-Bettencourt said that the school will be expanding its enrichment program, focusing on English language arts with a full-time teacher.

There will be two new teachers this year. Dyan Demers will be teaching fourth grade, and Allison Faiff will be the new music teacher.

Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt said that students can expect to see renovated bathrooms and a new playground that seeks to improve students’ health through fitness, climbing, and strength-building.

West Tisbury School is starting a breakfast program that is new this year; students can have breakfast before school starts.

“It’s a great new addition for families that need it and families that want it,” Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt said.

The enrollment is roughly 355 students with the preschool included, but the numbers fluctuate until the first day of school.

Martha’s Vineyard Charter School

Director Bob Moore said they are excited to start their 21st year, with enrollment numbers at their maximum of 180 students. Parent-teacher conferences began this week.

Seth Mosler, school business manager for the past 20 years, has retired. Paul Karasik, the school’s development director, will also retire after 15 years. Mr. Moore said the Charter School is working on filling their positions, and called both Mr. Mosler and Mr. Karasik “instrumental in who we are today.”

The newest physical additions to the Charter School are two new science labs, named after civil rights activist, lawyer, and seasonal Vineyard resident Vernon Jordan, who will attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 3.

Mr. Moore said the Charter School is also looking forward to two new programs. One is the Response to Intervention (RTI) program, which Mr. Moore said targets enrichment opportunities for students for two to three hours each week through different types of activities. He said the program works with small groups of students to help them in “areas of their passion and interests and to enhance their strengths.” Mr. Moore said some of the examples the program encompasses are math, writing, and literature.

The second program is called Implementing Strategies of Collaborative Problem Solving, helping students adjust to the school year. Mr. Moore said the program works with teachers and counselors in ensuring students are making proper adjustments into the school, and with classrooms to determine the best learning environment for different students.

Vineyard Montessori School

“It’s going to be a full year,” Vineyard Montessori School’s Head of School Deborah Jernegan told The Times in a phone conversation. It’s the school’s first year with sixth graders, and Ms. Jernegan said the board voted for the school to go through eighth grade starting in September 2017.

The school will have a total enrollment of 54 students from preschool to sixth grade, 14 of those students being in grades first through sixth.

In addition to their after school and violin programs, this year the school has a new chess program. The Vineyard Montessori School also is introducing a Tynker coding for kids program that deals with computer coding. Last, new to the school is a global learning program that deals with a range of community service work throughout the year in support of Island nonprofits. The new programs are for K-6 students.

The Montessori School will welcome back Nora Dyke, who will be returning to the school to teach grades one through three.