MVRHS teacher retires abruptly, expresses concern over administration

High school committee will set up a public forum on the school disciplinary process after parents and residents voice alarm.


Elaine Weintraub, a highly regarded Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School history teacher of 25 years, announced her retirement last week, effective at the end of the school year, saying she has been “excluded” and “isolated” by the administration, in a letter to the school committee.

“I write not out of concern for myself, but to inform the committee of the ways in which it has become impossible to continue to teach in ways that honor the relationship between students and their community,” Ms. Weintraub wrote.

More than 50 people packed into a small conference room at the school library, a majority of whom were there to show their support for Ms. Weintraub and speak out against the school administration, citing issues with the disciplinary process, which was described as unfair, harsh, and alarming.

Ms. Weintraub did not attend the meeting, but her retirement letter was read by Kelly McCracken, a school committee member, after people urged the committee to read it into the record. The ensuing discussion lasted for nearly an hour and a half, and school committee members unanimously agreed to hold a public forum on the school’s disciplinary process.

“I know the loss here is going to be huge for these kids,” Tricia Bergeron, who no longer has a child in the school, told the committee. “For these kids, that’s huge not to have somebody like her in their life, and I hope it has opened all of your eyes and all of your ears, and do something about it because it is real.”

Ms. Weintraub  teaches courses in Brazilian history and culture, making the high school the first in the state to offer such a class, according to Willa Vigneault, a high school senior who took the class. Ms. Vigneault called Ms. Weintraub “a pillar” of the community during the meeting.

Ms. Weintraub also taught courses in Irish history and global history, and organized the One World Club, an organization at the school aimed at creating an inclusive climate for all nationalities. She has chaperoned trips to New York and Ireland for students.

Ms. Weintraub created the Martha’s Vineyard African-American Heritage Trail, and in 2010, she helped Brazilian students win the right to wear their country colors at graduation.

“She has helped many students navigate the challenges of MVRHS and adjust to our community and to the Martha’s Vineyard community,” Ms. Vigneault said.

Chuck Hughes moved to the Vineyard with his three Asian children in 2001, he told the school committee. He said his two daughters experienced racism — being called derogatory terms — and described it as a challenging time, but one that Ms. Weintraub helped his children through.

“Elaine was somebody who just took them in,” Mr. Hughes said. “She made them feel like there’s a place for them.”

A breaking point

Ms. Weintraub said in her letter that the most trusted aspect of a student-teacher relationship, the ability for students to feel safe confiding in her, was in jeopardy. She acknowledged her role as “a mandated reporter,” and said she is aware she has to report “information that may be life-threatening for a student.”

She was told to report the conversations she had with students, and noted her only interaction with administration was when they sought to punish a student.

“I was shocked by the request,” she wrote.

In a conversation with The Times on Wednesday, Ms. Weintraub said if a child has an adult to go to whom they trust, it keeps them safe, and that students often seek out adults to talk to. But when she was asked to discuss the things she was told in confidence — things that did not jeopardize a student’s safety — to give the administration “a heads-up,” she was alarmed.

“That was kind of one of the breaking points,” she said.

Sara Dingledy, the high school principal, told The Times on Wednesday that she asked all teachers who heard of incidents around safety, harassment, or comments about immigration status or fears of deportation to share them with the guidance department so the school could address it, after charges that students, especially those of immigrant families, were being bullied.

Ms. Weintraub has been the chair of the history department since 2005, but when the decision was made to appoint a different chairperson, she told The Times that she wasn’t surprised by the decision.

“In the past year, this sense of a departmental team with common responsibilities has been greatly disrupted through unequal and covert treatment of the various members of the department,” she wrote in her letter of retirement.

At the beginning of the year, the administration decided that department chair positions would be three-year terms as there was no real process in place for renewal, Ms. Dingledy told The Times. In theory, it was supposed to happen every year, but it was something that wasn’t enforced.

“It was about putting a system in place,” she said.

They selected four departments at random, and this year, the history, world languages, guidance, and English departments were up for review.

Several candidates in the history department applied, and Ms. Dingledy interviewed them and established department support for the candidates. “Everyone had a chance to weigh in,” she said.

There were many history candidates who applied, including Ms. Weintraub. Ms. Dingledy ultimately made the decision to appoint someone new, but declined to comment further on her reasons for moving on from Ms. Weintraub.

Four years, five principals

There have been five different principals in four years, but many school policies have remained unchanged.

“I think there’s a culture of structure that kids need,” Ms. Dingledy said of enforcing already existing policies. For example, needing a pass to leave a classroom hasn’t been a practice at the school, but is necessary for safety and security, and so now is being enforced, she said.

She acknowledged there may be a perception of being “heavy-handed,” but reiterated the need to keep students safe. “This year’s climate was tough, and we looked into a lot of incidents,” Ms. Dingledy said in an email to The Times. “These situations require our attention and focus, and I think that we have handled many of them very well this year, using a team approach as we figure out how to support all of the students involved.”

Matt D’Andrea, superintendent of schools, told The Times on Tuesday that Ms. Dingledy has “stepped into a difficult situation,” being the fifth principal in four years, but that she was enforcing rules that were already in place. The inconsistency in enforcement, he said, came from the frequent changes at the top.

“The efforts that [Ms. Dingledy] has started working on with us and with the school is 100 percent in support of the students at that school,” Mr. D’Andrea said. “She has my full support.”

During the school committee meeting, Mr. D’Andrea urged people to use the school advisory council to voice concerns throughout the school year. Both Mr. D’Andrea and Richie Smith, assistant superintendent of schools, said they regretted that their children, soon to be in the high school, would not have Ms. Weintraub as a teacher.

Robert Lionette, chairman of the school committee, commended the work Ms. Weintraub has done. The Martha’s Vineyard public school district was the first in state to pass a “safe schools resolution,” which affirms the educational rights of students, regardless of their immigration status, according to Mr. Lionette.

“Without the work that Elaine has done here and in the community, it would never have moved with that sense of alacrity, and that work will be missed,” Mr. Lionette said.

Making a difference is what motivated Ms. Weintraub to get into education in the first place, she told The Times. She plans to work at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, and continue her involvement at the Massachusetts Department of Education Committee on evaluating Bias and Sensitivity in Education, as well as at Facing History and Ourselves, an organization that engages students in the examination of racism and prejudice.

“I went into teaching because I felt education was a way you could make a difference in people’s lives,” Ms. Weintraub said.


  1. As with MVH, the sense of “don’t get too comfortable unless you’re one of us” has become too clear.
    Shame on this “community”; if that’s how you would choose this place to be perceived.
    Absolutely pathetic, close minded people here.
    Only the passing of time will bring the change all of us desire and need, to bring love and peace to a severely divided country.

  2. I’m 100% supportive of our School Administrators. Matt and Richie are doing a very solid job…and Principal Sarah Dindledy is doing a terrific job as well.
    Teacher’s retire all the time for many reasons. Most don’t find the need to make a spectacle of doing so. There are always two sides to every story and Ms Weintraub has told her’s.
    I like the direction the School is going in and we have a committed Staff to keep us moving in the right direction.
    Mike Marcus, Chairman All Island School Committee, West Tisbury resident

    • Mike Marcus:

      You are clueless. Dr. W would not make a “spectacle” of her abrupt retirement without reason. In fact she should still be teaching if not for the misguided actions of the administration. There is nobody at MVRHS who has more integrity than Dr. W and to suggest that her actions are selfish or for her own personal gain proves how little you know. Please stop breaking your arm patting the administration on the back and listen to the teachers who are on the front lines of teaching.

      There are always two sides to each story and it is time for the Administration, to which you have undying aligence, to step up and tell us their side of the story if they have fraction of the integrity Dr. W has.

      Sam Alley
      West Tisbury

        • And Mike this information will be available to the public? Certainly your belief that Dr Weintruab should go, does not align with the community, parents past and present and faculty. So what is this information? I will hope it is ready available at the public forum on June 21st. Can you confirm that? I think the community deserves to be informed. And questions answered, considering we have lost a great teacher.

          • Correct me if I am wrong Lara but at the meeting of the high school committee they stated that they knew nothing about this matter? As did the superintentent and assistant superintentent. If Mr. Marcus is stating otherwise parents, students, and other community members would have no choice but to assume that Mr. Marcus is claiming they were not being honest. If this is the case he himself is calling into question the integrity of both the school board and the administration.

        • It sounds like Mike Marcus does know more of the story. According to the article, several history teachers applied to be department head and they all had a chance to weigh in on the decision. If they had been happy with her leadership, no one else would have gone up against her. It sounds like Dr. Weintraub was upset at not being selected and chose to point the finger at the administration and go out with a bang, rather than accept defeat gracefully.

    • Interesting choices in grammar from a school board member. I might argue that it taints your argument. However, not as much as posting inappropriately in a public forum such as this. I personally find your comments extremely unprofessional and I think many voters will as well.

      • Additionally, I am curious why a school board member would take a stance that appears to be at odds with the opinions of parents and students. I find it particularly odd that you have decided to argue with former students who are expressing their sadness in the comments section of the local newpaper. I also noted that the only negative comments on the articles pertaining to this matter are limited to your comments and a blatant bigot going on an anti-immigration tirade. As a West Tisbury voter it makes me wonder where your allegiances lie since it is apparent it is not with the parents and students of this Island.

        • The School Committee works extremely hard on behalf of the Parents and Students. All of our effort is for the benefit and enrichment of the Students. Why don’t you crawl out from under your hole hiding behind anonymity?
          I’m sure if the newspaper reporters wanted to dig deeper they could give a more complete story. My allegiance to the Students and Parents is damn near above reproach.
          If you can do a better job on the School Committee then get off your duff and go ahead and do it!

          • Mr. Marcus, I considered not responding to your juvenile retort. If I had said I was unhappy with Trump’s performance would you have told me to run for President? With that in mind, I will keep my reply brief. I still think your compulsion to insinuate inappropriately about someone else’s character here is in poor taste. As a school board member it is unprofessional and at odds with the high school committee’s official stance. It is amusing that you have countered accusations of bullying by bullying former students in an online forum. And ludicrous that you believe the majority of the public will be swayed by your title.

  3. It’s Dr. Weintraub not Ms. Weintraub. Please correct that. Dr. Weintraub was my teacher and the only person who ever stood up for me at that school. She saw the potential in me that most of my other teachers overlooked. She cares about her students, she doesn’t determine your worth by boxing you in with preconceived notions like many teachers do. Guidance counselors don’t do anything about the bullying either, they can’t be bothered to actually do something, I know this from many many personal experiences. Dr. Weintraub was always the one who stuck up for me and people like me. It’s really sad to think that so many kids will go through that school not knowing her, not having this amazing person who goes out of her way to understand and help them, who stands up for them when no one else will.

    • Hi- Thanks for pointing out Elaine Weintraub’s honorific. It is The Times style, as it is with many other publications, not to use “Dr.” for Ph.Ds. I’ll check our story and make sure it mentions that Ms. Weintraub has earned a Ph.D.
      Thank you.
      Jamie Stringfellow

  4. As a former student of MVRHS, I empathize with Dr. Weintraub. Very disappointed and saddened to read this.

  5. This is super sad, but I guess I’m not surprised given my experience at the school. I think Dr. Weintraub was the only teacher I really felt safe with in a class until my senior year, and her hardline stances against bigotry (such as racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, etc.) really helped me feel safe. I’m glad I left the high school when I did; no doubt it would have been worse for me if I was born later than I was or had to stay extra years/

  6. The Weintraubs (Elaine and Joel) as a dedicated pair of educators have been , in my opinion the best thing that has happened to the educational system on this island for 2 generations of students.
    Thank you both for your spectacular styles and dedication..

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