The children are watching


To the Editor:

Years ago, when I was tabbed to lead the Oak Bluffs School, a very wise educator, Priscilla Sylvia, reminded me to be sensitive to the children of my new school, as I highlighted areas that required change. Priscilla simply said, The children are listening, and they feel what is being said about their school. I remember these words often, and I bring them up in this context.

Enough. What started as and still is a personnel matter has grown into what is perceived by some as hate crimes, bullying, and a police state. Enough. The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School is our school. It is a school filled with joy. It is a school filled with care. It is a school filled with talent, young and old alike. It is a school filled with goodness.

While a minority of our community would not agree with my beliefs, I must speak on behalf of the many staff, children, and parents who have corresponded with me in support of our high school and the direction in which it is moving. After four years of instability, we now have stability. After four years of changing directions, we have direction. Our high school is filled with devoted learners and teachers. Our high school is filled with visionary students and staff. Our high school is filled with caring young men, ladies, and mentors. No one embodies these qualities more than Principal Sara Dingledy.

I led the search for Sara more than a year ago. Directly following her first interview, I knew she was special (and needed). Through a collaborative process, staff, students, parents, and community members expressed a similar sentiment when we chose Sara to be the leader of MVRHS. I feel, personally and professionally, very fortunate that Sara reciprocated and chose us, by choosing to lead MVRHS and by choosing to join the Martha’s Vineyard community as a whole.

Personnel matters and matters involving students cannot be discussed, nor should they be discussed, in a public manner. Those who choose a public forum might represent one side of challenging and difficult issues related to personnel or student matters. It is natural that they feel anger and frustration.

Public forums, social media, parking lots, and playing fields are rarely appropriate venues to voice frustrations. It is time to remember and consider our most valued and important part of the MVRHS community, our young people. They are listening, and they are feeling. This group, more than any, needs balance to be brought to this issue. They represent the very large majority of children who feel more safe as a result of increased accountability, and more optimistic about the direction of their school, because the large majority of teachers feel they have the clear vision, empowerment, and resources that Sara provides and that this entire school so richly deserves.

Saying that I support Sara Dingledy might intimate she needs my support. I support MVRHS. I support the children. I support the staff and leadership, and I support the direction that the school has taken. Sara does not need my support — quite the opposite; and from where I stand, we need the support she provides our community through her leadership.


Richie Smith, assistant superintendent

Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools



  1. Mr. Smith, The children are watching and they’re seeing the administration ignore a hateful act. Intent is irrelevant in this case, children are watching a teacher get away with defacing the school and removing diversity murals. I would love to support the high school and the new principal but not before I see action that addresses the community’s concerns. It was not solely a personel matter when a teacher whitewashed history and created an unsafe space in school. A teacher that if we are to believe his interview in the times appears to show little to no remorse. Additionally, attempts to shift the blame for his actions using logic that I would not accept from a teenager. So with this in mind you are correct the children are watching. They are not the only ones.

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