School officials seek to reassure public after murals painted over

Administrators say they’ve met with representatives of NAACP.

School officials this week attempted to reassure the public about how they are handling a teacher's decision to paint over murals at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. — Courtesy Elaine Weintraub/Stacey

School administrators are vowing to right a wrong after a Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School teacher painted over murals, including two that had a connection to the Martha’s Vineyard African American Heritage Trail.

High school history teacher Andrew Vandall painted over the murals, which had been commissioned by another history teacher, Elaine Weintraub. Ms. Weintraub, who resigned/retired earlier this month, citing an environment of “divisiveness” at the high school, has been an advocate for the high school’s minority students.

In separate interviews with the Times last week, Ms. Weintraub called the decision to paint over the murals a “hate act,” while Mr. Vandall said he had no ill intent, and was prepping the walls for future murals by students. He has also apologized to his colleagues for the stir he created by painting over the murals.

At a meeting Monday night, Schools Superintendent Matthew D’Andrea told the school committee members what has been done in the aftermath, including a meeting with the NAACP.

“The spirit of the groups and individuals honored in those murals needs to be, and will be, restored,” Mr. D’Andrea said, praising how high school Principal Sara Dingledy handled the difficult situation. “We are committed to strengthening our relationship and continuing to work together on behalf of our students.”

Calls to the Martha’s Vineyard chapter of NAACP were not returned.

In a message home to parents Tuesday, Ms. Dingledy also mentioned the meeting with the group.

“Yesterday, members of the high school and district administration had a productive meeting with the NAACP, during which we discussed the incident of a teacher painting over student murals in the 500s hallway of the High School,” she wrote. “All those present at the meeting share serious concerns about the incident. The High School assured the NAACP, and wishes to assure the community at large, that it is exploring ways to address the incident through appropriate disciplinary measures and the restoration of school and community trust. As it has in the past, the high school will work with the Oak Bluffs Police Department and follow their lead when it comes to determining if laws have been broken. MVRHS and the NAACP have scheduled a follow-up meeting in mid-July to continue this conversation and to ensure concrete steps are taken to address the incident.”

In an interview last week, Mr. Vandall acknowledge he is facing disciplinary action, though he declined to comment on the exact nature of the proceedings.


Rich Saltzberg contributed to this report.