Teacher who painted over murals is serving suspension

Andrew Vandall will return to classes in January, while petition seeks investigation by A.G.’s office.

Andrew Vandall, a history teacher at MVRHS, won't return to the classroom until January after painting over murals last June.

A Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School history teacher did not start the school year with his students Tuesday because he is serving a disciplinary suspension.

Andrew Vandall, the teacher who admitted that he painted over murals, including two featured as part of the African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard, confirmed the suspension.

“I will be returning to school in January,” he wrote in a text message responding to a question from The Times about the discipline. “On anything else, no comment.”

In an email to The Times, MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy wrote that she is unable to comment on personnel discipline, but confirmed that Mr. Vandall is out for the first half of the school year. “I can assure you that the school takes the incident very seriously and responded accordingly,” she wrote.

Mr. Vandall told The Times in June that he painted over the murals to prepare the walls for future works by students. He said at that time he expected to face discipline.

“I messed up, and I’m getting it,” Mr. Vandall said at that time. “Hold me at fault for having poor tact, but please don’t call me racist or culturally insensitive.”

Despite Mr. Vandall’s comments that there was no racial motivation behind what he did, supporters of Elaine Weintraub, a history teacher who retired/resigned in June, claiming she had been “bullied” by administrators, have submitted a petition to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office asking her office to open a “civil rights and/or criminal” investigation.

The letter was signed by more than 100 community members. One of the murals was of Emma Chambers, a female lightweight boxing champion with ties to the Island, that was painted by Margaret Joba-Woodruff. Ms. Joba-Woodruff was one of the people who signed the petition.

A spokeswoman for Healey’s office said the letter was received and is being reviewed.

Ms. Weintraub created a bit of a community firestorm when she announced that she would resign (technically she retired), claiming she had been “bullied” by administrators.

Ms. Weintraub did not immediately respond to messages left at her home or to questions sent via email for this story.

The letter to A.G. Healey’s office provides a description of the murals that were painted over by Mr. Vandall, and how Ms. Weintraub discovered the fresh paint after returning to school from a medical leave on June 15. The incident happened as the school year was winding down and remaining students were taking final exams.

“When she arrived at the school, she discovered that someone had painted four murals over in white paint,” the letter states. “Mr. Vandall’s actions were deliberate, and have resulted in students feeling intimidated and unwelcome in Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.”

The letter claims that classes taught by Ms. Weintraub have either been eliminated or moved from the history department.

In her email, Ms. Dingledy wrote that the Irish history class is not being offered because of low enrollment. “We had a total of 10 students enrolled,” she wrote. “I am sure much of this is because when students knew Ms. Weintraub was no longer teaching the class, they opted to enroll in a different history class. She was the main draw.”

A Brazilian History and Culture class is strongly supported, Ms. Dingledy wrote. “Brazilian history is still being taught. It is still technically under the history department, but this year is being taught by a World Language teacher [teacher of Portuguese] who has a strong background in Brazilian culture and a strong interest in teaching the course,” she wrote. “We wanted to continue the class, and were happy to have a teacher so enthusiastic about picking it up.”