To the Editor:
Tisbury voters approved the construction of a new K-8 school during our just completed town meeting. I abstained. It was a heart vs. head conflict that I was unable to resolve satisfactorily in spite of passionate and compelling input on all sides. In the end I could not defend taking this action to address real deficiencies in our school building ahead of any serious Island-wide planning efforts for coordinated educational programming and capital investments.
Rachael Orr raised the issue at Wednesday night’s meeting, as well as at nearly every meeting where school financing has been discussed. Lolly Hand, a Tisbury resident and former school principal, raised the same issue, referencing the fact that ninth graders arrive at our high school having received no common curricula for sequential courses such as languages and math. They are not the only voices. Dr. Weiss, in his farewell to Island school boards, while avoiding the dreaded “R” word, did emphasize the need for more island-wide planning and collaboration.
Oak Bluffs is investigating and embracing a unified Island-wide tax rate as an alternative way to fund island schools. Everywhere on the Island I hear regular folks talking about the matter of escalating school costs and the lack of a comprehensive vision. Places it is not being discussed seriously are in the superintendent’s administration offices, at the All-Island School Board, and, I would guess, at individual town school committee meetings.
As expenses mount for individual municipalities to maintain separate and duplicative services, one can’t help but wonder when the critical moment will arrive when taxpayers say “enough” and petition their leadership for relief. With the capital cost of Tisbury’s new K-8 school combined with anticipated expenses associated with rehabilitation of our regional high school, might not today be a tipping point for Tisbury and the Island to demand a serious discussion of the best and most affordable way for Martha’s Vineyard to educate its children? Or might we be in the process of losing yet another opportunity for our schools’ leadership to step forward? I sincerely hope not.
Regardless of how Tisbury resolves its school building issue, I would like to ask the superintendent of schools or our All-Island Board of Selectmen to convene a meeting for the purpose of opening a dialogue to discuss an Island vision for the successful and cost-effective education of our youth. Change may not come, but the possibilities certainly won’t if we refuse to explore it.