Major step taken on Tisbury School project

Owner’s project manager hired to guide renovation and addition, as well as short-term needs.

Tisbury selectman Jim Rogers looks out at the crowd gathered for Tuesday's meeting. To the right and sitting up front is Joe Sullivan, a representative of Daedalus, the newly selected owner's project manager for the school project. - George Brennan

Meet the new owner’s project manager, same as the old owner’s project manager.

At a joint meeting Tuesday between the Tisbury selectmen, school committee, and school building committee, Daedalus Projects Inc., a Boston-based firm, was selected as the owner’s project manager (OPM) — a contractor that provides oversight of design and construction for the town. 

Two other firms were also considered, but experience with projects of the school’s scope, with “net zero” experience (a project that is energy self-sufficient), and a firm that could help build a project website all made Daedalus the clear choice, Rachel Orr, chair of the building committee said.

Daedalus was the OPM for the $46.6 million new school proposal, which failed to win the support of voters at the polls in April 2018. That experience should help move the process more quickly, officials said.

Joe Sullivan, who will act as the firm’s representative with the town, and is already overseeing the high school track project, said Daedalus is eager to be back working on the Tisbury School. “Our firm is ecstatic to get reinvolved with the Tisbury School project,” Sullivan said. “We know there are challenges, and we’re hoping to work through all those challenges for the betterment of the entire district.”

Selectman Jeff Kristal praised the work of Daedalus the first go-round. “We’re very fortunate to have your group back on board to guide us through; you’re a very crucial piece of sorting through this mess we’re in right now,” he said.

Amy Houghton, chair of the school committee, said Daedalus will be leaned on in preparation for an Oct. 15 town meeting that will be called, in part, to bring portable classrooms to the Island to house Tisbury students who have been relocated — K-4 students to the 1993 wing of the school and grades 5-8 to the high school — because of lead and asbestos concerns.

Principal John Custer said it was good to get the students into classrooms, though it was a “challenge and a letdown” to have them split. “It’s my goal to reunite K-8 as soon as we possibly can with a good, viable outcome,” Custer said. “It’s hard being split. We’re one school, and right now we’re operating as two.”

Sullivan said it would be a 10- to 12-week process to procure the portable classrooms and get them to the Island. Meanwhile, the town has yet to pick a site or even settle on a dollar amount it’s willing to spend on them.

Sullivan said the lead and asbestos issues would need to be abated no matter what, so that may be an option to reunite students.

The discussion went round and round on whether new school construction could be considered, but selectman Jim Rogers cautioned that there is support among the majority of town voters for a renovation/addition. The $400,000 appropriated at town meeting in April was to hire an OPM with that in mind.

Nevette Previd, a parent, asked if the OPM’s scope could be changed through a town meeting article to include consideration of a new school as well.

Siobhan Mullin, another parent, said she’d like voters to have a side-by-side comparison for a renovation/addition versus a new school. “In talking to a lot of town members, we just felt we were never given a choice with the numbers,” she said.

Selectmen chair Melinda Loberg said expanding the scope of the OPM would be a question for the town’s attorney. Loberg floated the idea of waiting even longer than Oct. 15 for a special town meeting because all of the uncertainty.

“I’m real concerned with we’re pushing the dates again … that’s a problem,” said Adam Cummings, the parent of a second and fourth grader. “Appropriate funds that are two times the amount that you think you’re going to need to spend, and start working.”

Rogers, who is also on the building committee, said he’s optimistic they could have a project ready for voters to consider by the first of the year at a special town meeting.

But Harold Chapdelaine, who is also on the building committee, snapped back, “It’s not going to be that quick. It will never be that quick.”

Sullivan said it can take up to a year to get designs and drawings done, though he said cost estimates will be available in the timeframe Rogers suggested. 

Houghton attempted to set realistic expectations. “I don’t want people to get hopes up that we’ll have design and prices by spring,” she said.

Town administrator Jay Grande said he’s been exploring the use of emergency funds with finance director Jon Snyder to cover some of the expenses incurred in moving students because of the lead issues. Snyder said emergency appropriations have to be approved by the state, and the request has to be made within 20 days of the emergency, which is fast approaching. “It does not have to be very detailed,” Snyder said.

The board of selectmen authorized emergency appropriations subject to Grande’s review. The estimated amount was $250,000.


  1. This is all good news that a plan is developing, and that there are some realistic timeframes being suggested. In all likelyhood, the new Trailor Campus will be completed over summer of 2020. I wish we could have seen this one coming…. thanks D’Andrea.

  2. so, in one of the most affluent communities in the country, if not the world, the best prospect for educating our children is to put them in a trailer park for this year. Four hundred thousand dollars for an opm , who will never put up a single piece of wood or brick or whatever to actually build something that will have to be be torn down in 10 years— ( my opinion) A pig is a pig, even if you put lipstick on it after all. The vote is water under the bridge– time for tisbury to pony up, and build the school at their expense– the vote lost the state money, but we need to have our kids educated in something better than a trailer park– we fenced up. time to move on ,own up, and honor our children .

    • All summer contractors could have been replacing the wood with the lead paint, instead no one was doing anything. Not a very good example for the kids.

    • That will never happen, it appears that the voters in Tisbury have to be dragged kicking and screaming in to vote about using taxes to fund a new school. Next up will be Tisbury residents complaining that the school is taking too long to be built and what will happen to the kids when all of this could have been done many months ago. For shame Tisbury residents, for shame.

    • Depending on your source, Tisbury is in the bottom 20 towns for median income in the state of Massachusetts and is lower than the USA median income. Believe the numbers or not, these are voters. Please don’t confuse the Non resident homeowners and their higher median income with the actual voters when referring to “affluent”. BTW…..Springfield with a significantly lower household median income will have spent 600 Million on schools over the past 10 years and New Bedford with lower median income is also building.

  3. Fun history about the Empire State Building. In late August 1929, a consortium of investors known as Empire State Inc. employed the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon to create a design for the world’s tallest building. The original drawings were completed 2 weeks later. After the blueprints had gone through 15 revisions, the final plan was made public on January 8, 1930. Contracts were then awarded, and excavation started 10 days later.

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