To the editor:
I do not have any children attending a Vineyard school, but I believe that the education of children is a supreme priority and is essential to the wellbeing of our Island, our country, and the world. I am astounded by the lack of support some of the Island’s elected officials have shown for the schools here. I have seen firsthand the deplorable conditions at the Tisbury School, and have read about how decrepit the high school is. It is time for the elected officials from the six towns to stop the political games and start showing some leadership in ensuring a decent and safe education for the Island’s children.
I have been volunteering at the Tisbury School for the past two years, and have witnessed the buckling floors, the water leaks, peeling paint, and the frigid or overheated classrooms, among other problems. I just went in for the first time this year, and was shocked to find the library gone and in its place two “classrooms” with half-partitions for the second graders. The two fourth grade classes occupy what once was a single classroom. The teachers are trying to teach in whispers in order to not disturb the other class. For the town to reject the plan to build a new school with the assistance of millions of dollars from the state is unbelievable to me. There was a massive failure in leadership by the selectmen by not actively supporting the building of a new school. Instead the children and the stressed teachers and staff are left to deal with this failed teaching facility for many more years, as yet another opportunity has been squandered. I understand that some people are nostalgic about the 90-year-old building, but it is totally inappropriate for a modern school, and ultimately it is bricks and mortar, and the children’s education should be the primary focus.
The situation at the high school has been reported to be in a similar deteriorating situation, and no solution is in sight due to squabbling and game-playing among the elected officials in the various towns. I believe that the current formula for assessing the towns needs to be revised, and as a Chilmark resident I support my town increasing the financial support for the school. The high school exists because the other, larger towns have the student population to make the high school feasible. It is absurd to take the provincial attitude that Chilmark has only 30 students attending the high school, so why should we be burdened with any more of the expenses than that percentage of the student population represents? Let me remind my fellow residents about the contractors, plumbers, electricians, healthcare workers, policemen, firemen, teachers, etc. on which we depend, who live in other towns and have children attending the high school.
On the other hand, I feel that Oak Bluffs selectmen’s holding the high school hostage by its refusal to approve the money for a study to fix the high school building is inexcusable.
We have done a great disservice to our children on Martha’s Vineyard by allowing the schools to collapse, and the consequences of this neglect will be felt when they become adults. This situation will continue for at least the next three years, no matter what we do. It is time that the voters send a clear message to their elected officials stating that fixing the schools is a top priority, and it needs to happen today. Stop playing politics with the children’s education.