The late Ed Jerome, who served as the principal of the Edgartown School for 26 years, worked tirelessly to construct a new school that would allow both faculty and students to reach their full potential.
On a blustery Saturday morning, the school that Jerome made possible was dedicated to his memory.
Hundreds of family, friends, former coworkers, students, and fishing buddies of Jerome turned out for the dedication ceremony at the Edgartown School. Many who were in attendance had never worked with Jerome, but knew how much of an impact he had on the town and the Island.
“Finally, here we are,” retired Edgartown special education teacher Sandy Joyce said to start the ceremony. “Thank you all so much for coming on this very poignant yet celebratory day, as we stand outside what is literally the house that Ed built,” she continued.
Sandy explained that it was Jerome’s perseverance through three separate building project proposals that built the new school that was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon school of excellence. But the most important thing, for Jerome, was the vision he held of a building that would not only house students and staff comfortably, but would enable boundless achievement for future generations.
“There can be no finer tribute to a person than the lives he or she has touched,” Sandy said. “Ed touched every aspect of this Island, and more people young and old than we could ever count. But most of all here today, we honor and remember a man who prized excellence and education, who wanted the best for the children of this community, and who worked endlessly to make it happen.”
Guidance counselor Mike Joyce said one thing he admired most about Jerome (among many things) was that he always treated his staff like professionals, and trusted them wholeheartedly to get the job done. “We worked together to solve many difficult parental and student issues. We spent countless hours together keeping each other informed — his door was always open,” Mike Joyce said.
Oftentimes, after resolving an issue at school, Mike Joyce and Jerome would look at each other and say, “We did it again.”
And when it came time to build the new school, Jerome put all his effort into illustrating to the town why the project was so important.
“I really don’t think anyone else could have pulled this off. Working with select persons, the finance and building committee, Ed put together a plan, and two failed town votes didn’t deter him. The third time was the charm, because Ed found a way … Ed always found a way,” Mike Joyce said. “Today, I am proud we can dedicate this building to a man who is not only my friend, but is also a man who cared deeply about the children of this town. Ed wanted the very best for them and their teachers.”
Retired Assistant Principal Anne Fligor said she was overjoyed when typing the minutes from the building committee when the plan to build the new school was ultimately galvanized.
“A building is going to be built. That statement to the staff went in all capital letters to highlight the accomplishment and point where what was dreamed of became a reality for the community,” Fligor said.
It was always Jerome’s vision to create an environment where students and staff could reach their full potential, and when the new school was built, he knew it was the first step toward a bright future for all who entered through the Edgartown School doors.
“We were moving from a building that had history to a building that was going to make its own history. With students entering through its doors that would leave with memories and an education that would provide them with the future of their choosing,” Fligor said.
Fligor added that Jerome was aware a new building doesn’t make a school, so he made sure beloved traditions remained, such as the kindergarten picnic, United Nations Day speeches about families of students finding their new homes in America, the March to the Sea, eighth grade graduation at the Old Whaling Church, and of course, the talking fish in his office.
According to Fligor, Jerome valued a passion for teaching children above all other qualities when interviewing a potential candidate for a position at the school.
“If that person didn’t acknowledge their love of working with children within the first five minutes of the interview, [Jerome] was doubtful they had what it took to be a member of the staff,” Fligor said.
Apart from being principal of the school, Jerome was also the president of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby for many years.
Derby treasurer Chris Scott said Jerome was the one to save the Derby when the Chamber of Commerce was going to abandon the tournament in 1986, and it was his idea to create a scholarship program for the Derby.
“Since 1988, 116 students have been awarded a total of $763,000 dollars for their education,” Scott said.
Island musician and Edgartown School graduate Joanne Cassidy said she recalls being in third grade when Jerome was fishing the Derby, and ended up getting a big hook stuck in his thumb.
For the Halloween costume contest that year, Cassidy dressed up as Jerome “with the mustache, the hat, the big glasses, the vest, and a huge hook through [her] thumb all bloody with gauze,” she laughed. “I think I might have won the contest that year.”
When Cassidy graduated, Jerome asked her to sing a song called “Look to the Rainbow” for the graduation ceremony.
Cassidy explained that on the day of Jerome’s passing, a bright rainbow formed over his house, and another formed one year later on the anniversary of his death. For the first time since she was 13 years old, Cassidy sang the song at the dedication ceremony, and said that she expects to see the rainbow again. “Now I just keep looking up, I know it’s coming,’ Cassidy said.
Jerome’s wife, Maryanne, said the Edgartown School community meant a great deal to Jerome, and the success of that community was paramount in everything he did.
“Ed believed that creating a connection with students is vitally important. He would be seen greeting students outside each morning, eating lunch with the kindergarteners, and delivering birthday books to students. Many weekday nights he would be on the phone calling those students that had gone home sick that day to check in on them,” Maryanne said. She said Jerome’s legacy has left an indelible mark on the Edgartown community and the Island as a whole, and his memory will never be forgotten.
Jerome’s son, Nicholas, read a letter Jerome wrote on the eve of his retirement. “Never once was it about me, it was always about all of us. However, it was the wonderful children of Edgartown that really brought joy to my job,” Nicholas read from the letter.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to live and work in this fine community. I will always be extremely proud to say I was the principal of the Edgartown School.”
As part of the dedication, a granite bench was placed outside the principal’s office window, where Jerome would often watch with joy as children were dropped off for the school day.
On the bench is engraved a quote by Dr. Seuss: “The more that you read, the more things you will know, the more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”