Richie Smith offered job as acting superintendent

Officials need more information from state before starting search for permanent hire.

Richie Smith has been offered the job of acting superintendent once Matt D'Andrea leaves for Wareham. -Gabrielle Mannino

Updated 5/20 @ 12:30 pm

After significant debate among the All-Island School Committee (AISC), Assistant Superintendent Richie Smith was offered the role of acting superintendent until a qualified candidate is hired for the permanent position. 

The 7-5 vote to offer Smith the job came at Thursday’s AISC meeting, after significant discussion surrounding the process of either reaching out to potential candidates in the community and the school system at large who may be interested, or elevating Smith to the position of acting superintendent, and what that would entail. Members Alex Salop and Amy Houghton were not present at the meeting. 

The move became necessary after Superintendent Matt D’Andrea was hired to lead the Wareham Public Schools. The school committee accepted D’Andrea’s resignation during the same meeting.

Member Jen Cutrer was one of the first to suggest that the school system already has a highly qualified candidate in-house, who knows the landscape of the academic environment on Martha’s Vineyard, and is familiar with the challenges Island schools are facing. “We all know Richie. He has been in the school system for years,” Cutrer said. 

D’Andrea advocated for offering the job to Smith, saying that it could bring the value of expertise and familiarity to the role. He stressed that finding a qualified superintendent is a difficult process, especially for a community as unique and complex as the Vineyard. Not only is the job itself highly demanding, requiring someone who can keep an even temperament and listen to the needs of the community, D’Andrea said, but it requires someone who understands the nuance of managing multiple school districts.

“This is a fantastic community, but it’s an Island. There are challenges around housing, there are multiple districts. It’s a very unique situation,” D’Andrea said. “This district has Richie Smith — someone who knows the Island, knows the position, is smart, honest, and hardworking. I don’t believe you are going to find anyone more qualified to do this job than Richie Smith.”

No member of the school committee doubted Smith’s qualifications for the role of acting superintendent, but some worried whether, procedurally, it would be responsible to offer the job without first establishing a wage scale and contract. 

Member Kathryn Shertzer said that even to hire an interim, she believes, the position should be advertised publicly, in case there is a level of interest from qualified candidates. “There could be five people on the Island who could express interest in that position,” Shertzer said, adding that she believes there should be some sort of timeframe set for if Smith were to take the job. 

Member Skipper Manter said he doesn’t think the position would need to be advertised because it’s temporary, and added that he doesn’t believe there is any need to set a specific timeframe of employment. “I don’t think we want to be pressured during this process with a deadline,” Manter said. 

Committee chair Kate DeVane said, as the elected representatives of the Island school community, the membership could vote to offer the job to Smith tonight, or could give further consideration to investigating a larger candidate pool.

Member Kim Kirk said she doesn’t believe the committee is in a position to offer the job to Smith right away, without discussing salary and other contractual elements that need ironing out. But DeVane said she doesn’t want to “[kick] the can down the road,” and noted that, to her knowledge, negotiations for wage scale and other points take place after a candidate has been chosen for the position. “To have nobody in this position would be disastrous for the Martha’s Vineyard school system, in my opinion,” DeVane said. 

Smith expressed strong interest in the position of both acting superintendent, and potentially as a candidate for the permanent role. “This is arguably the most pivotal time, maybe in the school system’s history,” Smith said. “Yes, I have interest, but if this school committee does bless me with asking me to be acting superintendent, I would like some time to ponder on that.”

Committee member Roxanne Ackerman recalled three times during her long tenure in the school system where interim (or acting) superintendents were brought in for one reason or another. “They were all veterans of our school system,” Ackerman said. “If someone wants to present themselves, that’s one thing, but it’s going to be one of the top administrators that is in our system, it can’t be any different than that. Some of our best work was done with interims.”

One community member in attendance at the meeting, Pat Ingalls, said she remembers a time when the late Edgartown School principal, Ed Jerome, served as acting superintendent, along with several other well-respected and central folks in the school system, such as Tisbury School Principal John Custer’s father.

Some committee members were concerned about not offering the job to potentially qualified applicants on-Island, and others had questions about required licensure and a hard-set job description. “These are types of criteria that may open up the opportunity to numerous individuals inside the community, and outside the community, for that matter,” Lionette said. “We need to define the nuts and bolts of the job description.”

Member Rizwan Malik said having someone who knows the district, and has the experience and background knowledge necessary to fill the gap while a new superintendent is chosen is what will keep the school system on track on the Vineyard during a trying time.


(Almost) starting the search

Another objective for Thursday’s meeting was to establish a superintendent search committee to get the ball rolling on finding a permanent successor to D’Andrea. 

Lionette said he is fearful the committee might be winging it if they were to establish a subcommittee without guidance from organizations like the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) and the Massachusetts Association of Superintendents (MASS).

He stressed that support from these entities was vital during the search process when D’Andrea was hired, and suggested bringing a member of MASC or MASS to an upcoming meeting, so that school officials could ask questions and get a better understanding of the process.

Member Laura Seguin said that as a new member, she would also appreciate having a more solid understanding of what a search subcommittee would entail. 

With so much valuable information available online, Ackerman suggested that school committee members do their homework by going onto the MASC and MASS websites and reading about the criteria.

Based on past superintendent searches, it was determined that a search subcommittee wouldn’t be limited to just school and town officials, but stakeholders and other members of the public from all spheres of the community who want to be involved.

Shertzer advocated for creating an opportunity for a wide swath of public representatives to be actively participating in the search. “Just sharing in a very transparent and open way how people can be a part of this,” Shertzer said. 

The group ended up tabling the formation of a search subcommittee until their next meeting, when a representative from MASC will be present to guide the discussion and answer questions. 

Updated to include information about the search.


  1. Richie is a great man and administrator. I know how much he misses being directly involved with the schools. While the rigors and responsibilities of this promotion will actually distance himself further from the hands-on work that he so strongly loves and excels at; he’s a worthy successor and will serve our island schools well. Congratulations Richie!

  2. I believe the AISC has the best candidate possible for the superintendent’s position. Richie Smith should be the strong in-house candidate when the job is advertised. Aside from his long history and experience in the the MV Public School System, his knowledge of the nuances of island life and politics, as well as, his hard-working ethic and amicable personality, leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that he is the best suited for our community. I think the AISC would be hard-pressed to find anyone better. They should be putting their energy and time into searching for a suitable assistant superintendent to work along side Richie.

  3. How many superintendents have come and gone? Most had no ties to the community.
    Richie Smith does.

  4. If his two decent, polite, smart and community minded two sons are anything to go by, I would think that the school board would be more than happy to have Richie, not only as the interim superintendent, but as the permanent one as well! The fact that he and his family are here to stay is a plus…..give Richie Smith the job!!!

  5. Richie Smith is a fabulous educator. We are extremely lucky to have him in place right now, with so many intricate issues in play..

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