A tale of two committees


Last week we had two divergent stories about the same group of public officials. A school committee eager to spend money on an outside attorney to appeal the Oak Bluffs planning board’s decision not to allow a synthetic turf field over at the high school, and a school committee unwilling to increase the cost-of-living allowance for teachers who have just gone through the most difficult two-year stretch of their careers.

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The MVRHS school committee voted 5-4 to make a deal with Mark Bobrowski to appeal the planning board’s decision. There’s little doubt that Bobrowski will invoke the Dover Amendment in his appeal of the decision. Dover gives educational facilities the ability to bypass some zoning restrictions in the name of education.

In a brief interview with The Times, Bobrowski said Dover would likely be part of his strategy. He has used it against the town of Marion in a dispute over artificial turf at Tabor Academy. He has also represented the New England Futbol Club in its efforts to get an artificial surface approved in Northborough. In both cases, he used Dover.

Much has changed since those fields were approved. Every day, it seems, we learn more about the harmful effects of PFAS. And, every day, it seems, we learn that we have a lot more to learn about PFAS and how it gets into our groundwater.

James Butterick, a member of the Oak Bluffs board of health, is right when he said this in support of a moratorium on synthetic turf fields: “The evidence has grown as we’ve studied this over the past six or nine months, the evidence continues to grow that PFAS is a problem. Sitting on a sole-source aquifer, we have to come down on the side of caution with this.”

Still, the committee is going forward, even in the face of a possible moratorium, and is willing to spend $375 per hour on Bobrowski on an appeal that’s expected to take 40 to 80 hours of his time. Do the math. That’s $30,000 at the high end of that estimate.

Meanwhile, the school committee nickel-and-dimes teachers in their contract negotiations.

If ever there was a time to give educators a boost, it’s now. Think back to the beginning of the pandemic, when school was being held via Zoom. Parents were quick to point out how much they appreciated what teachers had to go through in the classroom as they were called into action to help educate their children during the pandemic.

It’s great to say that teachers are appreciated. Now show them.

The three-year contract proposal by the Martha’s Vineyard Educators Association (MVEA) called for a 6 percent salary increase for year one, with 4 percent increases in years two and three.

We don’t find those demands to be outrageous, particularly with what the teachers did during the pandemic, but also because the cost of living on the Island is dramatically higher than anywhere else.

Martha’s Vineyard teachers do make more than the state average. According to statistics compiled by the Massachusetts Department of Education, the average teacher’s salary on the Island was $97,895, compared with the state average of $84,589.

But when you factor in the cost of living on the Island where the median house price now exceeds $1.3 million, it’s not enough. The cost-of-living index for the Island is nearly 150 percent, compared with 100 percent across the country, with housing and food being the biggest contributors to the gap.

As we’ve demonstrated over the past 18 months advocating for a Martha’s Vineyard housing bank, the need for affordable housing on the Island isn’t just for low-income individuals and families. We have highly educated professionals on the Island who are having difficulty trying to make ends meet.

The school committee’s “best and final offer” was significantly less than the union’s proposal — a 2 percent increase for the first year, followed by a 3 percent increase for years two and three.

The eagerness of some school committee members to pay a lawyer to wage a legal battle versus the unwillingness to meet the requests of Island teachers is a bad look.


  1. Unfortunately the MVRHS School Committee Meeting is Fri, June 3 @ 12 pm to discuss the Track and Field Project and Rescind and Re-vote Counsel. As you can imagine, people who work during the day, for example, teachers and so many others, would have a difficult time making a noon meeting and sharing their perspective. I encourage the community to do so. This is tax payers money being used to sue one of our very own towns. But there is “no money” to support teachers in a Fair Wage proposal.

    Link to join MVRHS SC meeting on Friday, June 3 @ 12:00 pm:
    https://mvyps.zoom.us/j/87662586340?pwd=b2JjU3FOZnA5Q0dJVmgrZTBFVEd1Zz09 .

  2. I strongly object to your comment that ” teachers who have just gone through the most difficult two-year stretch of their careers.” As a parent I witnessed an incredibly poor response by our school system to the pandemic. For the first month or two it was understandable with everyone becoming acquainted with zoom meetings. During that period my daughter had less than 3 hours a week of online instruction. By June it should have been a full 6 hours a day. By August of 2020 many states were full in person schools without masks with no negative problems. For some unknown reason the island schools, with two months of summer break to react, did nothing and continued minimal online classes. Fall 2020 saw a minimal increase in online teacher instruction and thankfully they starting working full time in November. Our teachers, who worked in an incredibly safe workplace, should be reaching out and thanking the grocery workers, delivery drivers and hospital workers who actually stepped up during an emergency while they cowered at home.

    • As I sit here on my couch recovering from Covid that I most likely caught in school, I can’t help but be appalled by your post. The teachers are not the people that made any of the decisions that you are complaining about. You are confusing State decisions and administrative decisions with teacher decisions. And for every person like you who is complaining about the experience not being enough, there is another parent on the other side of the fence arguing that it was too much for kids already suffering the turmoil of the pandemic and too much screen time. And there were parents who were not making their kids attend classes online or do the work. And there were kids who were playing Minecraft on one screen while turning off their video in their Zoom classes. I had almost no students complete work I assigned during the spring of 2020 and absolutely no recourse. And yet, I worked around the clock creating lessons, supporting kids and staff struggling with technology issues and problems, and emailing responses to emails that came in at all hours of the day or night. In the fall of 2020, we were back in classrooms by mid-September, teaching, sanitizing, taking kids outside for mask breaks, teachers moving throughout the building on carts to keep students from moving around and mixing cohorts to ease contact tracing, reminding kids to wash their hands, reminding kids to stay 6 feet apart, reminding kids to sanitize their desks, reminding kids to not touch each other, reminding kids to pull their masks up, all while still doing all the same work we’ve always done til all hours of the night. I’m sorry that you were disappointed in your experience. I truly am. But your experience does not in any way diminish the efforts of teachers during the pandemic. Or any other time. We require the same level of education as lawyers and other professionals. We were not cowering at home. The world shut down and everyone was sent home, except for “essential” workers. And within months, in time for the 2020 school season, we were labeled “essential” along with the grocery workers, delivery drivers, hospital, and EMS. Because “the economy” needed us. Families needed us. Because without in-person schools, the system was breaking down as families struggled to make ends meet and take care of their kids too. And our pride in what we did in no way belittles anything that those amazing essential people did during the pandemic and even since the worst of it. People work hard, then and now. And I thanked them all frequently and tipped them all handsomely as well. I never once went to the grocery store without tipping the staff. And I ordered take out frequently and tipped there as well to keep them going. I still tip 25% or more to make up for the hard years. Why? Because I have worked both of those jobs – grocery and restaurant, most recently heading into 2020. To even suggest that teachers are ingrates and unappreciative of the front line workers in the spring of 2020 is more of a negative reflection on you than it is on teachers. We are capable of multi tasking. We do it every minute of every day.

      • Thank you Gail, for all you did, and for this eloquent glimpse into the nightmare you toiled through.

      • You will note my comment blamed the school system not the teachers. Management failed both the students and the teachers.

        • The people who voted for the people who hired the management failed the students and teachers.
          Who did you vote for?

      • Gail– don’t take what John Axel says personally.
        He has no idea what he is talking about, but he wants to talk, so he just angrilly lashes out at random people and things.
        Your response to his ignorant comment is good. Thank you — it is just one more affirmation that the community understands the hard task teachers face.
        But don’t expect him to hear it. He has had years of practice at being wilfully ignorant.

      • Wow, what an extremely well written an thought out response. Having had two teenagers in two different schools watching both schools handle things differently during this pandemic was frustrating at times. I can’t imagine what the parents of younger students had to endure. But my kids would be very lucky to have a teacher like you and your community should be ever so grateful to your commitment. You really nailed it describing what you guys had to go through too. Thank you for your service.

  3. The MVRHS School Committee has moved its meeting around the track and field appeal to Friday June 7th at 12:00 pm. The lawyer the School Committee voted to engage has a conflict and cannot represent the District, I am not sure if this was the specific lawyer mentioned in the article. They understood the challenge for many to attend a meeting at this time. In order to file an appeal by the deadline of Friday at 5:00 pm the School Committee has to hold a vote to rescind the approval of the specific lawyer and potentially vote for a new one. The information for the meeting is below:
    Join Zoom Meeting
    Meeting ID: 876 6258 6340
    Password: 095008
    Find your local number: https://mvyps.zoom.us/u/kikWqQUAz

  4. I find the school committee’s decision about the field project fiscally and environmentally irresponsible. Shame on them.

  5. I encourage every select person, town manager and taxpayer to attend this meeting above.
    This gang of 5, who voted for litigation to attack the town that the high school resides and ignore enviromental laws that have been around since the 70’s, is completly abhorent. Our kids need new fields NOW. We need a plan B yesterday . We reject the idea of importing a known pollutant to sit on top of our aquifer. The Lacrosse lobbyists should take back their money. You cannot build our ” Vineyard Pride” , only we can do that.

    • Are you referring to the school committee that is forced to underfund the fields every single year at the request of taxpayers? The very same school committee that was asked for a 14% raise over the next 3 years by the the teachers union as reported in the paper? Where is all this magic money? And you are talking about the school committee that has failed miserably for as long as people can remember to fund good fields! This is a direct attack on the staff at the high school who do the best they can with what they have. That is good for morale! I love grass. My lawn suffers because of the fertilizer restriction on island and the choices I have to make for my water bill. Maybe we all will petition the school committee to spend freely on grass maintenance at the expense of teacher contracts. Can we ponder that for a bit!

      • With all due respect, I suggest you get your facts straight before you rant: the teachers union originally requested a 10% cost of living increase (NOT raise) over the next 3 years (6% the first year and 4% the second and third year). The union’s last request was 2% the first year an 3.25% the second and third year. Both requests were refused. The average cost of living increase for teachers contracts across the state is 8-9%, and it is well documented that the cost of living on the Vineyard is well above the state median. Without a cost of living increase that keeps up with inflation on the island we will be making LESS money. We will, in fact, be taking a pay cut.

        • That wasn’t a rant. Let’s do the math. The union asked for 6 and 4 and 4. That is 14 percent which by the way is compounding cost increase to taxpayers. Basic math. Would you tell us what the last offer the school committee made that was refused? Was it a total of 8% in keeping with the state averages? You can call it a cost of living adjustment or whatever you want, It is more money each year. Raise, cost of living, wage increase, they are all the same. It is more money that the previous year. Doesn’t matter why you call it. Yes the cost to live on the island is above the state median. The island teachers are compensated at the very high end of the state compensation rates for teachers. Add that 8% and they remain at the high end. I checked out the contract on the website. Not a rant. I wasn’t complaining. Just pointing out the massive challenge faced with paying everyone who works at the schools and keeping the grass green and in playable condition. Seems we can’t do both. Wasn’t this an editorial rant disguised as an attack on the high school committee trying to get good fields and not paying teachers what they want. Like I said in my previous post. You can’t have both. Maybe the editor can suggest how to do both.

    • There is no plan B. There is only talk. There is no other option as this is not the oak bluffs school where spraying quick grass is maintenance. There is no other reason for this obstruction then personal vendettas and arrogance. The fact, as I wrote in my personal letter to the editor that hasn’t been published yet, is the denial and subsequent letter of denial was inappropriate and borders on illegal. Clearly a personal agenda is at play.

  6. This is a tale of two Mv Times. One does great investigative reporting and insightful, intelligent editorials, and the other writes housing bank adverts every five minutes, masquerading them as editorials and worse, news articles. I understand this is an editorial, and I even understand the point, but no sense in passing up an umpteeth plug for the HB. We know whose sandbox this is, that’s for sure.

    Gratitude to Gail Gardner for speaking the truth and doing what she and all our teachers have done in this pandemic, which, by the way, is NOT over. Feel better soon, Ms Gardner. And this teacher did not have the need to mention the HB even once to islanders, with too many parents expecting everyone else to step up and do what they should be doing to help their kids, the ones they brought into this world, in the emergency that’s impacted everyone. Who knows why some ungrateful parents have to dump on some of the island’s most selfless and underpaid?

    And, in an amazing development, 7 whole days went by without this paper singing the praises of the HB. Ergo, we now get this editorial that can’t help itself. At least it’s not a news story. Coincidentally, 4 days ago in a comment that amazingly (to me) didn’t get censored, I wrote under a news article about the decades long housing crisis:
    “Really, couldn’t this newspaper find a nurse or a teacher to tell a personal housing “crisis” story?”

    And lo and behold, here we are talking about teachers. Unfortunately, I’m still not hearing from actual teachers who carry on about the importance of a HB, even as a first step. Can anyone carry on about it as much as this newspaper, restaurants, and businesses that see a benefit to themselves? The scare tactics of NO POLCE, NO TEACHERS, NO DOCTORS, have all poured forth from the business community. Funny. Not funny.

    Eventually, the selling (brainwashing) of a well-intentioned idea that’s been usurped by businesses and entitled individuals, starts to smell bad, even to the naive. Conflicts of interest are just that— when pushing hard for something that’s supposed to be about infrastructure, while failing to disclose what your self-interest and benefit to one’s self actually are. Why is a 2% money grab on home sales exceeding $1m okay with normal, decent people who know the island can’t house everyone who wants to make a killing in the building trades, for instance? Selling this thing to voters who really do want to do the right thing for teachers was a shoo-in, especially when there was zero investigative reporting (and consistent censoring, blocking, ridiculing, and personal attacks against those who smell the business community’s conflicts and raise the valid concerns and long term damages in creating another bureaucratic island bank with too much money and too much power). But we’ll see how this plays out, as the relentless steamrolling goes on and on. How rich was Robin Hood supposed to get, anyway?

    100% agree about no synthetic turf, 200% agree teachers deserve cost of living increases, 300% disagree that this editorial needed any mention of the hosing bank.

    Really, couldn’t this newspaper find a teacher to interview to support the business community’s and this newspaper’s nonstop, self-serving pet cause?

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