Say no to the school project

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To the Editor: 

In the emotionally charged atmosphere surrounding the financial developments of the Tisbury School project, it has been a go-to response to revisit the 2018 “scenario.” This may be all well and good, but it is also necessary to be accurate and to understand that said “scenario” may well be a chimera. 

The town meeting in 2018 appropriated $46 million for a new Tisbury School and the demolition of the existing school building. That figure was also predicated on the same level of plan development used to determine the request for $55 million in the more recent iteration. Had the process moved forward, it is reasonable to think that this figure, too, would have increased as the design was completed and bids were sought, just as it has this go-round. 

It is also the case that forging ahead at that time with the demolition of the existing school was contrary to the express wishes of the town as voiced through public sessions initiated by the planning board as the Tisbury Vision Forum, which looked at many town issues, including the school. This antidemolition view was corroborated in polling done by, and ignored by, the school committee and the Tisbury School building committee. These entities refused to sponsor such public outreach themselves, and subsequently denied the validity of the visioning process based on the premise that “they,” the school committee, had neither called for nor sanctioned that input. 

Prior to the election, a letter was circulated by concerned citizens and members of the community urging the town electorate to vote against the proposed project. They argued that there were avenues that could provide the town with the necessary facilities at less cost (using numbers that came from the building committee’s “professional” team). There is, however, no evidence to show that this letter was the sole, or of any, influence in the voting down of the measure. As a member of the building committee at that time pointed out at a meeting following the vote, “after a proposal to have a secret ballot failed at town meeting, some voters felt pressured to stand in favor of the school.” (MVT, “Tisbury School building committee to seek more time,” April 30, 2018). To perpetuate the idea that the failure at the ballot may be laid at the feet of these individuals is a canard undeserving of validation in an MV Times editorial (“Put it to a vote,” August 17). 

The follow-on is that the members of this cabal failed to provide any less costly alternatives. This is absolutely untrue. Dan Seidman’s letter of August 16 (“Cheaper alternatives ignored”) speaks at length to his proposal, which was replete with drawings, specifications, and a fixed bid. Several other, albeit less documented, proposals were put forth. It is a fact that these proposals were uniformly shelved, with no discussion, by the building committee. I invite anyone to read the minutes of these meetings on the building committee website. Actually watching these meetings is illuminating and disheartening. Unfortunately, the many Zoom recordings formerly posted to the Tisbury School building committee website seem to have been removed. There has been no response to an email inquiry about them sent to the site. 

The bloated costs of the school project can be traced to an absolute recalcitrance on the part of the school community to accept the limitations of the financial abilities of the town of Tisbury. They are willing to succeed at the cost to this entire community of diminished services and a hamstrung response to future, entirely anticipated, capital needs. 

Get a babysitter, save the date, and attend the special town meeting on Sept. 20 to vote NO on Article 1. Three hours could save you, and your children, 30 years of unnecessarily high debt. 

Tony Peak
Vineyard Haven