Updated November 2
The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School committee, at a single-item meeting Thursday, approved a slate of 25 members to serve on a building committee for a new high school.
In establishing the building committee, the school committee is reaching a significant milestone in a five-year process to eventually build a new regional high school with the help of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). The high school is currently involved in the MSBA Core building program, which could provide tens of millions of dollars in subsidies based on the level of need of the district.
At Thursday’s meeting, however, there was significant concern surrounding the sheer size of the building committee, and whether such a large group could move through the formidable task effectively and in a timely manner. But committee members also stressed that the overwhelming amount of involvement illustrates the dedication of the Island community to building a new high school.
Sam Hart, coordinator of special projects for the high school, said the first subgroup of building committee members — certain administrators like Principal Sara Dingledy, Superintendent Richie Smith, facilities manager Mike Taus, and finance officer Mark Friedman — are required by the MSBA to be on the committee. The second group that was discussed was the slate of nominations from the six Island towns, and the third group consisted of community members who occupy positions that the school administration believes would best serve the building project.
One placeholder in the group recommended by administrators was for a representative from the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). Hart said a tribal council meeting on Nov. 5 will yield a nomination for a representative. Additionally, two placeholders on the list recommended by town select boards were for Tisbury, and one placeholder was reserved for Edgartown. Two spots were also reserved for school committee members.
Because of the size of the building committee, Hart reached out to sSuperintendent Peter Dylan of Berkshire Hills Regional Schools, a district in the same MSBA cohort as MVRHS. The Berkshire Hills district is about six months ahead of the Vineyard in its MSBA process, but Hart said it’s the best point of reference they have. “[Dylan] has three towns in his district, and he says their building committee is 17 people. I said, ‘Gee, that sounds like a big number,’ but he said it’s been manageable.” Hart said. “They have broken the group out into subcommittees that deal with different aspects of the MSBA process, then they return to the full group for reports. I think there are wonderful names on this document.”
Hart continued to describe the impetus behind putting certain names on the list. He said other districts in the MSBA process have nominated chairs of parent-teacher organizations and chairs of school advisory councils, along with other integral members of the educational community. “In terms of Luciana Fuller, we think her position in the Brazilian community is valuable, and she runs the cleaning crew that cleans the high school, so she has intimate knowledge of the actual facility,” Hart said. He added that Grace Robinson of the MV NAACP and a representative from the tribe are absolutely necessary. Former Edgartown School Principal John Stevens, who is included on the list recommended by administrators, is also a valuable voice, Hart said, although “he will be close to the process no matter what.”
School committee member Lou Paciello said he isn’t against anyone who was nominated, but voiced concern over the looseness of allowing for too much community involvement. “Of course we want to represent the community as best we can, but we have to make some tough decisions here, either that or we just open it up and have a 30-person committee,” Paciello said. He also said he has been frustrated with leadership in sticking to the timeline of the MSBA process: “We probably should have been discussing this at length in August.”
Committee member Kim Kirk suggested that officials reach out to school attorney Nancy Campany regarding voting structure, as several committee members suggested breaking the larger 25-member group into subcommittees. Committee chair Robert Lionette said subcommittees could be a good solution, but reminded school officials that the Island district is in a unique situation, with six separate towns to consider.
After Paciello was approved unanimously to fill one of the school committee placeholder positions on the building committee, committee member Kris O’Brien moved to approve the first group of school administrators required by the MSBA. The motion was approved unanimously.
Considering the task before the building committee, school committee member Mike Watts laid out elements of the process the newly formed group would embark on. “The building committee will have to put together a request for proposals for an owner’s project manager. That group is also going to have to put together a questionnaire and a process for hiring an OPM. Then we are going to have to hire an architect and designer with the help of the OPM,” Watts said. The entire group would have to sit through both interview processes, which Watts said seems impractical.
Hart suggested moving forward with the existing slate of 25 people, with the understanding that the school committee has the power to remove or add people at any time, as long as they notify the MSBA within 20 days of making the decision. “If you were to approve this as it is now, and then we go back to the towns and pare it down to one [representative] per town, we would be on track with MSBA, we would have a larger group to start but it would slowly become slimmer,” Hart said.
Committee member Skipper Manter was strongly against the idea, saying it has an obvious negative overtone that wouldn’t be received well by the towns: “Appointing people to a committee and then removing them within a couple weeks. That opens up another whole issue — if we want to remove somebody, they might not take that lightly, and use that against us in the future.”
For committee member Kim Kirk, she said she isn’t comfortable making any alterations to the selections made by the towns without their input. For this reason, she said she doesn’t believe the school committee should have the discretion to change the second category. “I think it would make sense to go back to each town and ask if they are all right with having one representative each,” Kirk said.
A final motion by Paciello to approve the slate of 25 members with changes to recommendations made by the school administration was approved unanimously. The changes included nominating former MVRHS Vice Principal Dhakir Warren instead of former Edgartown School Principal Stevens, who will be closely involved in the process anyway. A teacher placeholder position was also added to the list of direct representation.
Who’s on the committee
The following is a listing of the 25-person MVRHS building committee’s membership composition, with their MSBA designations in parentheses if given:
Four school administration members required by the MSBA:
- MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy (school principal)
- Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools business administrator Mark Friedman (Massachusetts Certified Public Purchasing Official certified member)
- Superintendent Richie Smith (superintendent of schools)
- MVRHS facilities director Mike Taus (local official responsible for building maintenance)
13 select board–recommended members:
- Aquinnah builder James Mahoney (community member with architecture, engineering, and/or construction experience)
- Aquinnah finance committee chair Allen Rugg (local budget official or local finance committee member)
- Chilmark select board member Warren Doty (local chief executive officer)
- Chilmark resident and retired teacher Terry Meinelt (member knowledgeable in educational mission and function of facility)
- South Mountain Co. architect and West Tisbury resident Matt Coffey (community member with architecture, engineering, and/or construction experience)
- West Tisbury select board member Skipper Manter (local chief executive officer)
- Oak Bluffs finance committee member Dion Alley (local budget official or local finance committee member)
- Oak Bluffs select board member Emma Green-Beach (local chief executive officer)
- Oak Bluffs town administrator Debra Potter (administrator/manager)
- Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty (administrator/manager)
- Two placeholder spots for Tisbury, one placeholder spot for Edgartown
Six school administration–recommended members:
- Fullers, Inc., owner and Oak Bluffs resident Luciana Fuller
- PTSO chair and Vineyard Haven resident Tracey Overbeck-Stead
- NAACP of Martha’s Vineyard treasurer Grace Robinson
- Former MVRHS Vice Principal Dhakir Warren (executive director of Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club, member knowledgeable in educational mission and function of facility)
- Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) representative placeholder spot, one placeholder spot for a school administration-recommended member.
Two school committee members
- Two placeholder spots
Updated to show Beka Eldeiry is not a part of the committee.