Superintendent calling for unity among school committees

Richie Smith relayed his frustrations about the all-Island committee not meeting a quorum, and for being blindsided at West Tisbury town meeting.

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Martha's Vineyard Public Schools superintendent Richie Smith urging voters to approve the high school's budget at West TIsbury town meeting — Eunki Seonwoo

Martha’s Vineyard Schools Superintendent Richie Smith voiced frustrations during a recent meeting about school committees not working together. 

He’s calling for unifying the schools as a district beyond the boundaries of towns and committees. 

“We need, as a school system, to begin working together,” Smith said during Thursday night’s Up-Island Regional School Committee meeting. 

The superintendent’s frustrations came after Wednesday night’s scheduled All-Island School Committee meeting was canceled because of a lack of a quorum. According to the superintendent, this is the third all-Island meeting that hasn’t met a quorum this school year. 

Smith also criticized MVRHS school committee member Skip Manter for not giving him forewarning about a motion at West Tisbury town meeting last week to deny the high school budget. Voters rejected the budget, protesting the school committee’s decision to continue a lawsuit over a synthetic turf field. Manter made the motion on the town meeting floor, and Smith said he was blindsided.

Smith called for committees to show cooperation and work effectively with one another. “Staff has been asked to work together, and I expect that,” he said. “Our cabinet and administration has been asked to work together, and I expect that. And now I expect our school committees to work together. That is something that is imperative. 

“Let’s start looking at some of these things that are getting in the way of us working together, and address that before it gets out to towns, before towns have to speak to us,” Smith said.

Town meetings in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown both approved the high school budget last week, and just two more towns will have to do so for the budget to be approved. 

Chilmark, Aqunniah, and Tisbury will convene in the coming weeks. At least one member of the Chilmark finance committee has voiced reservations about the lawsuit, and voiced support for West Tisbury’s vote. 

As for the quorum issues at all-Island committee meetings, Smith said there wasn’t a quorum at a meeting late last summer. The superintendent had scheduled a presentation from the field director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, Dorothy Presser. Presser was not able to attend the next meeting, rescheduled for the following week. 

The other missed meeting was in September, and was not rescheduled. Wednesday’s meeting was set to be the ninth meeting of the year. 

Smith said he hoped to start speaking about “all-Island” topics to keep everyone informed of information and changes that could be relevant to all of the Island’s schools. 

“We cannot separate the work that goes on [in Chilmark and West Tisbury] from the rest of the Island,” Smith said. 

He also commended the dedication of the members of the up-Island school committee. “I see this group as an up-Island group working together,” he said. “I also know last night this district was more representative of people who wanted to come to All-Island.”

9 COMMENTS

  1. Perhaps unity might come with more listening and acceptance of local decisions. Single minded pursuit and bringing a lawsuit against a town tends to be divisive.

  2. In order for the school committees, administration and the Island towns to better work together, Superintendent Smith, the school administration attitude that the Dover Amendment allows it to operate with no oversight by the towns, has to be reined in. You are not an independent entity which can do whatever it pleases, stretching that rule to cover anything, no matter how tangential its relationship is to “education”. That’s my opinion, anyway.

  3. I have been watching quietly all that seems to be going on. Sadly, people use gotcha’s when they feel they are out of options. I see this article as a gotcha from the Superintendent. Shaming members of the school committee in such a public forum will never bring about the changes Dr. Smith is hoping for.
    Regionalizing certainly does seem to be a concept that deserves more time and thought. I’m not anticipating anything will change but continue use of the word may desensitize all our towns to its possibilities.
    The Dover amendment deserves to be fully and completely defined by the courts. Yes, it does matter “how tangential it’s relationship it is to education”
    Happy days of spring all!

  4. I see, drop the lawsuit, because if the planning board ruling is overturned, your side loses. I didn’t see all the opposition stop testifying when the MVC voted to allow the turf. No, just the opposite, they knew they had an ally in the Planning Board chair so they used that to get a well thought out field project, that went through a lot of vetting and compromise, denied, denied by one person.

    Those that have opposed this project have cost the island taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars of planning, design, and legal fees. The school is just trying to get a field built that the experts say would be the best fit for the school’s needs and what the users want. If you want to blame anyone for this division, blame the Field Fund and their opposition friends, for they have been asked to compromise, like the school has, but they won’t. They were asked in public forum to work with the school to create one turf field and 5 grass fields but they visibly laughed at the individual who proposed the compromise. There has been no evidence that THIS field will be harmful in any way, as testified by the experts hired by the MVC. All the evidence and the expert testimony provided to both the MVC and the Planning Board has shown that the field won’t affect the aquifer. In fact, it will be better for the aquifer than what is currently in the soils at the school.

    If you want unity, then the Town of OB Planning board should drop their defense of their biased decision. If you want to complain about the money, you should be pointing the finger at the planning board of Oak Bluffs and the Field Fund. If this is denied, they will have wasted hundreds of thousands of your dollars for no reason. Then you should be upset.

    The Dover Amendment is a lawful act that has been put in place to protect schools. Dr. Smith, by supporting the appeal, is doing his job, defending the school’s rights, under the law. The law decides the outcome, not the school. That is why we have laws and courts, to protect and serve the people.

    If any individual here feels that they have been harmed by a government ruling they have a right and process to appeal that decision and would do the exact same thing.

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