Questions arise on MVRHS committee membership

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Martha's Vineyard Regional High School — MVTimes

The MVRHS school committee is scheduled to meet on Monday, May 1, to discuss its ongoing litigation with the town of Oak Bluffs over a synthetic turf field.

It’s a contentious issue that’s been the headline of multiple town meetings over the past month, with voters expressing their frustrations over taxpayer money going to the lawsuit.

While the school committee has the potential to inform the public on its strategy for the litigation at Monday’s meeting, there’s been some question whether a former Edgartown School Committee appointee — who has been supportive of the effort to build a synthetic turf field — should be on the MVRHS school committee.

Membership of the MVRHS school committee is made up of appointees from local school committees, like the Tisbury School Committee or Oaks Bluffs School Committee.

Kimberly Kirk, formerly of the Edgartown School Committee, lost her election bid two weeks ago. 

But, according to multiple school officials, she plans to attend Monday’s MVRHS meeting. 

Kirk was one of three members on the Edgartown School Committee, but lost to Kelly Scott on April 13.

As interpreted by Superintendent Richie Smith and the school’s legal counsel, the regional school agreement reached in the 1990s allows Kirk to serve out the rest of her term on the MVRHS school committee for all of May, despite losing her reelection to the Edgartown School committee.

“At any time during the month of May, the local school committee of the towns of Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury shall annually appoint from its own membership the number of members … to serve for one year commencing the first day of June following their appointment and until their successors are appointed and qualified.”

In other words, the Edgartown School committee appoints a new member to the MVRHS committee in May, but the new term doesn’t begin until June 1. 

Smith — through an opinion from the legal counsel — says a current member of the MVRHS school committee who was not re-elected in a recent election, that member may continue to “serve his/her term, with all attendant rights, including but not limited to the right to meet in executive sessions, the right to participate in discussions and deliberations, and the right to vote on all motions, through May 31, 2023.”

Also, the local school committee could elect a new member to the MVRHS committee if there is a vacancy, like if a member resigns.

Kirk could not be reached for this story.

But there have been questions about the interpretation of the regional agreement.

Doug Ruskin, a Dukes County Commissioner and West Tisbury resident, sent a letter to the MVRHS school committee chairman on Friday saying that there is ambiguity with the regional agreement.

“The language states that the town school committee will appoint someone from its membership and further, refers to the ‘lawful removal’ of a member,” Ruskin letter reads. “Clearly, this could be interpreted in multiple ways, including that she has been removed by the voters of Edgartown. Her successor has been sworn in and Ms. Kirk is no longer an elected school committee member in that town.

“It is my strong belief that as a fiduciary, the high school committee and you as chair, are obligated to err on the side of caution in this matter,” Ruskins’ letter continues. “Given the important decisions that will be made by your committee in the near future and the clear ambiguity of the language, I believe it is imperative that no decisions be made involving a “member” whose position may be even slightly in question.”

Kirk was one of five members earlier this month to vote in support of continuing the MVRHS lawsuit against the town of Oak Bluffs. The motion passed 5 – 4.

Monday’s school committee meeting is scheduled for 4 pm.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Kirk has been a divisive presence. Edgartown voters made their choice clear.

    Kimberly please make a graceful exit. Stop trying to force situations.

    • Susan, I understand you’re against the turf project, we all know that, and because you know that Ms. Kirk has been for the project you make these comments.

      Ms. Kirk has done nothing but spend thousands of hours of her own time working for the youth of our island. Your comments do nothing but spread hate. Ms. Kirk was elected to serve as a school committee representative for a term, that term ends at the end of May. You and the opponents of the turf field want to now force her to leave before the end of her term. This is just another example of the “win at all costs” that you, the Field Fund, and the opposition of the field project will go to. First it was Laura Green, an expert toxicologist who did nothing but give her EXPERT opinion about the truth about PFAS and the components of the field, now it’s Kim Kirk.

      You talk about unity but you choose to do just the opposite. Instead of your above comment, you should be thanking her for her service.

  2. I sincerely hope that this odd scheme for Ms. Kirk to remain on the high school committee was not devised behind the scenes among “The Five” artificial turf proponents to maintain their one vote majority on the continuation of the turf litigation, or to dictate the terms of a possible settlement.

    But even if Ms. Kirk is “acting alone,” and there has been neither an Open Meeting Law violation, nor a mangling of the common sense language and spirit of the Regional Agreement, her decision to remain on the committee creates an appearance of impropriety, and desperation. Three towns have voted overwhelmingly at town meetings their will for the case to end, with one town still remaining.

    Also Edgartown voters have, of course, expressed their will for Ms. Kirk to cease to represent them on school matters. Her successor has been sworn in and Ms. Kirk is no longer an elected official of the town. And yet she remains.

    This does not bode well for the Monday, May 1 at 4 pm high school committee meeting (on zoom) at which the issue of ending the lawsuit is on the agenda. Presumably lots of island taxpayers will be watching, as it affects us all.

    Participation available remotely by Zoom:
    https://mvyps.zoom.us/j/87662586340?pwd=b2JjU3FOZnA5Q0dJVmgrZTBFVEd1Zz09
    Meeting ID: 876 6258 6340
    Password: 095008

  3. What is wrong with you people. Ms Kirk’s term ends May 31, why are you questioning her legally finishing her elected office.
    Would you be questioning a school board member if they were against the field project?

    • What is wrong with Mr. Donahue, we the people of Edgartown rejected Ms. Kirk as a School Committee primarily due her field politics.

      • Albert
        Because you disagree does not mske it so. The school kawyer stated that Ms Kirk’s term ends the beginning of June, deal with it

        • What disagreement?
          The regional committee is appointed.
          Appointments can be rescinded.
          The people of Edgartown recinded their sitting School Committee member.
          Why should she be allowed to continue to represent the town?

          • BUT….has it been rescinded, and I’m not talking about by the election? Has the school committee formally rescinded her appointment to the high school committee? In addition, it may be that the newly elected board member will not be the person “appointed” to the high school.

  4. I’d like to remind folks that we elect a President of the USA in November and he is not sworn in until January 20th. It’s called completing your term in office. Vicki, if you feel you are so correct in your stance on this topic, then you have nothing to fear in allowing the legal APPEAL process to carry on to the judges decision. I would also like to point out that Chilmark pays approx. 6 cents on every dollar on the MVRHS budget. Truly Vicki, Chilmark’s financial Concerns in this matter are embarrassingly overstated. I feel certain there might be bigger financial
    fish to fry elsewhere. We are all hoping for a resolution to this quagmire. Let’s give folks a chance. Your attack on kim and other school committee members is unfounded and not called for.
    Thank you

    • No attack on Ms Kirk was intended and I am sorry if my comment gave that impression. My rhetoric was too strident. I agree that she has worked long and hard for the school and the children. Every person on this island who steps up and spends their time on town boards should be respected and thanked.

      Nothing I have said in this debate is meant to be personal. I believe that there are sincerely held beliefs on all sides of this issue.

      Your analogy to presidential terms of office is misplaced, however, and actually supports the view that Ms. Kirk’s service has come to an end. There can only be one president at a time. There can only be three Edgartown elected school board members at a time. She is not one of them. Her successor has been sworn in.

      • Have you considered that the “new” school board member was sworn in for the Edgartown School Board and that that individual may not be the appointee from Edgartown to the high school board? Has Edgartown appointed Ms. Kirk’s replacement yet? I don’t think so, but even if they did, they wouldn’t start with the high school until June 1, after Kirk’s term ends. I believe there are only two members, of the three members of the Edgartown school board, appointed to the high school committee. Correct me if I am wrong.

  5. Town bylaws dictate when a person leaves and in what capacity they stay on until the replacement arrives. Before accusing people of wrong doing, understand the actual events taking place. There’s no nefarious underlying deeds here. The position doesn’t sit open, it’s filled until replaced

  6. Wow this fight continues do you pro turf people understand that a new president is elected in November but does not take office until January. Did you see that Kimberly only lost by a few votes so no mandate against her in fact she had plenty of support. Both sides need to stop this grabbing at straws to get there way. There is a very real issue with the Dover amendment that needs to be figured out by a judge or this will come back at us again. BTW the will of the people was heard by the MVC but it seems all the tax money we spend there was for nothing.

    • The people of Edgartown have spoken as to who they want to representative them in matters school.
      Unless you think there was 2020 level voter fraud.

  7. Her school term on that sub committee would end on the 31st of May if she was still a school committee member, but as she is no longer an elected member of her local she cannot continue to serve on the High school committee as a representative committee member from Edgartown. Her successor is sworn in. There are not four Edgartown school committee members there are three. Kim is no longer one of them. Her term on the local is over. If she was still a school committee member at the local level her term would continue till a new vote in the local. This is very basic.

  8. Kate
    The superintendent & school lawyer have stated Ms Kirk’s term ends the month of May.
    I am sorry that you disagree with the law.

    • The Superintendent and School Lawyer have no say in the composition of the School Committee.
      They are employed at the pleasure of the School Committee.

  9. Ridiculous.
    Let her finish out her term and then move forward.
    I don’t agree with the use of artificial vs natural grass. I think that you are going to cause more harm to our drinking water and even to the students who will be using this for their sports programs.
    My one question is….
    Does anyone voting for or pushing for the artificial going to profit from this 🤔

  10. How has the transition gone in the past following an election? Maybe The Times could tell us how many times this seat has changed hands under these circumstances and how that was handled. Is this behavior as out of the ordinary as it seems or, has this happened in the past?

  11. I may be missing something, but Mr. Ruskin’s comment about a “clear ambiguity” is very much an oxymoron.

    • Thank you, Richard! I thought I was emphasizing that the ambiguity is clearly visible; certainly not that the intent of the language in the agreement is clear. Clearly, I need to proof-read more carefully so the meaning is transparent 🙂

  12. ANY municipal office vacated, for any reason, before the end of its term is filled until the end of that term by the appointing body. At the end of the term, a new appointment is made, for a full term, by the appointing body. Someone who is no longer a member of a member school committee has no standing to be an appointee to the Regional High School Board, any more than if they had resigned or died. The Regional High School agreement has no precedence over municipal elections.

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