Island kids return to school

The West Tisbury School and Michael the quarter horse welcomed students back for a brand new year. 


Only on Martha’s Vineyard would you find a quarter horse dressed up as Barbie’s dream horse to greet students and parents as they return for the first day of a new school year. 

Tuesday September 5th marks the first day of school for Island students. 

At the West Tisbury School, there were smiles all around as kids in grade levels K-8 streamed off the buses or were dropped off by parents. 

Students and parents got a special surprise opportunity to visit with Michael, the 21-year-old quarter horse, who has been part of the school’s opening day tradition for years. West Tisbury School Librarian Stephanie Dryer said she’s been dressing Michael up in different themed costumes for extra first-day smiles for a decade. 

Past costumes Michael has worn for first day festivities include “Hawaiian” and “Country Western,” but this year’s Barbie theme was the obvious choice. Students, parents, and staff enjoyed petting and visiting with Michael before the school bell rang. 

Students and parents alike were excited to begin the year. 

Jenny Nelligan’s daughter Nora is starting second grade. Nelligan, a first-grade assistant at the West Tisbury School, shared that Nora was very excited to see her friends and make some new ones this year.

First grader Ingrid Robinson, who happens to be celebrating her birthday on her first day of first grade, said, “I’m excited to see my friends.”  Her mother, Mary Alice Robinson, shared her daughter’s joy on “We love the West Tisbury school. She’s very excited to go back,” she said. 

“He just told me he misses school so much,” said Geisi Buterro, mother of first grader Joshua DaSilva. “He’s very excited.” 

Isabella Clifford, starting second grade, was excited and a little nervous as well, said her mother Haley Plant-Pachico. 

Parents Nina Ferry-Montanile and Matt Montanile dropped their two children off for their first days. Their older son, Oliver, went off for his first day of first grade, while younger Leonardo got ready for his first day of West Tisbury’s Project Headway early education program, which will be his first time in school ever. 

“We are so excited to have both kids in the same school,” said Ferry-Monteneil. Born and raised on the island, she shared that her kids are the 4th generation in her family to attend the West Tisbury School. 

The school day began without a hitch and offered students a morning meal through the school’s breakfast program. The West Tisbury School kitchen underwent renovations over the summer. The cafeteria area was not yet open for kids to sit and eat breakfast as it typically would, but there was still cereal provided by the kitchen staff.  Mercedes Johnson, Head Cook and Food Service Director, shared that the kitchen is nearly ready and that staff are “doing the most we can for students with what we have available.” Johnson anticipated the kitchen and cafeteria area to be up and running by the end of the week. 

The West Tisbury School offers students a breakfast program that serves hot and cold food options every day on a rotating menu. “We do scrambled eggs and breakfast meat, smoothies, bacon egg and cheese sandwiches…we’ve been running breakfast and lunch here for a long time,” said Johnson. Breakfast and lunch are provided to students free of charge thanks to the state’s Universal Free School Meals program.