Edgartown losing students to school choice

Some parents criticized the administration for a lack of leadership.


Parents of students at the Edgartown School say that they are concerned with a decline in the student population, with some criticizing the school’s administration for a lack of leadership.

Enrollment at the school has dropped by 20 students since last year, to a current total of 379. But the school choice numbers — in which students leave for other school districts — may be more telling, with Edgartown students leaving for other schools significantly more than students from other towns are coming into the district.

According to statistics shared by the administration at an Edgartown School Committee meeting Thursday, in the 2014-2015 school year, a net of 20 students were lost to other public school districts through school choice. In each of the two school years from 2017–2019, 35 were sent and 7 received. This school year, 17 were sent and two came into the district through school choice — the least balanced ratio of any year shown. 

“What is happening right now in the school is just a snowball effect of — post-COVID — but anxiety and lack of communication,” former school committee member Kelly McCracken said during the public comments of Thursday’s school committee meeting. “And if you do not have happy teachers and happy kids, you will not have happy parents.”

The news that the district was losing students came as a surprise to some committee members and the school’s administration.

“It was a shock to me to learn over the course of my two and a half years here that we have an imbalance of students leaving as opposed to coming into the district with the Island-wide school choice,” committee chair Lou Paciello said at the meeting.

“I’m not placing any blame,” Paciello continued. “But I also am not happy with that. So even if it was a historic problem, I still see it as a problem, and that we need to address and come up with solutions to that problem…We want to be the school everybody comes to, right?”

Principal Shelley Einbinder, who has been in the position for five years, said she had reviewed numbers from the past 10 years after Paciello suggested doing so. “We’d never done that before, as far as I know,” Einbender said. “And It was eye-opening for me.”

A popular concern of parents voiced at Thursday’s meeting was how the school could better gather input from outgoing parents and students to learn why they were leaving. 

Committee members plan to discuss a vote to implement exit interviews for parents choosing to leave the school. Paciello said this discussion will occur at the committee’s next meeting.

Superintendent Richie Smith, present at Thursday’s meeting, also endorsed offering site-specific surveys or exit interviews for school choice users.

Tim Klein, a parent of a former Edgartown School student,  suggested instituting a 360 Review survey system to gather parents’ feedback. 

“It can be anonymous, in whatever format you like, and you can take it or leave it. But you guys are delivering a product, right? And if we’re not in touch with the consumers of the product, that’s problematic,” Klein said.

Smith told the parents that the district sent all parents anonymous Education Department School Climate Surveys (EDSCLS) last spring, but that response rates were low. One parent at the meeting recalled seeing a survey that looked like junk mail.

After feedback from parents in the room, Smith stated that a goal of his as superintendent is to raise survey response rates by making the surveys more user-friendly. “We can’t improve without data,” Smith said.

Smith added that the district could better focus on data assessing student feelings of safety and acceptance. 

“I have a very strong value in creating that culture,” Smith told parents. “And the first step is putting the instruments out there and having people familiarize yourself.”

During the meeting’s public comment period, McCracken stated that surveys on their own will not fix dissatisfaction with the school. “This is not a problem that you can solve by a survey.”

McCracken also said that the school had leadership issues, and asked Smith to be upfront with parents about any concerns or changes required in the school.

Another public commenter criticized the school’s current leadership. 

“These are not new problems. I know because I am one of the parents who has spoken to [Smith] over the last couple years…Nothing has changed. If anything, it’s a problem that has gotten worse. There is a problem with culture in this school. It starts at the top. It is totally broken. There is no connection between home and school. If anything, I feel as though the administration tries to hide things that happen at the school…I don’t trust this administration.”

“I cannot send my five-year-old here, because no child can thrive in this environment,” the parent added.

Superintendent Smith said that he would appear at the Edgartown School library or cafeteria to hear further comments from parents. He will be available Monday, February 5 from 3:30 pm to 5:15 pm, and that Wednesday, February 7 from 4:30 pm to 6:15 pm.

“I’ll be open to listening about any ideas, criticisms — anything you feel would be supportive of your own children or this school as a whole,” Smith said.

“And if that’s not enough, we’ll meet until there is at least a point where people have felt heard,” he added.

The Edgartown School committee will next meet on March 13 at 5:30 pm, in person and on Zoom.


  1. Comimg back from covid, the numbers show that they are in the right track. Still half percent of what have been reported 6,7 years ago. Giving all circumstances and situation, I a parent of a enrolled estudant believe that the administration have been doing a hell of a job.

  2. Students’ parents choosing home school has more to do with racial politics than anything else. In the Deep South private schools proliferated after desegregation so that white students wouldn’t be exposed to black students. Social media has exacerbated this disgusting behavior. We call it “school choice.” Just like we call the reason for the Civil War “states rights” instead of “slavery.” When you see a video reposted on social media by Donald Trump of people chanting “white power” you can see where this renewed trend is coming from. I have seen the results of home school first hand—fourth graders who couldn’t read at grade level, some who couldn’t write their own name. Let’s stop the nonsense.

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