Top Edgartown School officials stepping down

Principal Shelley Einbinder is retiring, which follows the resignation of the assistant principal.

The Edgartown School —The Martha's Vineyard Times

Updated, April 5

Soon after parents’ frustrations at the Edgartown School were publicly aired, the top two officials in the down-Island school district will be stepping down.

Edgartown School principal Shelley Einbinder announced this week that she will be retiring effective July 1, after five years in the role. 

Einbinder’s announcement follows the resignation of school assistant principal MaryAnn Bartlett, which will take effect on June 30.

The departures follow a list of complaints from school parents, including accusations that leadership had been lacking in the school and some student needs weren’t being met.

Einbinder, in a letter to the school administration announcing her retirement, described the work ahead at the school to address demographic changes and COVID-era aftereffects. “It is my sincere hope that the Edgartown School Community will embrace these challenges … to truly become an inclusive school that promotes equitable policies, programs, and practices that address the needs of all learners,” her letter states. “I am proud of the fact that I led the school through a pandemic while prioritizing the health, safety, and social-emotional wellbeing of students and staff,” Einbinder’s announcement reads.

Einbinder highlighted adding 11 new positions to the school community during her term, securing approval of Phase I of the school’s Outdoor Learning Center Campus, and adding a shaded outdoor classroom.

The MV Times has requested documents pertaining to Bartlett’s resignation, but so far the school district has rejected the request. School superintendent Richie Smith argued that under Massachusetts law, “personnel information which is of a personal nature and which relates to a specifically named individual is absolutely exempt from disclosure.”

Smith issued a statement to The Times on April 4, saying that Einbinder and MaryAnn Bartlett have been “incredibly committed administrators who have worked diligently to support the students and staff of the Edgartown School.”

“Their decisions to finish their time at the Edgartown School are personal and their own,” Smith added. “They both want nothing but the best for the Edgartown School’s students and staff and both are making their decisions with the welfare of the school in mind. I am filled with gratitude to both of our outgoing administrators for their dedication and hard work in support of the Edgartown School.”

Smith said that Einbinder chose to retire after 41 years in education to spend more time with her family; her brother has been battling brain cancer. The superintendent also said that Bartlett had discussed the possibility of returning to Nantucket.

Both announcements follow a turbulent few months.

On Jan. 22, a letter with approximately two dozen complaints and accounts from school parents was sent to the committee and school superintendent Richie Smith. In the letter, school parents stated that students’ needs were not being met, communication from school leadership had been lacking and delayed, and that teachers were being stretched thin, with some teachers disparaging students. The parents quoted in the document had either removed their children from the school or were actively trying to.

Multiple complaints criticized Einbinder and Bartlett. “There is an absent principal and a militant-style, disciplinarian vice principal,” one school parent wrote.

Over a third of the parents were also concerned that the school was unable to meet specific student needs, including those of students learning English, other high needs students, and students requiring additional enrichment.

The school committee met with Einbinder and Smith in February and discussed declining enrollment since last year, caused by parents choosing to move their children to other Vineyard schools. 

At that meeting, parents and a former committee member called out school administration for a lack of communication with parents and lack of proactivity in addressing their concerns.

After that meeting, Smith held multiple meetings with school parents to hear their concerns.

One week after that meeting, Einbinder publicized a district-wide equity audit in partnership with the national educational nonprofit, Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium. The audit is to be completed by June.

“The audit,” wrote Einbinder, “will compel us to take a hard look at our existing policies, programs, and practices, including school choice, discipline, and curriculum, to ensure that they are equitable, and address the needs of the full range of learners in our classrooms.”

In mid-March, the school committee discussed its responses to concerns. These involved the annual school improvement plan (SIP), announcing nearly a dozen afterschool programs, and calling for more people, including parents, to join its school advisory council. The SIP focuses on four areas: social-emotional learning/culture, instruction, facilities, and community and culture.

After Feb. 1, the school committee has also offered live Portuguese translation of all its meetings. The translation is available on Zoom, and committee meetings have a hybrid format.

School officials were not immediately available for comment following the announced retirement of Einbinder.

An update on the equity audit came at a Thursday meeting of the all-Island school committee, as school officials announced that it is scheduled to be completed by the summer. There is a question over when and how the final report will be distributed to the public, with some advocating for its public release upon completion.

Marge Harris, a former Vineyard educator involved in the audit’s implementation, said the release of the final results would be subject to discussion amongst district administration and officials. Harris, also a member of the district’s Culturally Responsive Leadership (CRL) team, said that Smith and the leadership team will receive the report before deciding what to do with it.

“When the report comes to us in June … we will talk about how we will get it to the community,” Harris says.

Amy Houghton, chair of Tisbury’s school committee, advocated on Thursday for final results to be publicly released. “I would certainly hope, after all of the interest in this, that it would be more than just the principals and the cabinet,” Houghton said.

School administrators publicly announced the start of the equity audit in February. The purpose of the audit is to review the fairness of an institution’s policies, programs, and practices as they relate to students or staff relative to their race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, and several other socio-culturally significant factors.

Harris, during an update before the school committee, said that the audit is on schedule so far. “We are right where we should be,” Harris said at Thursday’s meeting.

Come June, Harris says, the district superintendent and CRL will receive a final equity audit report from the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium (MAEC), an organization overseeing the audit.

So far, the process has involved each school forming a committee and filling out and discussing individual online surveys.

According to the timeline, the first step of the audit occurred in November, for which the school district’s principals met with Harris and Rita Perez, a senior educational equity specialist with MAEC’s Center for Education Equity (CEE). 

From December to January, the audit committees met with Perez to review the audit process and receive training on how to take the survey and build a consensus amongst themselves.

From January to February, individuals within the equity audit committees completed an online survey portion of the audit. Each member then received a PDF of their responses. After this, MAEC and its CEE sent each principal data regarding their school.

By Monday, April 1, each school’s equity audit committee was to have finished meeting to review their equity audit responses, and to have finished building a consensus on any items for which they were not in agreement. Harris says that each committee’s consensus will be sent to MAEC.

Another piece of the audit, said Harris, will be the district’s yearly climate survey. This survey focuses on input from students’ families.

The schools conduct this survey every year through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), though Harris noted low response rates in previous years. She suggested that awareness of the survey be raised at school sporting events, and possibly via a video from superintendent Richie Smith. “We need to get it out there better than we have in the past,” Harris said.

Another element of the equity audit will involve focus groups, selected and conducted by MAEC, to gain further input from high schoolers. Harris noted that at a meeting with MAEC last Wednesday, the consortium asked whether the audit was missing the input of a significant population. “Everyone agreed — the high school students,” Harris said at Thursday’s meeting.

Harris says that MAEC will select students for the focus group process, and will have them answer a series of questions.

Harris said on Thursday that she looks forward to MAEC’s final report. “[It’s] basically to have us look and see what we’re doing right and what we need to improve. And they will continue working with us if we so choose,” she said.

The post was updated to include the comments of Superintendent Richie Smith.


  1. Well be careful what you wish for as the devil you know maybe better than what comes next. But no question change was needed and here it comes. Sad to see what has happened to this once great school of Eagles. They are not flying so high right now but the town will be behind who ever comes next to right the ship.

  2. So a tax payer funded study may or may not be released to the public… Okay, think what you want, but we will get our hands on that report, one way or another. This attitude of “depending on what it shows we will tell you”, already stinks of a study that has been commissioned with a desired outcome. If it doesn’t point the fingers at the people that the powers that be want it to point at, they are going to bury the report or scrub it to say or imply what they want it to say. You had the balls to commission it and make us pay for it… Have the balls to release it in its entirety as well.

    Question for everyone else: are these resignations a “win” for the immigrant community or for the “island born” crowd. I’m trying to keep score but the articles have been put through so many cycles of the MVTimes politically correct washing machine that it is hard to tell who is really scoring here.

    • Way to show your colors. The resignations, hopefully, would be a “win” for both (in your words) the “immigrant” and “island born” crowds. This about serving an entire town, not a specific group. Kids are kids, It’s the school’s job to teach all of them.

  3. How did the immigrants win?
    The Island born crowd in tiny.
    There is incredibly diverse thinking when it comes day trippers weekenders, weekers, monthers, and seasonals immigrants, washashores, and born heres.

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