The Mast-Head: Familiar Stories

It is always interesting to see how Martha's Vineyard, not all that dissimilar from the East End of Long Island, copes with some of the same pressures

One of the small pleasures at the office occurs when the latest copy of The Vineyard Gazette arrives. We have had a subscription to this lovely, old-fashioned broadsheet for a long time now, and it is always interesting to see how that island, not all that dissimilar from the East End of Long Island, copes with some of the same pressures.

Two stories in the May 23 Gazette could have been set here. In one, residents were outraged at the quality of the material placed to replenish an eroded beach. The Town of Oak Bluffs will remove an unspecified quantity of dredging spoils, presumably as nasty as they sound, from two locations.

Though protesters have not taken to the streets here, as they did on the Vineyard, it has been noted that the fill passing for sand at Georgica and at Montauk’s downtown beaches is less than ideal. As here, the Vineyard spoils met state standards for purity, which, according to the descriptions in the Gazette, are far from the cleanest, best sand. “Sludge,” some picketers at Inkwell Beach called it.

Elsewhere on the same page of the paper, there was a story about the Tisbury selectmen reducing the length of time that visiting boaters can anchor off Vineyard Haven out of concern about water pollution.

Two pages on was a discussion of whether the Vineyard’s five school districts should be combined. With a sole superintendent, that island is already a step ahead of the South Fork, where each district not only has an administrative head but most have at least one principal.

As here, the districts all send their older students to a single high school. Past opposition has included fear of losing local control, but variances among the offerings at the Vineyard’s lower schools has meant that some kids are better prepared than others, depending on where they come from. Standardizing elementary education might come with advantages, the idea’s backers said.

Here, as there, it is difficult to say how the school consolidation debate will play out. James Weiss, the Vineyard’s superintendent, told a recent meeting of that island’s League of Women Voters, “We have an outstanding school system. If we could do it better and more efficiently, we should do it.” That sentiment, and the Vineyard’s progress on this and other questions, are worth watching.