Key leadership changes at the Oak Bluffs and Tisbury schools were announced by Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss yesterday.
Beginning August 1, Tisbury School principal Richard Smith will take the helm as principal at the Oak Bluffs School. And John Custer, assistant principal in Tisbury, will move up to become principal at that school.
Current Oak Bluffs principal Carlin Hart, who has been on the job for a year, will return to his former position as assistant principal in Oak Bluffs.
The changes were announced by Mr. Weiss in a press release Monday.
“Over the last number of weeks I had a strong feeling I needed to make some adjustments,” Mr. Weiss said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. “After talking with people in the schools, at the end of last week it seemed like it was the right decision.”
Mr. Weiss said the decision came after the principals’ annual year-end reviews when he evaluates the progress in their schools through the year.
Mr. Hart took over the Oak Bluffs School last summer following the sudden departure of longtime principal Laury Binney, who had held the post for 14 years.
“When Laury Binney left a year ago, to say I was in a tough spot is being somewhat nice,” Mr. Weiss said. “I appointed Carlin Hart with the hope he could turn it around quickly because it had to be turned around quickly,” he added.
Mr. Weiss said by the end of this school year the need to make a change in Oak Bluffs was apparent, and he said he believes Mr. Smith, who has a strong track record as a solid leader and highly capable principal in Tisbury, is just the person for the job.
“I decided to put some strong leadership there. I think . . . Richie Smith will do just that. It’s what the school needs right now,” Mr. Weiss said.
The Oak Bluffs School has a large number of low-income and special needs students, and has struggled to meet the standards set by the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), which measures student performance within the framework of school curriculum. Low scores have earned the school a label as an under-performing school; last year, the school failed to meet adequate yearly progress (AYP) targets in math and English for the third year in a row.
Mr. Weiss said this year’s MCAS scores are not yet available and did not contribute to his decision.
Mr. Hart has moved around in the Vineyard school system, working at both the Oak Bluffs School and the high school. He was assistant principal at the high school for one year. He served as principal in Oak Bluffs from 2007 to 2008 while Mr. Binney took a one-year sabbatical. Prior to that he served as assistant principal in Oak Bluffs for a number of years.
Mr. Smith has been the principal at the Tisbury School since 2007, and served as assistant principal prior to that. Mr. Weiss praised his performance and his vision.
“Richie Smith is one of those unusual people, he’s a proactive leader. He doesn’t think about what he’s doing tomorrow, he thinks about what he’s doing in the next two years,” Mr. Weiss said. “The long-term view is really important.”
The superintendent also said he believes Mr. Smith and Mr. Hart will work well together.
“Carlin Hart’s strength is working with the kids and working with the families and staff,” he said.
As for Mr. Custer in Tisbury, Mr. Weiss said Mr. Smith has been grooming his assistant principal to take his place for the past several years, and he believes he is more than up to the job. Mr. Custer has been Mr. Smith’s assistant principal since 2008 and was previously a history teacher at the school.
“[John Custer] is ready to take over; putting him in the principal slot seemed to make the most sense,” Mr. Weiss said. The plan calls for hiring a new assistant principal in Tisbury before the school year begins.
Neither Mr. Smith nor Mr. Custer could be reached at press time.
In other changes announced yesterday, Mr. Weiss said that Donna Lowell-Bettencourt has been named as the permanent assistant principal at the West Tisbury School. Mrs. Lowell-Bettencourt served as interim principal while principal Michael Halt was deployed in Afghanistan. Mr. Halt returned in April.
“Donna did an outstanding job as principal and they’ve formed a dynamite team,” Mr. Weiss said. “I look forward to the exciting things to come. This is what the building really needs.”
Sean Mulvey served a one-year term as interim assistant principal this year. His contract expires June 30.
Mr. Weiss also said assistant principals Andrew Berry and Matt Malowski will become permanent at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School for the coming school year. The two men previously served in interim positions.