Two Vineyard Educators Proposed as Candidates for Interim School


At the behest of the all-Island school committee, a group of top
school administrators, yesterday recommended two of their own for
consideration as interim superintendent of Vineyard schools.

Edward Jerome, who has served as principal of the Edgartown School
for the last 25 years, and Margaret Harris, who taught in the school
system for 27 years before being named the director of curriculum and
instruction for public schools last fall, are both now candidates for
the interim job.

The recommendation comes in the wake of last week's sudden
resignation by superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash, who leaves next Friday
after more than nine years on the job.

Martha's Vineyard Regional High School principal Margaret
(Peg) Regan said the group, also known as the superintendent's
cabinet, recommended that the school committee consider naming Mr.
Jerome as a "short-term interim" for about 90 days, and then
appointing Mrs. Harris to serve as interim superintendent for the
remainder of the school year. The cabinet includes all the Vineyard
school principals.

All-Island School Committee chairman Diane Wall said she would like
to hire a permanent superintendent by March of next year, to begin work
in July.

"It was the feeling of the cabinet members that this was a
sensible approach because Ed has the long experience, and Margaret could
spend the early period shadowing him and learning the procedures,"
Mrs. Regan said.

The recommendation from the cabinet came yesterday morning during a
closed-door session that directly followed a special joint meeting
called by the school committee.

The meeting was the second this week for the school committee, which
also met on Monday night to take the first tentative steps in what
promises to be a long search for a new school superintendent.

Yesterday school committee members repeatedly suggested that an
ideal interim candidate could probably be found within the cabinet,
although the committee has also circulated a letter in the schools and
in the Vineyard community asking for applications for the position.

Applications are due by noon on Tuesday; the school committee meets
again on Wednesday to decide on the appointment, two days before Mr.
Cash leaves. The meeting begins at 4 p.m. in the high school library
conference room.

There has been some confusion about the plan to appoint an interim
superintendent, but Ms. Wall said yesterday she expects the committee to
appoint at least an immediate replacement at Wednesday's meeting.

"I'm a little bit foggy of what we do now myself, but my
guess is we're going to get someone in there before he [Mr. Cash]
leaves so that we have some steady leadership," Ms. Wall said.
"I don't see why we wouldn't make a decision on

The discussion Monday brushed at the long-term plan, but yesterday
school officials talked very little about the permanent replacement,
focusing instead on the immediate future.

"At the moment, trying to find the right person and
stabilizing this entity are two different things," said Edgartown
school committee member Leslie Baynes. "We need to have that chain
of command and get it set."

A number of school committee members said they wanted to appoint
only one interim superintendent, who would serve through the school
year. Committee members did agree that they need to appoint someone
before Mr. Cash leaves.

"This is a period of time where stability is the most
important thing; growth and change can happen later," said
director of student support services Daniel T. Seklecki. "From my
perspective within the superintendent's office, the three major
responsibilities are budgetary, day-to-day operations and ongoing DOE
[Department of Education] compliance. And I think we have the talent and
expertise to handle that in this room," he said.

Every committee member who spoke at the meeting agreed that the
interim superintendent should have a working knowledge of the school
system and personnel, and could well come from the cabinet.

"We can make this as easy or as complicated as we want,"
said Robert Tankard, a member of the Tisbury school committee. "I
feel safe because the people in this room have a support system already
in place. I think we could pick four or five different people in here
that I would feel very comfortable with."

A few school officials said they have had trouble sleeping since
they learned of Mr. Cash's impending departure. But Mr. Baynes
said: "When I look around this table, I see that we have a really
competent group of people. As long as we can fill this vacancy going
forward, we have no need to be nervous."

Michael Halt, the interim principal at the West Tisbury hired by Mr.
Cash only one month ago, offered another reason choosing an interim
superintendent with institutional knowledge.

"As the junior member of the cabinet, I think that it is vital
that this position is filled from within, so myself and [newly appointed
Chilmark School interim principal] Diane [Gandy] aren't the ones
educating the superintendent on what's going on up-Island,"
Mr. Halt said. "And even if you can't have the horse for the
whole race, you might want to go back to the same stable."

The Island principals agreed to meet every two weeks instead of
every month, and said they would help each other if one was appointed
interim superintendent, so that the school committee could continue the
search for a permanent replacement.

"The all-Island school committee needs to focus on July 1,
2005," said Ms. Regan.

Mr. Cash did not attend either meeting this week, but the outcome
yesterday to be in line with his own recommendation to Mrs. Wall before
the Monday meeting.

Ms. Wall said Mr. Cash had suggested that Mr. Jerome be appointed
immediately as a short-term interim superintendent. And Mrs. Harris was
hand-picked by Mr. Cash earlier this year for her new position.

A three-time Fulbright scholar and award-winning teacher, Mrs.
Harris, 60, headed the regional high school history and social science
departments before her administrative role appointment last fall. Former
high school principal Dr. Gregory Scotten told the Gazette last year
that he often encouraged Mrs. Harris to move into school administration.
"When you have a person who over the years becomes the model for
teachers, it becomes worthwhile to have that person exposed to other
teachers," he said.

Mr. Jerome has received many awards during his 29 years at the
Edgartown School, and has served on numerous regional and national
education panels.