After he has extolled the virtues of off-menu choice making in American restaurants at the Dock Street Diner in Edgartown one morning, Leslie Baynes — high school committee member and the only 39-year Vineyarder with a London cockney accent — explains how he came to like this country, eventually.

“In a lot of ways I am the American dream,” he declares, between mouthfuls of bacon and eggs. “Look, I’m basically from the other side of the tracks. I failed my eleven plus,” he says, referring to a examination English children took before starting high school. He was put into a private high school by his military father, though that didn’t take either. “I had a great time for a while but I got fed up and walked out one day, at 15,” he says. Thus Mr. Baynes was let loose on 1960s Brighton at the height of the mods and rockers scene, where he spent all that he earned at the local printer in the clubs at night.

“And England was at a point with the class system where ordinary people didn’t get a chance. It didn’t matter if you could make some money at something — it was where you came from,” he says. Mr. Baynes kept his job for five years, before answering a want ad for the Vineyard Gazette.

“In this country it didn’t matter,” he explains. “If you could make a buck for somebody and if you were smart at something, you got a shot at it.” He worked as a linotype man at the Gazette for six years. Later he worked as a senior administrator at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Along the way he also worked as a restaurateur and for The Trustees of Reservations. Today he runs two businesses, a corporate identity design firm and a health center consultancy.

And as a longtime member of the town and regional high school committees Mr. Baynes, an Englishman with incomplete schooling, has brought an outsider’s perspective and a voice of inclusiveness to debates on the regional school and public education.

Though this morning he is particularly fond of discussing teenage evenings spent at Brigton’s Whiskey A Go Go, Mr. Baynes’s formative years began a decade earlier and another continent away.

“I went to school every day with armed guards,” he says of his years in Cyprus, where his father was posted in the occupying British Army from 1959 to 1962. “When I look back on it, it’s the reason I’m neurotic, but I loved it,” he says. According to Mr. Baynes, EOKA, a Greek Cypriot organization fighting for independence from British rule, was targeting children as part of their campaign, and so he witnessed terrorism up close.

“It got very hot in the summer but if you kept your shutters open they might lob a grenade through your window,” he remembers. As for those school journeys, the army protection was often half the trouble. “They were only kids themselves, like 18, and they used to race each other in the buses.”

Though he remembers regularly breaking curfew and generally having little care for his own safety, the dangers of his father’s job were not lost on him. “I was always worried he was going to get killed,” he says. “In those days they would shoot you in the back because they were trying to get guns, so he would never carry one and never wore a jacket, so they could see he wasn’t carrying.”

Even before this Mr. Baynes had cause to worry for his father’s safety. Born in Cairo in 1947, he was evacuated from Egypt in 1949 along with his mother and siblings as the revolution began. He was put on a on boat bound for Liverpool, U.K., while his father and all male personnel temporarily stayed behind in the volatile region.

“I remember being in the back of the car and he gave me a package of Rowntree’s fruit gums. I didn’t know anything was wrong, but it was still agitating, you know, why isn’t he coming with us?” he remembers. This was, as he points out, a pivotal time in his country’s history. “It was the whole winding down of the British empire,” he says.

Back in Brighton and out of school, he found England in the midst of change again.

“We were the first generation in a long time that really had disposable income. And suddenly there were things to buy,” he says. “I was dancing every night of the week and getting suits hand made.”

So when his father, who had spent years posted in the U.S. and Canada during World War II and liked what he had seen, spotted the Vineyard Gazette advertisement, he had a hard time interesting his son.

“He said, ‘Why don’t you try for this job in America?’ and I said, ‘What are you, nuts?’” Mr. Baynes says that, like all good young Brits at the time, he was wary of Americans. “But my father said, ‘They’re really not bad people. They’re lunatics, they’ve got the pork pie hats and loud clothes, but they’re basically a decent people.’”

Eventually capitulating to his father, Mr. Baynes describes landing the job through a series of coincidences — which included reaching out to the Gazette’s proprietor at the New York Times from a call box at the end of his street — and arriving on the Island in 1969.

“It was bleak and snowing and when the bus driver dropped us at Woods Hole he said, ‘Welcome to the end of the earth, see ya.’ That’s what it felt like. People dressed like this,” he says, pointing to his own clothes, a winter parka and jeans. “And there was nowhere to go, there was nothing. It just had bars, and a lot of them weren’t even open in the winter. I wore a suit to the movies for the first few weeks before the penny dropped.”

Nevertheless, before leaving the Gazette in 1975 to work at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, where he was made vice president of operations, Mr. Baynes met his wife, Judith, who was working inserting advertisements in the print room of the newspaper building.

Today, though he describes himself as anti-social, Mr. Baynes is a keen civic particpant and — as an 18-year member of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School district committee — an advocate of two things he rejected in the past: America and education.

“The American school system is the eighth wonder of the world,” says Mr. Baynes, who sees education as a necessary provision for a successful country. “With education comes less racism. Because of education, we stopped smoking, we stopped beating our children. It’s an extraordinary thing.”

He has a daughter, Amy, currently attending university in Sussex, U.K. and a son, Alex, who graduated from Cornell University before going into the military. Mr. Baynes has also been a Big Brother to Peter Andrews for 32 years. “You can’t mention my kids without talking about Peter,” he says of the friend, now 38, he met through the organization. “It’s wasted on me, education, but I am thinking of myself — the younger generation have to be innovative enough to handle our medical issues,” he says with customary practicality. But in terms of dictating to his children, he has kept things simple.

“One thing I’ve always told my kids is, do whatever you want,” he says.