Roofs for Education

In educating the youth of the Vineyard, Island teachers provide a crucial public service.

Yet Island schools now face the alarming prospect that they will not be able to hire and retain teachers to teach certain subjects.

A confluence of two trends — one economic, one academic — has led the Vineyard to this unhappy turn.

One is the high cost of Island housing, much more expensive than many mainland communities. Despite the slowing of the Vineyard housing market in the past couple of years, the cost of buying even a modest home on the Island remains too high for many skilled teachers who otherwise would welcome the chance to move to the Vineyard and teach here. Rents and leases also are daunting, especially for teachers just starting out.

The other is legislation, chiefly the federal initiative No Child Left Behind, which requires that teachers be properly certified for the subjects that they teach. Laudable in theory, the effort backfires when certified teachers cannot be found — and when obtaining certification poses serious logistical hurdles for people trying to get to the necessary off-Island courses. But the stricter rules requiring certification are here to stay, whether on or off-Island.

At present, Vineyard schools are confronting teacher shortages in the areas of math, computers, special education and foreign languages.

The stricter rules about certification are here to stay and nothing can be done about that.

But something can be done about the housing problem, and at this juncture the Vineyard would be wise to address the problem head-on. Affordable housing has mushroomed into a small industry here, and yet there have been no initiatives exclusively targeting housing for teachers.

On Nantucket, where real estate prices are even more outrageous than on the Vineyard, a collaborative effort in recent years led to the construction of twelve housing units specifically for teachers.

With so much existing housing stock on the market, converting some of it to dedicated housing for teachers is well within the reach of the numerous groups devoted to the affordable housing cause.