A divided all-Island school committee voted narrowly Thursday night to name assistant superintendent Richie Smith as acting superintendent once the current schools chief, Dr. Matthew D’Andrea, leaves the district at the end of July.

“We all know Richie,” committee member Jen Cutrer said. “He cares about our kids. He cares about our community.”

But the former Oak Bluffs School principal, who in 2015 was Mr. D’Andrea’s sole rival finalist for the all-Island superintendency, declined to say whether or not he will enter into negotiations to accept the interim job.

“Going into this meeting, I had tremendous interest in this position,” Mr. Smith said, shortly before the committee voted 7-5 in favor of offering it to him.

“I feel a good sense of obligation,” continued Mr. Smith, who became assistant superintendent after Mr. D’Andrea was chosen for the top spot by a unanimous school committee.

“With that said, I also feel I can support the school system from the position I’m presently in,” he added.

“If I’m blessed with folks saying I might be considered as an acting superintendent, I would ask the committee for some time for me to ponder that and get back to you,” Mr. Smith said.

“[There are] lots of things to digest … My biggest sentiment right now is gratitude,” he concluded.

Mr. Smith’s remarks came in response to a direct question from committee member Skipper Manter, who wanted to know whether, if Mr. Smith was chosen as acting superintendent, he would also apply for the permanent superintendency.

Their exchange followed several resounding endorsements of Mr. Smith by school officials and NAACP of Martha’s Vineyard education chair Marie Doubleday.

“He is somebody that we can work with,” Ms. Doubleday told the committee. “He’s open, he’s accessible and he knows the community here and the challenges for the community.”

Tisbury School assistant principal Melissa Ogden also pressed for Mr. Smith to be selected for the interim role.

“What we need at this time is certainty and consistency,” Ms. Ogden said. “You have this in Richie.”

All-Island behavioral health coordinator Kim Garrison also urged consistency, noting that the leadership change joins the Covid pandemic and the upcoming school building project in disrupting the district community.

“We already have staff that is running low on morale and teacher burnout, is prevalent,” Ms. Garrison said.

In his remarks, Mr. D’Andrea sketched the demands of an Island superintendent.

“Being a superintendent is a very challenging job,” Mr. D’Andrea told the committee. “There’s lots of moving parts; there’s lots of relationships; there’s lots of opinions, and it takes someone who can balance all those things and keep an even temper and listen and consider.”

Martha’s Vineyard is a particularly complex region, Mr. D’Andrea continued.

“This is a fantastic community, but it’s an Island. There are challenges around housing. There are multiple districts. It’s lots of meetings, lots of fincoms and lots of select boards,” he said.

“I don’t believe you’re going to find anyone more qualified to do this job than Richie Smith,” Mr. D’Andrea said. “For what it’s worth, I encourage you to keep that in mind.”

Thursday’s online meeting, which drew nearly 60 people, began with the committee’s formal acceptance of Mr. D’Andrea’s resignation, with his contract now set to expire July 31.

A series of procedural wrangles then followed, prior to the discussion and vote on naming Mr. Smith.

Indicating they were unclear on how to set the acting superintendent’s salary and term of employment, proceed with negotiations or begin a search for a permanent superintendent, committee members agreed to seek guidance from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) in an upcoming public meeting.

Committee members Amy Houghton and Alex Salop were absent Thursday.