Schools' Plumbing Issues Much Bigger Than Just Vandalism

J. Brent Tartamella •

I am writing this letter in response to the school wide emergency meeting held last week. I appreciate the time and effort of all involved to address this dire situation and for all of the staff who work tirelessly during unprecedented times to raise the next generation of Nantucket adults.

First, I was surprised at the lack of attendance. I know timing was poor and notice to parents was short. Nantucket life is hard with parents just trying to survive (literally) and time to sit for anything extra is minimal.

That said, I was hoping for a packed auditorium versus the 40 people in attendance. This shows two things:

1) how many parents on Nantucket are just trying to survive and have no extra time.

2) the apathy of the other parents who didn’t recognize this plea for help from the school administrators – those folks your kids spend more time with than you.

I totally appreciated the opportunity to come together as it gave a few of us the opportunity to talk about the real issue. While what is happening might present itself as a plumbing issue, the current state of affairs at the middle and high school is a culture crisis, a drug and addiction crisis, and a mental health crisis.

It’s hard to criticize anyone unless you walk in their shoes and as parents, we are close but our feet aren’t fully in the shoes of school administrators. Again, I applaud the administrator’s tireless efforts. This is a problem that starts at home and is spread throughout the community and then lands in the schools. We all look to the schools to solve it when in reality, this is a multifaceted community problem that will take an all-hands approach to solve.

The drugs and alcohol are everywhere. They have infiltrated the safe places our kids go from the school to athletics and the other youth support systems. The behavior has become so commonplace that it is normalized.

The school needs to be more aggressive but as I write, I also take more responsibility as I need to get more aggressive. But who also needs to get more aggressive is you, the School Committee, the Select Board, the chamber, the first responders, and everyone who allows this culture to exist by not pro-actively fighting for our kids every day.

They say this is a $100K bill. Better ways to spend the $100K that we didn’t plan on spending – bring in speakers, bring in more mental health and emotional support leaders, bring back the drug dog as I call him, install metal vape detectors, institute random drug tests for athletes, bring in better bathroom procedures, work on a PR campaign with the community, with the chamber, with the Select Board. Spend money to create a better, more positive culture at the school so the kids are more invested in the school, their home and have more care concern and allegiance.

And of course, let’s talk risk reduction techniques. I don’t know, this isn’t my wheelhouse of expertise but maybe a difference could be made if we all do a little something and few parents said “hey this is an addiction problem. We’ve been to you and you’re not doing anything.” That could lead to solutions.

Another parent suggested a parent committee and a student committee to help support our school leaders in addressing this crisis. The school welcomed that idea so if this is our opportunity to get a committee of parents together and start to force the addiction and lifestyle issues, then great.

The culture of addiction has been going on too long and is too tolerated as normal behavior. The amount of vapes, marijuana and alcohol intake on a daily basis that is going on with children is astounding. As a community we have too many high-risk factors out here for the problem to be solved with an individual approach. We are an island for criminy sake. We should be able to solve what is brought onto this island!

To the community with boots on the ground and those that visit seasonally, we have a crisis. Thank you for reading my rant and thank you for emailing me your suggestions and letting me know how you can help. I can be reached at

Yes, I’m grateful for the school’s efforts, but the emergency is not plumbing. It’s a much bigger culture and addiction crisis that is going to cost a lot more than $100K. It’s going to cost the future of our Nantucket society and that price tag is worth more than any number we can write. Help.

J. Brent Tartamella

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