Joan Schine — the former Board of Education chairman who died Saturday at 87 — is being lauded for her strong commitment to Westport, and education in all forms, during a lifetime of service.
WestportNow.com‘s James Lomuscio wrote a fond remembrance, citing her courageous stand in 1970 in favor of Project Concern. That program — proposed here in 1970 — allowed 25 Bridgeport students to be bused to Westport, from elementary through high school.
Outraged opponents threatened a recall drive, which ultimately failed. The Board of Ed — with the backing of Schine and prominent Republican Allen Raymond, and buoyed by the support of well-respected citizens like Lou Nistico — voted 3-2 in favor of Project Concern.
It lasted for a decade, and brought dozens of Bridgeport youngsters here to study and socialize. It is fondly recalled today, by schoolchildren from both towns who are now well-established adults.
Joan Schine’s legacy has lasted far longer than Project Concern’s decade. The values established by that program — and fought for so fervently by her — have underpinned much of Westport’s educational philosophy in the years since.
We have mostly — though not always supported — those values with Board of Ed votes, and with tax dollars. But they’re still there. We still believe that education is vital; that we must involve ourselves with surrounding communities, and that our students must be part of something larger than themselves.
I’m not sure what kind of school system Westport would have today had Joan Schine not prevailed in that decisive 1970 vote.
And I’m even less sure what kind of town this would be.