Thanks And Goodbye To Don O’Day

Last night, Board of Education chairman Don O’Day told his fellow members he’s stepping down.

With new responsibilities and increased travel — his day job is chief administrative officer in CitiMortgage’s risk management division in Stamford — Don cannot devote the necessary time to the countless hours this volunteer position demands.

Don O’Day

Overseeing an excellent school system — with superb staff, a top-level and very broad curriculum, high-achieving students, stratospheric expectations and demanding parents, all while balancing the fiscal needs of the town, in  exceptionally challenging economic times — is even more difficult than it sounds.

Don served on the board since 2005, and has been chairman for 4 years. He brought enormous dedication, tremendous patience and great expertise to the crucial post.

Over the past decade, Westport’s Board of Education has come a long way. Partisan rancor, recall petitions and referendum votes are things of the past. We may not always agree with the board’s decisions, but they are arrived at deliberately and democratically.

As noted last night by fellow board members, Don’s hallmarks as a leader have been collaboration, transparency, inclusion, trust and — this is key — non-partisanship.

Don — and his colleagues and recent predecessors — deserve our deepest thanks for all they have done.

I can’t imagine the phone calls, emails and wrestling meet-sideline conversations Don has had over the years, with hundreds of Westporters. Everyone in town has opinions; no one is shy about sharing them.

Don listened to all. Before presenting a budget, making a speech or casting a vote, he considered the views of the teachers and administrators the Board employs, and the Westporters whose taxes pay them.

And then he thought about the students who pass through this system. In the pressure cooker of politics, it’s easy to forget kids.

Don O’Day never did.

13 responses to “Thanks And Goodbye To Don O’Day

  1. Mr. O’Day,

    We were still in Westport for the beginning of your tenure. WE want to THANK YOU for your endless efforts. Our three daughters were fortunate to have Westport’s Schools be their foundation for the building blocks of their futures. Each of them is involved in Education, Higher, Private and Public.
    Thank you for ALL that you have done!! Thank you for your passion!!

    The Wall Family

  2. John McCarthy

    Thanks Don.

  3. I, too, will miss Don’s thoughtful and diligent championing of the Westport schools. As Dan writes above, Don set a tone of open-minded collaboration which assured parents that their concerns were being heard. Westport is a better place because of public servants like Don.

  4. Thanks for your service, Don.

  5. Steven Halstead

    Westport and its Board of Education have been very well served by Don O’Day. He has provided leadership. He has served with integrity and energy. Westport’s students have benefited because of his contribution.

  6. Morgan Patrick

    Thank you, Mr. O’Day!

  7. Michele Wrubel

    Thanks to Don and the BOE for their tireless efforts on behalf of our town’s children!

  8. Well done, Don. We were lucky to have you.

  9. Kudos and best wishes to Don. His commitment and hard work on behalf of the BOE and the school community has served our town well. As a colleague he served with integrity and determination, and managed to sustain his dry sense of humor.

    • Faith Taylor

      Earlier comment posted is not anonymous at all, but am on vacation in Maine working on odd devices.

  10. That’s a lot of Monday night meetings!

  11. Good Luck Don and Thank You …

  12. I don’t know if O’Day deserves the praise that this article delivers to him. This article is very light on any specific accomplishments that O’Day did. Sure, non-partisanship is fine and all if it is used as a tool for lasting accomplishments, but what did he do specifically to help the school system? I am glad that, even in this time of lower property values and thus lower tax revenue, he hasn’t outright slashed the school budget. He has continued high funding for the school system. However, for example, could O’Day have intervened in the case of Dr. Bell? Why was Dr. Bell not rehired as the BMS principal (this is no slight at Paolini-Kay, though)? Everybody loved Dr. Bell. There is no reason that he should not have been rehired. I honestly think that O’Day’s tenure as head of the BOE has been marked by little progress. It has been more of a non-controversial time with a go-with-the-flow attitude, and, thus, Elliott Landon has stepped in as the chief decision-maker in the school system. That, certainly, is not democratic, to abdicate the power of decision-making to one individual. Still, while not all has been well under O’Day, we still are an “excellent school system” with “high-achieving students.” But, I will add, I think that this article misses the point on non-partisanship and democratic values. Certainly, direct democracy in the form of referendums and recalls, no matter how impassioned (read: not based on reason), are still more democratic than the indirect democracy that is the BOE.