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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.

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