On July 1, 2003, a small group gathered underneath a pear tree, on a patch of grass separating a rutted parking lot from the sprawling, 1-story Staples High School campus.
Several speakers at the low-key ceremony praised the high school as “the jewel in the crown” of the Westport school system.
Then superintendent of schools Elliott Landon, principal John Brady, 1st selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell, Board of Education chair Sandra Urist and 10 other educators, politicians, citizen-volunteers and Turner Construction Company representatives turned over symbolic shovels of dirt.
Ground was broken for construction of an even more sprawling, 3-story school. Another major chapter in Staples’ fabled history had begun.
The Westport News ran a front-page photo of a young boy helping out:
As the caption noted, 4-year-old Jacob Leaf was the grandson of Dan Kail, chairman of the Staples School Building Sub-Committee.
The paper was wrong, however. Jacob is a member of the Class of 2017 — not 2018.
Tomorrow (Thursday, June 22, 2 p.m.), he and over 450 classmates graduate.
They’ll do so in the fieldhouse — one of the only parts of the building not touched by the $84 million renovation.
The project — completed in 2005 — transformed Staples forever. It is a 21st-century building, and this year’s graduating class have done their high school — and town — proud.
Sitting especially proudly in tomorrow’s crowd will be one of the Westporters most responsible for the modern Staples High School: Jacob’s grandfather, Dan Kail.
Congratulations to all the graduates; to all who made Staples possible, and all who continue to do so.