The other day, interim superintendent of schools Dr. David Abbey sent a “Dear Colleagues” letter to all Westport Public Schools staffers.
With his usual clarity and care, he noted the many contributions of a number of school district employees, in a wide range of areas. He said:
I am writing to thank you for the extraordinary work you are doing, and have been doing during the past month or so, as we struggle through this unprecedented challenge. Your dedication to our students, district, and larger Westport community has been nothing short of remarkable – even while dealing with the impact that COVID-19 is having on your personal and family lives.
During this crisis it has become evident that there really are no small parts in the work we do as public school educators. I speak of everyone who works for the Westport Public Schools – certified and non-certified. Regardless of your job descriptions, you have made contributions within and beyond your formally defined roles. A number of you have shown genuine courage in doing so.
So, thank you to:
Our teachers and administrators who, in the face of the pandemic, and in rapid time, have worked tirelessly and creatively to design and redesign a distance learning plan that is serving our students so well.
Our tech team for providing us with so much new and necessary professional learning – and for doggedly and expertly ensuring that our systems remain up and running.
Our paraprofessionals, who when called upon have continued to capably support our teachers, including providing direct service to students.
Our nurses, supported by our health assistants, even prior to school closing, while calm, sensitive and professional, protected our health – as they helped us navigate through unfamiliar territory. Since school closing, they have contributed time, expertise and materials to the larger Westport community.
Our secretaries and assistants, for supporting us in many ways, such as developing schedules for us to re-enter buildings, organizing our work, and communicating with the school community.
Our custodians and maintainers who have continued to clean and maintain our buildings, so that they remain operational and safe – allowing us to continue the critical functions of district work.
Our security officers who have provided an array of services, including making certain that students don’t put themselves in danger, by congregating at school fields.
Our central office support staff for seeing that the essential functions of the district, such as paying vendors and meeting payroll, remain in effect. In this instance, special mention must be given to staff in payroll who, in the face of considerable adversity, have moved heaven and earth to get the payroll out to all of us.
Our substitutes, who are helping to maintain instructional continuity when it is necessary to fill in for a colleague.
Thanks also goes out to the Chartwells team. Although not technically district employees, they have continued to provide lunch and breakfast to students in need.
In the final analysis, words are insufficient to express the thanks that you deserve. I do hope that someday, when we are on the other side of this crisis, and surely that day will come, you can look back with pride on behalf of what you have done. One thing is certain, when I look back, I will always be proud of having been your colleague.
I wish the best of health to you and your loved ones.
That’s a wonderful summation of this week’s Unsung Heroes. Those accolades are rich, and well-deserved.
But Dr. Abbey left out one name: his own.
A year ago, he joined the district on a temporary basis. Actually, he re-joined Westport. Years ago, Dr. Abbey served as a special education coordinator here. He moved on to other posts — including principal of New Canaan High, then superintendent of schools there.
We knew we were lucky to lure him out of retirement. We have been luckier still to have him lead us during this turbulent time. In the wake of a chaotic resignation — and facing major issues such as the closing and reopening of Coleytown, later start times and now the COVID-19 pandemic — he has brought not just the stability we desperately needed, but wisdom, fairness, honesty, grace, and a much-needed sense of humor.
On July 1, Dr. Abbey hands the reins to Tom Scarice. He too is a superb choice. Given the nature of the times — and the fact that Dr. Abbey was here for just a year — it’s unlikely there will be a festive townwide sendoff (or even a formal thank-you) for all that he’s done.
David Abbey is not the type for big celebrations, anyway. But I hope others join me in thanking our entire district for all they’ve done during the pandemic, and in honoring Dr. Abbey for his leadership of the district through this crisis — and so much more.