Tag Archives: Dr. David Abbey

Unsung Heroes #143

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.

Staples’ popular head custodian Horace Lewis leads a great — and essential — staff. The other schools have equally dedicated crews.

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.

Dr. David Abbey

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. 

Madison Educator Is Westport’s New Schools Superintendent

Proclaiming himself fully aware of Westport’s challenges — and eager to get started — Thomas Scarice was named tonight as Westport’s new superintendent of schools.

For the last 8 years, Scarice has served as superintendent in Madison — an affluent and high-achieving New Haven suburb.

But he’s no stranger to Fairfield County education. Prior to that post, Scarice was assistant superintendent of the Weston public schools.

Thomas Scarice (Photo courtesy of Zip06.com)

Before their unanimous (and socially distant) online vote, the 7 Board of Education members praised the new schools’ head with enthusiasm and passion.

He was hailed as “a great communicator,” “intelligent,” “driven,” “innovative,” “a strategic thinker,” “warm” and “engaging.”

Interim superintendent David Abbey — who also was warmly praised for his leadership over the past year — called him a “thought leader.” In fact, Abbey said, “I follow him on Twitter.”

The board noted that even among a “truly exceptional pool” of candidates, Scarice stood out.

In his remarks, the new education leader acknowledged both the coronavirus crisis, and the difficulties Westport public schools have endured. (In the past two years, Coleytown Middle School was closed due to mold, and former superintendent Colleen Palmer resigned after a tumultuous 3-year tenure.)

But our recent national crisis, he said, underscore the crucial role that public schools play. Referencing both 9/11 and Sandy Hook, he noted that helping students in times like these are “part of my calling as an educator.”

Scarice thanked search consultant Joe Erardi, the Board of Education, Dr. Abbey (“an educational giant — a Yoda”), and praised the Westport staff he will soon lead.

Scarice — whose Twitter profile reads “Husband of Kerry, Father of Ella, Owen, and Gavin. Superintendent of schools. Mission driven to transform schooling. Child-centered is the only way I roll” — begins officially on July 1.

Thomas Scarice tonight on the Board of Education livestream, moments after being Westport’s new superintendent of schools.

Interim Schools Superintendent Is A Familiar Face

Dr. David Abbey — an experienced and popular administrator in Westport, who subsequently moved on to positions as principal and superintendent in nearby towns — is returning here.

Tonight, he was named Westport’s interim superintendent of schools.

The Board of Education announced the appointment. It is effective Wednesday (May 8). He will serve until a permanent superintendent is found — “presumably for the 2020-2021 school year,” the board said.

Dr. David Abbey

In Westport, Dr. Abbey served as coordinator of the Westport Regional Center and department of special education at Staples High School.

He then moved to New Canaan in a variety of roles, including director of pupil personnel services, principal of New Canaan High School, and superintendent of schools.

He has also served as interim director of human resources for both the Newtown and Wilton Public Schools.

“It is gratifying to find someone of Dr. Abbey’s caliber to lead our schools through this transition period. The fact that he has experience in the Westport Public Schools adds to Dr. Abbey’s ability to quickly and effectively engage with our Westport community,” said Mark Mathias, Westport Board of Ed chair.

Dr. Abbey added, “I would like to thank the Board of Education for appointing me as interim superintendent of schools. The Westport Public Schools is an outstanding district — and has a longstanding and well-deserved reputation as a lighthouse district, supported by a highly engaged community and benefiting from an excellent group of teachers, administrators and staff. For me, working in Westport is a homecoming of sorts.”

Dr. Abbey replaces Colleen Palmer, who served for 3 years. She is on medical leave through July.