David Abbey named interim Westport schools chief
WESTPORT — David Abbey is returning to Westport Public Schools as the interim superintendent.
At a meeting Monday night, the Board of Education unanimously voted to appoint the former coordinator of a regional special education program to the role, effective May 8.
Abbey replaces Acting Superintendent Anthony Buono, who took over following former Superintendent Colleen Palmer’s abrupt departure due to “medical reasons” in April.
“For me working in Westport is a homecoming of sort,” said Abbey, who was the coordinator of the Westport Regional Center and Department of Special Education at Staples High School from 1981 to 1987.
Reflecting on what Westport meant early in his career, Abbey said, “I will always be grateful for the kindness, advice and help I received as a relatively inexperienced administrator, from so many colleagues — some of whom, became lifelong friends.”
Since then, Abbey has held titles like principal and superintendent while working for nearly two decades in New Canaan Public Schools before retiring in 2012. Throughout the years, Abbey has also been a consultant for public schools in Westport, Wilton, Newtown, Darien and others.
Most recently, he served as interim in the human resources department of Newtown Public Schools from 2013 to 2017.
In addition to his earlier work in Westport, Abbey was a special education teacher in Maryland and a director of special education in Virginia.
Abbey will hold the interim spot until June 20, 2020, while the board looks for a permanent superintendent.
BOE Chairman Mark Mathias said Abbey’s salary will be based off of a percentage of Palmer’s pay, which before her leave was $300,411.
“That is how we determinate the rate,” Mathias said. He also mentioned the inclusion of a transportation allowance but would not mention specific amounts or benefits.
“The Westport school district is outstanding,” Abbey said, “and has a long-standing and well-deserved reputation as a lighthouse district, supported by a highly engaged community, and benefitting from an excellent group of teachers, administrators and staff.”
As for his input on matters like the Coleytown Middle School renovations and school redistricting, Abbey said it’s far too soon for him to have any recommendations.
During the meeting, the board continued discussing options for reconfiguring the populations of Westport schools, or creating a sixth-grade academy, which seemed to many members like the least obstructive route.
One parent was concerned redistricting may mean some children can no longer walk to school. She said the plan may inconvenience people who moved to the area to have their children walk as they caught a train to work in New York, which could go against Abbey’s idea of Westport being a “lighthouse district.”
The redistricting conversation will continue, but the board was able to agree on a two-week delay for the Bedford Middle School renovation timeline to get the Board of Finance on the “same page,” advocated strongly by Vik Muktavaram.
Other items approved by the board included the adoption of the Mathematics Textbook Committee Recommendations to move forward with Think! Mathematics, which was presented by Pre K-5 Mathematics Coordinator Ali Moran.
Moran suggested in her presentation that after a four-year outlook, there could be a cost avoidance by nearly $25,000 by switching the curriculum.
The board unanimously voted on the committee’s recommendation to roll out grades 1 to 3 in the coming school year and kindergarten, fourth and fifth grades in subsequent years.
Abbey said he will be looking at issues more closely, and with the help of parents’ input at his first PTA meeting on May 8.