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School a community treasure

Westport School has a census of 274 students K-12. Though it is a small school, it is not small in talented teachers, accomplished students, sports excellence, and academic performance.

"There is an expectation of success here; I saw it on my first day," said Building Principal Michele Friedman. "I cannot take any credit for that. I suspect that it is a long standing element of the school culture."

"Westport offers a unique educational experience in that the school has succeeded in making the student body as responsible for the culture of success as any staff member is," Friedman added. "We are intentional about involving everyone in helping students be successful. We instituted the 'How Full is Your Bucket' philosophy and involved instructional, non-instructional staff and students."

Bucket references can be found posted around the school, including classrooms. A typical phrase might say, "Have you filled a bucket today?"

"We let everyone in the school know what we expect and we are very clear about those expectations," said Friedman. "The net effect is that we spend less time focusing on negative behaviors and more time focusing on positive behaviors."

According to Friedman, there are many opportunities for students to learn from each other. It is a common practice for older students to mentor younger children and, in doing so, pass along important school values. High school teachers are also part of the mentoring experience.

"Teachers often use their lunch breaks or free periods to give students individual attention and support," Friedman said. "Extraordinary effort from teachers is ordinary at Westport."

Westport was one of two Essex County schools that were recognized nationally for their excellence last year. The school has had a 100-percent graduation rate over the last decade. The rate of students attending college and graduating from college is high. A quick walk through the school gymnasium, crowded with championship banners, will inform you of the success of their sports programs.

"Westport School is a community treasure and the community has recognized just how special the school is," said Friedman.

There are many excellent schools in Essex County and Westport is one of them. Congratulations to the Westport School and community. Remember, all kids count.

Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at hurlburt@wildblue.net

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