I'm sorry to have missed the recent budget and public comment meetings of the school board, where it sounds like some interesting issues were raised and discussed. It also sounds as if, whatever our individual views on these issues, everyone agrees that our school is something we can all be very proud of. Year after year, our little school reaches a standard of excellence far beyond its size and resources. So I say bravo to Westport Central-to the teachers, to the students, and to the staff (who often go unrecognized but who play a vital role in the life of the school).

Bravo also to school board members past and present, for this has got to be one of the most frustrating and thankless ways of serving the public ever devised by humankind. On one side, they're squeezed by unfunded mandates, rising costs, and ever-shrinking state support; on the other, by hard-pressed taxpayers with hard-eyed questions, strong passions, and high expectations.

All this, no doubt, is as it should be. Life and politics are messy, and the process of hashing these things out in a democratic society is messy, too. Diversity of opinion is not something to be feared but rather something to be celebrated and affirmed. But it's also good to affirm what we share and hold in common: pride in our school and in our town, along with a strong determination to uphold the character and high quality of both. That everyone at these well-attended meetings seems to share this conviction, whatever their views on the specific issues, is itself something to be proud of.

It's hard to resist a shout out to Ben Sudduth, who walks the walk like no one else I know. In between giving up a kidney, charging into burning buildings, keeping sick patients alive long enough to reach the hospital, and serving his country in the National Guard, Ben is the father of two WCS students, Mallory and Megan Sudduth. "If you don't have the arts," he was quoted on the subject of budget cuts, "then we're just hyenas. If it costs more, pay it." That would have been worth the price of admission right there.

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