Loss of a Friend

January 22: The death of a friend is always an unfathomable loss, especially when the friend would seem by all expectations to have many more years ahead and many more contributions to make to the common good. Monday morning I sent the staff of the Belmont Public Schools the following message:

“With deepest sorrow I must announce the death of School Committee member Dan Scharfman. Sunday night Dan succumbed to the effects of the heart attack he had suffered last week. Dan was deeply devoted to the Town of Belmont and especially to the students of the Belmont Public Schools. The loss of his leadership is immense, as is the loss of his friendship and counsel. Our sympathies and condolences go to his wife Merle Kummer, his children Rachel and Jacob, and his extended family. Just as Dan loved the community of Belmont and devoted so much attention to its well-being, the community of Belmont loved Dan, his vision, his gift of humor, his wisdom.”

To me personally Dan had become a close friend in the common goal of envisioning excellence for public education. He was an imaginative innovator, friendly critic, and personal counselor. He was the kind of intelligent and devoted school committee member every school superintendent should hope to have as a partner. During my interview to become interim superintendent in Belmont, one of my most memorable conversations centered upon Dan’s probing question about my philosophy of education. We engaged in a discussion deeply informed by his own training as a classicist and his knowledge about the foundations of civic responsibility for teaching the young. To lose Dan now when envisioning the future of public education is so critical seems unfair. Yet, as a community we owe Dan’s memory our rededication to his high aspirations for the commonweal.

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