Superintendent David Gamberg leads the schools of two adjoining school districts on Long Island, Greenport and Southold on Long Island. Gamberg has a holistic view of education. He believes in the full development of young children as happy, healthy, well-rounded people. He thinks that the arts are far more important than test scores. He wants the children to explore their talents. His schools have a garden, where the children raise vegetables and share them. Southold schools have an amazing array of musical activities, including an orchestra, a choir, and a jazz band. It also has an award-winning robotics team. And its rate of opting out from state tests is one of the highest in the state.

Superintendent Gamberg invited Mary and me to attend the major school production of the school year: “Les Miserables.”

We had seen it many years ago in both London and New York. It is a big, ambitious production, with a huge cast and demanding musical numbers. I couldn’t imagine how students could pull off this sprawling and complicated musical.

The event was held in the high school auditorium, which holds about 700 people. Lucky we had reserved seats because the house was packed, as were all the other performances. Parents, grandparents, siblings, and local community members from every walk of life.

The music was supplied by the school’s 16-piece orchestra, and it was fabulous. The show was spectacular.

We were blown away by the acting, the singing, and the staging. The student talent was amazing. Some of the kids had acted in school productions for four, five, or six years. There must have been fifty students in the cast, maybe more, and many more working behind the scenes. The story of Jean Val Jean and Inspector Javert was presented with zest, passion, and the energy of youth.

It was really, really funny to see these beautiful children standing on the barricades and singing about the revolution and waving a big red flag in a community that voted by a small margin for Trump.

We loved the show and so did the rest of the audience. The cast and orchestra received a standing ovation and cheers that rocked the room.

We looked at each other and said, “Now we know why we pay taxes, and it is money well spent.”

An event like this performance is what makes a public school a community school. You can bet that the next bond issue will easily pass. Not just because of this production, but because of the vision that produces an education that unifies the community and gives all children a chance to shine.

America has many thousands of communities like this one. The public schools are the cement of the community.

Betsy DeVos doesn’t understand that. She never will. Sad.