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Dispute Rages Between Union Head, School Board President

NORWALK, Conn. – A public apology is owed, according to the chairman of Norwalk's Board of Education. He plans to ask for it at Tuesday night's meeting.

Bruce Mellion, president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers, says he was 95 percent of the way toward a deal that would have saved the Board of Education millions of dollars and made this year's reconciliation much less painful.

"Rubbish," says school board Chairman Jack Chiaramonte. "Quite frankly Mr. Mellion not only owes apology to me (and) the negotiating team, he also owes an apology to the city and his teachers for blatantly lying. I'm going to tell him right in front of everybody."

Mellion says he worked his "way through a back channel" in response to a request to compromise from Mayor Richard Moccia. "We were 95 percent of the way there," Mellion said. "I was prepared to go to my executive committee and the teachers for a vote, absolutely. That's a fact.

"It would have saved the Board of Ed millions of dollars. Millions of dollars. But Jack insisted on a hard freeze, and I told him from the beginning, the only answer I have is no hard freeze. But we were clearly 95 percent of the way there, that's a fact."

By "there," he means "a framework for something for me to take to the executive committee and to the teachers for a vote, for real." Mellion says he's confident the teachers would have voted for the deal and it would have "taken the morale sting out of it."

"We never had a deal with Mr. Mellion, much less 95 percent done. I'd like to know from Mr. Mellion why he felt the need to lie," Chiaramonte said. "Was he being pressured by the public and his teachers, as he should have been? I find it despicable that a man who does not live in this city, wields so much power over our kids' education. ... He has no integrity whatsoever."

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