NORWALK, Conn. – To set a positive tone for the interaction of its members, the Board of Education has adopted and signed a new Civility Code of behavior.
The 10-item code is essentially a pledge by the members to act civilly toward each other and the public and to stay focused on providing the best education for the students of Norwalk’s schools.
After last year, when the school system was embroiled in a financial controversy and tempers often ran hot among members, school officials and parents, the board wanted to tone down the level of rancor that occasionally flared up during meetings and exchanges.
“In fairness, I think the board, by and large, has been much more civil in recent months than last year, so hopefully this code is memorializing the way we’ve already been trying to conduct ourselves,” said Chairman Michael Lyons. “We won’t always achieve the goal, but this code should make it easier for us to try.”
All nine members of the board signed the code, which Lyons said grew out of similar pledge elected officials made in Falls Church, Va. He hopes it catches on with other Norwalk boards and commissions.
In recent weeks, members of the Common Council have made an effort to act more civilly toward one another, although the group has not formally adopted a similar code as the Board of Education.
“As I said, this is ‘aspirational’ – it isn’t a policy, it’s a mutual commitment among the board members to try to improve the civility of our conduct,” Lyons said.
The Civility Code states:
As a Member of the Norwalk Board of Education, I will strive to improve education, and to that end I will:
- Attend all regularly scheduled board meetings insofar as possible, and become informed concerning the issues to be considered at those meetings;
- Recognize that I should endeavor to make policy decisions only after full discussion at publicly held board meetings;
- Clearly distinguish opinions from facts. And, render all decisions based on the available and verifiable facts and my independent judgment, and refuse to surrender that judgment to individuals or special interest groups;
- Respect all board members through words and actions, and demonstrate respect for the diverse views of all citizens in our society;
- When advocating for a belief or position, ensure that criticism of opposing viewpoints is expressed as criticism of a position, not a person;
- Be a positive role model for public discourse – practice courtesy, politeness, and consideration;
- Ensure that all sides have a fair opportunity to present their respective positions;
- Work with other board members to establish effective board policies and to delegate authority for the administration of the schools to the superintendent;
- Take no private action that will compromise the board and administration, and
- Remember always that my first and greatest concern must be the educational welfare of the students attending the Norwalk Public Schools.