Norwalk Superintendent Search Sparks Angry Words

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Norwalk Board of Education members Migdalia Rivas and Mike Barbis discuss issues regarding informing the public Tuesday evening.
Norwalk Board of Education members Migdalia Rivas and Mike Barbis discuss issues regarding informing the public Tuesday evening. Photo Credit: Nancy Guenther Chapman

NORWALK, Conn. – Three search firms will be interviewed by the Norwalk Board of Education after a vote Tuesday evening to get the hunt for the city's next superintendent of schools under way.

A date for the interviews was not set, because many board members have other commitments this month. But it can't come soon enough for board member Sue Haynie. "I do feel there's an urgency," she said, pointing out it took three months just to select a search firm in 2009.

"Whenever you have an interim situation you've got a community that's on hold," she said afterward. "You've got your nonprofits, your funders on hold. Everyone is waiting for us to resolve this so we can move forward."

Others disagreed. "The patient isn't on the table dying right now," said board member Steven Colarossi. He wanted to delay the vote for two weeks to give the public time to weigh in on the proposals, which are posted on the board's website.

Lessons were learned from mistakes made in the superintendent search two years ago, he said. "The wrong consultant doesn't instill public confidence in the process, and it's a waste of taxpayer money."

The board will interview PROACT, Ray and Associates Inc. and Hazard, Young and Attea Associates. The possibility of another firm was left open.

Hazard and Young should be disqualified, Colarossi said, because it plans to partner with CABE, which "did a disastrous job for us a couple of years ago."

"They were secretive," Colarossi said. "They didn't include us in their screening of the candidates. They all but admitted that they brought us one candidate just to show us how good all the other candidates were. They weren't honest with us about the other groups that they were working with."

Migdalia Rivas objected that the proposals are posted online only in English. "You have to consider the whole community, not just certain parts," she said. Rivas also said she didn't see why the decision was urgent because Tony Dadonna has been appointed as interim superintendent. "We do have someone who is not going anywhere tomorrow," she said.

She then told Haynie, "I attended the convocation, I really didn't see you there as well. I was looking for you, too."

Mike Barbis took exception to the remark. "You know, Migdalia, your nasty comments, just drop it will you? It's rude," he said.

Board member Mike Lyons said there is a lack of appreciation for board members' efforts. "One of the things I have learned since I've been on this board is that the best way to get attacked is to go out and do some work on your own without pay to try to move things forward."

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Comments (29)

Can the republicans not get along with anyone?

Tim T- the argument was between two DEMOCRATS!

LsaDR - Facts don't matter to Tim T.


The constant violent actions and words from Mr. Barbis should surprise no one. Citations for driving under the influence which led to his lost license, driving while using a cell phone and of course, no license, insurance or registration.

Of course, as many have observed here, he is still driving, at least back and forth to these meetings. Where is justice?

He is no Democrat and seems to have no time for the other Democrats on the board and that is of concern to me. I guess the someone figured out that running in Connecticut as a D gets you 40% of the vote off the bat.

Do you have no shame to show your ignorance for all to see

Is it right for Mike Barbis to heckle Migdalia Rivas?
Where are the civility police/RedApples and their faux outrage?

Later that same meeting, Barbis had harsh words for a parent. He followed her out of the meeting room. Is anyone keeping an eye on THIS loose cannon?

Rivas has been confrontational since she got on the Board. Barbis had nothing to do with her ire. That's her normal mode of operation.

Paige has been confrontational since she got on this Site. This is Paige's normal mode of operation.

The Interim needs to apply. He is doing a really good job. First time I can say that about a superintendent since.....hmmmmm.....since a very long time ago.

I agree full heartedly.

Some time ago I posted that while I have not had any direct contact with our interim superintendent I have through many years only heard negative things about him from both teachers and parents. I asked if anyone could share anything positive about his many years in Norwalk and no one responded. Perhaps SchMs, you have something to offer.

As a parent, I can tell you that Mr. Daddona always treated my child with respect and kindness when he was a principal at Norwalk High. Professionally, I can tell you that he has always been very supportive, respectfull and kind. I am better equipped in the classroom because he has taken the time to listen and help provide valuable resources for our department since we lost our immediate supervisor years ago.

I hope this helps you see him in a different light.

SchlMs, you have been pushing really hard for the interim superintendent, long before there is any data whatsoever to measure his effectiveness. You already know my feelings, which I have articulated in postings for other articles on this website, and I don't expect them to change your thinking. To be honest, you are also unlikely to change mine. However, by no objective standard has the interim proven himself effective as a superintendent; no one is going to do that in a month or in even several months.

Migdalia Rivas doesn't know enough to be embarrassed by her own behavior, which is, at best, inappropriate.

Does Ms Rivas really see the need for posting a job ad in Spanish? Does she think that an applicant who can't read an ad written in English could possibly meet the requirements of the job?

Ms Rivas, your behavior is an insult to all of the citizens of Norwalk.

"You have to consider the whole community, not just certain parts,"
Ms. Rivas:
English and Spanish are not the only languages spoken in our community.

If you reread you will see she was referring to the proposals from the search companies which where posted for public input. She was not referring to a job posting for superintendent.


Thank you for the correction about the posting. I re-read and you were right.

Aside from that, I still consider Ms Rivas to be an embarrassment.

CT Taxpayer -

I agree!

Hiring a superintendent is a very time consuming job, and must be done by a professional.These professionals often know of candidates that others would not. The search process necessitates coordinating meetings with various
constituencies, traveling to meet references for candidates, background checks, etc.
Board members are elected as policy and high-end decision makers.

Migdalia Rivas

Su comportamiento da vergüenza a todos los hispanos en Norwalk.

Can't help wondering why an outside firm is needed. For what they will charge, it would seem the City purchasing department could advertize the opening and a committee of the board could narrow down the people who respond to a short list that could be scheduled for interviews. What real value do we get from these outside companies ?

@Old Timer

Excellent question. There may be a good reason to use an outside firm, but if there is, nobody has clearly explained it in the news coverage that I've read.

Sounds like politics as usual. Why on earth we need to hire a consulting firm to do the job of finding applicants is beyond me. Its like nobody in the city can do anything without us hireing a firm to get it done. If we dont know who/what we want they sure cant be expected to. Now we get to blame the firm if we get a loser so I guess maybe its a way of the board protecting itself.

Migdalia Rivas should consider that the "whole community" encompasses MUCH more than just English & Spanish speakers and its very discriminatory how we publish school & other things in English AND Spanish but not the many other languages that immigrants here speak. We cant do it for everyone so no one should get such special treatment. I'm not sure why Italian, Polish, Russian, Portuguese, Chinese Middle Eastern and other people are able to learn our language & deal with it but Spanish speakers cant. I wonder how much money the schools waste on this unfounded favoritism.

Ken -

I agree with you, also.

Bravo! I second your sentiments... Many immigrants move to America for a better life and have taken it upon themselves to learn the language. Tolerance and asisstance is needed however an attempt to learn the national language of the country you live in would be appreciated.

*eye roll*

Can't we all just get along?

Ironic if interviews aren't held until after the next meeting. I suppose it wouldn't have been a problem to let the public weigh in on the choices.

My children's schools and educations aren't "on hold" with this interim. It looks like he is doing a very good job.