NORWALK, Conn. – A newly hired Norwalk teacher with a bachelor's degree will earn more in his or her first year than a teacher in Stamford or Danbury, according to information made available online by ConnCAN, an education advocacy group. But, in some categories, Norwalk teachers make less than in Stamford and Danbury.
ConnCAN recently released an online Teacher Contract Database, which, it says provides "unprecedented access to teachers' contracts from 173 out of 174 local education agencies (LEAs), including traditional public school districts, regional districts, charter schools and the state vocational-technical high school system."
It's the "first time in state history that there is a reliable statewide source for all things contract-related," Patrick Riccards, ConnCAN CEO, wrote to Norwalk resident Lisa Brinton Thomson in an email.
Thomson said she spoke to ConnCAN representatives a few days before the database was made public. "They specifically mentioned to me how Norwalk disproportionally sticks out with respect to its generous salaries and terms and conditions," she said in an email. "This is a credit to the parents and taxpayers of Norwalk and the value that we place on teachers, when one considers that we get virtually none of our ECS (Educational Cost Sharing) Hartford tax dollars returned to the city."
The database shows that Norwalk teachers are paid more than the average teacher in Connecticut, but are comparable to teachers in Stamford and Danbury. In some categories, Norwalk teachers make less.
"One of the things that sticks out about Norwalk is that there are eight salary grades," Thomson said. "The state average is four. So, at least with this database, it is hard to compare apples to apples.
"The question I have is, why does Norwalk need to have double the number of salary grades to the rest of the state?"
Norwalk teachers are required to work one less teaching day per year than those in Danbury and Stamford, the database shows. Their workday length is less than the state average. The elementary school workday length in Norwalk is six hours, 35 minutes, while the state average is seven hours, 12 minutes.
"We know that many, many teachers work much longer days than what is required in their contract," Riccards wrote in his email. "However, when disputes arise or reforms are sought, the contract is a document that guides decisions and work rules and we believe that we must, therefore, look closely at what these contracts stipulate."
"As a member of the DDMT (District Data Management Team), the state-mandated initiative for school districts in need of improvement, there were a lot of complaints by NPS staff that there was not enough time to analyze student data and examine adult actions," Thomson wrote. "I now read that to mean not enough time as per the contract."
"Norwalk teachers start early, stay late and do everything extra that they can possibly do, in a diverse population," said Bruce Mellion, president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers.
The pay rate of Norwalk teachers was disproportionately low for a long time, Mellion said, and was one pay grade above Bridgeport. The fact that Norwalk now pays better attracts a higher quality of teachers, he said.
"That's how you get the best teachers. You get good teachers because you pay well," he said, adding that higher pay draws more applicants and more competition.
Mellion has told his union members that their benefits are "unparalleled in each category and collectively in the state and the nation," as shown in the document attached below. Also in the document is a comparison of raises received by DPW workers, police and teachers, as well as a list of things the Norwalk Federation of Teachers has done that have benefited Norwalk.