Shouldn't the new Superintendent be given the opportunity to bring the next COO before the BOE? Given Norwalk's historical financial piccadillos, it seems that it has been outside 3rd parties that have been most effective in bringing a fresh perspective to the gradual unraveling of NPS finances. View Comment
The fact that ANYONE is talking about raises for anybody in public service in this economic climate is ridiculous. The mayor didn't vote this for himself, but for the Common Council who did, it reflects poorly and suggests how out of touch you are with the tax paying public. The logic used about the mayor's office making as much as department heads down at city hall isn't rational either, since folks aren't too happy about their performance either. View Comment
The real culprit in the BoE budget is the $36.5M cost in health insurance benefits that have been rising year on year. The number represents all BOE employees and represents 22% of the budget. That number will be higher as budgets get slashed and health care premiums go up. It is time for the state and municipalities in CT to look at 'pulling' the economies of scale for 169 individual school districts. Other states fund on a county basis. The so called "local control" is bankrupting towns. The private sector has been watching paychecks dwindle as healthcare premiums shift to the employee. Is that the answer for the public sector? I don't know but given the generous collective bargainiung terms, job security and work rules that do not compare to the private sector, something has got to be worked out.
Out of a $164M budget- roughly $100m is for payroll and only $63M is for CLASSROOM teachers. Principals, APs and Housemasters represent $5.4M. There is another $35M of other staff involved in education, but as to how directly tied they are to the classroom, or how effective the positions are in terms of impacting student achievement is the subject of debate, when we look at our wallets or student test scores or more importantly, how we rank as a nation against the rest of the worId.
However, you slice the budget, this isn't going to be an overnight or easy fix.
Let's not rewrite history. The outside auditing firm found the city also complicit in its ignorance (ignoring) of a huge line item that moved between the city and BOE side of the post retirements ledger. View Comment
Given that Mr Mellion demonstrates zero transparency to the parents, taxpayers or even majority of teachers in this city, he has zero credibility in his savings claims.
When will another leader emerge to speak for the dedicated NPS teaching staff? View Comment
The system was broken before Dr. Marks ever got here. But she established relationship with corporate donors to make up for shortfalls in the budget and opened things up to those parents who wanted to know. Red Apples has asked for many things that are FOIA-able and we now have copies of contracts and suspension rates and out of district transfers and class size lists, etc and soon to be published seniority lists (that I don't think the union has shared with their people.) The shroud of secrecy that K-12 has operated under in this town and others is coming to a close.
Perhaps that will be her legacy!
Dr. Marks was an upstanding and decent educator who was not ready for the barrage of attacks from the status quo gatekeepers in this town. Until the teachers and administrators change their leadership (which only they control) we are all being held hostage.
I wasn't super happy about the tabloid-type headline of my letter to Stefan Pryor 'Norwalk is Out of Control' but as a parent, I feel that we need to bring in the state. As we face our 6th superintendent in 10 years, yet have the same union leadership, it's pretty clear who's ruining the reputation of our education system. View Comment
Fed Up Parent
At some stage Norwalk needs to look within itself. Six superintendents in a decade... really?? You are right she was 'unqualified' to break down the individusal school fiefdoms that are protected by poorely negoitated contract rules that Marks inherited. I have never heard of management or leadership being unionized? Have you?
She directly controlled 3 positions not collectively bargained for: These include: Dir of HR - did not renew her contract. Interim CFO, she did not review his contract and hired 2 non-Norwalkers who actually discovered the $4 budget shortfall. The final position she controls is the Asst Superintendent. Anything she wanted was ultiately controlled by the Board.
Marks was 'not qualified' for the unprofessional behavior of the gatekeepers and bullies in this district. Rest assured, the state will be. We will be part of the pilot for evaluations and the quarter century of bullying of staff and parents will come to a close.
Last night, I told Mr Mellion that the ECS Task force meeting in Bridgeport went really well with 75+ Norwalkers fighting for fair funding for our city. Mr. Mellion's reply to me, "Waste of time."
Dr. Marks' departure has now put Norwalk front and center on the map for education reform!
Thanks for your thoughtful response.
Unfortunately, I calculate that the % of the Norwalk population with school age children is less than 33% (per the last census.) It's somewhere between 1 in 5 and 1 in 6 of the population. Sadly, decreasing test scores on a national level coupled with rising costs and a bad economy is forcing the hand of education reform. Money will drive change...not attitude.
I have not been a flag carrier for the NPS budget either way. It is what it is. Structural issues, whether it be an aging society with rising health care costs, figuring out how to more productively deal with special ed, rewriting union work rules (going forward in future contracts) or better engaging parents at home to close the loop with their child and the teacher must be resolved. But, it took a quarter century to get into this pickle and it won't be resolved overnight.
Everyone needs to start thinking about working smarter and harder with less. Having spent most of my corporate career outside of the US (I've been back in the US for 7 years, mind you, so even my data is old) but we, as a nation and our children are woefully ill-prepared for the global economy. Until parents in Norwalk understand this, the localized, parochial political in-fighting will continue. It makes for great theater but doesn't accomplish much.
I too, will see you in Bridgeport to argue Norwalk's plight, but the state is also broke and the political stakes even higher in Hartford. View Comment
Ms. Smyth's energy is commendable but will she be in Bridgeport for the ECS meeting? Will Mr. Mellion? Will Dr. Moore? Instead of Whipping parents intO a frenzy, why not advocate for a Spot on the ballot and see if Norwalkers are willing to pay an additional tax to pay for special Ed and/ or health insurance? I think we know what the result would be.
Now, put on the ballot, funding for technology for online learning credits for middle school and high school and see if that gets traction. Turn our school libraries into media learning centers instead of graveyards for out of date books. It's being done in other states. It needs to happen here. The economy is not getting better, nor is the consistency of instruction. Think outside the box. Think about what's best for the kids. Just think! View Comment
I was at the BET meeting the night before. No parents were there. I fear there is a naïveté on the part of the parents regarding what happened last night. The BET released an additional $466k but that was it. Last night might have been a feel good vote for everyone but it doesn't change the balance sheet! It would be nice to have seen some parents at the meeting the night before or applying some more pressure to the union leadership or showing up at the ECS battles waged. However, the state is still broke, and we haven't addressed the structural and contractual issues that most people (parents and teachers) haven't bothered to come up to speed on. Last night was Symbolic but pink slips are sadly, still being prepared. Parents need to get stuck into the fine print... For those of us who have been at this for awhile ( no offense Intended to the elementary Parents or NPS staff) there needs to be significant changes made on a whole host of issues or we will all be back In this politically charged circus-like atmosphere again. Not a popular posting but the truth. View Comment
Bruce, thhanks for writing this informative op Ed. There has been a lot of emotion and half truths. Your background as a teacher, councilman and previous role on the finance committee places you in a unique situation to tell folks like it is. We need calmer heads to prevail when dealing with such an emotional and complicated issue as educating our kids. It took several years to get into this mess and it will take a few years to get out of it. View Comment
Chuck raises some excellent points and I applaud the band parents at Norwalk High. That program is successful because of the combined efforts of the kids and their parents. Perhaps his most relevant point However, was his reference to uninformed and emotional opinions by many parents during what has been a very upsetting budgeting process. Health insurance and special education costs are cannibalizing our public education system and have been for years. I encourage newer elementary parents in the system to look at the bigger picture facing public education. It goes beyond the walls of your particular elementary school and Norwalk. As an 'older' parent who has moved through the system. It's a 13 year journey. View Comment
You need to do some research on ECS funding for Norwalk. It's pretty pathetic and Norwalk taxpayers and kids get the short end of the stick and have for years, given that we have a 44% free and reduced lunch. I agree with you that the 3rd floor (BoE) and the 2nd floor (City) need to work together better. Elio Longo uncovered this mess, but it goes back over several BoE administrations and outdated 3rd floor systems. As financial professionals, I believe that they are in the process of putting things on the right track with more oversight. The fact that they are working together is progress right there. That has not been the case between 2nd and 3rd floor in the past.
Also Jack is the BoE Chairman not interim superintendent. Thankfully, we have a bipartisan BoE that is now working with our Superintendent after years of dysfunction. Sadly, the money has run out. What's the saying, "A day late and a dollar short." There are cities across CT that are being funded by Norwalk income tax dollars and have worse results and no accountability in their towns, since they are not invested in the fight. They money comes from Hartford (funded by us) It is a crying shame. Check out the ECS fight and funding levels on our Red Apples Website and you will see the travesty Norwalk faces. Thanks. View Comment
So the BoE unanimously voted to put back middle management administrative positions at the expense of teaching positions or technology or books? How very sad. I cannot comment on the Housemaster as I have no visibility. But middle school?
According to the NPS Operating Budget, Nathan Hale functioned with one AP, and a student population of 632 this year and with 615 projected for next year. West Rocks had 670 students this year and 653 projected for next. The net student difference of 33 students for 2010-11 and the projected difference of 38 students next year does not seem to warrant the additional expense during these tough economic times.
I understand why Roton has one AP. But I share with Dr. Moore the inconsistency as to why the BoE chose only to cut the second West Rocks AP position and not the Ponus AP position as well in the first round of cuts? Wouldn’t middle school students BETTER BENEFIT from smaller class sizes in math or language arts where discipline problems start, and not AFTER THE FACT, in the disciplinary role of the AP position?
When will the BoE start looking at improving the outcomes of student academic achievement instead of giving into the status quo and the staffing of positions as the way we have always done things?
I have sat in DDDMT meetings for 3 years and listened to the non-sense about SRBI and how teachers can take care of the wide learning disparency inside the classroom. I have also heard at the same time high school principals talk about middle school students NOT being prepared for 9th grade. What about all the remedial courses that high school students take at NCC after graduating high school?
Insanity is defined as doing the same things over and over again hoping for a different outcome.
The BoE should have allowed both West Rocks and/or Ponus to keep the AP funding but re-direct it to something like a dedicated reading specialist or math intervention specialist or whatever deemed most necessary from an ACADEMIC standpoint, in order to best serve their middle school student populations.
When will the BoE and the union heads figure out which building level POSITIONS are the most effective in driving student achievement? I fail to understand how a SECOND AP fulfills that role for middle school. More middle management for discipline is not the answer. More academic focus on the kids who need it in the classroom is! It is sad that the BoE punted to the NASA union leadership and status quo in these troubling economic times. Will they ever start think strategically?