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Jan 222013

Last week, the Norwalk Board of Education (BOE) launched an online survey, developed by the Illinois-based search firm, PROACT.  It is asking respondents to identify various attributes when selecting the next superintendent.  Open to both residents and parents, the survey is part of the Board of Ed’s promise to reach out to the community for input.  The survey can be found on the home page of the the NPS website or by clicking here.  Super Survey

Below is the proposal that PROACT provided to the BOE last fall.

ProAct Proposal


Nov 052012

On November 3rd, a State Department of Education Arbitration Panel rendered its decision and award in the collective bargaining agreement between the Norwalk Board of Education (BOE) and the Norwalk Federation of Teachers (NFT) for a successor agreement to the existing contract following the end of the 2012-13 school year.

Both parties met 3 times for direct negotiations and after that with a mutually agreed mediator, on 2 occasions, but failed to resolve outstanding issues and so the collective bargaining agreement went into arbitration.   Below is the decision and award in its entirety along with the BOE and NFT  Briefs.  Also included are exhibits that benchmark Norwalk’s contract items against other teacher contracts  in cities and town around Connecticut.

NORWALK 2012 11 AWARD (3)



Norwalk Teacher Arbitration Brief 2012 FINAL 10-19


Norwalk BOE Exhibits 1 thru 18

Norwalk BOE Exhibits 19 thru 37

Oct 212012

Arbitration hearings were held last weekend, Friday October 12th- Sunday October 14th between the Board of Education and Norwalk Federation of Teachers at City Hall.

Attached  is a  report prepared by Tom Hamilton, Director of Finance regarding  City’s Financial Capability Relative to Collective Bargaining Agreements.

Our school budget is likely to be further constrained going forward.  Additionally, any shift in taxes, resulting from the forthcoming revaluation may well exacerbate the City’s budget.  All this points to the need for a strong Superintendent and  much better supervision of the public school system by the Board of Education.

2012 Ability to Pay – binding arbitration testimony

Oct 082012

On Thursday, October 4th, the Board of Education met with three superintendent search firms:  Proact Search, Ray & Associates and Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates.

Below are the presentations and information provided by the three  different firms.  The Board is expected to render a decision on the search firm later this month.


Norwalk_SuperintendentSearch – PROACT

Ray and Associates – What sets us apart

Ray and Associates – National Flip Chart



Typical Search_Pamphlet_no flow

Oct 082012

It was revealed at the Board of Education (BoE) meeting  last week and reported in The Hour 10/4/12, that the Norwalk BoE was going to go on a retreat,  in and effort to discuss their mission and objectives, improve teamwork and help with the superintendent search process. The board would also conduct a self-evaluation.  A new budget process schedule was announced as well.

See the  retreat proposal, self evaluation form and budget schedule for 2013-14 outlined in the BoE  Information and Reports for October 2, 2012.

BoE Info 10-2-12 1


Sep 162012

With all that is happening in  terms of education reform on a national level, not to mention what has been transpiring in our own backyard, is it time for Norwalk parents and taxpayers to consider a NEW governance structure?  The current one  doesn’t appear to be working and many would argue that is hasn’t  for at least a decade, maybe two.   One need only attend one of the regular Board of Education meetings or look to the constant newspaper headlines to view a  (still) dysfunctional Board of Education (regardless of how many elections are held and which political party is in charge.) This situation, coupled with a revolving door of  frustrated or failed superintendents has some of us asking, “Is there another way?”  Increasingly, many reform minded urban-suburban school districts are turning to their respective state’s department of education or mayoral offices to take control.  Three factors that have generally contributed to this sort of a measure point to:

  • Persistent lack of improvement in student achievement
  • Financial inefficiencies
  • Financial waste without academic results

Below are 3 different reports that highlight the pros and cons of exploring different governance structures that came out of The Thomas B. Fordham Institute Center For American Progress Conference last December, 2011.

Re-Imaging Education Governance: An International Perspective By Sir Michael Barber

The Failures of U.S. Education Governance Today By Chester E. Finn, Jr. & Michael J. Petrilli

Governance Challenges To Innovators Within the System By Michelle Davis


Jul 152012

Below is a copy of the email sent to Stefan Pryor, Connecticut Commissioner of Education by REd Apples shortly thereafter hearing of Supt. Marks resignation:


Commissioner Pryor,

See the announcement below.

We had a $6M budget shortfall going into the 2012-13 school year, due primarily to employee salaries and benefits.  The number grew to $10M due to retiree healthcare benefits and Special Ed. When a $4M error was found that dated as far back as 2007-8.   BoE budgets keep getting slashed, despite tax increases each year and we get short-changed in the ECS formula.  We will be laying off about 90 staff this month.

Add to that- a quarter century of status quo union leadership of both the NFT Teachers’ Union and  NASA  Administrators’ union, not to mention out of control insubordinate school principals, and you have a city out of control.

After two years, our Superintendent, Dr. Marks just wanted her life back.  This was largely due  to a combination of incompetent and insufficient staff protected by union contracts, her own 18- hour days and personal attacks from the status quo, that date back to the very day she arrived two years ago!

Norwalk will be on its 6th superintendent in a decade.


We need an interim/permanent Superintendent that  possesses the following attributes:

–          A Reformer

–          Proven executive leadership – can effectively lead a $155 million organization.

–          Willing to fire insubordinate people, crack heads and take on the unions. Norwalk is a rough place.

–          Openly embraces the City as a partner and appreciates the financial/political support the City sincerely desires to provide

We would appreciate a meeting with you or your staff anytime and will  bring members of our BoE and City Officials!

Lisa Thomson

Red Apples of Norwalk



Below is a copy of the Press Release from the Norwalk Board of Education

Norwalk Public Schools Superintendent Tenders Resignation

Norwalk, CT  (July 13, 2012) – – Norwalk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Susan Marks submitted her resignation to Board of Education Chairman Jack Chiaramonte today citing personal reasons and following the Board of Education’s meeting on Thursday night at which the Board approved a revised budget based on additional funding appropriated by the Board of Estimate and Taxation.  The school superintendent’s contract would have expired in 2014.  Her last day will be August 17, 2012.  In the interim, Dr. Marks will work with the Board of Education on a transition plan.

In a statement, Chiaramonte thanked Dr. Marks for her leadership the past two years, highlighting her accomplishments under “challenging financial circumstances largely beyond her control”. “Student test scores have been up across the board… We were rated the school system that made the most progress of the eighteen largest school districts in Connecticut in systematic use of data and staff professional development, according to Warren Logee of the State Board of Education.”

The Norwalk Public Schools ensure that its more than 11,000 students succeed academically and achieve their full potential, preparing them for post-secondary learning and a life of meaning and purpose.  Through rigorous classroom instruction based on the Common Core Standards, high expectations, and excellence in instruction, NPS builds upon Norwalk’s diversity through a collaborative culture, partnership with parents, and commitment to individuality and growth.

#  #  #






Jun 302012

Red Apples received the following letter from BoE Chairman Jack Chiramonte and we were asked to publish it.  Red Apples will publish signed letters expressing  different or opposing points of view, so long as they are polite, civil and stay on point.     


Once again, I look at the editorials in the Hour and am amazed at the misinformation that is in our community concerning the Board of Education Budget.  I offer this editorial to the community to which I serve.  While the thoughts are mine, and may be shared by other board members, the facts are just that – Facts.

After several meetings of the BOE, the Common Council, the BET and the Joint Services Committee, I still hear about the 4 million dollars shortfall in the insurance reserve fund as being mysterious, conspiracist, sneaky etc.   Apparently people like Peter Berman can’t grasp the facts, since they can’t report it correctly and prefer to witch hunt for their own political reasons.

Each year, the BOE allocates what it’s told is needed to cover a variety of accounts in our budget.  If we are told $25 million is required for health benefits & insurance, then we budget just that amount into that account.  However, there are accounts that are very fluid.  In other words, we have to guess-timate what we think will be enough for that year for that particular account.  It’s very much like the City trying to budget for snow removal.  If we get a light winter, then that account is left with a surplus, if it is average, we may have just enough.  If we get a heavy season of snowfalls, then the City finds itself short.  That is exactly how it is for Special Education for the BOE. For example, if a special needs child moves into our City, we are required by law to educate that child.  That might entail sending that child to a program in a different district that we have to pay for.  We also have to pick the fees for transportation, nurses, doctors, therapists, etc. for that child.  Obviously, it is very easy for this account to go into a shortfall.  Apparently, when this special education account, and other accounts, went into a shortfall, monies were taken from the $25 million insurance account to pay off those shortfalls. Then when the money was needed to payback this account, it was drawn from this insurance reserve fund.  Apparently, this has been the practice for many years.

The BOE is audited every year.  Both the City’s Finance officer Tom Hamilton and the BOE’s, Elio Longo have stated that an audit would NOT of found this problem.  It was Elio Longo that found this problem and has been praised by all for his diligent work.  Every dollar was accounted and spent for proper bills.  No money was missing or misappropriated!  The drawing of monies from the insurance reserve was done for several years before Mr. Elio Longo’s arrival to this district by people who are no longer with the district.   It was Mr. Longo who found it, reported it and took measures to make sure it will not happen again.

It turned out that we weren’t really short $4 million for this account as first reported.  There were other funds that had not yet been accounted and added back to this fund.  It actually was a 2.6 million deficit to the insurance reserve account, not 4 million.  However, we also had a shortfall of 1.4 million in our Special Education account, which when added in, gave us a 4 million shortfall.

Now, some ask “Why didn’t we allocate more money for Special Ed?  As I said, we have to guess-timate this account.  We allocated very conservatively because if we had budgeted more, we would of cut last years budget of staff & programs by that same amount.  If we added 2 million to the Special Ed account last year, then we would of had to cut that 2 million in staff & programs on top of what we cut last year.  And you remember, we had already had steep cuts to personnel and programs.

What’s the answer?

If it takes $8 to $10 million each year, just to keep what we had in the schools the year before to the new year, how can we possibly keep up?   We CAN’T!   Over 85% of our budget is payroll, benefits and pensions, which rise year after year, needing more money then we get. If it takes $8 to $10 million additional dollars each year to keep what we have, and all we get is increases of $2, $3 or $4 million a year (one year we even got a ZERO,) how can anyone expect to keep our heads above water?

Eventually  WE CAN’T.

When I first got on the board 5 years ago, we started to cut the fat in then Superintendent Sal Corda’s inflated budgets, and we have been cutting  ever since.  We have gotten to the point where there is no more fat to cut.  We are now hitting the meat and bone of our educational system.  As I have stated countless times, WE ARE SEVERLY UNDERFUNDED BY THE STATE IN ECS (EDUCATIONAL COST SHARING) FUNDS.  Hartford thinks we are all rich in Fairfield county.  The ECS formula is antiquated (over 25 years old) and was never fair to us from the beginning.  While we only receive $956 dollars per students, the other districts in our group of “like districts” get  4, 5 and over 6 thousand plus per student!   Danbury which is as close a carbon copy of Norwalk with student size, economics and household income, receives over 25 million per year, while we only receive over 10 million per year!  I ask you, would we even be arguing if we had 15 million more right now for our schools?

NOW THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT:   The ECS committee will be in Bridgeport, July 12th for a public hearing.  We need everyone we can get to go to that meeting and tell that committee how unfairly Norwalk is treated by the ECS formula.   We need to ask them to come visit Norwalk!  This committee will give its final report this October.  I will be in touch with all PTO’s.  Please check with your  PTO for more information.  While this gives us hope for next years ECS funding, we still have this years budget to deal with on our own.

Now I have said this from the very beginning, “If we all shoulder the burden of these cuts together and if everybody contributes something, then we’ll all get through this together.  Well everybody has given….everybody EXCEPT the teachers union (NFT).

Quite frankly, I’m sick & tired of hearing the words  “Union Bashing” and “Anti-Teacher” if we ask the Teachers Union (NFT) to take a pay freeze for one year.  We know the wonderful job our teachers do and we very much appreciate them, but asking them to shoulder the burden along with everyone else is NOT being anti-teacher. We have all suffered in some financial way in this cruel economy.  Every other union in the City, BOE, and everywhere in the country has been asked to take a freeze and our teachers can take one too, and save their fellow teachers jobs.  Norwalk’s teachers have the second highest pay in the state and still would have one of the highest even if they took a freeze for one year.  I would think the NFT would want to poll its teachers over this crisis on how they feel about it.  I cant understand, If the NFT polls it’s teachers over which school calendar they prefer, then why wouldn’t it on an issue of such importance?

We all need to stand together as a community and ALL need to contribute to solving our problems.    Jack Chiramonte


May 092012

At the beginning of this year the BoE established a new sub-committee known as the Negotiation and Personnel Committee.  Previously known as the Negotiation Committee, its charter was to only handle the non-FOIA-able issues associated with contracts during scheduled negotiation periods with the various collective bargaining units.  Now, with the addition of the personnel component, the subcommittee deals with a host of personnel-related issues,  which are FOIA-able and open to the public.

At the top of the list, is NPS’s  current evaluation process specifically for the superintendent, teachers and administrators.   This process is now front and center given the passage of  Governor Malloy’s  Education Reform bill SB  458 by state legislators this week.

Earlier this year, the State Board of Education adopted the evaluation framework proposed by the Performance Education Advisory Council (PEAC) for teachers and administrators.  PEAC is a multi-stakeholder work-group that has representatives from unions, the state department, regional centers and school districts.

The CT Dept of Education is planning to begin implementation of a pilot process during the 2012-13 school year as a prelude to FULL state-wide implementation for 2013-14.   Supt. Marks  hopes to have Norwalk participate in this pilot.  The  BoE votes next week.

The Negotiation and Personnel Subcommittee meetings are open to the public and as such, this website will publish the meeting minutes on a regular basis.

Below are the minutes since February, as well as state documents discussed and handed out that pertain to the PEAC work group’s Teachers and Administration Evaluation Process and Pilot Invitation.


MINUTES FEB 15 2012 Negotiation Personnel




State of CT Board of Ed PEAC Teacher Administrator Evaluation

Evalaution PPT 31012 (2)

PEAC Invitation Letter