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Mar 292012

REd APPLES is  proud to be closely aligned and affiliated with two of the  six organizations (ConnCAN and Connecticut Council For Education Reform)  that released the following statement regarding  their disappointment over the modified version of Senate Bill 24 that passed in  the Education Committee on Monday.   We are pleased that our Norwalk Representative, Gail Lavielle  also expressed her dissatisfaction with the watered down bill, and as a result voted against it in Committee. 

The new version of the bill diminishes the ability to intervene in low performing schools and postpones administration and teacher evaluation models.  We completely acknowledge  and accept the critical role of  parent responsibility in a child’s educational success, BUT  we also want to draw attention to a flaw that has developed over the years in education; whereby we see virtually no credible accountability measures in place for  evaluating the competency or effectiveness of staff, in the classroom or school building, once  hired into a  district.   Ineffective staff,  get shuffled around  until they retire and/or staff that could benefit from ongoing professional development do not get it.  When compared to any other sector in society,  private or public, this just seems wrong.  While 85-90% of educational staff  are effective in their performance, there still exists a significant percentage of staff that are not.  These staff (both administrative and classroom) may be having no impact or even an adverse impact on a child’s future performance in the so-called three R’s of reading, writing or arithemetic.  Other consequences of an ineffective evaluation process, includes the ongoing impact  of low moral, on an overall building,  when an employee’s poor performance is not appropriately documented and subsequently handled.

Below is the joint press release  regarding the handling of Senate Bill 24:

HARTFORD—Six education and business groups* today came together to express disappointment over the modified version of Senate Bill 24 that passed the Education Committee on Monday and the process by which it was negotiated. Here is their statement:

The new version of S.B. 24 fails to move forward with several of the bold proposals Governor Malloy put forth, and it signals a lack of urgency to fix the fundamental issues that plague Connecticut’s public school system.

The process by which changes to this bill were negotiated excluded the voices of Superintendents, Boards of Education, principals, parents, community leaders, and students. The result is a bill that reflects compromises that appear to be brought on by pressure from the teachers unions.

In this process, the Education Committee watered down or delayed many of the important reforms originally proposed. As it is now written, this bill will not bring about the reforms Connecticut’s students need. Next week, our organizations will convene to issue a formal statement and analysis that outlines our specific concerns about the current version of the bill.

We are hopeful that bipartisan legislative leaders, committed to providing all students a high-quality educational program, will involve all stakeholders during the next phase of this legislative process, and will work in partnership with Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Pryor to return the tenets of bold reform to this bill. Collectively, we must get this right for Connecticut’s children.


* The groups are: Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), and the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN).


Joe Cirasuolo, CAPSS


Robert Rader, CABE


Karissa Niehoff, CAS


Patrick Riccards, ConnCAN


Rae Ann Knopf, CCER


Louis Bach, CBIA



Mar 182012


Phone:  203-858-4852

Email: susanwallerstein@gmail.com

A Community Conversation on Civility Gathers on March 29 … 6:00–8:00 p.m.

Civility and the Press: Is the media part of the problem?

(Norwalk, CT – March 4, 2012) Is the media part of the problem or part of the solution to incivility in discourse? A panel of distinguished journalists will help respond to a suggestion from Frank Partsch, Director of the Association of Opinion Journalists’ Civilitas Project, to “think about where we, individually, might draw the line between robust, hard-hitting, withering commentary, and on the other hand, cheap-shot, below-the-belt incivility.”

The panel features Froma Harrop, a nationally syndicated columnist and president of the Association of Opinion Journalists, Jerrod Ferrari, co-managing Editor of The Hour, and Thomas Mellana, Stamford Advocate editorial writer. The moderator will be Tad Diesel, Director of Business Development for the City of Norwalk.

This third in a series of community conversations about civility will take place on Thursday, March 29th from 6:00-8:00 p.m. in the Fat Cat Pie Company Wine Room at 3 Wall Street in Norwalk.

Admission is $20, which includes pizza and a beverage. A cash bar will be provided for those wishing to have a glass of wine.  Tickets can be purchased at norwalk2.eventbrite.org.  Space is limited, so advance purchase of tickets is highly recommended. A portion of the ticket proceeds will be donated to the Norwalk High School Civic Voices Project.

Come, listen and share your thoughts on civility, anonymous comments, and the media.

Hosts and sponsors for this special event include Norwalk 2.0, a community development advocate; REd APPLES, a grassroots non-partisan community coalition organized around improving Norwalk Public Schools; The Hour, Stamford Advocate/Greenwich Time, Norwalk Education Foundation, Norwalk Public Library, and Fat Cat Pie Company.

# # #

BACKGROUND:  Froma Harrop’s nationally syndicated column appears in more than 150 newspapers, including the Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Times, Denver Post and Newsday.  The twice-a-week column is distributed by Creators Syndicate in Los Angeles. Media Matters ranks her column 20th nationally in total readership and 14th in large newspaper concentration. Harrop has written for numerous other publications, ranging from The New York Times and Institutional Investor, to Harper’s Bazaar and Metropolitan Home. Previously, she covered business for Reuters Ltd. in New York, and was a financial editor for The New York Times News Service. A Loeb Award finalist for economic commentary in 2004 and again in 2011, Harrop also has been honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Over the years, the New England Associated Press News Executives Association has named her for five awards.  Harrop recently appeared with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show.

Click below to view the flyer.

civility in the press






Mar 162012

Norwalk State Legislators and Board of Education members traveled to Hartford yesterday, taking a stand against the unfair ECS (Educational Cost Sharing) Formula.  They held a press conference in the state capitol,  furthering the fight started at the beginning of this legislative session regarding Senate Bill 24 and student funding.  REd APPLES has long protested the ECS  formula and has been working diligently with city and state representatives in Norwalk  to demonstrate a strong bi-partisan effort to expose the unfair distribution of school funding and its impact on Norwalk.

The self proclaimed TUFF delegation, named so for “treat us fairly in funding” included Mayor Richard Moccia, House Minority Leader Larry Cafero, Senate Bob Duff, State Representatives Gail Lavielle, Bruce Morris and Terrie Wood,  Board of Education Chairman Jack Chiramonte, Board of Ed. Representative Sue Haynie and Norwalk Education Foundation President and Red Apples Co-Founder Lauren Rosato.  Several residents also joined the convoy up to Hartford.

By taking the fight to Hartford, the delegation hopes to put Norwalk on the map and get the ECS Committee and Governor Malloy to come to Norwalk and discuss this funding issue with residents, particularly as the school district faces significant cuts for the third year in a row.

This website has published the ECS Funding formula in a variety of comparison charts, but below are the current funding  levels for per pupil spending when compared to our own DRG  H.

Town Students Per Pupil
Ansonia 2791 $ 5,579.14
Danbury 10,505 $ 2,337.41
Derby 1590 $ 4,494.48
E. Hartford 8027 $ 5,409.49
Meriden 9187 $ 6,047.80
Norwalk 11,165 $ 995.90
Norwich 5371 $ 6,207.69
Stamford 15,127 $ 588.29
W. Haven 7390 $ 5,789.06




Mar 162012

Of the many issues being debated in the grocery list of reforms in  Senate Bill 24, one that is near and dear to teacher’s hearts is the appraisal process.  We couldn’t agree more.   Involved parents repeatedly hear of the conflicts between principals and teachers and the “fairness” of the overall process.  To be sure it seems a bit convoluted, its a  57 page document.  We hear of abuses to the system , where ratings can be arbitrary and or inflated for what is referred to as  ‘principal’s pets.’   Therefore, at the last Board of Ed meeting, we asked that the BoE  look into opening up the process by providing a baseline to the public and NPS staff of the appraisal system.   By that, we mean that we would like to see BY SCHOOL the rating percentages (no names of course)  of teaching staff.  We want to know the percentages of DISTINGUISHED, PROFICIENT, BASIC and UNSATISFACTORY on a by school basis, so that we can all baseline consistency across schools, and examine for lack of a better term grade inflation.  Opening up this process (with no names) will provide everyone with an indication of where Norwalk stands on this controversial topic in anticipated legislative reforms coming down the pike. 

Note: We are also pressing for a rating system for Principals because the current  NPS appraisal process for principals and administration does not allow for one.


Below is the letter that was read at the Board of Ed Meeting on 3-6-12.

Members of the Board of Education:

I saw on the agendas today, that the Board met with CABE to discuss the superintendent evaluation process and how you will be likely be holding an Executive Session after this meeting, to apply what you have learned, to our own superintendent Dr. Marks.  I applaud your efforts.  But, I would like to add, as a parent, that we have many more employees in this school district that directly impact our children’s learning.   With that in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to make a formal request of the BoE.

Last month, a group of us from Norwalk, myself included, testified on behalf of Norwalk in support of Governor Malloy’s Education Reform Bill, known as Senate Bill 24.

For those not familiar with the bill, it deals with a host of reform issues including:

1)      Enhance family access to early childhood education

2)      State support and intervention in low performing schools

3)      Expand availability of high quality school models

4)      Remove red tape and other barriers to success

5)      Develop the very best teachers and principals

6)      Deliver more resources to districts that embrace reform

Norwalk’s delegation gave testimony in support of the bill, but paid particular attention to items 5 and 6 of the Governor’s bill as it relates to – developing the very best teachers and principals and delivering more resources to districts that embrace reform; in particular the travesty and inequity of funding that our city experiences, when compared to cities and town across the state.

Another more controversial issue that appeared to be resolved in January had to do with the Commissioner of Education and CEA Leadership (the state’s largest teacher’s union) was an agreement on a new standardized evaluation process for teachers which would take into account a number of factors including: standardized tests, classroom performance, peer, student and parent feedback.  Since January, CEA has experienced buyer’s remorse and are seeking changes to the plan.  CEA Executive Director, Mary Loftus Levine, speaking at the time of the agreement, wanted a fair, valuable and reliable mechanism for evaluating teachers.  I couldn’t agree more.  But may I also add the word, consistent.

With changes coming down from the state with regard to the evaluation process of staff, it would probably be a good idea for Norwalk to get ahead of the curve and understand where it stands with respect to its own staff’s appraisals. Therefore, I would like to formally request a public status report of the appraisal process for the principals and teachers of all 19 schools.  Included in that report, I would like to see the status of principals (not by name mind you) and the rating percentages of NPS teachers which includes: unsatisfactory, basic, proficient and distinguished, BY SCHOOL.   I personally have concerns with a process that has 57 pages (37 for administration) and upon examining the documents myself, look about as complicated as the US tax code.  I’m sure that the Board, Mr. Mellion and Mr. Ditrio would ALL agree that Norwalk needs to ENSURE a consistent application of the evaluation process across ALL 19 schools, so that parents are assured a great education for all students and teachers are ensured the fair process they deserve.  The best place to start is to baseline where we already are today.

Thank you

Lisa Thomson

Read By Lauren Rosato