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Feb 242013

The Norwalk BOE heard a status readout by CREC (Capital Region Education Council) on progress made by Norwalk’s Special Education Department  in terms of staffing, operations and expenditures.  It also examined actions taken by NPS since its 2008 evaluation.  The presentation is below:



Click below to listen to an audio of the BOE Meeting that night.





For more information on CREC, click below:





Feb 082013

Connecticut is not the only state trying to clean up its public education system.  A NY Times article provides an brief overview of the reforms that the neighboring, New York Education Reform Commission has identified.  Extending the school day, breaking an academic calendar, tied to an agrarian culture, consolidating school districts and having teachers pass a type of ‘bar exam’ similar to the ones doctors and lawyers must pass before they enter the profession are just some of the recommendations.

To view the article click below :


To view the report click below:

EducationReformCommissionReport- NY

Feb 032013

The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) has completed the Parent Survey (feedback) portion of the new PEAC evaluation process for teachers and principals.  The new evaluation process for teachers will be comprise of:

  • Teacher Classroom Performance and Practice 40%
  • Parent  or Peer Feedback 10%
  • Student Growth and Development 45%
  • Whole School Student Learning Feedback 5%

The new evaluation process* for administrators will be comprised of:

  • Student Learning 45%
  • Leadership Practice 40%
  • Stakeholder Feedback 10%

* I don’t know why it doesn’t add up to 100%

Below are two links that connect you to a bank of questions that the CSDE  has developed and that school districts can select from.




To understand more about the parent and community component of the new process. Click on the link below.



Feb 032013

Another Meaning of Accountability and the NPS Budget By Lisa Thomson

Do we ask the right questions when reconciling public spending with student achievement? Do we know what we spend on the 3Rs? Do we understand per pupil expenditures at the elementary, middle or high school levels when parents get pitted against one another other over which positions or programs to cut, add or restore?  Do we know how much is spent on Special Ed and whether it’s effective? Finally, do we know what we spend on a per pupil basis for sports, music or other extra-curricular activities, when we talk about Pay to Play? 

I would argue we don’t.

What we do know is that parents’ want a quality and consistent K-12 experience for their children and taxpayers want a school district that reflects student achievement and that maintains a town’s reputation and property values.

But what’s going to happen in the future, for example in Norwalk, when next year’s salary freeze is lifted for teachers? What about the double digit increases in health care premiums? What about the debate regarding which side of the ledger some employee post benefits and pensions sit? How will these increasing costs impact the way we educate students, compensate school staff, or bill taxpayers?

The proposed $164 Million budget for 2013-14 reflects an average cost of $15,000 per student, based upon projected enrollment figures of 10,962. The chart below represents my simplified summary, taken from the Superintendents Operating Budget Book.

My concerns over the budget, stem from wanting to understand how much is spent on core academics versus other shared services and how it ties back to student achievement?  At the moment, it’s tough to quantify.  Just for fun, I examined the regular classroom teacher line item of $63.3M and equally divided it by 5 subjects (i.e. math, science, language arts, social studies and electives) and then further divided that figure by the number of students in the district. I came up with only $1154 spent per child on individual academic subjects. When contrasted against other costs, it was alarming!

In 2010, Marguerite Rosa wrote, Educational Economics, offering explanations why education funding has become so convoluted.  Chapters entitled Fuzzy Math, Who’s Really in Charge of Education?, When Political Agendas Collide, Driving Blind, What Does All This Mean For Schools, A Wicked Problem, A Multi- Dimensional Solution gives you a sense of the complexity.  If you read this book, you’ll see that I’m not just picking on Norwalk. Our budget is symptomatic of a state crisis, better still, a national crisis, when elected officials, willing to kick the demographic financial can down the road are complicit with the educational establishment’s historical budget creation process, based upon past practices and nominal alignment to student achievement. This approach, coupled with the inverted baby-boomer pyramid of expenses is smacking up against the next generation’s ability to get an education, close the achievement gap, prepare for college or get a job. It’s not just visible on the balance sheet, but in our neighborhoods, if one drives past former schools turned nursing-retirement homes dotted along Broad River, Strawberry Hill and Gregory Blvd. and Allen Road.

But demographics aside, when examining the budget from a core academic standpoint, it illustrates as a nation, how we’ve strayed from spending money on the nitty-gritty fundamentals of reading and writing and our nation’s test scores reflect it. Until districts more directly link budgets to student achievement, whereby staff, training, qualifications, technology and other resources are tied back to the basics, students will under-perform and educators and politicians will bear the wrath of parents and taxpayers.

Connecticut’s reputation for being the state of steady habits has left us with 169 school districts that carry the burden of 169 different contracts for health insurance, transportation, technology and a host of other  expenses that are killing local municipalities and cannibalizing the classroom.  We need to unravel the costs that make up the school budget and determine how to get back on track with the core objective of preparing students for the global economy without destroying the economy in the process!

Data Extrapolated from the 2013-2014 Proposed Superintendent’s Budget

Note: Allocated line Items numbers have been rounded up or down for illustrative purposes.

Code Items Total  Allocated %  Of Budget Per Student Allocation
800 Professional dues, Associations $ 108K <1% $ 9
700 Instructional equipment and software $ 315K <1% $ 28
600 Supplies ( oil, electricity, gasoline, oil, books, postage, other) $ 5.8M 4% $ 625
500 Other  (Special Ed Tuition &  Bus Transportation) $ 13.2M 8% $ 1,204
400 Property Services (Building Equipment &  Maintenance $ 2.6M 2% $ 237
300 Professional & Technical Services (legal fees, etc.) $ 3.6M 2% $ 328
200 Benefits (health & life ins., social security, retirement, longevity, etc. $ 36.5M 22% $ 3,329
100 Staff Salaries      
Common Core Implementation, Salaries Workshops $ 470K <1% $ 42
All Substitutes  $ 1.7M 1% $ 155
Superintendent’s Office & Super Admin Team $ 880K   $ 80
Principals & Asst. Principals and Housemasters $5.4M 3% $493
Supervisors and Asst. Supervisors (Instructional Specialists,  Special Education Support, Expulsion Hearings) $1.1M <1% $100
Secretaries, Aides and Clerks $ 10.7M 7% $ 976
Custodians & Maintenance $ 5.2M 3% $ 474
Security $ 97K <1% $ 8
Nurses & Physical Therapist $ 1.4M <1% $127
Overtime $ 378K <1% $34
Extra- Curricular Stipends $ 130K <1% $11
Degree Changes $ 375K <1% $34
Other Certified Staff (Social Workers, Psychologists, Speech therapists, guidance counselors, instructional aides, HS Librarians) $ 7.7M 5% $702
Non Affiliated  Staff (IT, Audio Visual Techs, Payroll, Facilities directors, executive support) $ 1.4 <1% $127
Other Non- Certified (security staff, monitors, testing coordinators, mailroom personnel) $ 909K 1% $82
Classroom Teachers   $ 63.3M 38% $5774
TOTAL * $163.3M ~ 100% $14,979 ~