The following letter was sent to the Norwalk BoE on Friday June 10, 2011.
Dear Norwalk Board of Education Members,
In light of the current issues that face the education profession these days, reformers across the country are promoting more mayoral control and/or involvement regarding school boards, as a way to introduce more stable and focused leadership, set higher standards, promote vision and oversight, better coordinate schooling with other after school activities and city agencies that support children and families and finally jump start much needed change. Isn’t that what Norwalk needs? I don’t know?
In my three years of educational activism, I’ve been frustrated by the lack of teamwork that has been consistently demonstrated by the BoE, regardless of the last election results, neighborhood or political affiliation, race or economic background. It’s a crapshoot as to how ANY of you will vote on ANY particular issue.
While many things impact the City of Norwalk, many believe that education represents the CORE of its future vibrancy. While the economy and budget cuts can be cited as the source of some of our woes, money alone is NOT our problem. Deservedly, we have the second highest paid teaching and administrative staff in the state (behind Greenwich) with purportedly the best benefits in the country. But, we also have players in key positions, whose influence stretches back decades. Finally, we have a BoE, in which no matter who gets elected, can’t seem to come to any consensus on anything managerially of substance. The result for Norwalk’s children is status quo! As parents, residents and taxpayers, what are we to do?
Lack of teamwork, usually produces no plan and no plan usually means a lack of public confidence! As each of you prepares to vote on budget cuts for next year and some of you prepare to run candidacies this fall, please be ready to answer the following questions from parents, taxpayers and the electorate going forward?
- We have over 11,000 students, of which over 40% are on free and reduced lunch- what policies have you supported that drives a rigorous curriculum for ALL given the challenges of our diverse community?
- We spend nearly two thirds of the city’s tax base on education with 80% going towards salaries and benefits for NPS employees. How have you voted to hold NPS employees accountable for the job they are doing or do longstanding friendships, over the years get in the way?
- We get short changed at the state level in terms of adequate student-based funding? Have any of you ever spoken with our local state officials or gone to Hartford to stand up for our City?
- We struggle under labor contracts that hinder true education reform, not just in Norwalk, but across the country. Will you be ready next year when we re-negotiate contract work rules that reflect the 21st century or will you support the status quo because it’s the path of least resistance?
- Local schools drive local real estate values. Do you believe that your BoE governance inspires young families to move into a graying Norwalk?
- Will local businesses or corporations invest in Norwalk, based upon the future skill sets of NPS children?
- Gang and violent crime is up. Are these criminals from outside of Norwalk? If so, are they the former children of our district that have not been given the educational skills necessary to succeed in life?
The diversity that makes Norwalk a vibrant city versus a sleepy suburb is what attracts and keeps people here. But a city like ours needs both civic leadership and a BoE that is prepared to work as a team and address the challenges that face us. While your public service is laudable, you need to ask yourselves why you ran for the BoE in the first place. Do your colleagues know what your goals are? Do you meet with each other or discuss substantive issues before you appear in public forums? Do you fight to raise Norwalk standards or simply fight with each other?
Going forward, please put partisan, neighborhood and NPS politics aside, work together and with the NEW Superintendent you hired, to figure out how best to restore the confidence of this great community. Maybe then, greater tax dollars will follow.
Co- Founder, R.Ed. APPLES