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Letter: Miklave is the one to make Norwalk a ‘wonderful’ city

By Tony Ditrio

To the Editor:

NORWALK, Conn. — I am writing this letter so that everyone understands why I strongly support Matt Miklave to be the next Mayor of Norwalk. I have been a teacher and administrator in the Norwalk Public Schools for 45 years. I have held many different positions with the board during my time here. I was a middle school math teacher for 16 years and I was at Central Office for 14 years. I am now the proud principal of Kendall Elementary School.

It has been my pleasure to serve this fine city that I have called my home for the last 40 years. I have raised two wonderful children that attended the Norwalk Public Schools. The Norwalk Public Schools mean far more to me than just being my employer. I could have left many times for positions in other districts, but my heart would never let me leave.

For the last 25 years I have been active in the Administrators Association. I have been vice president and now serve as president. In this role I represent all the administrators in Norwalk below the level of assistant superintendent. I also negotiate contracts for our administrators and deal with the day to day issues that arise. I need to work closely with the superintendent and the board. I have worked on school budgets and have been actively involved in working for fair budgets to support education in Norwalk.

I am not by nature comfortable working in the public spotlight. Over the last few years I have been compelled to speak out publicly to try and help avoid the destruction of a once proud and productive school system. Some have questioned my motives in order to try and silence my voice. During my time in the public spotlight, I have been called a “union thug” and “political operative.” This was to somehow taint my words and my beliefs. While I am not naive and knew that this was the price you pay for taking a stand, I admit it still hurts to have someone question your life’s work. In spite of the blogs and the rebuttals, I will not stop working for the interests of the children of Norwalk. I will continue to do all I can to get the support our kids need to provide a quality education for all our children.

I decided to work for Matt because I believe that he will do all he can to make Norwalk a better place for all of us. He wants to end the constant political bickering within the Democratic Party and have all voices heard. He wants to make this city move in a positive direction rather than just hunkering down, afraid to do anything. He has real ideas and he is an honest, good man. I know Matt will do all he can to provide the funds necessary to have a quality school system, a system that will have families wanting to live in Norwalk. I also know that Matt will work hard to make sure those less fortunate get a fair deal and that their children get the education needed to be successful.

I feel I must also deal with those that will try and insinuate that my endorsement will bring some sort of quid pro quo to the administrators I represent. The truth of the matter is that a Mayor plays no role in negotiating contracts with either the teachers or administrators. That is all done through a state-monitored and regulated Collective Bargaining Act. When the unions call for more money for the schools, it is money for the students. My salary and my benefits have nothing to do with how much money the city funds the Board of Education.

If you want someone to make Norwalk the wonderful city it can be then you need to get out on Sept. 10 and vote for Matt Miklave to be the Democratic candidate for mayor of Norwalk.

 

Tony Ditrio

 

4 comments

piberman August 27, 2013 at 3:39 am

Yes Mr. Miklave has some good ideas and has been around long enough to know how the “system” works. But having a union head of the school administrators as his campaign treasurer has not been advantageous. Norwalk has long had the reputation of aggressive political activities by its school unions. Indeed, the Vanguard publication of the NFT is widely believed the most hostile of its kind anywhere in the state. And, Mr. Ditrio has on occasion written what many regard as hostile and inappropriate OpEds criticizing the BOE.

Surely Mr. Ditrio knows that when the Arbitration Award Panel wrote in its report that Norwalk’s public school teachers were the 5th highest paid in the state (more than in any other City) and more than in the surrounding wealthy towns that Norwalk citizens would no longer be receptive to the argument that we are not supporting our public school system. Indeed, the Report makes quite clear that we are supporting our school system well above our means. Hence the $2.6 million freeze it mandated.

If Mr. Ditrio truly wants to bend the oar to improve our public school system then encourage members to desist from public campaigning in our City. That’s not what you were hired to do. We elect our Council Members to make budget decisions along with the appointed BET. One wonders whether Mr. Ditrio understands that school union contract negotiations are conducted jointly by the BOE and the BET on behalf of the City. All of those members are either elected or appointed by the Council.

Looking back some 30 years or so its hard to remember when a school union chief was chosen for a pivotal campaign role in a mayoral campaign. Had our public school employees (teachers and administrators) had a more professional relationship with Norwalk’s government and citizens that might be overlooked. But a public union chief with a major role in a mayoral campaign is unlikely to be helpful to the candidate. The time for public school employees influencing Norwalk politics hopefully is behind us. We are fortunate that a rejuvinated BOE has hired a nationally prominent Supt. to restore the luster of our once proud and admired public school system. Why not be like other Cities and school districts and just encourage your members to do the jobs they were hired to do, not interfere with local politics. And, please no more letters or OpEds. Its not the role of City employees to tell residents how to run their City.

JustAsking August 27, 2013 at 11:57 am

One wonders if the Norwalk School System has a Code of Ethics for its employees that covers Conflict of Interest.

LWitherspoon August 27, 2013 at 3:25 pm

“When the unions call for more money for the schools, it is money for the students.”
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Imagine the reaction of students when we inform them that the lion’s share of “their” money is being paid to teachers and administrators.
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Wasn’t it the teacher’s union who advocated making students pay for band and sports, so that there would be more money available to fund raises for teachers? Perhaps Mr. Ditrio could explain how that brilliant idea would have benefited students.
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I would not have supported Miklave for Mayor anyway; his penchant for grandstanding and bloviating – often in self-contradictory ways – disqualify him, as do his frequent support of Union wants over taxpayer needs. Mr. Ditrio’s service as the Miklave campaign’s finance chief simply disqualifies Miklave further. We don’t need a Mayor who is in debt to the administrator’s union head.
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The argument that Mayors don’t negotiate contracts is technically true, but it cleverly omits the fact that Mayors do have a big influence on the Common Council where the level of taxation is set. So if elected, it would be easy for Miklave to pay back Mr. Ditrio’s union members with higher taxes and more funds. I’m shocked that Mr. Ditrio would try to rebut the obvious concern of taxpayers with such sophistry.

Daisy August 28, 2013 at 10:34 am

Everyone else, except Ditrio, said it all. He needs to stay out of it, and probably shouldn’t be Miklave’s money guy. But since he is, he should keep his mouth shut, something he obviously finds it hard to do.

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