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Rilling, Kimmel pledge to fund Norwalk BoE in quest to reform schools

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling affirms his support for Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski's vision for the school system, Thursday in City Hall.

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling affirms his support for Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski’s vision for the school system, Thursday in City Hall.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s municipal leaders took steps Thursday to reassure parents: They support Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski.

It’s not that they don’t want to fund Adamowski’s operating budget, it’s that they think there are other methods than raising the mill rate in line with Adamowski’s proposed 3.9 percent spending increase, Mayor Harry Rilling and Common Council President Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) said.

This was in the context of a Council Finance Committee meeting where Finance Director Bob Barron talked about “over contributions” to the city’s insurance fund in terms of offering budget relief.

Rilling said there are challenges in the current budget year.

“We do recognize the fact that there has been some identified problems within the special education budget of the Board of Education,” Rilling said. “They are trying to implement programs such as student-based budgeting, student councils and so forth, and we really are pleased and respect Dr. Adamowski’s vision. We want to support that vision in any way that we possibly can. … we want to make sure we don’t overtax our citizens.”

“I agree 100 percent with the mayor,” Kimmel said.

“I’ve been getting, over the last couple of days, feedback from a lot of concerned parents and rightly so.” Kimmel said after the meeting.

Some of this feedback is on the closed Facebook group Norwalk Parents for Education.

“All I can say is that if the Common Council doesn’t support this (schools) budget, they are going to see the kind of protests we had in 2010,” Barbara Meyer-Mitchell wrote Tuesday.

“The issue is everyone in the city is rightly concerned that we get a handle on our special ed programs,” Kimmel said.

“(Adamowski and the BoE) have come up with a number, $6.6 million, that they feel they need to address these problems in 16-17 fiscal year,” Kimmel said. “We agree with that. We feel, working with the Board of Ed, we can find $6.6 million from a variety of sources and it doesn’t all have to be borne by taxpayers.”

During the meeting, Barron talked about an over-contribution to the BoE’s insurance fund – and said the Board’s 2016-17 budget increases that already too-high contribution.

He talked of a $13 million surplus that should be amortized over five years, providing $2.6 million in budget relief for the next budget year.

“We are 100 percent behind the vision of Dr. Adamowski. We support the Board of Ed’s objectives,” Kimmel said in response. “We believe we can do this.”

On Feb. 2, in what is a regularly scheduled Board of Ed meeting, Common Council and BoE members will discuss the budget request, Kimmel said. Rilling is working with Adamowski and both finance directors, Kimmel said.

“We are working closely together and I think everybody is going to be smiling at the end of this budget cycle,” Kimmel said.

“We want to make that money available to the Board of Ed,” he said after the meeting. “Where that money comes from, how we do it, what adjustments we make in various accounts, is what we are looking at. It is very, very important to understand that this is a collaboration between the Board of Ed, the city, the mayor, the superintendent, the Board’s finance director – Mr. (Tom) Hamilton – the city’s finance director. We are all in this together to figure out a way to get a handle on the city’s special ed problem.”

4 comments

Joe January 15, 2016 at 8:04 pm

Not good.

Before we spend more money, can we be assured that we don’t get ripped off by Spec Ed for another 3 years.

That’s what the CREC state auditors concluded. We spent millions on Spec Ed and too many of our principals, administrators and teachers didn’t do their jobs. That’s stealing.

That’s stealing from old people trying to live their days in Norwalk.

And by the way, 10-15% of our student body is Spec Ed? That seems like way too many to me. Something is wrong here.

Tony P January 16, 2016 at 6:44 am

@Joe, you’re absolutely correct. And, the number of students identified as Special Ed (nation wide) is rising every year!

Joe January 16, 2016 at 12:33 pm

So then, it’s a national problem. That’s no excuse.

Some group(s) are probably making money with this, and irresponsible lazy parenting may be involved too.

It’s a shame that so many kids are being branded as “special needs.” That won’t help them in the job market or anything else for that matter.

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