Updated, 2:36 p.m., comment from Jessica Garnett
NORWALK, Conn. – An intense discussion this week on the Facebook page Norwalk Parents for Education amounted to “government by bullying,” one observer said Thursday.
Others referred to is as uncivil. Page founder Barbara Meyer-Mitchell acknowledged there was a problem.
The discussion was prompted by Monday’s announcement by State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25), Mayor Harry Rilling and others that Norwalk should “Fix It First” instead of building two new schools prompted
The Facebook page lit up.
“I hope that parents aren’t fooled by this ‘political band aid’. These officials undermining the bipartisan work done by our BOE in generating a long term facilities plan is downright embarrassing,” Jessica Garnett wrote in posting the NoN article.
About four hours later, as BoE members and Parent Teacher Organization Council (PTOC) members and others opined against Fix It First, one mom volunteered that she approved of it. This prompted a back and forth with BoE member Bryan Meek.
“It’s becoming abundantly clear that one must drink the BOE Kool Aid to have an ‘opinion’ on this site,” the mom said, at one point of that conversation.
BoE Chairman Mike Lyons later chimed in with, “We did consider all options. For a year. In the open. At public meetings. That these legislators ignored. And then they pulled their political stunt. They deserve all the contempt they’re getting here for it.”
“I disagree and I am very disappointed in the contempt,” the mother replied. “This isn’t about anyone but the children. This bickering and finger pointing does the children no good. The contempt is coming across as sour grapes to me, and I know I’m not alone. Its just that you and your cronies are so vicious that people are afraid to speak up. And don’t fool yourself Mike, you have pulled many a publicity stunt, only it’s been on this board which has served as pretty much your venting board.”
“ARE YOU KIDDING WITH THAT POST? I have no idea who you are but your statements in your posting are beyond off base and baseless!!” came a response from PTOC Vice President Drew Todd. “This board has worked so well in under Mike’s leadership over the last few years!! They have cut budgets and have had no-partisan concrete and fantastic results!! And this while the political cronies as you call them as in Duff & Copany have done NOTHING to assist in the success.”
“I’m sure you are trying to insult me, belittle me, or talk down to me as you do with most people. I see all caps and don’t bother to read anymore. No need to shout. We are all adults here,” the mother replied, after several comments from other people. “This site is quickly becoming one sided. It has for some time now, which is unfortunately a true reflection of Norwalk.”
On Thursday, NancyOnNorwalk asked Barbara Meyer-Mitchell about the tone of the conversation.
“I have tried to maintain a civil tone in my own discourse. I have a policy to only censor swears or lies on the board. I have stood up to numerous requests over the years to block people or censor the site. I wanted it to be an opem forum to discuss issues. Part of the reasoning behind that is to allow people to reveal their own true nature.
“I received messages to that effect as well today. However, the conversation about tone cannot supercede the conversation about issues and facts.
“Are there people who use the medium inappropriately? Certainly. I think we see that nationally as well.
“Politics have never been an easy, clean thing. Look at the Lincoln debates. If we venture forth, we probably need to be prepared to have a thick skin.
“I was dismayed by how the events of this week drove a wedge between parents, splitting what was truly a united bipartisan effort. I may even lose a good friend or two over this. I hope not. Hopefully, with good leadership, we can get back on track.
“During these events I think the page was an important place for people to be heard and learn from each other. I think it worked the way it was intended to.
“Personally, I will need to turn my anger about how this week unfolded towards a more productive end. That includes seeing this budget cycle to the end, and recruiting an effective pro education slate of candidates for the BOE, CC, and mayor.”
On Friday, Jessica Garnett, an administrator of the page, called this story “disappointing.”
“I’m not sure that parents understand how incredibly difficult it is to moderate a page of nearly 2,500 people with varying opinions and agendas. We spend countless hours each week posting vital information to the parents, answering questions honestly, and reaching out to BoE and City Officials to bring FACTS to the parents of Norwalk.
“Barbara decided, and I fully supported, her stance that no one is censored on the page. In a perfect world all conversations would be 100% civil. In reality passion often takes over. As a proud graduate of Norwalk High School I have been dismayed for years at the apathy that has built up around our school system. Right or wrong I am thrilled to see passion reignited in our parent group. This week I received numerous FB messages and emails in support of our page and its mission. We will never be able to make everyone on the page happy, that is a reality that I accept. Ironically, as I co-administrator I have been the subject of many personal attacks. I consider it the ‘cost of doing business’. I will continue my work alongside the BoE and the parents to bring forth strong, education oriented candidates in the upcoming elections.”