Updated, 3 p.m.: Clarification, Steve Colarossi’s wife teaches at Brookside.
NORWALK, Conn. — The Brookside preschool program would not be on a list of possible budget cuts if Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski hadn’t given approval, former Board of Education member Steven Colarossi said.
Given that cutting the preschool would be “manifestly unfair” to the children and their families if an alternative weren’t available on the site, it’s a safe bet that the Early Language and Learning Initiative (ELLI) is in line, given the circumstances, he said.
Norwalk Public Schools denies the claim that Adamowski has offered ELLI space at Brookside Elementary School. Colarossi’s wife teaches preschool students at Brookside.
Colarossi said, in an opinion letter, that Adamowski “has, once again, unilaterally offered the Brookside classrooms to a consortium (known as ‘ELLI’) which includes a for-profit partner.”
The source of that information comes from the last School Governance Council meeting, where Brookside Principal Sandra Faioes made an announcement, he said in an email to NancyOnNorwalk.
Two other people who were at that meeting say that Faoies didn’t report that Adamowski had invited ELLI in. Faoies said ELLI was an option, they said.
Colarossi also said that NPS Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton would not put the Brookside preschool on a list of cuts that the Board of Education could make, if it chose, without Adamowski’s order, because a finance director does not generally make education decisions.
Colarossi said he filed a Freedom of Information request on June 15 because the district is denying an expansion of the ELLI program. Colarossi has requested documents dating back to May 15, 2016, relating to the use of Brookside School by Stepping Stones, Literacy How and/or the ELLI Preschool Program, including plans, communications, budget transfers and payments to Stepping Stones, Literacy How and/or the ELLI Preschool Program. On June 22, Colarossi said NPS had not complied with the request.
Colarossi has a history of filing FOI requests. In February, Freedom of Information Commission spokesman Tom Hennick confirmed that Colarossi had filed two complaints against the BoE, but had not shown up for the hearings.
“Dr. Adamowski has not offered the Brookside classrooms to ELLI,” NPS Communications Director Brenda Wilcox Williams said on June 22.
Colarossi, in an email, said:
“Here is the evidence that ELLI is coming to Brookside:
“First, the Brookside Principal, at the last school governance council meeting, explained that the two traditional Brookside preschool classrooms were being eliminated but that there were going to be replaced by ELLI classrooms. I doubt that someone as cautious as she would blurt out a rumor or speculation.
“Secondly, the Brookside preschool was put on the cut list with the Superintendent’s blessing; the Finance Director is not an educator and would, in most districts, not be the person to decide which academic programs should be put on the chopping block. So, it would appear that we were repeating the mistakes of last year when Supt. Adamowski, with no Board of Education approval, made the unilateral decision to close the Brookside preschool and replace it with two ELLI classrooms. Last year, you will recall, the switch was being planned with no disclosure to the BOE, no input from the parents who would be affected by the change, and no budgetary authority to pay the stipend ELLLI gets under their contract. Fool me once, shame on me—fool me twice, and gosh darn it, you’ve got a future as a superintendent of schools.
“Third, cancelling the Brookside preschool due to the budget crisis is a fairly transparent ruse. After all, as I had explained last year, the Brookside program is not expensive and ELLI is far more expensive. At that time, without disclosing any data (which would have proven my point) the administration touted that the Brookside program was just too expensive. So, if they feel compelled to develop some sort of cover story to explain the cancellation of a highly-regarded, parent—favorite, twice-nationally-accredited preschool program, then the ruse must serve some purpose. Obviously hoping that the average voters don’t read the budget too closely, the Administration will simply say that Brookside preschool was closed for budget reasons and most folks will believe it.
“Fourth, last year, actions undertaken by the Administration to advance ELLI were clear violations of the superintendent’s limited budgetary authority, resulted in ELLI being paid from a variety of accounts with neither approval from nor disclosure to the Board of Education and relied on a multi-prong attack where my wife’s integrity as a teacher was called into question by Bryan Meek who also opted to try to discredit me. This year, the inclusion of the Brookside preschool on the cut list was a surprise as it had never been mentioned to anyone previously. When I see secrecy, shadowy payments which obscure the purpose of them, misleading public statements and efforts to win a public debate by dispatching a bully, I become particularly suspicious.
“Fifth, last year, the Administration claimed that the results of one literacy test proved that ELLI was a better program than the Brookside preschool. However, that analysis failed to account for how the Brookside date could include 41 students in one cohort when only 40 students were enrolled for all of last year. Also, included in the ELLI data were the results from their full-year, extended day program at Stepping Stones (from which one would expect to see better results given that the children are drilled on phonics year round and do not have summers off).
“Sixth, it would be manifestly unfair to the children currently enrolled for next year if the District were to eliminate its own preschool program and have no on-site alternative. Therefore, as no other provider has been given the opportunity to compete with ELLI for free space, it would be a safe bet to expect ELLI to come into Brookside.
“Seventh, despite promises to the contrary last year, no information about the finances of ELLI and the Brookside program were ever made public or presented to the Finance Committee. So, it is hard for me to believe that given a history of secrecy about the elimination of the program and a lack of transparency regarding payments to ELLI, the Administration is now being open and transparent about their intentions for the preschool space.
“Therefore, I find it highly doubtful that no one in the administration has had any discussions with Stepping Stones or Margie Gillis about bringing ELLI to Brookside.”
NancyOnNorwalk contacted two people who were at the last Brookside School Governance Council meeting. One, who did not want to be quoted, said that Faoies did not say that ELLI was coming to the school.
SGC member Dawn Calle said this was discussed in an executive session. It’s in public now, she said, explaining in an email:
“At a recent meeting there was discussion of the preschool program.
“It had been in the news and there were questions and discussion.
“It was discussed that the ELLI program had been in consideration the last time they planned to change our preschool.
“But as far as I know now and knew then, there have/had been no decisions made.”