NORWALK, Conn. — As condemnations fly Friday on Facebook, the Norwalk Federation of Teachers has released a statement regarding its complaint against the Board of Education.
NFT President Mary Yordon announced Thursday that she has filed a Freedom of Information complaint against the BoE because of actions taken by the BoE Finance Committee, led by Bryan Meek. Many comments on the Facebook group Norwalk Parents for Education decry the move.
The NFT statement:
“The students we love deserve elected school officials willing to make better choices that won’t result in lost educational opportunities or cuts to school services they depend on. These budget challenges affect all of us — but Norwalk’s children will pay the ultimate price for the Board’s inflexibility, lack of negotiations and rule-breaking.
“Our students aren’t the only ones who will be hurt — and the Board knows that. They acknowledged as much back in April when it was admitted that teachers would lose access to current medical benefits under their proposed health insurance changes. That is why good faith, in-person negotiations are essential — not on Facebook or in the press — that lead to understanding and resolution of difficulties.
“To be clear, our member teachers have not refused the Board’s proposed health insurance changes.
“The families whose students we educate need to know that other school employees are considering the proposed insurance changes in the context of union contract talks. They also need to know that teachers are so far the only ones with whom the board has refused to negotiate.
“In a good faith effort to be part of the solution, in April we made an offer with reasonable terms when asked by the Board to consider the switch. The Board could have participated in a negotiation process, but instead they refused our proposal, never offered a counter or an additional meeting — and instead chose to dictate the terms. In an attempt to seek a mutual settlement that protects our students’ educational opportunities, we reached out again in mid-May but were met again by the board’s refusal.
“The new approach of the Board of Education is one where rules and proper procedure do not apply to them. They want to dictate outcomes inflexibly — but rules and process do matter. They have continually broken the terms of our contract, violated collective bargaining rules and demonstrated a general lack of respect — all while blaming Norwalk’s teachers for their financial mismanagement.
“Un-noticed, secret meetings and surprise announcements that shut out the public they are supposed to serve are just the latest tactics.
“Rather than making untrue assertions about our member teachers, the Board should properly reflect on its own behavior and make better choices that put our students’ education first.”
Facebook comments include one from Drew Todd, a longtime active parent.
“The BOE tried to negotiate in good faith and the NFT didn’t even respond to requests to continue negotiations. They are playing very old Union cards and and [sic] unfortunately they children will end up loosing. [sic] All we can do as concerned reasonable parents is to continue to keep the pressure on them and hope some in-reasonable [sic] people or attorneys that just like to hear themselves speak get a clue and realize what is truly happening all because of something that was as simple as 2+2.”
Former BoE member Steve Colarossi continues his commentary in favor of the NFT complaint.
“Does nobody want to appreciate that when a BOE Committee is considering serious cuts to important programs, they have a moral (and legal) obligation to give the public notice and a meaningful opportunity to speak” Colarossi asked. “…FOIA is clear- an agenda must give actual notice of specific actions being considered. The Finance Committee violated that provision. Say what you will about whether the meeting provision is necessary, but hiding information from the public is wrong- particularly when it’s being hidden solely to suppress public outcry over misplaced priorities.”