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Norwalk teachers stick with Yordon as layoff threat looms

Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Mary Yordon. (File photo)

NORWALK, Conn. – Leadership of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers was reelected Tuesday in what is described as s “strong show of support.”

This comes as the Board of Education threatens to lay off teachers, as the union refuses a request to change its health insurance plan. Leadership assumed their current roles after the sudden death of former President Bruce Mellion in September 2015.

A statement from NFT President Mary Yordon, sent Wednesday afternoon, said:

“In a strong show of support, Norwalk’s teachers re-elected Mary Yordon as President of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers on Tuesday June 6 at the final General membership meeting of the school year. The Executive Board was also unanimously re-elected. NFT member Jayne Sardella spoke of her appreciation of the important work done by the Federation during her long career, especially during the recent challenging years, and the steady leadership provided by officers. NFT member Debra Schneider described how we have a contract that is of value because our previous members fought for it and defended it. Dr. Adamowski’s assault on contract rights in Norwalk has resulted in unprecedented numbers of grievances and Labor Board complaints. Federation members discussed challenges this year that include misleading and sometimes even vulgar social media posts from Board of Education members.

“The NFT remains committed to delivering the very best education to the students of Norwalk. Our goal is to help our students grow despite the challenges placed before us. The teachers of Norwalk will continue to pursue our passion of educating Norwalk’s children and creating stronger communities.”

 

The BoE has requested that teachers join Connecticut Partnership 2.0 for their health benefits rather than the “self-insurance” plan that Norwalk Public Schools provides. Funding from the city for the 2017-18 NPS operating budget was predicated on an assumption that the switch would be made. NPS Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton estimated recently that 75 teacher layoffs would be necessary if the switch is not made.

The BoE Finance Committee is set to make budget cut recommendations Thursday during a meeting scheduled for 6 p.m.

Yordon said she was was first elected in a special election in the weeks following Mellion’s death, then in a standard election in June 2016.

18 comments

Danny June 8, 2017 at 10:03 am

If they refuse to change insurance plans, they all should be laid off. Let’s hire from the pool THOUSANDS of graduates who would be HONORED to work for our school system, and have a job.

Get rid of these greedy grumpy dinosaurs who have been sucking the teat of us hardworking taxpayers for way too long.

Out with the old, in with the new!

#MAGA !!

Norwalk Native June 8, 2017 at 10:23 am

This is the best possible news for the Taxpayers of the City of Norwalk, as the herd will now be trimmed.

I look forward to more obstinate and mule-headed responses from the NFT as a vehicle for addition through subtraction.

Thank you Mary Yordon and co. for continuing to “shrink” the problem.

Al Bore June 8, 2017 at 11:51 am

Niche.com rated the Norwalk school district 82 out of 100 for best school districts in CT. Not very good for such high paid teachers and administrators. People leave Norwalk because of the poor school system and the Norwalk taxpayers pay a lot of money funding the poor school system. Norwalk needs to stop cowering to the unions and stop bleeding the taxpayers. Let those who do not like working for the Norwalk school system go to greener grass, they won’t find it. The city of Norwalk is a great place to work but not a great place to live that is why most of the city workers do not live here.

Donna June 8, 2017 at 12:22 pm

@Danny, there is an existing system for hiring teachers not encumbered by expensive union contracts. It’s the charter school system. Norwalk has one such school. And Achievement First is all over CT. Why not Norwalk too? I’m sure Achievement first would happily set up shop at the site of the Ely campus.

Interesting that the NFT public statement is that they’re committed to providing the best possible education for the youth of Norwalk. Seems like collective bargaining leaves taxpayers holding the bag for benefits most of us cannot afford for ourselves.

MarjorieM June 8, 2017 at 1:17 pm

Has anyone noticed that there is money, and lots of it, for everything but honoring a contract that was signed in good faith by the BoE?

Disgusted June 8, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Get rid of the Union and hire them as city employees. Enough of the burden to the tax payer.

Al Bore June 8, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Yes that is the small part of the budget that goes to the students education, the lots of money part of the budget taxpayers can’t afford goes to the the NPS staff in the form of insane benefits for both active and retired city of Norwalk school employees. Stop complaining and come back to reality. I don’t get the benefits you expect and you sure as hell should not get them either especially if I have to pay for it.

Al Bore June 8, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Please keep in mind it is a failed school system with an incredible high budget that we are talking about. If we were a top school system in the state it would still be insane were not yet they want the best of the best benefits and pay for one of the worst school systems.

Danny June 8, 2017 at 4:18 pm

Let me tell you this.

If Norwalk Public Schools was known for their incredible test scores, it would create a frenzy of families, lining up at the Realtors office, buying homes in Norwalk – that’s one thing. But Norwalk is known for their less-than-favorable school system. What boggles my mind? These teachers are being paid out as if they’re teaching Greenwich residents and producing in the Top 1%. They’re not!

So why not get rid of the union and hire city employees to teach these kids? These teachers should be so lucky to have health insurance. They should COUNT their blessings to have the pay they have, to have the insurance they’ll be switched to. They need to concede or suffer the consequences, end of story.

I have NO sympathy for them – and i’m friends with some of these educators.

cc-rider June 8, 2017 at 4:57 pm

Marj- how about explaining in detail exactly what the teachers would be losing by switching to the state insurance plan? I would love to hear about the hardship the BOE is trying to inflict here.

Martha June 11, 2017 at 9:56 am

I am an instructor, but not in Norwslk. I do live in Norwalk and have sent my kids through the NPS. Clearly none of the commenters here have ever been teachers. Let me inform you that 1) most teachers can’t afford to live in Norwalk due to high cost of living here; 2) Norwalk has a diverse population of students, making it very difficult to reach those high levels of standardized test successes (and those don’t really measure anything anyway); and 3) unions require that the teachers have more education than those precious charter schools that are always heralded. Norwalk IS NOT Darien, New Canaan, Wilton, etc. We have a poor population of students who deserve the same education as everyone else. If you all think it’s so easy to teach, why don’t you all volunteer to be teaching assistants in your kids’ classes for a day. And by the way, it’s the administrators who make the money, not the teachers.

LMR June 11, 2017 at 10:27 pm

My family is being forced to CT 2.0…and my husbsnd works for the town of Greenwich. Nothing is being lost, the plan is no better or worse than the plan we are coming from. In fact, its better and still a lot cheaper than what we could get from my job in the private sector. The more people on the plan = more doctors that will decide to accept the insurance.

Lisa Thomson June 12, 2017 at 5:46 am

Martha,

I hear what you are saying … but teachers aren’t the only one’s who can afford Norwalk, I can’t afford it long term. All of us are struggling to live in Connecticut. Many are leaving. One of the reasons is high taxes. One of the major contributing factors to high taxes is health insurance premiums. With 169 towns, each having their own plan x two if one considers BOE versus City workers – the only ones making money are the insurance carriers…and guess what they are moving too!! (think Aetna)

Over the past 10 years in the private sector, I’ve had my premiums rise, my carriers changed and as a retiree – cancelled and told to go look elsewhere. My story is not unique and on this particular issue, the NFT will garner little sympathy from the taxpaying private citizen, who is funding the insurance in the first place. This is not a personal vendetta against teachers, this is reality. Anything that brings economy of scale – is better for everyone in the long run.

Donna June 12, 2017 at 8:30 am

@Martha, on what basis can you claim, “clearly, none of the commenters here have ever been teachers”? I have been a teacher.. My son is a teacher. And I know many public school teachers in Fairfield County, incuding some NPS teachers. Is it possible that skepticism about the NFT is based in knowledge and experience? Also you suggest that student diversity in Norwalk makes it harder to achieve on standardized tests. Are you also suggesting minorities aren’t as capable of performing well on these tests? Because that’s what it sounds like. In the same breath, you say the tests don’t really measure anything anyway. The recurrent mythology in underperforming districts is that the tests aren’t worth the paper they’re written on and that student diversity (i.e.minorities) explains poor performance. In a famous speech to the NAACP, George W. Bush called this “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Poor and minority children are the ones who suffer most when accountabitly is weakened. And good standardized tests are how we make schools and teachers accountable.

While the NFT may require more education, there’s very little discussion about the quality of the education they require. Some of the finest teachers I’ve known entered public schools via ARC. One was a petroleum engineer. My son teaches in a charter school. He has no certificate and no advanced degree. But the kids in his school are learning and performing well. The arguments against charter schools are being debunked daily. Some are mediocre. But the NY metro area is home to some of the best charter school systems in the country, Achievement First and Success Academy. The real benefit to taxpayers, children and parents of charter schools is when you have school choice, public schools are forced to be competitive.

For taxpayers especially, a well run charter school can save money and provide quality education for a variety of reasons. No union is one of those reasons. Their Central Offiices are also smaller.

In Westport by contract teachers were paid for attendance at Back to School Night and Parent Teacher Conferences. I think it’s time for teachers to start acting like the white collar professionals they claim to be. White collar professionals don’t get paid extra for attending business meetings after hours. It’s a job expectation. And white collar professionals accept whatever health insurance plan they are offered. Individually, NPS has many excellent teaching professionals. But the NFT’s collective bargaining has soured many of us. And yes we all know a contract is a contract. But the undercurrent of frustration with the NFT you’re reading on this thread is a PR problem for the union that they had better address.

Steve Colarossi June 12, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Let’s put aside the societal goal that fidelity to written contracts underpins our economy. Instead, let’s look at facts:

Fact 1: In 2015, the BoE published a press release praising their “fiscal responsibility” for the teachers contract that had been negotiated for 2016-2019. https://www.norwalkps.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=71681&pageId=4452728).

Fact 2: The insurance plan is essentially self-funded. To meet its obligations, the BoE has an Insurance Fund which the City manages. Last year, in the City’s Comprehensive Financial Report (on page 9), a plan was set out to draw down on the amount of money that was being held in the Insurance Fund because it appeared to be in excess of what was needed. The Insurance Fund carries a balance from year to year in the event that the present year’s allocation is insufficient to meet that year’s obligations. Here is the link to the report (it’s on page 9 that you’ll find the draw-down discussion): http://www.norwalkct.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/11484

Fact 3: The Board of Education drew funds out of the Insurance Fund last year to pay for special education program improvements. These were the “excess” funds later identified in the City’s Comprehensive Report and supposedly presented a painless way to fund these long-overdue improvements.

Fact 4: After praising the fiscal responsibility of the contract that included the teacher’s insurance plan, and after withdrawing funds from the fund that paid for that plan, the BoE is now telling the public that it is the teachers, and not their own mismanagement, that is resulting in a need for two million dollars to fully fund the insurance plan.

Fact 5: Rather than engaging the public in an open and honest discussion about this potential insurance shortfall (and facing criticism for their lack of forethought), the BoE Finance Committee kept potential cuts in secret, circulating them among members to reach “consensus”. This action is a violation of the spirit (if not the letter) of the state’s open meeting law.

Fact 6: The BoE has circulated more public communiques telling us who to blame rather than identifying and proposing true solutions to the problem.

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