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Secret cut list reveals students a low priority to Norwalk Board of Education

Steven Colarossi

Steven Colarossi is a former member of Norwalk’s Board of Education.

In 2015, with much self-congratulation for its “fiscal responsibility,” the Norwalk BoE negotiated a teachers’ contract for 2016-2019 that included the current insurance plan.  The praise for this plan is set out in the BoE’s own press release (which can be read here).

Then, in 2016, when faced with a need to implement long-overdue program improvements in Special Education services, the BoE opted to fund these improvements by raiding the Insurance Fund (the fund set up to pay medical claims under the teachers’ contract).  Such a funding scheme was to have no impact on other school department services and was touted as such by the BoE’s expanding propaganda office.  You can read the article about this pain-free means of funding special education here.

The BoE’s decision was supported by the City’s own financial team, which manages the Insurance Fund.  In the City’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2016, the City (which manages the Insurance Fund used to pay benefits under the BoE teachers’ contract), indicated that a “draw down” was fiscally prudent and justified given its review of claims.  That statement can be found on page 9 of the report which you can read here.

Of course, a few months after the decision to draw down on Insurance Fund was put into action, a startling revelation was made tucked inside the notes to the 2017-2018 budget: “While the recommendation to draw down the available balance in the Insurance Fund in this way helped reduce the Board of Education budget for FY 2016-17, at this point the available surplus in the Insurance Fund is below the recommended level and sufficient funds are not available to offset the increase in costs.” (2017-2018 recommended Norwalk Public Schools operating budget; Superintendent’s budget message, notes 17 & 18.)

One would think that the actions of the BoE to expend funds from a reserve account that put that account in jeopardy would have caused some level of review or analysis by the BoE’s Finance Committee.  At a minimum, one would think that the dire prediction for the adequacy of that fund would have prompted some prudent minds to begin the process of evaluating other Board of Education spending.  But that didn’t happen.  Rather, a secret document was circulated proposing the most onerous cuts possible to children’s education along with press statements and blog posts by BoE members decrying, not the Administration’s mismanagement, not their own lack of oversight, but the greed of the teachers in wanting to maintain benefits (critical to their families) that were negotiated and implemented less than one year earlier.

Now, when faced with having to pay for the fiscally-responsible teachers’ contract and the other expenses of running a school department, the BoE seems to be crying foul.  Rather than accepting responsibility for the contract it negotiated and the Insurance Fund draw down it initiated, the BoE wants to blame the teachers for relying upon a contract that was negotiated in good faith and implemented less than one year earlier.

Rather than engage the public in an honest discussion of its continued fiscal mismanagement and lack of any clear oversight over BoE finances, the Finance Committee of the Board of Education has accepted the word of Superintendent Steven Adamowski (whose costly pet projects litter the budget with barely a whisper of circumspection) that there are but a handful of budget cuts (all of which, with one exception,  will negatively impact the quality of education for our children) that can resolve this fiscal crisis.

Of course, rather than accept responsibility that the actions of the Board of Education have created the need for budget adjustments, the BoE propaganda machine wants to convince the public that if only it weren’t for greedy, self-serving teachers, none of these cuts would be necessary.  The facts, as revealed above, tell an entirely different story.  But, to keep to their narrative, the Board of Education’s Finance Committee has had to skirt the state’s Open Meeting Law by circulating the Superintendent’s suggested cuts privately and then presenting them as a fait accompli at a meeting at which the public was not allowed to speak.

Certainly, Norwalk’s parents deserved to know of these proposed cuts when they were first being “circulated,” and the public deserved to be heard during the planning stages (and not merely given the right to oppose them at the meeting at which the budget will be approved).  And, like many parents of a public school child, I’d like to know what motivated this set of anti-student cuts.  Why are subsidies to the for-profit Literacy How, LLC remaining in the budget for their private pre-school program (which other pre-school operators would undertake with no financial assistance), when the less-expensive NPS program at Brookside School is being cut?  Why is a bloated Central Office administration (which includes an expanded communications department) facing cuts of just two positions?  Why would cuts be made to kindergarten aides at a time when children come to school with increasing needs (that are impossible for a lone teacher to manage) but no savings are sought from the high school band or sport programs (other than the often-threatened swim team)?

Clearly, this budget proposal presents the unequivocal sentiment of the administration and BoE majority that the needs of students are secondary to pet projects, administrative bloat and a long-simmering desire to punish teachers for accepting and relying upon a contract that was negotiated in good faith and praised by all parties less than two years ago.

Norwalk’s students deserve better.  Norwalk’s parents deserve a voice in the process. And Norwalk’s taxpayers deserve some measure of honesty in the debate that is needed over the direction we, as a community, wish for our schools and families.

35 comments

Sue Haynie June 14, 2017 at 6:02 am

Yes, the 2016-2019 NFT contract ‘included the current insurance plan’.

What Mr. Colarossi conveniently omits is that this same NFT contract also included ‘Article X Health/Life Insurance, Paragraph 6, Change of Carrier/Third-Party Administrator’ where ‘The Board reserves the right to change the carrier/third party administrator for the benefits described in this Article..’

The NFT is eating the hand that feeds it.

cc-rider June 14, 2017 at 6:20 am

Steve- this is more nonsense. Change insurance carriers and be done with it. No normal person is believing what the BOE is asking is inflicting any hardship upon the union. This is a real life situation that has happened to nearly everyone at some point in time.

Al Bore June 14, 2017 at 7:04 am

Once again I say “Too bad they don’t put this much energy into making the school system into a top notch school district instead of one of the lowest in the state. ” They should not have a choice my company changed my insurance plan, I got less and I pay more NO CHOICE. Do it and who doesn’t like it they can move on to greener grass.

Tony P June 14, 2017 at 7:35 am

Thank you, Mr. Colarossi, for succinctly and objectively articulating the following:

“Now, when faced with having to pay for the fiscally-responsible teachers’ contract and the other expenses of running a school department, the BoE seems to be crying foul. Rather than accepting responsibility for the contract it negotiated and the Insurance Fund draw down it initiated, the BoE wants to blame the teachers for relying upon a contract that was negotiated in good faith and implemented less than one year earlier.”

This is the meat of the issue, not if the health insurance is comparable. The NFT has done a poor job getting this point across. And cheers for calling out the propaganda machine (and BoE groupies), CO bloat, pet projects and shady deals with for profit companies – these are hallmarks of an Adamowski admin, something our BoE signed NPS up for another 3 years. Can’t wait!

Bryan Meek June 14, 2017 at 7:57 am

An honest opinion would start off with the fact your wife is on the payroll and might have to change positions. Not lose her job or her benefits, just change her position.

The facts are the financial picture changed. You don’t need a WSJ subscription to know what is going on with health care costs. The opinion cited in the city financials was supported by one of the leading actuarial firms on the planet.

The reason for the drawdown, which is a small fraction of the explosion in health care costs, was to fund SPED. Something that was grossly neglected under your tenure as BOE Finance chair. We were trying to comply with the third state audit citing failure after failure that occurred under your watch and avoid a $20 million lawsuit similar to what happened to Darien.

This has been the most transparent budget process in many years unlike the secret unbalanced budget you put forward in 2012 where after years of raiding the insurance fund into a deficit you tried to create even more problems. Unlike the current funding of SPED, you couldn’t even account for where the $4 million deficit went that cost 40 teachers their jobs.

The other difference here is you waited for it to happen, whereas we are not going to let it happen today. All of our expenditures were laid out. The cap comes in, and we adjust. That’s how you budget.

The entire budget has been available on line for months now.

If you want to be productive, why don’t you take this transparency argument up to the state house? As of today we have no clue what revenues will materialize or vanish and they are extremely late in the process. I look forward to your further criticisms of me when we have to make further adjustments based on what they do, if they ever do it.

However, when I am at school picking up my children I would appreciate not being harassed about it in front of them.

McKeen Shanogg June 14, 2017 at 8:50 am

What exactly are the “costly pet projects” that “litter the budget”?
If, as @BryanMeek says, the budget has been available online for months, why hasn’t anybody pointed these out? And why isn’t anybody proposing cutting them instead of the kindergarten aides?

Father of Pre-School student at Brookside June 14, 2017 at 9:27 am

Mr Meek – I don’t care about the specifics regarding this budget. I want to know why my child will not have a pre-school to go to in the fall after we already signed her up. We were not made aware of this and we want to know why this decision is just coming down now. The ELLY program stinks. Every parent that has sent their kid there believes this. Make these decisions in a more timely fashion and circulate the news earlier in the process.

This is why families leave this city before their children hit middle school. It’s a complete joke. We’re headed to a town with a better school system and a BOE that communicates to their citizens. And I grew up here and went to school in Norwalk.

Steve Colarossi June 14, 2017 at 9:58 am

The previous post raise issues that merit a response:

LACK OF BUDGET REVIEW–
The lack of adequate review of the budget by the Finance Committee, and the lack of any meaningful discussion in anticipation of the likely need for some cuts is obvious by the number of Finance Committee meetings which were cancelled since the budget was issued. The December 2016 meeting was cancelled as were the meetings for February, March and April of 2017. The January meeting presented an overview of the proposed budget and the May meeting unveiled the secret cut list with no opportunity for the public to offer any comment. The question, then, isn’t why didn’t I do Bryan Meek’s job, but why didn’t Bryan Meek do his job and hold regular meetings to discuss the possibility of budget cuts and the likely areas in which those cuts might be found. The list of these cancelled meetings is available on the NPS website (http://alturl.com/j4k8a).

SPECIAL ED HISTORY–
Mr. Meek wants to excuse his approving the draw down of the Insurance Fund by claiming that I somehow caused the need for special education funding three years after I was turned out of office. Huh? First, I did address the excessive amounts spent on hiring lawyers to fight special education parents (which improved implementation of services). Secondly, I did request a presentation of how outside services could be moved in-district. Unfortunately, the Curriculum Committee did not share my belief in making these changes, and the administration was reluctant to implement any changes. Third, the problem with Norwalk’s delivery of special education services dates back many years and was the subject of a 2009 report (in the wake of the Stacie Lorre debacle). And, since, Mr. Meek’s appearance on the BoE, there has been a revolving door at the office of the Special Education director. Now, Mr. Meek is no more responsible for this rapid turnover in key staff than anyone else. However, a prudent elected official should appreciate that the rapid turnover can negatively impact the delivery of services rather than trying to convince the public that one lone member somehow created the problem.

STATE 2.0 IS NOT COMPARABLE–
The State 2.0 insurance plan is not merely a change in carrier. It is a diminution of benefits. Perhaps, rather than simply clinging to a dogmatic position that the teachers should change their medical insurance for the worse or face the wrath of the BoE, prudent minds should have evaluated the areas responsible for the increase in health care costs and addressed those concerns. For example, certain benefits could have required additional co-pays, or more regular primary care physician review could have been required for some on-going services. But, better to draw a line in the sand that supports your narrative of the evils of public sector unions rather than constructively working with them to contain costs.

POSSIBLE NON-CLASSROOM CUTS–
Did you really think I didn’t have some ideas of where the budget has been padded?
A number of Central Office departments maintain large increases over last year’s appropriations. Many of these can (should) be scaled back rather than eliminating funds needed in our classrooms. My summary of these potential cuts is available through this link to GoogleDrive:
http://alturl.com/c2mxd
By a cursory analysis, there is at least $1,000,000 in easy savings that won’t impact a single classroom. I think that qualifies as my doing my part.
Of course, if Mr. Meek actually wanted public input, he might want to consider holding all of the scheduled meetings of his Finance Committee rather than cancelling them, providing the public the right to speak at all of his meetings, ceasing his attacks on teachers and controlling his penchant for trying to insult critics into silence.

PET PROJECTS–
There remains an annual expenditure of $200,000 for teacher “professional development” that is paid to the consortium of Stepping Stones Museum and the private, for-profit Literacy How, LLC. Given the limited effectiveness of this program, a more thorough professional development program could be developed in-house at far less cost.
The budget retains the subsidies for the ELLI preschool program. This program provides free space in three elementary schools for the Stepping Stone-Literacy How consortium to operate a preschool. This group collects all the school readiness grant funds allocated to its students and all the tuition dollars paid by parents. In addition, this group receives an annual stipend of more than $300,000 from the school department budget. The per pupil expense to NPS is $4,938. The Brookside pre-school program has a net cost of approximately $42,000 per year for its two classrooms (that comes out to $1,050.00 per student). Paying a private group (which includes a for-profit partner) to privatize a service NPS has provided at lower cost seems to be a waste of money (particularly where other quality, accredited pre-school operators would run their programs in our free space with no stipend).

Despite teacher lay-offs and significant program changes, there remain budget allocations for school redesign and school reform. These are the very definition of pet projects, particularly in light of the high salaries being paid to Central Office administrators to oversee redesign and reform of our schools.

Educator June 14, 2017 at 10:52 am

What Mr. Meek fails to mention is that in 2012 the reserve account was under the watchful eye of the city’s finance director – Thomas Hamilton and not the BOE Finance Chair. Mr. Hamilton allowed the account to be depleted which led to a budget deficit. In addition, most of the $4 million deficit was due to SPED overruns by an incompetent SPED director.

It was during that budget process that the NFT was asked to switch insurance carriers to make up for the budget shortfall and they did; doing their part to alleviate the deficit. Now they are being asked to assist the Finance chair because of his miscalculation when he raided the insurance reserve account to fund SPED.

As educators, we are mindful to keep history accurate and not rewrite it to fit our own narratives.

Patrick Cooper June 14, 2017 at 11:40 am

@Brian Meek – bravo! To suspender Steve – get a grip. Try a 29% increase in premiums in one year, you’d be on this page spouting the apocalypse is near! But that’s what happened this year, to single payers. Steve – I get it your wife is an employee and you are on HER benefits. Here’s the facts: if you side with the NFT, you’re not on the side of taxpayers, nor the kids. So it’s good to know you’re a shill for their propaganda machine, confirmed by the always Marj-like Tony P. For your next psilocybin laced thesaurus laden word salad, maybe you can defend your BOE record?

Disgusted June 14, 2017 at 11:59 am

So if the current contract has language that allows the insurance carriers to be changed then why does the NFT need to approve anything?

As Sue Haynie pointed out…

“…included ‘Article X Health/Life Insurance, Paragraph 6, Change of Carrier/Third-Party Administrator’ where ‘The Board reserves the right to change the carrier/third party administrator for the benefits described in this Article..’”

Bryan Meek June 14, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Ok Educator. So back then the BOE had no responsibility for overdrawing accounts, but today I’m responsible for not letting them go into deficit. History may subject to interpretation, but logic isn’t.

You obviously don’t teach math either as 1.3 million for SPED over three years doesn’t do anything to address an 8.6 million spike on one year for health care costs. Arthur J Gallagher, a publicly traded, global actuarial firm wasn’t able to forecast this spike either. Today we are dealing with it the best way we can and we did it before it became a worse problem having recognized the issue nearly six months ago now. In 2012 it was swept under the rug until it exploded.

Al Bore June 14, 2017 at 1:42 pm

As always the kids suffer and the NPS greedy staff couldn’t care less. It is all about how much more they can suck out of the taxpayers of Norwalk. The NPS needs to change with the times. I had to change in the corporate world not by my choice my employer did not ask for my opinion and most everyone else had to do the same (1 to 2 % pay raises and less insurance benefits at a higher premium cost)so why do they think they are better than everyone else is beyond me. They are not better is my point, wipe your tears and if you don’t like it go elsewhere. I am sick and tired of paying for you to have better than me and my family!

MarjorieM June 14, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Al Bore, I am tired of your comparisons of corporate vs. education benefits. Please allow me to ask you about some of your benefits. Do you have twenty minute lunches with students waiting for you to pick them up at the cafeteria – so you’d better not be late or you screw up the entire cafeteria schedule. Are you tied to your desk without being able to go to the bathroom because twent four students are your responsibility and you can not leave them alone? Are you always”0n” because those same faces are looking at you and depending on you at all times? Are you a person with a minimum of a master’s degree? Are you required to pay for furthering your own education? With your own money? Do you face many children daily who come in sneezing, with a temperature or perhaps worse? Have you ever worked in a classroom? …..Please don’t come back at me with the summer vacation argument. Many in the corporate world have 6 week vacations. Most teachers work or get further educated during the summer. Lastly, are you going to refuse a salary raise or increased benefits if offered by your employer, or are you “greedy.”

Corporate World June 14, 2017 at 9:38 pm

MarjorieM – I can assure you that many in the corporate world DO NOT have 6 weeks of vacation. Not sure where you obtained that viewpoint. It’s dramatic and inaccurate.

Debora Goldstein June 14, 2017 at 9:42 pm

@Educator,

Are you saying this is the second time NFT members are being asked to switch providers in five years?

Steve Colarossi June 15, 2017 at 7:47 am

It can be worthwhile to have an honest debate about whether employees should pay for the BoE’s financial shortfalls.
But, this is not a debate about a change in carriers. State 2.0 offers fewer covered services at greater cost to the insured.
And of course, as long as folks can be made to feel resentful of teachers, the BoE can continue to face no accountability for poor financial decisions.

Concerned June 15, 2017 at 7:56 am

I too am curious about the answer to this

“Disgusted

June 14, 2017 at 11:59 am

So if the current contract has language that allows the insurance carriers to be changed then why does the NFT need to approve anything?

As Sue Haynie pointed out…

“…included ‘Article X Health/Life Insurance, Paragraph 6, Change of Carrier/Third-Party Administrator’ where ‘The Board reserves the right to change the carrier/third party administrator for the benefits described in this Article..’”

Donna June 15, 2017 at 9:05 am

@Steve, when you say “it can be worthwhile to have an honest debate about whether employees should pay for the BoE’s financial shortfalls,” you leave out the part where the NFT’s contract in and of itself is a contributor to the BoE shortfalls. This is disingenuous on your part. So maybe we need another honest debate about how both sides in this unpleasant tug of war spin the facts to suit their narrative.

While we’re on the theme of the disingenuous manner in which you spin your narrative, you need to correct your last sentence as well. People are NOT resentful of teachers. They are resentful of the UNION, the Norwalk Federation of Teachers.

Debora Goldstein June 15, 2017 at 10:06 am

Hmmm. Teachers v. Taxpayers. Interesting frame.

I wonder how many teachers and their families live and own homes in Norwalk. Bet a lot of our teachers ARE taxpayers.

Everyone treats rising health insurance costs as if it were an uncontrollable, mysterious force of nature.

Group insurers are the greedy ones here. The insurance model is the single biggest driver of health CARE costs.

The mean-spirited attitude towards public services when they happen to be people-delivered is stunning. Nobody is getting out the pitchforks and suggesting paper companies or copier ink companies are making their property taxes too high.

These things get more expensive YOY too.

The fact of the matter is that, if there were no 2.0 option here, these cuts are the ones this board would have chosen.

Would anyone in this city believe this is a rational level of educational services for the current level of taxation? If this model were frozen at these levels for ten years–same services, same taxes–would the kids graduating at the end of that decade have been served?

I would argue that they would not.

It would appear that the city needs to start focusing on outcomes in education planning and budgeting as well.

Lisa Brinton Thomson June 15, 2017 at 11:26 am

Bottom line, Norwalk’s expenses are out of step with its revenues. The debate remains why?

Are city expenses too high, due to collective bargaining agreements or poor management? On the other side of the city ledger are revenues too low due to collective bargaining, poor management, the inability to grow the commercial grandlist or ordinance enforcement?

Should unions look to financial concessions in exchange for job security? Should residential property taxes be raised further?

Given the business and residential exodus from state, Connecticut’s problem is becoming our problem. Hopefully, the upcoming mayoral, common council and BOE elections will provide a forum for addressing these issues.

Mike Barbis June 15, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Educator: Excuse me but you did write “As educators, we are mindful to keep history accurate and not rewrite it to fit our own narratives.” Please review your sources because you have it wrong. I went back and confirmed this with our insurance advisor/consultant.

Please get your facts correct. NPS did switch how the plan was financed in 2012 but there was no change in carriers or plan design — it would have been invisible to employees, they were not impacted and would have never known. We did move to the HSA plan in 2010 which obviously represented a change.

Steve Colarossi June 15, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Deborah-
The teachers contract is no more the “cause” of the deficit than any other single multiyear agreement whose costs can be estimated (if not known). The contract was negotiated by bright folks who could have let an arbitrator decide it. But it represents an agreement between the two sides. If it isn’t just a guide you follow if it’s convenient then it’s not a contract.

As for the comment about teacher resentment, I stand by my belief that some in our community and some on our BOE do not appear to respect teachers- just read some of the posts here if you doubt it.

Al Bore June 16, 2017 at 8:03 am

MarjorieM

Marjori I get a half hour lunch break which I seldom take, I do have a masters degree which I had to pay for, and I work 10 hours a day plus tied all day to a desk. When I go home with my laptop I still work preparing for the next day. I have six weeks of PTO for sick, personal, and vacation time. Remember the salary and benefits you are offered I have to pay for and I don’t want to anymore since they are no longer realistic and the Norwalk taxpayers can’t afford them anymore. Wipe your tears and enjoy your summer off while I work.

Al Bore June 16, 2017 at 8:26 am

Remind me so the next time we will compare how many paid holidays you get and how many I get. Bye for now I have to prepare for a lunch and learn; that is where I give a presentation during my lunch time and still get paid for 40 hours a week.

anna russo June 16, 2017 at 12:27 pm

@MarjorieM:
Stop with your insidious rebuttals. Here is what corporate America looks like right now:

“Do you have twenty minute lunches with students waiting for you to pick them up at the cafeteria – so you’d better not be late or you screw up the entire cafeteria schedule.”
Guess what, most days I don’t take a lunch or I eat at my desk because of whatever layoffs there are/cutting back – I have to pick up the slack and get the work done. Hey, sometimes I’m at the office until 10 or 11 pm and weekends (bet you won’t find one teacher at the school at that time)

“Are you tied to your desk without being able to go to the bathroom because twent four students are your responsibility and you can not leave them alone?”
So teachers don’t go to the bathroom? I find that REALLY hard to believe. What are we “teaching” our children if they can’t be told to sit in their seats for 5 minutes? ENABLING that’s what. The nuns told us to sit – we sat with our hands crossed but that’s what liberalism gets you – people who can’t take/give responsibility.

Are you always”0n” because those same faces are looking at you and depending on you at all times?
Yes, absolutely – even those “events” we are always ON.

Are you a person with a minimum of a master’s degree?
Absolutely, MBA’s are the minimum.

Are you required to pay for furthering your own education? With your own money?
Yes. And we do it while working all year long – without the benefit of a two month vacation.

Do you face many children daily who come in sneezing, with a temperature or perhaps worse?
We have adults who do the same thing. We are also enclosed in small offices or cubicles.

Have you ever worked in a classroom?
What does that have to do with anything? Have you ever worked in a corporate environment?

…..Please don’t come back at me with the summer vacation argument. Many in the corporate world have 6 week vacations.
Like others have stated, that is just exaggeration to the extreme. No one gets more than two maybe three weeks off (and that INCLUDES sick time). So that “summer vacation argument” is a very concrete argument.

Most teachers work or get further educated during the summer.
But people in corporate world do all year long WHILE WORKING 40+ hours.

Lastly, are you going to refuse a salary raise or increased benefits if offered by your employer, or are you “greedy.”
The difference in pay increases are so vastly different I have to laugh out loud at this statement.

MarjorieM June 16, 2017 at 2:17 pm

When Dr. Marks was superintendent, the insurance excess fund went into (about) a four million dollar deficit. Hamilton worked for the city’s that time. Some present Board members were either on the BoE or serving on the BET; why did these same people go into the insurance account again and put the district in jeopardy again? BTW, has the extra money that went into Special Education ever been accounted for?

Nancy Chapman June 16, 2017 at 2:30 pm

Marjorie, the progress of the Special Education transition has been explained publicly. See this story https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2017/05/norwalk-public-schools-touts-progress-in-special-education/ which includes detailed documents.
There is a balance in the Special Education Transitional Development Fund that is being carried over to the next year, as mentioned in this story: https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2017/06/norwalk-boe-ending-fiscal-year-sans-difficulty/
The reasons the BoE “went into the insurance fund” have been widely reported.
https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2016/02/norwalk-telling-boe-use-your-insurance-surplus-to-fund-special-ed-keep-tax-increase-low/

TEACH TO ALL June 16, 2017 at 4:38 pm

I am an educator in the Norwalk Public Schools. I come to work every day with prepared plans and materials that I have designed myself (because the approved curriculum is not supported by the chosen textbook and ancillary materials). The school day is a part of my work day.I am often at my desk until 6 pm and then when I go home I work some more. I advise a student after school activity on a voluntary basis. I spread my annual compensation out over the calendar year rather than take it all during the school year. I buy supplies and incentives with my own money, buy pizza and goodies and support fund raisers for the school community. I provide extra help to students before and after school. I am not the only teacher that does this, yet we are made to feel like we are the bad guys. We are being attacked unfairly as a smoke screen for ineptitude by the decision makers who show their disdain for us by stirring up the public against us.

Debora Goldstein June 16, 2017 at 6:46 pm

@Mike Barbis,

Thanks for answering my question about the frequency/timing of the changes to the health care plan.

@Steve Colarossi,

I am not sure what you read by another “Deborah” somewhere but I did not say any of the things you are suggesting I said.

1.I never said the teachers contract is the “cause” of the deficit. I said “The insurance model is the single biggest driver of health CARE costs.” ie Group Insurance providers are driving up the costs of care and leaving us to fight over who has to pay for the extraordinary price increases.

2. I happen to agree that the City should honor the contract. I have stated so, in the past. This contract appears to give the BOE the option to change providers if the benefits are the same. It’s fair for each side to have an opinion about it. I happen to believe that there is a very small probability that the plans are truly providing equal services for lower cost, but I haven’t combed through the SPDs. Its also been reported that the union has not actually voted on this change, so its unclear if the rank and file is as fussed about the change to 2.0 as the union leadership is portraying it. We have no way of knowing.

3. As for your comment “As for the comment about teacher resentment, I stand by my belief that some in our community and some on our BOE do not appear to respect teachers- just read some of the posts here if you doubt it.” I agree. I said people were mean-spirited. Here is my quote:

” The mean-spirited attitude towards public services when they happen to be people-delivered is stunning. Nobody is getting out the pitchforks and suggesting paper companies or copier ink companies are making their property taxes too high. ”

If this needs clarification, the point is that a lot of people resent giving raises to PEOPLE who deliver government services (ie teachers who teach our children) and don’t have a single evil word if the COMPANIES who deliver government services raise their prices (ie food for the cafeteria, paper for the office copiers, epi-pens for the classrooms, whatever)

This Lord of the Flies mentality has no place in government services. The mantra that “If I can’t have it, they shouldn’t have it, because I pay for it” is plain mean-spirited. As I said before, nobody is out with pitchforks about the services that aren’t delivered by people in the education budget, even though those costs go up year over year in the real world too.

Investing in the next generation is one of the best investments we can make. Contracts should be honored. Lots of things about this situation are true and correct, and yet we have a finite number of resources, and both sides are leaving out the people they are supposed to be representing. This City can, and should, do better.

Al Bore June 17, 2017 at 6:37 am

Marjorie, did I forget to mention the teachers get winter recess, spring recess, and I think fall recess as well and every possible holiday you can imagine in between. I get thanksgiving and the day after Christmas and New years with either the day before or the day after each depending how they fall.

angel June 17, 2017 at 9:10 am

I am very offended to read about the lack of respect for what teachers do. I am very careful to not insult/judge other careers because I am not, nor ever plan to be in their shoes. EVERY job has their pluses and minuses, including corporate and education.
@Anna Russo and Al Bore, I work EXTREMELY hard at making sure EVERY individual child gets the education they deserve and take every part of my job very seriously. You clearly do not respect what we do by the insults you have written here to make us look like we are overpaid babysitters with lots of vacation time. You may not be happy with the comments made by MarjorieM, however, please do not judge what we, educators, do if you have never been in our shoes. I have MANY family members who are not educators and I will never offend their careers as I never have been in their shoes, and they clearly have their own benefits to their jobs that teachers do not get.
Can we all just stick with the main issue without insulting each other? Judging other people’s careers is not going to solve the budget. It is just going to create disrespect and hatred to the teachers who put your kids first in the classrooms. And to lump every teacher in the category of being greedy with the insurance is very unfair as well because I guarantee that you have not surveyed the majority of the teachers on their opinions.

Al Bore June 17, 2017 at 4:31 pm

Angel, I was very offended when Marjorie was demeaning what I do and said I do not work as hard nor have the education that a teacher does and that corporate life is easy. I work EXTREMELY hard and take every part of my job very seriously as well. You may not be happy with the my comments, however, please do not judge what I do if you have never been in my shoes. I wish Marjorie would have just stuck with the main issue without insulting those of us who work in corporate america. Judging other people’s careers is not going to solve the budget, it is just going to create disrespect and hatred. Angel how dare you call me out, please read Marjorie’s comments and send her the same letter for demeaning me and others who are not educators but are professionals who work extremely hard. Thank you Anna Russo for a well written comment and I hope Marjorie understands just a little bit what is is like to be a professional person at corporate america although she has never done it.

Angel June 17, 2017 at 5:19 pm

Al, I NEVER judged you. That’s my point. I respect EVERYONE’S job. Where do you see me undermining what you do? Please take your own advise and stick to the main issue. MajorieM included. But in my opinion, you went a bit far, taking this to another whole level by taking Marjorie’s opinion as if she speaks for all the educators. She doesn’t. So, again, don’t judge all teachers because you don’t like what one person said. Back to the main issue please!!!

Jim Corrigan July 6, 2017 at 1:30 am

All of Norwalk’s suffering is caused by poorly qualified elected officials and an illegal alien population out of control. The schools are overburdened and crime and noise are increasing.

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NancyOnNorwwalk.com was conceived as the place to go for Norwalk residents to get the real, unvarnished story about what is going on in and around their city. NancyOnNorwalk does not intend to be a print newspaper online; rather, it exists to pull the curtain back and shine a spotlight on how Norwalk is run and what is happening regarding issues that have an impact on taxpayers’ pocketbooks and safety. As an independent site, NancyOnNorwalk’s first and only allegiance is to the reader.

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Nancy came to Norwalk in September 2010 and, after reporting on Norwalk for two years for another company, resigned to begin Nancy On Norwalk so she engage in journalism the way it was meant to be done. She is married to career journalist Mark Chapman, has a son, Eric (the artist and web designer who built this website), and two cats – a middle-aged lady and a young hottie who are learning how to peacefully co-exist.