Norwalk schools superintendent awarded bonus for ‘job well done’

Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski. (File photo)

NORWALK, Conn. — The progress Norwalk Public Schools has made in a year is fantastic, Board of Education member Bryan Meek said.

To that end, the Board approved a bonus of “$7,000-plus” for Superintendent Stephen Adamowski, according to Board Chairman Mike Lyons.

Adamowski scored an 82.7 on an evaluation done by the Board at its recent retreat, out of a possible 100.

“The Board established an evaluation plan, incentive compensation plan, for the superintendent last year. It was based on a numerical set of calculations, so it’s not a subjective evaluation it’s a purely objective evaluation,” Lyons said at last week’s BoE meeting. “We did pretty well. There were 25 listed goals, we basically hit 23.5 of them, which is pretty good.”

NPS Communications Director Brenda Wilcox Williams provided the evaluation scoresheet to NancyOnNorwalk, titled “Raising the Bar/Closing the Gap Priority Outcomes for the 2016-17 SY” on Wednesday.

Adamowski eval 17-0815 1

Half of the score was based on outcomes, results from test scores, and half was based on implementation steps. The Board scored Adamowski a 41.7 out of a possible 50 on the outcome side of the equation and a 48 out of 50 on the implementation side.

Some excerpts from the outcome scorecard:

  • The school system closed the gap between the Connecticut Smarter Balanced assessments performance by Norwalk students in grades 3 to 8 and the statewide average for children that age, in English Language Arts, by 2.7 percent from 2015-16 to 2016-17. (The Board gave Adamowski a five out of five.)
  • The school system closed the gap between the Connecticut Smarter Balanced assessments performance by Norwalk students in grades 3 to 8 and the statewide average for children that age, in Mathematics, by 3.7 percent from 2015-16 to 2016-17. (The Board gave Adamowski a five out of five.)
  • The school system maintained its gap closure rate for high school graduation rate, with a 2.4 percent difference for the class of 2015 (with NPS at 89.6 percent and the state at 87.2 percent), and a 3.1 percent difference for the class of 2016 (with NPS at 90.5 percent and the state at 87.4 percent).  For high needs students, the goal of decreasing the gap was met with the NPS high school class of 2015 graduating at 84 percent rate compared to the state’s 76.1 percent (a difference of 7.9 percent), and the class of 2016 graduating at 85.1 percent compared to the state’s 76.8 percent (a difference of 8.3 percent). (The Board gave Adamowski a five out of five.)
  • The goal of reducing one-third of the cohort learning loss between fifth and sixth grade, 1.9 percent less in ELA and 1.4 percent less in math, was not quite met. The 2015-16 cohort measured a 5.8 percent loss on the Smarter Balanced ELA Assessment while the 2016-17 cohort measured a 5.7 loss. The 2015-16 cohort measured a 4.1 percent loss on the Smarter Balanced Assessment in math while the 2016-17 cohort measured a 5.1 gain. (The Board gave Adamowski a 2.5 out of five.)


For implementation, Adamowski missed only one goal out of 25. The list of achieved goals, which all gained Adamowski two points each on the Board’s scorecard:

  • Implement Connecticut K-3 Literacy Initiative (CK3ll) in all elementary schools.
  • Pilot College Board Khan Academy personalized learning program for SAT preparation for 11th grade students.
  • Develop and implement rigorous curriculum design mapping to Common Core Standards in grades K-12 in Reading/ELA and Math.
  • Implement Phase I of middle school redesign i.e. 4 x 4 Block Schedule in grade 6; Tier Ill supports in grades 6-8; introduction of “Encore” experiences and Teach-to-One Math pilot at Nathan Hale Middle School. Plan and prepare for implementation of Phase II of middle school redesign in 2017-18.
  • Develop teacher leadership capacity to improve IEP development and implementation in each elementary school.
  • Implement High Road Therapeutic Program at Norwalk High School and an Autism Classroom at Wolfpit Elementary School.
  • Plan and implement a Clinic to diagnose and treat students with Dyslexia in partnership with Fairfield University. (Substitute for “Sound-bridge” goal.}
  • Develop a system for the implementation of Sec. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to include process, procedures, training and assistive technology necessary to insure accommodation and access of students with a “504 Plan.”
  • Develop and implement menus of Tier II and Tier Ill Reading and Math interventions for students in grades 1-5 in every elementary school.
  • Implement Tier II and Ill structural supports (Math 180, Read 180, Systems 44) in grades 6-9.
  • Provide intervention and support to state designated Focus Schools (West Rocks Middle School and Brien McMahon High School); provide intervention and support to the lowest performing elementary schools (Tracey and Kendall).
  • Expand school-based summer learning to include grades 4, 11 and 12.
  • Complete planning and development of an International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Brien McMahon High School.
  • Initiate the Health Sciences/Early College PTEC Academy at Brien McMahon High School.
  •  Reorganize current Human Resources Department to create talent management capacity in the seven dimensions of the Talent Model with an emphasis on the recruitment and development of special educators.
  • Expand Leadership Development Program to include Residency, Relay GSE Fellowship and Emerging Leaders experiences; fill all leadership positions for 2017-18 internally.
  • Develop “Phase I” of the Facilities Master Plan to include the planning and approval of a K-8 intra-district magnet school in South Norwalk.
  • Successfully open and operate the Norwalk Early Childhood Center to improve the quality of inclusive early childhood education.
  • Overhaul school lunch/food service system to improve the quality of school lunches and the climate of each school.
  • Implement “Phase II” of Student-Based Budgeting; address High School funding and intra-district magnet school support issues; continue to repurpose state and federal grants; develop first “all funds” budget.
  • Ensure the implementation of the School Governance Council Policy in all schools.
  • Develop and expand communications capacity to deliver more frequent and timely information to parents and community concerning the 2016-17 Priority Outcomes and Implementation Steps of the NPS Strategic Operating Plan.
  • Implement bi-weekly School Messenger Newsletter to teachers and parents beginning January 1, 2017, concerning district improvement plans, new or redesigned programs and student achievement and staff accomplishments.
  • Reorganize School Operations function to implement new Residency Policy.


The one goal that the Board did not declare success in was:

  • Develop an appropriate identification process for gifted and talented students and a service delivery model based on research and international practice.


“We got a tremendous amount of things done in the course of the year,” Lyons said during the Aug. 15 BoE meeting. “When you are making a lot of changes sometimes they are accompanied by controversy, differences of opinion, but when you look at an objectives list that long and see how many of those objectives were met, you have to say that the performance level both of Dr. Adamowski and of his central office staff, which he has done a great job of assembling a really top flight group of people, (is great).”

“I was just floored,” said Meek, attending the meeting by telephone. “It was really amazing. It was just a wonderful year, jam packed and I’m looking forward to another one.”

Adamowski has a three-year commitment to NPS, with his contract ending on June 30. The  contract stipulates that 25 percent of his bonus be deferred until he completes his term.

Steven J Adamowski – Contract –6-116-15[1]

The contract states that Adamowski must remind the Board by Oct. 1 that his contract expires at the end of the school year, so the Board can vote on extending his contract for another three years, should he request that. The Board is required to vote on a possible extension by Dec. 31.

Lyons, who is out of town, did not reply to an email asking if Adamowski has indicated that he will ask for an extension.

His salary is said to be $250,000 a year. The contract specifies a maximum bonus of 20 percent of his salary, but Lyons said on Aug. 15 that the bonus for a score between 80-85 points is 3 percent of the salary; 3 percent of $250,000 is $7,500.

Lyons said, “It’s not a $10 million executive bonus but it is some recognition of a job well done.”


Al Bore August 25, 2017 at 7:53 am

How do our Norwalk public schools rank compared to the rest of CT and how much have they improved under this administration? Do people move into Norwalk because they have a great public school system or do they move out of Norwalk because of the public school system? If the answers to these questions are positive then a bonus should be awarded if the answers are negative there should be no bonus.

So... August 25, 2017 at 8:55 am

So the hard work of the teachers to actually implement his ideas gets rewarded by loss of jobs, new teaching assignments, and a bonus for the super. Sounds about right!

Last I read people were shouting from the Mountain tops about how Norwalk doesn’t get its fair share of funding. Maybe adamowski will donate his bonus to a school that could use the money? Is 250,000 not enough that he actually needs a bonus for a “job well done”? Is this real life!?

Donna August 25, 2017 at 9:09 am

Seems pretty straightforward to me. The BOE hired the Superintendent and under the terms of his contract, offered a monetary reward for hitting certain benchmarks, and achieving certain scores on his annual evaluation. Adamowski did this, and the BOE is now complying by giving Adamowski a $7,000+ bonus. It’s actually refreshing to know that the BOE set benchmarks and that they actually evaluated their superintendent. We know what the BOE expected of Adamowski and how well he performed. Can we say the same of other high paid City employees? The next four below the superintendent are police officers. In addition to many NPS employees on the top earners list are numerous police officers, some firefighters, and other municipal employees.

@Nancy, can you shine a light on this? Who evaluates other top earners and are those evaluations also available? If I were evaluating based on Firetree alone, there might be some pay cuts coming.

ABW August 25, 2017 at 9:16 am

Nancy, thank you for your thorough reporting. Our community is lucky to have such an incredible resource.

Rocky August 25, 2017 at 11:29 am

Put into perspective the performance bonus for a CEO of a $200+million dollar company and $7k is peanuts.

In order for us (Norwalk) to attempt shutting the revolving door of superintendents, incentives had to be made to keep the position competitive. As a tax payer I have no issue with a bonus plan set up based on performance goals. Too bad the teachers don’t have the same thing.

Norwalk Public School system is actually a very good school system. It continually gets a bad wrap.
If you as a parent are engaged in your childs education, they will be as successful as any surrounding town in Fairfield County. If you are not engaged and think the school system should raise your kids then keep your fingers crossed and hope it turns out well.

Julie C August 25, 2017 at 11:30 am

This type of performance management is finally being used in education to incentivize strong performance and to encourage keeping staff over years. NPS and the board set extremely ambitious goals and implementation action steps and it is astounding that so many were completed, while also working through the day to day issues that come up. While I fully understand the public perception issue of awarding a bonus under such dire financial conditions, it was in the contract and should therefore be fulfilled, and changing superintendents again due to a breach of contract would be far more expensive. There’s obviously still a lot of work to do in the district, but NPS is making major improvements in both student learning and in the antiquated systems and structures that have hampered improvements in the past. (We’re not there yet in the U.S., but the converse of this would be a financial penalty for not meeting expectations – such incentives and consequences for performance are used regularly with performance contracting for external vendors working in education in England).

Really!? August 25, 2017 at 8:53 pm

Julie…you stated “it was in the contract and should therefore be fulfilled”

Well, similarly the teachers had a “contract” and was met with much anger and degrading comments on this specific site… teachers were called greedy because they didn’t want to change what was in there already agreed-upon contract.

Funny how the board can pick and choose which contract to Honor.

Donna August 26, 2017 at 1:14 am

@Really!?, perhaps if the teachers union agreed to contracts in which raises were contingent upon performance reviews and employees were expected to hit certain benchmarks or risk losing their jobs, the attitude seen here would be very different.

Really August 26, 2017 at 8:37 am


From what I’ve been reading all over Facebook, and this site, all the board is touting is the tremendous gains Norwalk public schools have made. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the teachers were responsible for this? If the union did agree to incentive-based raises, what dollar amount would be appropriate for closing the achievement gap?

Mike Lyons says that this board has done more in the past 30 years. The teachers are the ones that implement the boards ideas. I’d say they “hit their benchmarks”. Since no one has a problem with the super receiving a bonus, maybe the union should negotiate for one also?

MarjorieM August 26, 2017 at 9:47 am

Does anyone realize how demoralizing this is for teachers? They are the ones working hard to help the students. Perhaps someone who understands how new strategies and programs take at minimum of three years to determine their effect should be commenting here. Teachers have been implementing new teaching strategies for at least 10 years. Perhaps we are now seeing the results?

Mike Lyons August 26, 2017 at 3:52 pm

We would love to provide bonuses to our teachers. Their union adamantly opposes this, thus there is no provision for it in the contract. Maybe some day the union will change its approach.

MarjorieM August 26, 2017 at 8:55 pm

Mike Lyons, I don’t blame the union for not wanting merit raises. Who would judge a teacher’s yearlong work? The principal? Most principals are great managers, but not necessarily good at evaluating a teacher’s performance. Principals are so busy with management, they get a ‘flash in the pan’ lesson to watch for evaluation purposes…. Parents? Well then, the most popular teachers would get raises and not necessarily the teachers who work really hard to motivate and get the best work from students…. Other teachers? Who among them is most qualified, or for that matter, know what superior teaching looks like? …..Test scores? One year might show the results of a great mix of students, the next year…not so great. ALSO, One test day is a snapshot in time. So do we opt for a mix of all of the above? Not with all those invalid measures being used. I have seen the worst teachers who were highly praised for their empathic nature, their creativity, their energetic personalities, but they have not imparted much to their students, if we are looking at progress in curriculum as the final measure. The superior teachers are usually remembered later in lives as ‘that Mrs./Mr. So and So sure was tough on me, but I learned so much in that classroom.’ Students are not products to be measured from year to year; Just like superintendents should not be measured year to year. Longitudinal studies show progress. Yearly merit raises mean money thrown at people who may or may not be the best. As “they” say, time will tell.

Donna August 26, 2017 at 10:04 pm

The Norwalk Teachers union isn’t interested in contracts based on benchmarks, evaluations and performance based pay raises. If this demoralizes teachers, they should take this up with the union leaders. Perhaps a compromise could be reached that also allows bad teachers to be let go and puts an end to tenure.

angel August 27, 2017 at 8:12 am

The administrators at Central Office are the ones that brought in the necessary interventions, and instructed teachers to implement them. They have been the ones looking at data and acting on those to make change to programs. Yes, teachers need to follow through with these plans and if they do, we see progress. But the ball started rolling because of Central Office. So yes, $7,000 is peanuts compared to the tremendous progress Norwalk has made due to new Central Office leaders.

Bryan Meek August 27, 2017 at 8:34 am

Of the $100+ million in teachers salaries, almost $1 million is withheld from paychecks for union dues as mandated by state law. Teachers do not have a choice in the matter. A few hundred thousand of that goes to pay local union stewards and maintain offices and such, but the bulk of it goes to state wide and national efforts to lobby legislators to ensure, amongst other things, that adequate performance measurement and incentive based compensation never sees the light of day. In spite of this, our teachers do a remarkable job. It’s a shame we are legally not allowed to compensate the high performers fairly, while at the same time we have to give the same raises to the underperformers. Who exactly does this serve?

Claire schoen August 27, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Great write up, Nancy.
Norwalk has some amazing teachers, and @rocky makes some great points. Education remains such a tricky field – how can we reward and protect the good teachers who are willing to take risks to educate our kids – without having to give the same to all teachers. There are some really really good teachers, and there are also some who should be asked to leave. The former will keep teaching because they love it, the latter seem to be hanging on because they can – and because they have union protection. How do we fix it???

Joanna Cooper August 27, 2017 at 7:45 pm

I hope Dr. Adamowski will be here leading Norwalk Public Schools for many years to come. He’s super smart, classy and very effective at pushing our district forward in many positive ways. We are lucky to have him. Thanks Dr. Adamowski for all your hard work on behalf of our students!

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