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Five Norwalk BoE members approve raises for senior staff

Board of Education member Yvel Crevecoeur on Tuesday explains his support for paying senior Norwalk Public Schools administrators more money, although he voted against the pay scale increase developed by Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski.

NORWALK, Conn. — Salary increases for seven Norwalk Public Schools administrators were approved Tuesday in a close vote, with four Board of Education members attempting to delay the decision until the state approves a budget.

“We should not go down this road because we don’t know what the budget cut is going to be. We don’t know what is going to happen and we have to take into consideration a lot of things because we might wind up cutting things that would benefit our children,” Board member Shirley Mosby said.

The commitment of $65,000 in additional expense for the 2017-18 school year came after new contracts for the Norwalk Federation of Educational Personnel (NFEP) and custodial and security staff were ratified.

These are the changes to the salary ranges and compensation plan for non-union Senior Management positions for 2017-18 through 2019-20 that were tabled on Sept. 19, due to concerns about the state budget. Board member Artie Kassimis argued that it had been tabled until the state budget was approved, but Chairman Mike Lyons said that under Robert’s Rules any tabled item could be reconsidered at the next meeting.

That set a tone for the topic, with Yvel Crevecoeur, Sherelle Harris, Mosby and

Kassimis voting to keep the planned compensation changes on the table, and Erik Anderson, Bryan Meek, Heidi Keyes, Mike Barbis and Lyons voting to reconsider it, a voting result that would be repeated later when the changes were approved.

The plan had been adjusted to reflect market realities, Meek said, as the discussion began, asserting that the $65,000 in additional compensation would be less money than would be needed to recruit new people to the positions.

“We need to remain competitive with other school districts in Fairfield County, many of which pay significantly higher salaries than we do. We don’t want to be in the position where we are becoming the talent pool for Fairfield County, by developing talented people who then leave for greener pastures,” Lyons said.

The plan formed by Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski adjusts the compensation levels of senior administrative positions upward to reflect changes in the Norwalk Association of School Administrators (NASA) contract.

The compensation range for the Chief Academic Officer, the Chief of School Operations and the Chief of Specialized Learning and Student Services will be $189,000 to 209,000, as originally planned, but the Chief of Technology, Innovation and Partnership, the position currently held by Ralph Valensizi, was adjusted downward from the original proposal. That position was planned for $179,000 – 205,000 but was approved as $172,000 to $195,000.

The Chief Financial Officer was approved to be $179,000 – 205,000. The range for the Chief Talent Officer would be $172,000 to $195,000 and the range for the Chief Communications Officer would be $112,000 to 139,000.

  • Chief Talent Officer Cherese Chery will be placed on the beginning step of her salary range, at $172,000 instead of the $174,075 that had been proposed
  • NPS Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton will get a 3.5 percent raise, to $185,653
  • Valenzisi will get a 2.5 percent raise, to $189,374

Chief Communications Officer Brenda Wilcox Williams was not mentioned, but is currently below the range that was approved, according to the Board packet.

Crevecoeur said he wasn’t against giving the administrators raises – he thought they might deserve more, and wanted to discuss it in an executive session, he said.

“The salary range might be in range with other districts but part of the discussion I wanted to have was about the responsibility of the individuals because our administrators on the cabinet level may actually be doing more work than other administrators in the salary range,” Crevecoeur said. “…My no vote is not against our employees, it is not against the positions, it’s actually I am in supportive of the positions. I actually want to give them more.”

With Mosby repeating “5 percent” over and over, Adamowski said he wanted to clarify that it’s not an across the board 5 percent increase.

“The way this is set up, our non-unionized management team can get the same raises as the unionized administrators,” Adamowski said.

Harris asked if services to children might have to be cut because of state funding decreases.

“We may have to cut some teaching positions,” Adamowski said, explaining he would prefer to cut positions than lower the compensation ranges.

“I would much rather, if we are faced with that, have one less member of my team, one less cabinet member if that comes to be … than to have all of them not under contract, not paid a competitive rate, not paid in relation to the unionized administrators in the district. We can’t do business that way,” Adamowski said. “So, I think these are two very separate issues. If we are faced with a cut I am sure there will be cuts at all levels.”

Hopefully the city will cover any cuts with the Rainy Day Fund, “But, if that is not the case, our central team is going to be subject to cuts as anyone else in the school district,” Adamowski said.

Kassimis argued for a wait and see approach to the state fiscal crisis, and argued that studies show that 84 percent of executives who leave their positions do it for personal growth, not increased pay.

“I think they are fantastic,” Kassimis said of the administrators being discussed. “I think they love their positions here. I would love to be asked to give them a raise when the time comes but today is not the day and I feel like I am being forced to vote no.

The $65,000 expense is microscopic in terms of a percentage of the overall budget, Anderson said.

“For me to give individuals that are doing a fantastic job in helping to guide our district forward, under your leadership, Dr. Adamowski, it’s worth the cost,” Anderson said.
“What we are trying to do is rationalize these positions,” Lyons said. “All the other positions who work for us are governed by union contracts… This is an attempt to bring the same kind of order to the way the salaries are set for these positions as we have for all the other positions in the school system.”

There are 1,208 employees in the school system and if the plan was not approved than 1,201 would be getting raises he said.

“It does not seem to me logical to say that only the seven people who are playing the key management role implementing our strategic operating plan, heading up the initiatives that the Board has approved, that only those people shouldn’t get an adjustment on their pay,” Lyons said, explaining that the NFEP contract was costing an additional $370,000, the custodians was costing $112,000 and the raises for the Norwalk Association of School Administrators (NASA) cost $257,000. The wage increases for the Norwalk Federation of Teachers cost $2.2 million and, “Just from those four unions … you’ve got over $2.9 million in wage increases in this year’s budget which nobody is proposing we cancel because we are waiting for a state budget,” Lyons said.

Norwalk Federation of Teachers (NFT) First Vice President Joe Giandurco took exception to that as a public speaker at the end of the workshop session-meeting.

The teachers saved the district $4 million by agreeing to switch their health insurance carrier to Connecticut Partnership 2.0, preventing layoffs, he said.

“These reasons should not have been used to advance the raises for central office staff,” Giandurco said. “In a budget climate with so many unknowns and potential pitfalls, I can’t see how this raise is feasible and I would like to thank the four members who stood up and said ‘no’ to these raises. It’s not anything personal against the people who will be receiving these raises but  in a time and a climate when we are missing funds in our building, where teachers are trying to do more with less, I don’t see how spending $65,000 on office staff is really that responsible.”

28 comments

Bryan Meek October 4, 2017 at 7:00 am

So spending 65k to retain top talent, be competitive, stay in line with market rates is not responsible according to some.

The very same people who rallied against a budget that costs Norwalk $10 million in state grants.

They have sided with the Governor who has given 10 years of job protection and years upon years of guaranteed raises the state can’t afford instead of closing a $3 billion budget hole.

And because of that, we are supposed to be “responsible” and cut our budget now, when the Governor doesn’t have one, and throw away key parts of our strategic operating plan for what amounts to 1/3 of 1/10th of a percent of our budget.

Ok.

Mike Barbis October 4, 2017 at 7:46 am

I had to leave the meeting early Bryan for another commitment but I could not agree more with you … and it is also surprising when the same person urges communication yet, when you email them with a straightforward question, they never bother to acknowledge your question with a reply!

Stacie Klein October 4, 2017 at 7:47 am

Raises??? How about books???? My daughter’s AP Environmental Science Class at NHS doesn’t have enough books for the class!! I’m sure that other classes may be in the same boat, but I can’t say for sure. However, my daughter’s class I can accurately 100% say they do not have books and it’s October!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s a disgrace, Senior Staff is worried about their pockets, how about your students???

I offered to purchase several books for the class and was I told I couldn’t………infuriating!

Donna Smirniotopoulos October 4, 2017 at 8:00 am

On September 12th, the Common Council approved $240,000 for new police cruisers, with an additional $145,000 for upfitting the vehicles. In a move surprising to exactly no one, the Police Union just endorsed Mayor Rilling. But some members of the BOE struggle to approve $65,000 in pay raises for their top administrators. Everyone in the NPS is getting a raise except the people who are hardest to replace. And the reasons for the NO votes appear tied to the political optics and not to the real financial impact, which is miniscule. That’s exactly what we want on the BOE—members who vote based on public image rather than logic.

Bruce Kimmel October 4, 2017 at 9:09 am

I think $65,000 from the budget is worth it, considering what might happen if the district were to go in another direction and allow administrator’s salaries to lag behind others in the school system:

1. For years, we’ve complained that Norwalk is a talent pool for other towns who pay their top administrators more than we do. That needs to end; if not, we will continue to function as a revolving door/training ground for our best administrators.

2. Salaries should make sense organizationally. Supervisors should not be paid less than those they supervise. Years ago, on the “city side,” we faced this type of situation and began to make adjustments to the salaries of those administrators not covered by union contracts. Those adjustments enabled them to catch up to those they supervise.

3. For years, in NYC, there was this crazy situation in which senior teachers made more than the assistant principals who supervised them. This created all types of what might be called “interesting” interpersonal and professional dynamics until the administrator’s union won rather steep increases that rationalized salaries. The adjustment not only increased morale among the assistant principals, but kept them in the system.

Al Bore October 4, 2017 at 10:02 am

Pay should be based on performance and the Norwalk, school system lacks in that respect. No one is coming to Norwalk that I know of because of it’s great school system however I know many who are leaving due to the contrary.

Donna Smirniotopoulos October 4, 2017 at 10:51 am

Al, teachers are not permitted to receive performance-based compensation per union contract, which is standard for public school teachers in neighboring towns also.

If the NPS could compensate excellent educators and release under-performers, the kids would benefit. To date most unions have no interest in merit pay raises. When layoffs are necessary due to budget cuts, it’s always on a last in/first out basis. I cannot speak for Norwalk, but a few years ago in Westport, an excellent new French teacher was let go when enrollment dropped because the union contract forbade the layoff of the tenured and completely rotten French teacher already there. There were many other similar cases in Westport. And WPS are considered to be top tier. Contractual requirements to retain staff due to seniority and tenure rather than performance based metrics is a public education problem everywhere.

steve October 4, 2017 at 11:08 am

Is it really surprising that the police union endorses their ex-Police Chief? Is the police union swayed by bright objects like new cars and face lifts on other ones? As for teachers, it’d be nice to see a means to assess teacher performance (a metric) people make it sound easy—but how do you do it? Improvement based on last years scores (each year you have a new set of students and loads of parents, experts etc… question the value of testing- this will lead to teaching to the test- which depending on your view of testing is either good/bad)? Administrator evaluation (talk about ripe for abuse). Unions aren’t perfect (ie probably some better teachers have been let go at times-though the last cut back I saw on teachers was 20+ years ago), but they do provide a voice for teachers and a means of working out salary schedules and ensuring that favoritism

Mike Lyons October 4, 2017 at 11:09 am

Al, Norwalk is making great strides in improving our school system (see http://www.thehour.com/news/article/Raising-a-reputation-Realtors-gain-new-12243349.php; https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2017/09/adamowski-norwalk-boe-lay-out-plan-for-nps-2017-18; https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2017/07/nps-substantially-closes-achievement-gap-in-reading-and-math; http://www.thehour.com/opinion/article/Mike-Lyons-Good-news-about-the-Norwalk-Public-11274640.php). I suppose your advice would be to ‘give up’, but the only way we can make the system attractive to new homeowners is to make it better, and we can’t accomplish that without high-quality leadership.

Tony P October 4, 2017 at 12:38 pm

The need to retain top talent? The same folks who complain mercilessly about teachers (the people who actually work with the children) compensation are advocating for raises for admins? Administrators are literally a dime a dozen. How many classroom teachers can you get for one CO position? How many aides?

Mike Lyons October 4, 2017 at 12:57 pm

We are providing teachers with $2.2 million of wage increases this year, and $700,000 in raises for custodians, aides, principals and others. Last night’s vote provides $65,000 in total for the entire top management of the school system — which amounts to 1/3 of 1/10th of 1% of our budget.

Pamela Parkington October 4, 2017 at 1:14 pm

I’m all for keeping top notch professional staff, what I would like to know is if the BOE Administration run efficiently, are we too top heavy, not enough staff? Are they evaluated on performance? They too are union employees. Everyone seems to talk about the teachers/aids/principals/custodians, but not about the performance or effectiveness of the Admin. staff.

Wallace October 4, 2017 at 2:07 pm

As a parent, the positive change with NPS over the past few years came from top, meaning the front office. Before Dr. Adamowski came in, the inmates ran the asylum.
As Mike Lyons pointed out this amount is a fraction of the dollars being spent this year on raises. Unless Norwalk wants to become a revolving door for teachers and administrators you need to keep their wages competitive.

@Al Bore…. You should take a look at the college acceptance list for each of the high schools in June and you would change your tune. If you expect the schools to raise you children, you’ll get out what you put in. If you are engaged with your children’s education there are no limits to where they go.

Norwalk spends $3000-4000 LESS per student than surrounding towns. Imagine when we could actually fully fund our schools on parity to surrounding towns what could be achieved.

US Blues October 4, 2017 at 3:08 pm

And consider the money being spent on police cars upkeep while cops are earning substantially more money than they should LITERALLY STARING AT THE HOLE IN THE GROUND WHILE CARS ON CONNECTICUT AVENUE ARE BACKED UP – TRYING TO MERGE – HORNS BLARING (and the “cop” on “duty” had the nerve to look up from staring at the horn and get perturbed when I held my hands up to signal “what the hell are you doing” only to have him stare at me, look away and continue to watch the construction men work. ABSOLUTELY APPALLING. – THIS WAS ON TUESDAY, OCTOBER 3 AT 2:10pm CT Avenue directly in front of the CVS).

We could use the money that is spent on:
EXCESSIVE GAS – because god forbid they stay out in the cold/heat; EXCESSIVE UPKEEP of the cars – because god only knows that their second job is at the expense of the taxpayers but 100% of the earnings go directly to the cops pockets…
I just wish one of the three jobs has subsidies like this at the expense of the taxpayers.

Too bad all this money is lining the pockets of Norwalk’s deadbeat cops and not getting the kids books. Any cop who performs such jobs are deadbeats.

QUESTION: IS IT ILLEGAL TO CONDUCT INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING ON MONITORING THESE “COPS” WHEN THEY ARE STARING AT THE DIRT INSTEAD OF ACTUALLY WORKING? Ya know, film them while they are playing on their phones – watching the construction workers work –

Mike Lyons October 4, 2017 at 3:20 pm

Good point, Wallace – we have to educate a more challenging student body (e.g., 50% on free / reduced lunch, large number of ESL students) on less money than the less challenging student bodies in the surrounding towns are (largely because we are shorted $23 million per year on State ECS funding compared to comparable cities).

For those who (weirdly) think that this small amount to compensate our school leadership team is excessive, I’d note that the amount of raises for other employees (largely teachers) this year is 44 times greater (that’s not a typo – FORTY-FOUR times greater). That’s how ‘mercilessly’ we treat our teachers.

Harold Cobin October 4, 2017 at 4:56 pm

US Blues — It is not illegal to monitor/film a police officer who is staring at dirt or a phone rather than directing traffic. As soon as you come up with such footage, let us know. We’d all like to see it.

You can also call Chief Kulhawik at 854-3001 and let him know you believe you’ve encountered an officer who is not doing his job. H.F.C.

Stacie Klein October 4, 2017 at 5:55 pm

Do you people only see $$. Why at NHS are there NO text books in an AP Class!!!! Not one of you said a word.

Mike Lyons October 4, 2017 at 8:07 pm

Ms. Klein, we provided sufficient funds in this year’s Student-Based Budget to NHS to provide all required textbooks. I have asked the central office to look into your report.

US Blues October 4, 2017 at 11:11 pm

Oh heck yes, I took some film but got scared when I thought it was illegal to capture dirty cops doing dirty deeds while presenting a “clean” front”

So everyone in the city of norwalk – when you see a cop staring at the dirt instead of doing his job – RECORD, RECORD, RECORD.

OMG This tidbit just might be the most useful piece of information to take down this USELESS MONEY DRAINING OPERATION in the city of Norwalk.

Challenge accepted…

US Blues October 4, 2017 at 11:19 pm

Donald, I don’t hate the police department as much as I think you do, judging from your posts… are you in on this piece of investigative reporting?

(I just don’t have the same amount of aggravation.. But due to the unfreaking amount of money GIVEN to “cops” staring at a hole in the ground instead of, oh…I don’t know, ANYTHING else that pertains to their REAL jobs…I will be monitoring…)

Al Bore October 5, 2017 at 6:43 am

Mike, I am just saying we have a long ways to go to get the Norwalk school system to be a place where new families want to send their children. A place where families want to buy homes not just be a renter passing through, actually invest hard earned money and that is very important to our property values both now and in the future.

Stacie Klein October 5, 2017 at 8:05 am

Thank you Mr. Lyons! Not sure exactly how many classes are short or don’t have books, but I can accurately state (100%) that there is an AP Psychology Class that only has 6 text books and an AP Environmental Science Class that has NONE. My child is in both!

Educator October 5, 2017 at 12:04 pm

BOE members responding above are in damage control mode. Lyons is the Malloy of Norwalk, giving raises to his cronies when there are no funds available for books. And Meek, his Bob Duff, standing up for whom? Not the taxpayers and students.

We lack the necessary supplies for our classrooms and yet they justify the raises while accusing teachers for the increase in the budget. It’s always our fault!

Mike Lyons October 5, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Stacie, we’ve confirmed that all BMHS classes have the required books, but for some reason NHS’s Principal and School Governance Council may have allocated their internal funding away from the textbooks. We’re looking into why that may have happened, but we agree that the textbooks need to be provided, and the central office will step in to make sure this happens.

The statement above that there are no funds available for books is false; we fully funded book purchases in our approved budget. We have also saved millions of dollars per year with changes in health insurance, privatization initiatives and other measures. Our schools cost the Norwalk taxpayers $3-4K less per year than in surrounding towns. And that despite giving $2.2 million in raises this year to teachers like “Educator”. Which $2.2 million in raises is 34 times as big an impact on our budget as the small $65K for the leadership team. Educator must not be good at math.

Bryan Meek October 5, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Educator has the BOE confused for Duff and Malloy, who have actually shafted this city $ 100s of millions of dollars over the years. For the record, the vote to right size compensation was done on a bi-partisan vote. Unlike the Governor and Duff who gave away $ billions for no improvement,….who actually gave away billions for failure, our investments have been improving the school system with measured results.

Beaches October 5, 2017 at 2:50 pm

Where is the money coming from? Is it coming from the tax payers? Thank you to Artie Kassimis, Shirley Mosby, Sherelle Harris and Dr. Yvel Crevecoer for opposing the raises. How many of the Board Members have actually been in classrooms or have sat a day with the CO Administrators who are getting the raises? Also, the NFEP got a terrible contract with a 1.8% increase. They have always been at the bottom of the barrel in all of the contracts. Spend a day with all of the NFEP members and see how hard they work!!

Bryan Meek October 5, 2017 at 3:56 pm

@Beaches. Ok, that’s clear. You actually received a raise and you don’t want anyone else to get one because you think your wasn’t enough.

I might agree, if indeed you were a high performer. It’s obvious you can multi-task by the timing of the post and that is certainly a talent. But you see, state laws prevent me from giving performance raises to NFEP individuals. Whether or not you work hard or watch the grass grow, you get the same increase.

You pay for these laws, when the union dues that are legally confiscated from your paycheck turn around and fund campaigns for legislators and lobbyists that stand up for you. If it were up to me, it wouldn’t be this way. But I don’t get a vote in your union business.

Oh, and if it makes you feel better everyone will be working a lot harder in the future because the same folks who are standing up for you just supported the Governor’s executive order which cuts grants to our city by 50%…which amounts to $10 million.

Beaches October 5, 2017 at 8:42 pm

Bryan,
Thank you for response. Everyone has to muti-task. I wish that you did get a voice in our union business.
It’s upsetting to me that the same folks that we pay our dues to supported the Governor’s executive order.
I appreciate your work as one of our Board Members.

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