Corbett brings professional education experience to Norwalk Board of Education

Julie Corbett, newly appointed to the Norwalk Board of Education.

NORWALK, Conn. — Julie Corbett hopes that her fellow Board of Education members continue to ask the district tough questions. More accountability for Board members is also a goal.

Corbett was elected Monday by District A Democrats to serve as Yvel Crevecoeur’s replacement on the Board of Education, finishing the last two years of his term.

“We in Norwalk, in District A, are incredibly lucky to have someone like Julie, with an amazing background of education, who is willing to serve and willing to get involved,” Common Council member Eloisa Melendez (D-District A) said as she nominated Corbett, echoing comments made two years ago about Crevecoeur.

Melendez introduced the nominee as Julie Corbett Chavez; Corbett is Corbett Chavez on a personal Facebook page but is Corbett on her professional website.

Corbett was born and raised in Vermont, received a Bachelor of Arts from Denison University with studies in sociology/anthropology and international studies and a Masters of Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Delaware, with studies in state and local government, education policy, according to her LinkedIn page.

She also attended Northeastern University in 2007-08 for an Education Policy Fellowship Program, her LinkedIn page states.

Corbett was a community mobilizer for AmeriCorps for a year and a graduate research assistant at Brader Elementary School in Delaware for six months before going to work as a program manager at Mass Insight Education & Research Institute from June 2007 to February 2010, according to LinkedIn.

She then founded Corbett Education Consulting LLC, which she describes on her website as a “boutique consulting firm specializing in in school and district reform and turnaround strategies.”

“She works with school management organizations, districts, state education agencies, and other non-profit organizations on a variety of turnaround-related projects,” the website states. “She is the author of a growing list of publications, acted as a Peer Reviewer for USED’s {United States Department of Education} Race to the Top District competition, was a member of USED’s Race to the Top Reform Support Network, is a Strategic Partner and a member of the Scientific Council for the Center on School Turnaround (USED grant awarded to WestEd), and is the Advisor for the School and District Improvement state collaborative (SDI SCASS) with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).”

“I actually met Julie a couple years ago when she first moved in Norwalk,” Melendez said, explaining that Corbett reached out to her Council representative “just to chat to get to know me and say, ‘I should get involved.’…She was raising her son here with her husband and I think the Democratic Party and the city is lucky to have her.”

Corbett said her husband works at Boehringer Ingelheim in Ridgefield.

“We could have lived a lot closer to his work,” she said. “We specifically chose Norwalk for its diversity and energy and more urban environment, after living in Chicago.”

Corbett will be sworn in, along with the four Democrats who won the election two weeks ago, at Tuesday’s special Board of Education meeting.

“One thing I would like to see is Board members starting to hold each other a little bit more accountable in both with how we function within meetings as well as … how a Board member represents activities from the Board of Education outside of Board of Education meeting,” she said.

“I think possibly a policy related to social media on anything that relates to Board of Education would be a useful piece,” Corbett said. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress in transparency and civility but I think I would like to continue seeing that. As well, I would like to see the Board continue to focus on implementation of the strategic operating plan and doing that in an effective and efficient manner and continuing asking the district hard questions. As a board member, your job is to monitor and then provide oversight and at the same time push the district … at the same time we want to push the district to think about different ways of doing things. I think I can bring in a national perspective on that since I work in this field nationally as well.”

Corbett contributed to the Board’s strategic operating plan as a consultant, in what she said was a “small project.”

The Board had already designed the major components of the plan but needed help organizing and prioritizing the work streams underneath it, she said.

Her website states, “Ms. Corbett’s guiding principles and love of education are deep seeded and instilled in her background as a frequent leader in mentoring and volunteer programs throughout Vermont, Ohio, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Illinois. Ms. Corbett is a member of the design advisory team for Norwalk Board Watch (a grassroots accountability mechanism for the local school board).”

Her clients include or have included:

  • The Academy for Urban School Leadership (Chicago)
  • The Center on School Turnaround (WestED, San Francisco)
  • The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)
  • The Illinois State Board of Education
  • National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
  • U.S. Department of Education, Office of School Turnaround

Recent publications include “Ann Arbor Michigan: Focusing on Achievement Gaps” and “Using Needs Assessments to Drive School and District Improvement.”

Corbett testified to the Connecticut General Assembly in March, adding her input to the Educational Cost Sharing formula debate, via a letter.

“The diversity of our community is one of the primary reasons my husband and I moved to Norwalk two years ago, but some of that amazing diversity requires additional supports and services in schools,” she wrote. “Until a funding formula accurately addresses poverty rates, changing numbers of ELL students, and the real economic “wealth” of a community (i.e. adjusted property values), Norwalk and any similar towns will continue to be shortchanged. As a result, our students will not be provided the equitable education that they deserve.”

Although she prizes diversity, Corbett’s appointment by District A seals the Norwalk Board of Education’s status as “all white.”

Democrats said that they tried to find a member of the minority community to fill Crevecoeur’s slot but were unsuccessful, given that it is a volunteer position that requires a lot of time.

“As a Board member, and with my fellow Board members, I would hope to that we constantly keep an eye and perspective on how we are serving and any policy the Board works on, how any policy serves all students,” she said. “That’s looking at each different subgroup of students, and that’s looking at both racial and ethnic, as well as academic achievement levels, English Language Learners, Academically Talented, how any policy decisions affect each of those subs groups.”

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