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Moore takes Norwalk BoE to court over Adamowski reprimand

West Rocks Middle School Principal Lynne Moore faces the Norwalk Board of Education Negotiations and Personnel Committee in June, 2016, in City Hall, with Norwalk Association of School Administrators (NASA) Attorney John Gesmonde at her side.

NORWALK, Conn. — The battle between West Rocks Middle School Principal Lynne Moore and the Norwalk Board of Education has continued, under the radar screen.

More than a year ago, Moore filed a grievance challenging a reprimand she received from Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski. A Board of Education committee upheld the reprimand but an arbitrator in February asked that it be rewritten. Moore and the Norwalk Association of School Administrators (NASA) subsequently appealed the arbitration award in Stamford Superior Court.

No one has mentioned this to NancyOnNorwalk. A Sunday search of the state judicial website turned up the case, which dates to March.

The arbitrator in February ruled that Adamowski’s reprimand did not violate NASA’s collective bargaining agreement, but did violate the contract by including “warnings or unsupported conclusions” not related to the March 28, 2016, West Rocks parent meeting that resulted in Moore being accused of insubordination.

Adamowksi was ordered to rewrite the letter; Moore and NASA claim that the resultant document is unacceptable, alleging, in part, that the arbitrator’s award is invalid because the arbitrator did not retain the power to approve the revised letter.

The grievance stems from the middle school redesign effort, which the Board has since declared a success in improving student achievement.

Adamowski in January 2016 announced the redesign, linking it to a projected $745,000 cut in the school budget, and created a redesign committee which included Moore and other school principals, the NASA complaint states, explaining that the coverage of the redesign by the press prompted “a flood of questions from parents.”

Chief of School Operations Frank Costanzo advised Moore not to discuss the redesign at the rumored March meeting without providing a reason, but did not say the meeting could not be held, the complaint states, going on to say that Moore “inadvertently” included a discussion item for middle school redesign on the notice sent to parents, calling this an “oversight.”

“Neither Dr. Moore nor any other middle school principal had ever been told that they could not discuss middle school redesign, particularly with their parents and School Governance Councils,” NASA lawyers state.

Board member Bryan Meek learned about the meeting and emailed then-Chairman Mike Lyons, Heidi Keyes, Artie Kassimis and Mike Barbis, writing, “WTF. How can she hold this before the [middle school redesign] committee has even met? Or am I missing something? Sounds like subterfuge if you ask me.”

“Sounds like Lynne plans to rile up the parents to fight the redesign,” Lyons subsequently wrote to Adamowski.

Lyons wrote to Adamowski, Costanzo and then-Norwalk Public Schools Chief Academic Officer Michael Conner:

“Well, one of two things needs to happen here. First (preferable) is to tell Moore to cancel the meeting and that she is not to be presenting anything to the community on middle school design until the [Central Office] determines we’re ready to do so. Second (less preferable … ) is to have [Central Office] staff there to answer questions  and attempt  to neutralize the craziness (hard to do when we don’t have an agreed plan yet).”

NASA’s lawyers assert that Moore didn’t discuss the redesign at the subsequent meeting but handed out news articles and introduced Costanzo and Conner, resulting in an hour and a half of back and forth between the administrators and the parents, although Moore hadn’t expected their presence.

Adamowski’s reprimand said that Moore had been told not to discuss the redesign but had the meeting anyway, placing “a negative, disparaging light on virtually every District change and improvement initiative.”

“Any further instances of insubordination and/or undermining district directives, including intimidation of staff who support District initiatives, will result in suspension … [and] reassignment,” Adamowski wrote. “… This letter of reprimand and warning is being placed in your personnel file.”

NASA went on to protest that the resultant grievance was heard by a three-member committee, not the full Board.

“There is no provision in the collective bargaining agreement permitting the Board to designate a segment of itself (not even a quorum) to hear a grievance or to issue a decision on behalf of the full Board,” NASA attorneys John Gesmonde and Meghan Murphy state in their complaint.

“The arbitrator recognized, and then bewilderingly dismissed, the fact that a committee of only three of the nine Board of Education members heard the grievance,” they wrote. “… The arbitrator reasoned that there was no evidence put forth that, in designating one-third of itself to hear a grievance, the Board was in violation of its bylaws.”

“Further troubling and prejudicial, and which the arbitrator acknowledged as such, was that two of the three Board members who were put on the three-member committee that heard the grievance had exchanged emails prior to the Board level grievance hearing indicating bias against Dr. Moore,” they wrote. “…Dr. Moore was not afforded due process in this matter because the defendants failed to exercise fundamental fairness and reasonableness as above set forth.”

“It also should not be overlooked that those Board members and the Superintendent decided not to exercise a different option (an option which they considered in that infamous email exchange, attached hereto as Exhibit F) – the last clear chance, if you will – to avoid everything by simply directing Dr. Moore to cancel the meeting altogether or to make arrangements for the parental questions to be heard and answered in a Board of Education forum,” they wrote. “Instead, they decided, without informing Dr. Moore, to send two Central Office administrators to observe her and answer parental questions if asked, and further decided not to tell her that, by her going forward, she was being insubordinate.”

Attorneys Peter Murphy and Melika Forbes of Shipman & Goodwin responded for the Board.

“The facts of this case are essentially undisputed: Dr. Lynne Moore (‘Dr.  Moore’) engaged in insubordinate conduct when she discussed middle school redesign at a March 28, 2016 meeting with parents, although instructed not to do so previously,” they wrote, going on to make legal arguments regarding the court’s discretion to vacate an arbitrators award, stating, “Our Supreme Court cautioned that ‘[i]n the absence of a showing of a violation of the statute, the courts should not interfere in the arbitral decision.’”

“The Arbitrator found that ‘[t]here is nothing in [the] record to support’” NASA’s contention that ‘Board of Education” referred to in its contract refers to the entire Board,” they wrote, with no evidence submitted to show a past practice of the entire Board deciding a grievance.”

The arbitrator “afforded Dr. Moore a clean slate in arbitration” by using the Board committee’s decision as simply procedural compliance and giving Moore “an opportunity to present her grievance at arbitration in effect in a de novo hearing,” they wrote.

NASA’s attorneys replied that the arbitrator “ignored his obligation to ensure Dr. Moore’s right to the full grievance process, including procedural fairness, prior to arbitration, and instead dispensed with it.”

“The arbitrator stated that the arbitration hearing before him would be a ‘fresh start’ (but for whom?), seemingly in avoidance of getting to ‘No’ to the question of whether or not the grievant was afforded procedural and substantive due process,” they wrote.

The arbitrator’s award ordered that Adamowski re-issue his April 20, 2016 letter of reprimand to be consistent with the arbitrator’s findings.

“Dr. Adamowski is free to use wording of his choosing so long as it follows the above [findings] and contains no extraneous verbiage referencing, implicitly or explicitly, facts outside of the March 28, 2016 insubordination,” the arbitrator wrote.

Adamowski’s revised letter refers to incidents “occurring as far back as 8 years ago, none of which directly (or indirectly) could be associated with what occurred at the March 28, 2016 meeting,” Gesmonde and Murphy wrote.
Adamowksi also retained the word “warning,” and, “In fact, the superintendent went one step farther and added the word ‘final’ before ‘warning,’” they wrote.

According to the court documents, the letter was revised thusly (with new passages in bold):

 

Dear Dr. Moore:

 

I am writing as follow-up to our meeting of March 29,  2016, to summarize and respond to your most recent incident of insubordination and lack of cooperation in carrying out District’s instructional improvement initiatives.

 

You scheduled a parent meeting on March 28, 2016, the flyer for which advertised an information session on middle school redesign. On March 24, 2016 you were personally advised by your supervisor, Frank Costanzo, not to hold a discussion of middle school redesign since the Middle School Redesign Committee (of which you are a member) had not met yet or developed any plans. The Committee has been charged with holding information sessions for parents at each middle school in the fall once decisions have been reached on which schools would pilot various programs and/or practices. After agreeing to follow Mr. Costanzo’s directive, you held the meeting anyway. According to Mr. Costanzo and Dr. Conner, at this meeting you placed a negative, disparaging light on virtually every District change and improvement initiative: Middle School Redesign, the School Governance Council Policy under consideration by the Board of Education, the School Intervention Process as presented to the Board in a Workshop Session, Student Based Budgeting as well as aspects of the Draft Strategic Operating Plan. There was no information presented by you on how West Rocks would improve its “Focus School” status in the CSDE Next Generation Accountability Report. By your words and conduct, you discussed Middle School Redesign at that meeting in contravention of the clear directive you received from Dr. Costanzo, and in so doing, you engaged in insubordination.  It was reported to me that parents left this meeting tense and confused.

 

This incident follows a disturbing pattern of behavior documented in prior letters of reprimand to you by former Superintendents Manuel Rivera and Salvatore Corda, and former Assistant Superintendent Anthony Daddona.

 

I am advising you that you are not to engage in disregard of instructions given to you by your supervisor, Mr. Costanzo. You may appeal his instructions to me if you are unclear or in disagreement. Beyond that, you are expected to follow all instructions and directives. Moreover, you are not to engage in activities and actions that undermine the District’s efforts to bring about instructional improvements and improved outcomes for students .

 

Relative to your professional practice as the leader of West Rocks Middle School, you are also directed regarding the following:

 

You are to refrain from sending electronic messages received from Mr. Costanzo, Dr. Conner and/or myself to other individuals for whom they are not intended.

 

Given your school’s status as a Focus School you are required to attend the Turnaround Principal Program offered by LEAD Connecticut this summer. Mr.Costanzo will provide you  with details.

 

You are to participate in a mediation session with your Supervisor, Mr. Costanzo, to establish norms for a professional and mutually supportive working relationship. I will provide you with information on selecting a mediator.

 

Any further instances of insubordination and/or undermining district objectives, including intimidation of staff who support District initiatives, will result in suspension from your duties. Continued lack of acceptable professional practice in your current assignment shall result in your reassignment from the position of Principal of West Rocks Middle School pending Mr. Costanzo’s recommendation and evaluation of your performance.

 

This letter of reprimand and final warning is being placed in your personnel file. Please contact me if you have any questions regarding expectations and norms for the discharge of your duties.

 

Steven Adamowski

 

“The award failed to provide any recourse – and the arbitrator failed to retain jurisdiction – in the event that the superintendent’s revised letter did not comply with the requirements of the arbitrator’s award,” Gesmonde and Murphy wrote. “…It has been held that if an award requires more than a ministerial act by the parties to implement it, or if it leaves a specific remedy to the judgment of one of the parties, the award is indefinite and should be vacated in its entirety.”

A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 11.

Moore v BoE arbitration NASA

Lynne Moore Board’s opposition 17-0717

Lynne Moore NASA request to vacate arbitration 17-0828

Lynne Moore Board’s opposition to vacate arbitration 17-0911

18 comments

Concerned November 29, 2017 at 7:49 am

Dr. A is the worst thing to happen to our school system. The middle school redesign while a good idea was poorly executed and students and teachers paid the price.

I don’t think that the information parents wanted was being provided at all, nor the questions they had answered, and it sounds like Dr. Moore expressed her reservations among those it would affect the most.

This proves once again that Dr. A is trying to run Norwalk like a business and not a school district and if he spent more time actually doing his job instead of writing nasty letters (to principals or even tv stations) I for one would greatly appreciate it.

Mr. Costanzo isn’t the bees knees either for what it’s worth.

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 29, 2017 at 10:25 am

The inclusion of the word “final” in Adamowski’s communication suggests this is not Dr. Moore’s first letter of reprimand from the district. I don’t know how many reprimands Moore has received, but in order to release an administrator and get her off the books, the superintendent must document the problems. Given the gravity of Moore’s offense—inviting parents to discuss a middle school redesign against instructions and before the redesign process was finalized—should be a fireable offense. If Moore has a folder full of these letters, it begs the question: why is she stil an NPS employee?

That’s the story here. And the headline should read:

NPS forced to retain insubordinate staff despite repeated reprimands.

Not affiliated November 29, 2017 at 10:46 am

Dr Moore seems to work hard and care. My only big time beef is her mainly featuring blacks on all the wasps of West Rocks. When Abe Lincoln and Einstein are painted in black face what message does that send? {…}
Comment edited to remove an instance of ascribing motives without proof

Reese November 29, 2017 at 11:10 am

I disagree with “CONCERNED”. I’m curious if you have children in Norwalk middle schools.

As a parent of middle school age children currently in the school system, the re-design has been a positive experience for all my kids.

I also commend Dr. A and the BOE for taking control of the school district that has been undermined for years by both the teachers and administrator’s union (as well as a few BOE members that are no longer on the board).

To be honest, I don’t know how she was hired in Norwalk to begin with and is able to maintain employment.

How many reprimands are currently on record for Norwalk? 4? So there is no “3 strike rule’?

Let’s not forget the previous school districts that she was fired from, one even had a crowd of parents applaud at news of her termination. How many documented cases and accusations against her by former teachers?

How would Norwalk parents feel knowing that they have been enabling a bully for the past 18+ years that 4 other school districts terminated employment due to behavioral/insubordination type issues?

I hope the hiring practices have changed and teachers and administrators that have a record of disciplinary actions from other school districts would not be considered for employment here.

Let’s all hope for the good of Norwalk’s children she retires.

As a reminder to readers, here are other NON articles detailing the original stories.

https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2016/06/moore-challenges-adamowski-reprimand/

https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2016/07/reprimand-letters-to-moore-all-carry-the-same-theme-insubordination/

Concerned Grandma November 29, 2017 at 11:23 am

And poor mother Theresa had a race transplant as well!! Whats up with that? Reverse discrimination?
Our grandkids came home very confused. But yet no one saw fit to correct the problem…or they are afraid to..to this day. but we can go to city hall a remove a portrait that has been there for years…..

SusanHos November 29, 2017 at 12:21 pm

@ Reese
You truly believe that having teachers teach subjects they never taught before with NO professional development is good for our students. MS redesign was about money and how to fix a high school problem of study halls.
To your other point how would parents feel knowing that someone is in charge accused of sexual harassment and violating another persons civil rights.
The BOE leaks info from time to time and Moore was responding to parents questions, based on the article. Overall this system needs and cries out for better behavior and actions from all of the adults.

Reese November 29, 2017 at 1:00 pm

@ Susan… There was professional development…and Yes… it was about saving money. More money was being spent per student at the middle school level with little improvement to show for it. Last I checked student achievement has improved at the middle school level.

How come there was no outrage from the 3 other middle schools? Maybe because the principals there are professional and didn’t bring it to parents before it was finished. This was isolated to one school, one principal.

My understanding was that the plan was to be rolled out to all middle schools in one year. Once teachers and administrators provided feedback, this changed and was broken into 2 phases to allow for more professional development and to allow current middle school students time to adjust. Sounds like communication and compromise to me.

You can say what you want but you can’t deny that Dr. Moore has a long-documented history of bullying teachers and insubordination with superiors. Lack of professionalism has been well documented. She has skirted under the radar in many cases through the dysfunction of superintendent turn over. SHE WAS LET GO FROM 4 OTHER SCHOOL DISTRICTS!!! Yet changed her tune here in Norwalk?

Why don’t you ask Mark DeMoss about his civil rights? If you don’t know who he is, google his name.

Patrick Cooper November 29, 2017 at 2:06 pm

@Reece – spot on.

Regarding the ex-Math teacher Mr. DeMoss – this snippet from The Hour Sunday, January 29, 2006

The case is the second accusing Moore of racial discrimination filed through Maurer’s office. Former West Rocks teachers Margaret Loris and Kelli Hibbard, both white, filed a similar suit in October 2004.
“They’re both very strong cases,” Maurer said. “This is not Dr. Moore’s first problem in this area. We believe that the school district knew or should’ve known that she was unable to conform herself to appropriate behavior.”
Both cases against Moore, hired in 1998, quote 13 newspaper articles from Wisconsin and New York, where she worked as a school administrator and board of education member before coming to Norwalk.
The articles tell of controversy surrounding Moore’s management style and some race-related conflicts in former positions.

@Donna S – your headline suggestion is correct, but perhaps not provocative enough to generate clicks.

Some have wondered why I remain so critical of the Unions. Here is exhibit A. They protect what should be removed; they remove what should be protected.

SusanHos November 29, 2017 at 2:09 pm

That explains it right there, “It was gonna be done in 1 year, but push back altered it to 2”. You actually incorrect it was purposed as a 3 year transition, but because there were so many whole that this BOE and Dr. A. forgot about it was squeezed into 2.
To recap- Presented as 3 and squeezed into 2. How is that helpful for the teachers and student to adjust to a rushed job.

The real issue here, is the lack of trust from everyone involved to truly move forward. The teachers, the administrators and aides are all on edge because many things are not fully planned out. What makes the redesign work is the Teachers not central office. They are never in the schools. I have hope this new BOE will listen better and avoid the pitfall of the last.
Fingers Crossed.

Mike Lyons November 29, 2017 at 2:24 pm

SusanHos, the NFT proposed accelerating the change from 3 years to 2 in negotiations and that was incorporated into a Memorandum of Understanding between the union and the Board. The Board didn’t ‘forget’ anything – it did exactly what the union agreed to.

Are you Kidding Me? November 29, 2017 at 6:53 pm

If you experienced direct contact with Dr. Moore and her style of “leadership” then you would not be praising her. You have to be there first hand to experience the damage she has done to students and adults. Finally! A Superintendent and BOE that is not AFRAID to do the right thing and stand up to the destructive leaders in this district! I am glad that Norwalk is finally on the right track! The middle school redesign has been a success. Does tweaking need to happen? Sure, but ANYTHING new needs to be tweaked to work out the kinks. If anyone has spoken to other educators in other local cities you will find out how behind in education reform Norwalk is. Finally, we have a Central Office and BOE that is catching us up to the current times! BOE and Dr. A, keep up the good work! 🙂

Really?! November 29, 2017 at 11:28 pm

Ask ANY middle school teacher how they feel about the redesign… I’m sure the “data” you find will be alarming.

Tysen Canevari November 30, 2017 at 12:44 am

All this nonsense that goes on in the Norwalk School system only confirms my decision to send our four kids to private school. She would have been fired a long time ago. Why do we put up with it? I am sure most of us can guess why. A majority of her colleagues don’t respect her as well. Not the school system i grew up in.

A Norwalk Teacher November 30, 2017 at 6:07 pm

@Really?! I am middle school teacher and I think this redesign is working! It has made a difference in student learning. The ones who have a problem with it probably do not like change nor are willing to put a little extra into moving the students forward. There are things to work out but it has nothing to do with the redesign in itself.

Lynnehastogo December 1, 2017 at 7:10 am

It’s unbelievable that Lynne Moore is still terrorizing the teachers and staff at West Rocks. She continues to thumb her nose at the administration and gets away with it. Mostly because she is so litigious. I know for a fact that she continues to ignore the redesign efforts and refuses to allow people appointed to key positions to do their job. I really hope that the superintendent follows through and holds her to account. The addition of the word FINAL hopefully means something because she is at it again right now.
Yes the portraits are disturbing, it goes to her lack of recognizing reality.
I truly hope this is the end of the abuse of power at West Rocks.

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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.