Updated, March 15, copy edit. Updated, 9:30 p.m.: Quote clarified.
NORWALK, Conn. – A Stamford charter school is seeking to open a charter school in Norwalk.
A public hearing on the Norwalk Charter School for Excellence is scheduled for Wednesday evening in City Hall.
The school would “transform the educational landscape of the Norwalk region with a school that will elevate every child, family, and the community,” the application filed Aug. 15 with the state Department of Education states.
Several charter schools applied, with five moved forward to the next step, ConnCAN community organizer Toni Williams explained Saturday. Two applications for Danbury charter schools were also in the group that moved ahead.
It’s been more than four years since the state approved a new charter school, the CT Mirror reports. State law was recently clarified to make it clear that a state DoE approval does not guarantee funding, while also mandating that the DoE review charter school applications every year, the Mirror said.
Norwalk Charter School for Excellence would open in 2019 with 56 children in pre-kindergarten, 56 children in kindergarten and 56 children in first grade, the application states. The school would add a grade every year to serve pre-kindergarten through fifth grade in 2023-24.
Quentin Phipps, director of advocacy & policy for Stamford Excellence, did not reply to a Saturday email from NancyOnNorwalk.
Phipps in July posted an announcement on the Facebook page Norwalk Parents for Education, advertising a petition in support of the charter school proposals.
As of Saturday, there were no signatures on that petition.
There are 70 signatures on petition pages included with the application to the state.
Mayor Harry Rilling, the Norwalk Board of Education, the Rev. Lindsay Curtis, Norwalk Housing Authority Commissioner Deidra Davis, former Common Council member Amanda Brown, Side by Side Charter School Executive Director Matthew Nittoly, Northeast Charter Schools Network Connecticut Policy Manager Christopher Harrington and the Norwalk Branch NAACP in July submitted identical letters offering “enthusiastic support” for the Norwalk Charter School for Excellence, which are included in the application.
“There is a need for additional high-quality early public education options in Norwalk, where Norwalk Excellence intends to open to meet the challenging needs of our children,” they wrote. “… (W)e are certain Norwalk Excellence will help underserved Norwalk children attend the best high schools and colleges in the country.”
The application states:
“Norwalk Excellence is proposing a comprehensive PK-5 program, with a potential request for expansion to include a middle school model upon renewal. While serving as an independent and self-sufficient public charter school entity, Norwalk Excellence will be affiliated with the Stamford Charter School for Excellence (SCSE, Stamford Excellence) as both schools will be modeled after the highly successful Bronx Charter School for Excellence (BCSE, Bronx Excellence), named a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
“Norwalk Excellence will also be informed by the two years of operation and lessons learned by Stamford Excellence of implementing the model successfully in Connecticut. Norwalk Excellence will enrich this model to one that is more relevant to the students and families of Norwalk, while offering the community an enhanced educational option based on a nationally recognized, evidence-based, and successful program. Norwalk Excellence will duplicate many of the key design elements, strategies, and best practices that have proven successful, particularly for students who have struggled in traditional district schools. The program is designed specifically to address the individualized needs of the students and promote maximum achievement.”
There was nothing on the city’s website or on the Norwalk Public Schools website Saturday to indicate that there is a public hearing Wednesday.
That’s because it’s a state DoE hearing, Williams said.
The hearing is at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the City Hall community room. Williams said there is a hearing Tuesday evening in Danbury for a Danbury charter school.
ConnCAN is not involved with organizing the hearing but she is working to alert parents to speak, Williams said, explaining, “I am reaching out to some parents and residents in Norwalk to attend and also support more options in Norwalk.”
Tours of the Stamford Charter School for Excellence are available Monday and Tuesday, Phipps said in an email forwarded by Williams. Curtis is also leading a tour on March 20.
Curtis in an email wrote:
“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.
“Our wonderful city, Norwalk, is seeing great growth and progress and we need to be leaders in ensuring equity for all of those we serve.
“I proudly serve Norwalk ACTS, the leading partnership of over 100 civic leaders, educators and organizations working collectively to achieve the mission of enriching and improving the lives and futures of all Norwalk’s children from cradle to career. I believe ALL children have the right to a high quality education to prepare them for success as adults.
“A few years ago, I was introduced to Dr. Charlene Reid, the executive director and CEO of Excellence Community Schools. She invited me to Bronx Charter School for Excellence, a Blue Ribbon School in the Parkchester area of the Bronx. I was impressed seeing hundreds of students that reminded me of the children of Norwalk; all of whom were engaged in their academics and sharing their plans for college. I wondered what if we had a school like this in Norwalk…
“Excellence Community Schools have been working hard to open Norwalk Charter School for Excellence. We need your help in making Norwalk Excellence a reality. I’m personally inviting you to join me in touring Stamford Charter School For Excellence on March 20th. I want you to experience with your own eyes, and see why Norwalk Excellence would be a great addition to our Norwalk educational community.”
Board of Education Chairman Mike Barbis on Saturday said he wasn’t sure if there was a hearing this week.
“I haven’t followed it very closely as I don’t think there is much of a chance of it going far – charters are funded by the State and the State has frozen the program,” Barbis wrote.
It’s a process, Williams said. First there’s the hearing, and then the Department of Education reviews the application again.
“Then the funding doesn’t happen until 2019. That’s a different process, of funding it,” Williams said.
“As an individual, I do support charter schools,” Barbis wrote. “I do believe that all students should have choices – both within the local public school system as well outside of the local public school system. I’ve always believed that and continue to.”
He continued, “The funding comes directly from the State – the State has not increased what they pay per charter pupil for a number of years and I don’t believe they have approved any new charters in the last few years…. Charters don’t impact NPS – financially or otherwise. We have no say in how they get approved.”