Norwalk election roundup: A D’Amelio education funding forum, a voters guide and kudos for Lavielle

The election is Nov. 6.

Correction, Oct. 16: “Election” roundup, not “education” roundup. Updated, 7:37 a.m.: information added; 6:39 a.m.: Copy edits, information added

NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s some election information for you:

  • D’Amelio schedules education forum, draws flak
  • School Finance Group presents interactive voter guide
  • Lavielle given thumbs up by two education groups


D’Amelio campaign schedules education funding forum

The D’Amelio for Senate campaign is touting an event titled “Education in Norwalk, a question an answer forum” at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 17 at Nathan Hale Middle School. Former Mayoral candidate and Red Apples founder Lisa Brinton will moderate the forum, which a flier says will include Board of Education Chairman Mike Barbis, State Rep. Fred Wilms (R-142) Darius Williams and D’Amelio.

The flier was circulated Tuesday, and Williams promptly dropped out.

Members of the Facebook page Norwalk Parents for Education had a lively discussion about the event.  BoE member Barbara Meyer-Mitchell asked, “So this is a campaign event?” and a member replied, “or a Duff-bashing party methinks”.  Multiple people asked if State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) had been invited, and received no reply.

Duff did not respond Wednesday to an email from NancyOnNorwalk, asking about the event.

A flier circulated Tuesday.

Barbis and Williams are Democrats. One Facebook commenter said Barbis is “barely” a Democrat; Barbis did not reply to a late evening email requesting comment.

Under a Sept. 20 NoN news brief about increases to Norwalk ECS funding, Barbis commented: “If you look at the math, those increases are barely keeping up with inflation … Did our State Senator provide the data in that format? Too bad he isn’t really standing up for us in Hartford!”

Williams said Wednesday evening that he has too many commitments to devote the time the topic deserves. D’Amelio campaign manager Isabelle Hargrove said she has not confirmed additional panel members.

The Nathan Hale logo on the flier makes it look like the school is sponsoring the event, one group member wrote.  Another replied that Barbis had asked to rent the space.

“I think it’s a great idea but comes off as mainly for campaigning (unless D’Amelio plays a current role in our educational system that I’m unaware of),” another said.

Another asked if Wilms’ opponent, Democrat Lucy Dathan, had been invited.

“If this is a campaign event it should be clearly written in the visual,” one said.

The flier includes language noting that it was paid for by the D’Amelio for Senate campaign.

Brinton was part of the conversation but declined to be quoted here.

“Sorry, given the toxic political environment it just seems partisan. I would say the same if it was an event with just democratic candidates,” a mother said.

“I am so glad this event is attracting so much interest,” Hargrove said. “Education funding and our schools’ strategic plan are at the forefront of every Norwalker’s mind. We are all stakeholders; students, parents, family members, taxpayers, businesses, non-profit groups. It was Marc’s idea to get the stakeholders together, regardless of party affiliation to have a discussion about this important topic, especially since this is why Marc got interested in running in the first place. Anyone interested in exploring ideas should attend.”

Democrat Pam Parkington asked, “why weren’t other candidates or BOE members invited?”

“This is not a debate,” Hargrove replied. “Marc assembled a panel to open the conversation and discuss ideas. It’s about time as far as I am concerned. Let’s embrace it instead of frowning about any new idea to get the dialogue going.”

“It just seems a bit uneven. Sounds like it’s just an event to showcase Republican candidates with two Dems thrown in there to make it look like it’s just a ‘discussion’,” Parkington replied.

“I don’t understand what people are frantic about here, if you don’t like it then don’t go,” a man replied. “Its that simple. Apparently they have a right to rent the space to hold their forum, to talk about whatever the heck they want, its their money and their forum – by the same token that would mean any other group would too if they wanted to hold their own forum.”

“How quickly forgotten the bipartisan panel on education funding in January that Barbara was a panelist with Bob Duff and others which was held in City Hall,” a member wrote.

Duff’s January education forum featured Connecticut School Finance Project Director Katie Roy explaining changes to the state’s Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula and himself, Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Mary Yordon and Meyer-Mitchell on the panel.  Duff, Yordon, and Meyer-Mitchell are all Democrats.  At the time, Hargrove noted in a comment on NoN that no Republicans were included in the forum, despite Duff billing it as an information session regarding the state legislature’s recent “bipartisan” budget.

That “was not a campaign event,” Meyer-Mitchell replied to the commenter.  “With all due respect, incumbents are always campaigning,” another commenter shot back.

“Well, I certainly wasn’t. I was at that event and have been all along looking at possible solutions to state funding issues,” Meyer-Mitchell said.

“We have gotten a very good response to this forum,” Hargrove said in a Wednesday email to NancyOnNorwalk. “Norwalkers know that education is a critical issue for our city. Marc wants to create a dialog with the public and partner with the people representing the different entities involved in creating solutions. We should all welcome it.”

She continued, “I also want to make sure people understand that this is not just about Marc. On the contrary, Mike Barbis, Fred Wilms and others will be major contributors. Marc got the ball rolling, but this is a team effort if we are to succeed.”



A voter’s guide

The Connecticut School Finance Project has launched an interactive Candidate Voter Guide, with brief biographical and campaign information about each candidate running for office this November, according to a press release.

The guide does not include registered write-in candidates because the list has not yet been released, the release noted.

“We hope voters find the interactive Candidate Voter Guide helpful and informative, and encourage you to share the tool with your networks and on social media,” the release said. “For questions or comments about the Candidate Voter Guide, please contact us [email protected]


Lavielle ‘recognized by two key education organizations’

State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) has been endorsed in her drive for reelection by the Association of Retired Teachers of Connecticut (ARTC) and recognized by the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) for honor roll distinction, a press release said.

Lavielle’s positions on adequately funding our health insurance and pension accounts align with the retired teachers’ positions, Bradley Hayward, ARTC PAC Co-Chair, is quoted as saying in an Oct. 2 letter to Lavielle.

“The ARTC is a non-profit organization of retired teachers with 16,000 members/affiliates advocating on behalf of Connecticut’s 33,000 retired teachers,” the release said. “ARTC promotes the economic, professional, and social well being of Connecticut’s retired teachers, and advocates for the continuous improvement of education in Connecticut schools.”

“Many of my constituents are retired teachers, and it is a privilege to be an advocate for them, and for all of our retired senior citizens on fixed incomes who are grappling with Connecticut’s taxes and high costs,” Lavielle is quoted as saying. “In recent years, the state has not delivered on its obligations to fund the retired teachers’ pensions and to keep their post-retirement healthcare fund solvent. This is not only directly injurious to them, but also damaging to Connecticut’s financial health, which is suffering from the weight of massive unfunded liabilities that now total more than $80 billion. To restore the state’s ability to repair its infrastructure, provide appropriate services to the neediest, and reduce tax pressure on people and businesses, we must urgently address these obligations, and the ARTC understands perfectly the high stakes the state is facing. I am grateful to the ARTC for its focus on and advocacy for possible solutions, as well as for its willingness to be always a resource for us in the legislature. I’m honored by the ARTC’s endorsement, and look forward to further collaboration with its members.”

The CEA does not endorse candidates and has now developed a Legislator Report Card, the release said.  It explained that Lavielle’s honor roll distinction was earned by her support of teachers and education.
“The Legislator Report Card grades legislative candidates’ support for issues important to students, teachers, and public education, and according to CEA President Jeff Leake, informs members of candidates’ positions on key issues and highlights those who want to help students and teachers,” the release notes. “It evaluates legislators’ voting records, as well as their advocacy and efforts in areas including strengthening public education funding, enhancing the teaching profession, keeping schools safe, upholding teacher certification standards, and supporting sound education policy. Those legislators with the highest report card grades are placed on CEA’s Honor Roll.”

“You have proven yourself to be an advocate for students, teachers, and public education,” Jeff Leake, CEA President, is said to have written to Lavielle. “You were consistently accessible and took the time to answer our questions committing to supporting our issues going forward. Your constituents and teachers throughout the state are fortunate to have you working for them in the General Assembly. We look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts to support Connecticut’s students, teachers, and public education.”

“Connecticut’s teachers play a criticial role in ensuring the future of our students and our state, and I have enormous respect and admiration for them,” Lavielle is quoted as saying. “As Ranking Member of the Education Committee, I’ve worked closely with a range of stakeholders on many important education issues, including education funding, mandate relief, classroom safety, enhancing student growth and development, curriculum policy, social-emotional learning, teacher evaluation, certification, special education, teacher training, and student data privacy. The CEA has always been an active and informed participant in our collaborative work, which is aimed at making our schools the best they can be, and it has brought multiple insights to the table that have appreciably enhanced the quality of our legislation. I thank the CEA for the Honor Roll distinction, and for its continuing work on behalf of students, teachers, and Connecticut’s public schools.”

Lavielle is being challenged by Stephanie Thomas, a Democrat.



Piberman October 11, 2018 at 10:12 am

Ms. Gail Lavielle has long been Norwalk’s outstanding Legislator. With an unmatched professional background of major achievement. And highly regarded by colleagues in Hartford on both sides of the aisle.

Lisa October 11, 2018 at 10:23 am

I’m very disappointed that most Democrats view an education forum as a partisan campaign event. What will it take for both sides to come to the table and work on solutions for Education funding for Norwalk? The partisan politics is exhausting – grow up and do your job! Government is about compromise and doing what’s best for residents – you can’t operate effectively in a bubble.

Galen Wells October 11, 2018 at 3:25 pm

I think Democrats would be happy to view this as a non-partizan education forum if Lucy Dathan and Bob Duff had been invited.

Lisa Brinton Thomson October 11, 2018 at 5:36 pm

@ Galen, It is non-partisan, bi-partisan and not about Marc. When asked to moderate, it was positioned as a discussion about education funding and its impact on Norwalk. An issue near and dear to my heart, for well over a decade. You have the Chairman of the Board of Education and a Democrat, who has served for over six years and the former Chair of Norwalk’s BET and current state legislator, who understands the ECS formula, the lawsuit, and the state’s overall finances. He happens to be a Republican. That seems pretty non-partisan to me and from what I can tell – pretty focused on Norwalk’s current budget plight.

Debora Goldstein October 11, 2018 at 6:06 pm

John, IITA

The flier includes language noting that it was paid for by the D’Amelio for Senate campaign.

Lisa October 12, 2018 at 6:55 am

If the topic of conversation is important enough to the opposition, why wouldn’t they approach the organizers to split the rental cost and discuss their position and plans for education in Norwalk and CT? I’ll tell you why – the new way of politicking is to say you never received an invitation, decline an invitation or publicly state it’s a campaign event for the opposition. However, in this scenario, the losers are the students, staff and taxpayers. An informed voter has power folks.

Galen Wells October 12, 2018 at 12:58 pm

Lisa, with all due respect, the “opposition” did ask to participate. They were told no. They were not told sure we would like to hear what you have to say, if you split the costs. There is nothing wrong with the D’Amelio campaign having a campaign event. Lets just be honest about it. Honesty is a good example for the students of Norwalk.

Isabelle Hargrove October 12, 2018 at 4:50 pm

@Galen Wells

As Marc D’Amelio’s campaign manager, I oversee organizing this event. None of these candidates have approached me to participate. I suspect they would find it uncomfortable and I am quite certain that Senator Duff has no interest in crashing Marc’s event.

Furthermore, as a comparison, I don’t believe Marc is invited to help serve ice cream or pasta with Bob Duff during one of his social events held during campaign season.

Each candidate is free to choose how they interact with the public. Marc is a problem solver with a genuine desire to work with others and use his ideas and skill set to make a difference. Regardless of party affiliation, the panel was assembled because Mr. Barbis and Mr. Wilms are valuable experts and share Marc’s desire to find common ground and solutions to an unresolved State issue that shortchanges Norwalk.

While it appears others are too busy digging up dirt and destroying lives, this forum is a step in the right direction. I find it much needed and why I decided to join Marc’s team after spending years demanding action and getting no results.

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