Norwalk education notes: Attendance, an abrupt end, and praise

A screengrab of the Norwalk Public Schools video of the Dec. 4 Board of Education meeting. Not present are Mayor Harry Rilling and Erik Anderson.

Correction, 10:17 a.m.: Due to an editing error, the quote which begins “He devotes an…” was incorrectly attributed to Mike Barbis.  It was said by Mike Lyons.

NORWALK, Conn. – Some education notes for you:

  • Anderson attendance update
  • Further BoE report card
  • Abrupt end to Committee meeting
  • Lauding the executive team


Anderson attends Committee meeting, skips full Board

BoE member Erik Anderson attended Tuesday’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee meeting but not the full Board of Education meeting that followed.

Anderson, who represents District B, is under fire from District B Democrats, who said in early December that they were going to “go public” on him for not communicating with them.   The Dems also lamented Anderson’s attendance record this year: he has now attended six of 21 BoE meetings and was absent from all Board of Education meetings from late March to Aug. 21.

That statistic comes from Board minutes. A review of the NPS video of the Nov. 20 Board meeting shows that Anderson attended the meeting for nine minutes, which allowed him to vote on new officers. After he left, the Board discussed an annual wellness report, 2018 kindergarten readiness data, the appointment of a school start time study committee and proposed changes to the Grade Point Average policy.

Minutes appear to show that this is not a pattern. Anderson has been present for most of the meetings he is shown as having attended; he left the Aug. 21 meeting half an hour before it ended.

Anderson has attended four of 15 Committee meetings that he was eligible to participate in as a Committee member. That includes a strong showing at recent Curriculum and Instruction Committee meetings; he’s been at the three most recent, on Oct. 16, Nov. 20 and Tuesday.

The Tuesday meeting featured votes on a solar panel installation at Naramake Elementary and BoE meeting dates. A food services review was discussed as well as preliminary results on the 2018 cohort graduation rate.


The rest of the story

Mayor Harry Rilling last attended a BoE meeting on Oct. 16, minutes show. He has attended three of 16 BoE meetings in 2018.

  • Mike Barbis attended 17 of 21 BoE meetings in 2018.
  • Bryan Meek attended 17 of 21 BoE meetings in 2018
  • Heidi Keyes attended 19 of 21 BoE meetings in 2018
  • Bruce Kimmel attended all 21 BoE meetings in 2018.
  • Sarah Lemieux attended all 21 BoE meetings in 2018.
  • Julie Corbett attended all 21 BoE meetings in 2018
  • Mike Lyons attended 20 of 21 BoE meetings in 2018
  • Barbara Meyer-Mitchell attended 18 of 21 BoE meetings in 2018
Note: these figures do not include the three-day retreat in July.
Barbis, who is Board chairman,  in a Dec. 23 email said he was really sick in February and “was out of the country at least once.”
Barbis was absent on Feb. 6, April 3, Sept. 4 and Oct. 2.
“But there is a lot more to being on the Board than attending a meeting … a ton more,” Barbis wrote. “You should spend a day with me … the phone, texts and emails are non-stop … plus meetings, events, ceremonies, etc. So measuring a board member’s dedication to his/her position by attendance at Board and Committee meetings is ludicrous … this is a 40+ hour a week commitment. Last week I spent three full days on the NHS-NECA-GPA issue … literally from morning to night.”
Meek, in an email, wrote: “When I can’t attend in person, I watch the meetings live or recorded shortly thereafter.”



‘Snide’ comment

Tuesday’s Curriculum and Instruction meeting ended abruptly when Kimmel, the Chairman, shut down Meyer-Mitchell.

Kimmel had kept the meeting moving, with a target end time of 7 p.m. to coincide with the scheduled start of the full BoE meeting.

At the end, Meyer-Mitchell indicated that she wanted to speak.  Kimmel replied: “Slow down, slow down, slow down. It’s 7 o’clock, that’s why. OK, quickly. Quickly.”

“We just wasted half a minute being told to slow down,” Meyer-Mitchell said, her mouth open to speak when Kimmel said “OK, move to adjourn?”

Anderson made the motion and Corbett voted with the three.

Meyer-Mitchell then had a conversation with Norwalk Public Schools Chief Academic Officer Brenda Myers.

Kimmel in a Wednesday email said he thought Meyer-Mitchell’s comment “rather snide.”

“I adjourned the meeting because of her tone and the fact that it was 7:00,” Kimmel wrote.

Meyer-Mitchell did not reply to a request for comment.


Lyons calls Barbis ‘tireless’

Former BoE Chairman Mike Lyons nominated Barbis on Nov. 20 to continue for another year as chairman, and called him “tireless.”
“He devotes an extraordinary number of hours to this unpaid position, still manages to traipse around the planet and run a business at the same time,” Lyons said.

Barbis was reelected chairman, Lemieux was elected Vice Chairwoman and Meek was reelected secretary.

Barbis has “continued to lead a bipartisan ‘Board of Ed,'” while working with Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski to implement the strategic operating plan and “deserves credit for tremendous impact on our facilities plan and keeping that moving,” Lyons said.

Kimmel said it’s very important to continue the Board’s bipartisan tradition.  “If you didn’t know better it would be hard to figure out who was a Republican and who was a Democrat,” he said.


Meek has been “an integral part of the bipartisanship,” Barbis said.

“Bryan has his hands full but yet is at every meeting, chairs the Finance Committee as we proceed through that very big plan of ours. I am very happy that he is part of that team,” Barbis said.

“Bryan and I couldn’t be farther apart in the political spectrum yet when it comes to local politics, the politics of the Board of Ed, it’s very difficult to find where we disagree,” Kimmel said.  He advised new politicians to “start at the bottom” because “you get results, you have a direct impact on people and Republicans get to know us Democrats, we’re not that crazy, and possibly, possibly, possibly vice-versa.”

Anderson nominated Lemiuex to take over the role of vice chairman, which Anderson has held for a year.

“I have watched and had the privilege of working with someone who maintains her heart and dedication to being a parent, who has shown an amazing measure of grounded research and wanting to make sure that all answers are there,” Anderson said. “She has a kind heart but also a sound mind. The grounded nature of Sarah is something that is quite amazing.”


Bruce Kimmel January 2, 2019 at 10:38 am

The meeting discussed the character curriculum at Tracey School. A column appeared in both The Hour and NON describing that part of the meeting. We also briefly discussed aspects of our middle school math curriculum.

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