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Opinion: BoE Chairman Barbis should resign from the Board

This is a statement read Tuesday by multiple Norwalk Branch NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. 

The Norwalk NAACP, whose mission includes upholding the Civil Rights of all Norwalk Citizens, in partnership with the Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship of Norwalk and Vicinity, does hereby request the resignation of Mr. Michael Barbis from the Norwalk Board of Education.

For the following reasons:

1)         Mr. Barbis’ letter dated Oct 5, 2018 to fellow BOE members recommending that they do not attend the 2018 Annual NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet. This banquet is historically attended by district Superintendents, BOE members and Central Office Administrators since the primary purpose of the event is to raise scholarship funds for Norwalk Public School students; a district that is predominantly minority in racial composition. Another is to recognize citizens and organizations who have contributed to promoting justice, equality and celebrating diversity in our community. It is an important event that reminds us of the history and the price that was paid, and continues to be paid, to advance African Americans in a nation and city that has undeniably needed to overcome racial and economic bigotry and injustices.

Chairman Barbis’ recommendation not to attend the Annual Banquet amounts to a boycott where he opposes the current NAACP leadership and the NAACP’s position it has taken to address Norwalk Public Schools’ practices that are inconsistent with protecting the civil rights of all children, parents, employed staff or BOE members who are of color. Essentially, Mr. Barbis recommended a boycott against the NAACP leadership for standing up for everyone which fulfilled the NAACP mission. By nature of it existence, the NAACP is the watchdog and conscience of our community. Furthermore, Mr. Barbis marginalized the Norwalk Branch NAACP by questioning whether it had a “storied” past and saying it was tiny – as though size of a branch is more important than its message or the constituency being represented.

 

 

 

2)        Lack of transparency and truthfulness by Mr. Barbis is very apparent whenever he chairs a committee. For example: When Mr. Barbis was asked by Nancy Chapman whether he asked or suggested BOE members not attend the NAACP Banquet, he denied doing so. However, it became apparent only upon receipt of an FOIA request asking for a copy of the October 5, 2018 email. This email showed that Mr. Barbis was not truthful. This BOE and our community should be appalled that Chairman Barbis would lie about such an important action and bring disgrace upon NPS. His deceit clearly demonstrates a lack of integrity, poor character and egregious failure at leadership.

Another example is the NPS Facilities Study Committee chaired by Mr. Barbis where he held meetings without public notice from January through September 2016. The plan had serious implications for Latino and African American residents of South Norwalk and all city residents beyond that area. The final recommendations of that plan were disputed and consensus was not achieved by those affected the most. Full community participation did not take place during a process that appeared to have been a forgone conclusion and failed miserably in terms of transparency.

Further concern for the African American community is the large number of African American Administrators who appear to have been targeted by the current administration and this BOE.

Upon Dr. Adamowski’s arrival he systematically eliminated African American administrators and programs.

 

  1. Bruce Morris- Human Relations Officer (position eliminated and terminated}
  2. Pamela Augustine-Jefferson-Central Office Administrator over Early Childhood, demoted to CISD at an elementary school
  3. Sara Legister- Special Education Instructional Specialist at Central Office demoted to teacher
  4. Dr. Marie Allen- Principal at Briggs demoted to assistant principal and Briggs closed
  5. Dr. Lynne Moore-principal demoted to assistant principal
  6. Reginald Roberts being targeted
  7. All administrators that were moved/demoted were replaced with Caucasians.

 

 

3)   Mr. Barbis, Mr. Lyons and other current BOE members denied allegations that they discriminated against or isolated female black and Latino Board members who formerly served NPS. The Norwalk NAACP, through its then Vice President Brenda Penn Williams, brought discrimination complaints to the Board of Education members. Her claims of discrimination on behalf of the minority BOE members were consistent with the NAACP mission. Mrs. Williams and the NAACP were ridiculed and scorned, mostly by Mr. Lyons, but also Mr. Barbis for more than a year. General disregard for the Norwalk NAACP was evident. Yet, documents from the Chrissy Fensore lawsuit revealed the claims to be true by the women of color who formerly served on the Board. These board members were not included in several emails by Mr. Lyons and were referred to in negative terms whenever advocating for issues important to people of color.

This makes the recent Op-Ed signed by all but one current member of this Board on February 12, 2019 appear to be disingenuous at best. The Fensore evidence shows how minority Board members were deliberately marginalized due to their difference in perspectives. As stated in The Hour, board members were calling, “Norwalk Democratic and Republican parties to do a better job of finding diverse and competent candidates for the BOE to carry on this work”. Given that minority BOE members have been marginalized in the past, why should anyone take seriously this appeal to recruit competent Democrat or Republican minorities to serve on the Board? Is BOE service only respected or deemed competent when one is compliant and in agreement with the racial majority on the Board? How can this current board that has no minority members assure us they would not discriminate against minority members – particularly in light of Mr. Barbis’ email?

 

Diversity by definition means “different.” We are asking this Board as a whole, who, through no fault of your own, do not represent the diversity of Norwalk – to commit to do whatever you can to endorse and enforce sensitivity and celebration of diversity and valuing civil rights. Your commitment can be first demonstrated by joining our plea for the resignation of Mr. Barbis, who has undeniably lied and demonstrated animus toward people of color and institutions that protect people of color. Further, a renewed commitment on your part is needed to safeguard and implement programs that specifically benefit socio-economically disadvantaged children. And also needed, per your Affirmative Action Plan is a renewed commitment to implement measures that retain and promote our qualified minority staff.

12 comments

MarjorieM February 20, 2019 at 4:37 pm

As I stated in another post, ‘Our society is corroding because of behavior that is perpetuated by certain people who refuse to reach across to ALL people. It is time to listen, to be open and to be more accepting of others feelings and needs.“
It is time for the resignation of three Board members: Barbis, Lyons and Keyes. Keyes because she goes along with everything the other two want.

Otto Delupe February 20, 2019 at 7:54 pm

Why not have them all resign effective now. Harry can appoint a dream team of crooks and cronies and they can run it how they want. And most importantly- Anyone who doesn’t have children in the system does not pay taxes towards this disaster.

John ONeill February 20, 2019 at 8:21 pm

Marjorie: You don’t seem to be reaching across..Based on today’s commentary I think the public should be able to view files of those demoted. Let’s have more transparency, so we can determine whether employees are demoted for good reason

Piberman February 20, 2019 at 9:41 pm

So far we have Sen. Duff and Norwalk’s NAACP reportedly with about 100 members taking on the BOE.
Are Mayor Rilling and the Norwalk Democrat Town Committee supporting these efforts ? Are Black City teachers and administrators supporting these efforts ? Common Council members ? Individual BOE members ? Any other major City groups political or otherwise ?

John ONeill February 20, 2019 at 9:57 pm

Marjorie : What I’m saying is if someone feels slighted, they should waive privacy rules and let the public see the file. Sounds logical to me.

MarjorieM February 20, 2019 at 10:43 pm

John, if you have ever evaluated anyone, you would know that written evaluations are a snapshot in time. I’m more impressed with a longitudinal study of test scores and anecdotal notes of how students have been treated in a school setting. Besides, who is to say that an evaluator is objective? Adamowski was told to get rid of certain people. Do you really think any one of us is perfect? Look for problems and you will find them, especially when the Board wants someone gone.

John ONeill February 21, 2019 at 8:49 am

Marjorie: Congratulations, you have covered all bases in your argument. As they say, it’s either your way or the highway. Maybe there’s some longitudinal evidence in those files related accomplishments or failures. Again, if I felt slighted I’d want the world to see my file

MarjorieM February 22, 2019 at 1:06 am

John, you are correct. If there is an ongoing problem that is evident in the personnel files, the person(s) in question need to be called in, but also supported. I believe a well educated administrator deserves time to correct deficiencies, don’t you agree? Proper support, role modeling, appropriate workshops, etc. are reasonable expectations to help a professional, right? Were these measures taken for the minority administrators who were demoted?

John ONeill February 22, 2019 at 11:09 am

Marjorie: I have to tell you, you and my wife of 30 years have a lot in common. First, she always gets the last word no matter what. Second: The only argument I’ve ever won with my wife is when I told her she’s always right.
Regarding BOE — It is my hope that the entire process becomes a “We” process and not a “Me” process. There are many good people on both sides of the discussion. I’m sure things will work out. It is my hope that the political zealots trying to score points do not distract from the progress that this issue has raised…

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