Numbers tell tale of expected ‘retooling’

A computer shows enrollment statistics, July 26 in the Cranbury Park bunkhouse, during the annual Norwalk Board of Education retreat.

Updated, 3:54 p.m.: PDF added.

NORWALK, Conn. — In calculating the cost of educating the unprecedented numbers of immigrant students enrolled – and still enrolling – in Norwalk Public Schools, it matters greatly which yardstick is used.

At last week’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent of Schools Adamowski used one; Board member Barbara Meyer-Mitchell referred to another. The resulting discussion was long on confusion for onlookers.

Adamowski’s yardstick is known as the Student Based Budget, the cost of educating a child apart from related expenses such as administrative overhead, athletic fields, electricity, and the like. By that measure, you can ballpark the cost of educating 100 additional English Language Learners at $1.2 million.

Meyer-Mitchell, on the other hand, appears to have used the Per-Pupil Expenditure yardstick, which includes the aforementioned ancillary costs. Those added expenses put the price for educating the same 100 ELL students at an estimated $2 million.

Either way, NPS has had “a fairly large influx of students” from Guatemala and Nicaragua registering since the first day of school, Adamowski said at Tuesday’s Board meeting. The district has 11,745 students, about 100 more than it did at the end of the last school year. That doesn’t include another 127 students who have enrolled but have not yet gotten their required physicals and immunizations.

Of those 127, 52 were confirmed ELL students, according to a document provided by Wilcox-Williams. Another 27 appointments had been scheduled at the ELL Welcome Center[n1]  through Friday, with the students’ status to be determined.

A complete enrollment report is due on Oct. 1. BoE Chairman Mike Barbis did not reply to a Saturday email asking for an update.

Adamowski said the cost of educating ELLs is probably one third again as much as the student-based budget, which varies by grade level. The 2019-20 approved budget lists SBB as follows:

  • Elementary School: $8,848
  • Middle School: $8,691
  • High School: $8,287

By comparison, the per-pupil expenditure is between $17,000 and $18,000.


Another clarification
Adamowski said last week that “we’re estimating 350” ELL students. “On top of that is simply our normal enrollment growth between June and September consistent with our enrollment projections. If you add those two together it’s 450, that’s really the number we have to be dealing with.”

“The 350 increase in English Language Learners was the number projected over last year,” Wilcox-Williams wrote in an email. “Some students are in the system, while enrollment for others is still pending, so they may not yet be in the count.  The numbers are still developing, as health forms and other documents get processed.”


Who pays?

Mayor Harry Rilling said he has contacted U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich), U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to request more federal funding to cover the costs of educating these new immigrants.

Rilling said Sunday that he will also be speaking with state Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, in addition to “our entire State delegation as well as our Governor.” Such discussions “must be ongoing and frequent.”

However, “My first outreach was to Congressman Himes as this is not just a Norwalk or Connecticut issue, but a National phenomenon,” Rilling said.

Duff did not answer a Friday email from NancyOnNorwalk.

Percentages of ELLs
The Beginning of Year enrollment report provided by Wilcox-Williams also shows percentages of ELL students at each school. Most notable are these elementary school statistics:

  • Brookside: 26.37%
  • Jefferson: 27%
  • Kendall: 33.86%
  • Tracey: 27.55%

“Think about that for a minute, that’s, you know, that’s one out of every four students sitting in those classrooms, that is learning English,” Adamowski said. “That, our view is, is too high a ratio for any school.”

Retooling is necessary and will be discussed in November, he said.

“We know that the most effective method is dual language instruction, the least effective is ESL (English as a Second Language), throughout the state,” Adamowski said. “There are only four dual language schools in the entire state of Connecticut, we happen to have one. We will probably need over the years to develop a second school or a second program on the other side of town.”

The Silvermine dual language program could be extended to West Rocks Middle School, Adamowski said at the Board’s retreat in July.

Kendall was described as 35.6% ELL in January.

Grade Level Enrollment as of 91319


Urban problem?
Finance Committee Chairman Bryan Meek said nothing during last week’s meeting about the increased cost. Instead, he asked, “Is this an urban phenomenon? Or is this across all 19 school districts?”
“No, no, there were only a few places where an immigrant can live,” Adamowski replied. “So those would be the cities where you have housing that can accommodate immigrants or where there’s a family already living, but it’s, you know, you can’t live in New Canaan or Westport or any of those places because there’s no housing at a reasonable level. They’re very exclusionary. And so, you know, I think that’s one of the issues  our state is facing that this becomes an urban issue in an urban phenomena.”


Norwalk native September 23, 2019 at 5:30 am

No phenomenon here. CTs Sanctuary policies, coupled with Norwalk’s unwillingness to enforce zoning laws have put us in this mess. Add to that the overtly racist zoning restrictions present in Westport, New Cannan, Darien et al and you get this perfect maelstrom of cost explosions in the NPS.
You get what you vote for and the chickens have come home to roost.

Lisa Brinton September 23, 2019 at 7:01 am

I read the 70 comments on the first story about the increased enrollment. It’s a complicated issue, with even more complicated solutions. Even the politics are complicated, especially when a former police chief mayor has been bragging about Norwalk ‘growing’ and his challenger, myself, a retired corporate executive and former 15 year school fundraiser, PTA President, educational activist and seven year member of the District Data Mgmt. Team claims, ‘we need a time out!’

I spent over a decade working directly with staff and administration to help close the achievement gap in a variety of capacities so NPS could become the #1 urban school district in the state. However, these sorts of enrollment numbers are unsustainable.

The state’s sanctuary policy is out of step with its education cost share funding to aid municipalities like Norwalk. It also doesn’t factor in that Norwalk was shortchanged tens of millions of dollars for over a decade!

Other education policies like mainstreaming for some classes versus ELL for others, creates instructional issues for students and teachers in NPS.

Exacerbating the financial issue is the fact that our own P&Z and ordinance enforcement has been broken for over a decade, allowing landlords to charge cash to the most vulnerable, over crowd in firetrap houses and shortchange the city’s tax coffers.

It’s also hard to fund social justice when private sector jobs are declining in the state or when nearly half of city hall makes more than the median family salary in Norwalk or when government defined ‘affordable housing’ costs double to construct than the median price of a family home.

We have serious structural and financial issues that have been festering for over a decade. Adding thousands of fortress like apartment units, while also doling out tax credits does not help.

This won’t be an easy fix, requiring trade offs in the budget, stronger advocacy for Norwalk and honest brokers at city hall. To date, that has been lacking and not expected to improve without change!

John ONeill September 23, 2019 at 7:10 am

This is a crisis. We should plan for another 400 students for next school year (2020-2021). Anyone who thinks differently is nuts.(Not sure if “nuts” is politically correct, but it is accurate )

Manuel September 23, 2019 at 8:40 am

I agree with John and believe his estimates of another 400 are on the conservative side. Norwalk’s legendary status as a robust Hispanic/Latino community along with a top tier ELL program is well known throughout the northern triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and nearby countries) making the city a top choice for asylum destination.

I would hope any solution would seek major corporate donor and philanthropic sponsorship to shore up the ELL program and relieve some of the pressures property owners may face. I have no doubt that this challenge can be met with out of the box solutions.

Does anyone know whether the in city grant writer has explored this or any other BOE personnel?

JustATaxpayer September 23, 2019 at 9:06 am

Where’s Donald Trump when we need him. Hold on to your wallets homeowners of Norwalk. We’re funding illegal immigrants at the cost of the education of US citizens. Sorry, it’s true

Katie September 23, 2019 at 9:28 am

One has to wonder when it says that these children arrived from Guatemala/sHonduras How did they get here where are their parents ? Usually when you accept a relative into your home you pay the costs?
Norwalk forget about spending $500,000.00 for changing start time at High School next year.

Lets be realistic we are NOT going to receive ANY additional money from Hartford or Federal Government, the only people paying for educating these children are the tax payers of Norwalk.

backwardation September 23, 2019 at 3:19 pm

Despite the mass scale development in city, there is high anxiety for prospective real estate buyers and current property owners when you read stories such as this along with the recent news that the pillar (POKO development) downtown will be 100% affordable housing. I would hope the mayor could address this with a plan of action and quell rumors that property taxes will once again be required to be raised 4% or higher (similar to two years ago to fund this). The cost of living in state and in city has increased ever so notably in the past few years making it convenient for long-term residents to pack and leave.

Bob September 23, 2019 at 3:26 pm

Why aren’t all of the immigrants going to New Canaan (for example) rather than Norwalk?
There’s no fence around New Canaan, as far as I know.

John ONeill September 23, 2019 at 4:36 pm

@Bob: We need to demand funding from these surrounding towns…Or share resources. They can take their pick.

John ONeill September 23, 2019 at 5:07 pm

Nancy: Thank you for the PDF addition…Are there documents from prior years, so that we can understand the growth trend? Thanks for the update..

Joe September 23, 2019 at 6:33 pm

Don’t be naive. The teachers union loves and profits from this illegal mess.

More pupils equals more teachers and more dues and more political power…a maelstrom sucking up 70% of our taxes.

First things first, all non English speaking students should be segregated into a separate facility to protect American students’ education.

If they were patriotic, the mayor and his opponent would have suggested this long ago .

Norwalk native September 24, 2019 at 5:28 am


The ELL students ARE being segregated into a non English speaking school system… it’s called the NPS! You and I will be forced to continue to pay the soaring costs. The Teacher’s Unions profit. The Educational Industrial Complex profits. The Unions keep the Democratic machine in power who in turn don’t enforce zoning laws which keeps the cycle going. That in a nutshell describes Connecticut.

Norwalk native September 24, 2019 at 5:37 am


The ELL students ARE being segregated into a non English speaking school system… it’s called the NPS! You and I will be forced to continue to pay the soaring costs. The Teacher’s Unions profit. The Educational Industrial Complex profits. The Unions keep the Democratic machine in power who in turn don’t enforce zoning laws which keeps the cycle going. That in a nutshell describes Connecticut. This is why we are in the state we are in.

Non Partisan September 24, 2019 at 8:22 am

This is what you get when you have neophytes running a city on platitudes and feel good policies without having any buisiness backgrounds

No zoning enforcement combined with sanctuary city policies will lead to long term financial ruin

And the biggest joke is asking our congressman and senator for federal funding to clean up a mess they created.

Thank you Mr Rilling and your fellow progressive team for putting several more nails in the Norwalk coffin.

MarjorieM September 24, 2019 at 9:30 am

Before panicking, could we see the influx of ELL students over the last 5 years to actually see the difference in numbers? It seems to me that ELL students are not new to Norwalk. We need actual numbers to arrive at conclusions about the impact. Also, aren’t ELL students, at least for a few years, exempt from testing?

John ONeill September 24, 2019 at 12:24 pm

Just looking at some numbers —
ELL students 2010 — 940
ELL students 2015 — 1,580
ELL students 2020 — 2,200 est.

Again, these kids are here, so let’s embrace the situation..HOWWEVER, someone needs to pay for this. What programs have been cut back over past 10 years? Property Tax can not pay for add’l funds needed…Progressive policy makers need to make this work financially. For anyone who cares to look, search back to Nancy’s column from 2014. Same issues/Same comments Obviously, nothing has been done financially. Senator Duff seems to be bragging about add’l funds coming from Hartford. I’m afraid that’s disingenuous, and we’re being short changed when one considers increase of ELLs…Unlike 2014, we can’t forget this in the 24 hour news cycle we currently live in…For those of us who shop for the .05/gallon gas savings around town, let’s not drop the ball on this…

TRS September 24, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Agree with Joe here. He’s right. The non-English speaking students are taking away from the Norwalk ENGLISH speaking students.
It’s only going to get worse. Time to move my family out of Norwalk to New Canaan or Darien.

John Miller September 24, 2019 at 2:12 pm

The comments by Lisa Brinton and John O’Neill are spot on. This is a crisis. Manual’s suggestion that we think outside the box and maybe look for some funding from the corporate and philanthropic sectors should also be considered. Unfortunately, I think that looking for help from Washington, Hartford or our more affluent neighbors will only lead to frustration and disappointment because no one that I can think of has the political courage to admit that they screwed up. We are on our own folks!!!

Another Opinion September 24, 2019 at 3:26 pm

Per a news article (link below), “The number of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border also spiked this year. Through August, the Border Patrol apprehended 72,873 migrant children. That’s up 60% from the previous year and has already surpassed the record 68,631 apprehended in fiscal year 2014.”


For something of this magnitude, a plan is warranted sooner than later but odds are this will be mainly funded through higher mill rates. I hope both mayoral candidates clearly articulate their plans of actions to address this –

Milton September 24, 2019 at 4:02 pm

But but but, I thought illegal immigration did not cost us anything? Why is there any concern since the taxes paid by the illegal immigrants should more than cover the cost of their children’s education.

If this is not the case we need to rethink the whole sanctuary state thing.

Paul Lanning September 24, 2019 at 4:37 pm

Neither DC nor Hartford will pay. City Hall and the BOE should present detailed formal solicitations to the four bordering towns’ officials.

Milton September 24, 2019 at 4:52 pm

Paul – Please explain why the bordering towns should pay. Are they responsible for the immigration policies in the state such as providing drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. Which elected officials support those policies that promote illegal immigration and cost Norwalk mucho dinero?

John ONeill September 24, 2019 at 5:02 pm

@ Another Opinion: We should not let our legislators off the hook and just keep cutting checks…Let’s be optimistic and persistent
@Milton: Maybe Westport’s annual essay on diversity this year should have sharing Westport resources as it’s theme.
@Paul — We need to shame these towns into ponying up…
Nancy: Can you get feedback from Mayor Rilling on this?…Great to drop Jim Himes’s name, but that may only get us a recipe for his bees’ honey.

Michael McGuire September 24, 2019 at 5:08 pm

I can’t think of anyone more qualified to lead our City through this potentially crippling issue than Lisa Brinton.

Her decade plus background of directly working to improved the Norwalk school system coupled with her no-nonsense, outgoing approach, and 20+ years corporate problem solving experience are what we need now.

I have always known her to be firm, fair and transparent when dealing with people and issues.

She is the right person, at the right time, to lead Norwalk through this crisis.

Milton September 24, 2019 at 5:11 pm

Paul – Fair point. I always find it interesting that so many espouse the immense benefits of diversity choose to hunker down in their bubbles. But I think more importantly, our elected officials need to be held accountable for the policies and laws that support and in fact promote illegal immigration that cost the average person so much.

Paul Lanning September 24, 2019 at 5:32 pm

Milton: I’m not saying that our four bordering towns “should” help. I am saying that they CAN, and I suggest that the administration and the BOE approach them with a detailed solicitation. Norwalk would have much to gain, and nothing to lose.

MarjorieM September 24, 2019 at 9:33 pm

So a surge in ELL students is not new to Norwalk. We can look back to 2014 and assume that the population of ELL students has grown in numbers in approximately the same way each year. The year 2020 is no different. First and foremost, let’s remember that these are innocent children. Let’s not make it a political issue. To post a political speech here is inapprpropriate.

The number of ELL children will be divided by 12, if they are even all elementary students. No one school will bear the burden of a larger than normal population; it appears this has been the practice since at least 2014. Also, there are K-5 classes within each school. These new children will be placed in different schools and in different grade levels.

Let’s look for solutions keeping in mind that children come first. Like it or not the population of Norwalk is changing. You, the adults, can make the change a positive one.

Milton September 25, 2019 at 7:13 am

Marjorie – No one is blaming the children and no one suggested that Norwalk deny entry into schools without proper citizenship. However, what we can do is insist our elected officials (regardless of party) implement policies and laws that do not create a magnet for illegal immigrants to settle in CT/Norwalk. As much as we would love to educate the worlds children, we simply cannot afford it.

John ONeill September 25, 2019 at 8:16 am

@Marjorie: The added ELL students between 2010 and 2020 have cost Norwalk Board of Ed between $70 to $100 Million No one is discussing shipping these poor children back. What we are demanding is an equitable distribution of cost sharing among our neighboring towns to pay for this. I am not arguing for or against the inclusion of these students. I just don’t want to be infairly burdened with the cost. I would think you would agree with that. We have a lot of trees in Norwalk. Unfortunately, there is no money growing on them

Okeezy September 25, 2019 at 8:39 am

Marjorie’s business as usual attitude with regard to making equitable school funding “a political issue” is symptomatic of the complacency and acceptance by our elected delegation of what looks to be a slow moving train wreck in motion. Most on this discussion board are not advocating against denying these children support and a decent education. Simply, this is a problem that looks to be getting a lot worse (please read Another Opinion’s link).

When the residential home ownership base and potential home buyers are adverse to residing in the city due to inequity in school funding, and NPS is compromised the problems will only heighten. This is a wake up call.

Bob September 25, 2019 at 12:57 pm

Why aren’t these ELL kids going to school in Weston, or New Canaan, or Westport, for example. Those towns have houses and condos on the market. Why do they all end up in Norwalk?
Congratulations, Norwalk….you are now the new Bridgeport. The kids that are getting left behind or OUR OWN native Norwalkers.
Why are SAT scores so high in towns like Darien and New Canaaan…compared to Norwalk? Why are more students in Westport, and New Canaan going to outstanding 4-year colleges and universities…compared to Norwalk.
Why aren’t students in New Canaan and Darien and Westport bused all over town?…..when Norwalk buses kids from the ghettos out to schools like Cranbury, Wolfpit, Rowayton, and Marvin?
Norwalk is so backwards!

Non Partisan September 25, 2019 at 6:02 pm

There is a very workable solution
1- enforce our zoning laws
2- fire department inspections of multi family residences
3- end our sanctuary city policies
4- moratorium on all new subsidized housing

And that’s just for starters.

Also- instead of asking our neighboring towns to pick up the tab for our policies- maybe we should just call ice into our city for some active enforcement.

George September 25, 2019 at 8:41 pm

The comments about getting the other town to pay for Norwalk’s liberal choices are outright funny! I left Norwalk years ago for Darien. As a result my children enjoyed a private school level education from the public school system which is why we moved.

We do not have public trash collections, paid fire dept or many social services.

The comment about Darien being “racist” is a flat out lie and just the standard name calling. Norwalk has more land mass than the other towns and allowed the illegals to move in and take over.

No town can legally divert money to another town nor can the state.

Good luck Norwalk. Enjoy what you built and the tax bills to go with it.

Dawn September 25, 2019 at 11:00 pm

So the test scores crashed last year. Abysmal. Anyway you dress a cow, it’s still a cow.
Blame the teachers. No.
Blame the “limited” resources. NO WAY!!!

No matter how many smart boards you buys how many Montessori pre schools you add.
No teacher can be expected to teach: the student on an accelerated track, the student in Sped, the student who speaks Chinese, the students who speak Spanish, the student with a behavioral issue, the student with fill in the blank. All in one classroom.
Test scores include EVERYONE. ELL,SPED.
The test scores will continue to dive and kids like mine will continue to underachieve because they are bored senseless

John ONeill September 25, 2019 at 11:23 pm

@George : Congratulations, it’s comments like yours that make Republicans like me look like idiots. Personally, I m happy that we have one less smug person in Norwalk. Lets hope that private education in Darien has made your children more open minded. That being said, any support you can throw our way would be appreciated.

George September 26, 2019 at 10:52 am

Sorry John.

What most people do not know about Datien is:

Allan O’Neil as we call it is our public housing. It was expanded and rebuilt 10 fold a few ago.

ABC aka A Better Chance. ABC is a non profit supporting black high school aged women. They live in a local ABC operated home and attend DHS. The girls are given any amount of support needed including free housing to excel . This includes other high kids who become friends for life.
In fact one girl became class president. Attending that graduation and her speech was a blast.

We have Post 53. You heard G.W. Bush talk about 53. A town run EMT sevice run by high school kids. Yes, the are adult leaders. There are 3 ambulances funded by local businesses. These kids are expossed to highway accidents…bad ones too, heart attacks and more. They are on call 24/7 which has one crew with an ambulance stationed at the high school during the day and will respond to a call from there.

Three fire depts. all of which will happily take in any new member to teach fire fighting to.

Troop 35/53 and STEM scouts. 98 percent of Darien scouts become Eagle’s. The STEM program is open to any kids in the neighbiring towns.
Pound dad moment…I have 3 Eagle’s.

The Darien YMCA provides services for Norwalk kidsin need at no charge since Norwalk’s Y shut down.

Person to Person run out of St Luke’s church. People in need come from Stamford, Norwalk and beyond for food, clothes, toys and more. The State DOT busses stop there.

So you can see just how “racist “Darien is. We do not look for the lime light but work in a very quite way to support the needs of others. Parent support is key to all of the above. In simple terms…this is how we do it.

It is not hard to get the ball rolling once the ball is inflated.

Manuel September 26, 2019 at 12:16 pm

Apart from grant writing, imagine what great public relations could be had if our large corporate retail base could partner with NPS to fund and shore up our celebrated ELL program. Further, many of the households are critical to the entry-level labor pools these companies are reliant on.

More out-of the box solutions are needed here and less finger pointing. The city’s many untapped resources should be explored.

Paul Lanning September 26, 2019 at 2:11 pm

Non Partisan: Your proposal includes only one present-time solution–the suggestion that we “just call ice into our city for some active enforcement.”

We should at least try to do better than that for these kids. I don’t have the money to do it with. I think Norwalk should ask for help from those who do.

Non Partisan September 28, 2019 at 10:34 pm


These “kids” have been sent here for a free education paid for by taxpayers. I’m a taxpayer who would prefer to see my money spent on children who’s parents are currently contributing to our society.

Instead we will see our real estate taxes go up, and our home value go down. The children who were born here will have less educational opportunities because education dollars will be spent disproportionately wife ell programs- and not cultural enrichment, STEAM etc.

It’s nice that some of us get to live in an alternate universe with endless amounts of other people’s money to spend.

Out of here soon October 14, 2019 at 3:33 pm

Could we stop the partisan crap? Lisa is right. This is not a Democrat or republican issue. It is a Norwalk and State issue. I dont blame the immigrants. I would do the same thing if in their shoes. This is not a new issue. We have seen the politicians at both levels do nothing to fix the problem. You cant expect things to change if you elect the same people over and over again. All you get are the same results with the same excuses. Time for new ideas and solutions.

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