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Norwalk Common Council green-lights $1.4 million school appropriation

A chart provided last month by Norwalk Public Schools.

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Public Schools is getting $1 million to deal with an influx of immigrant students, thanks to a unanimous vote at Tuesday night’s Common Council meeting.  An additional $400,000 for an outside agency’s rendering of behavioral health services to the students’ families was also approved by all 13 Council members present.

In requesting the school funding, Norwalk School Superintendent Steven Adamowski outlined various accommodations necessitated by the swelling immigrant enrollment. Noting a 13 percent increase in English Language Learners (ELLs) since last year, compounded by another 50 new registrants currently in process plus 90 more predicted in January, he pointed out that 66 percent  of Norwalk Public School (NPS) students are classified as having “high needs,” meaning that they either require special ed, are ELLs, or qualify for free or reduced lunch. 

District C Council member John Kydes pondered the impact of ELL-focused programs on non-needy students.  “As the father of two kids in the public school system,” he said, “word has gotten back to me that non-ELL students’ education may be suffering because of all this.  What is being done to make sure this is not the case?”  Adamowski replied, “The best way to help students who are not English Language Learners is to provide support for those who are learning English.”

“Will the one million be enough?” Council member-At-Large Colin Hosten’s asked, prompting Adamowski to reply, “This year is an anomaly.  If the increases continue, the answer is ‘no’.”

Addressing future budgets, Mayor Harry Rilling later asserted, “Not only have we reached out to our federal delegation to see if there are Tier I funds available to help with unaccompanied minors coming into our school system, but we’re also reaching out to the governor’s staff to see if there is any possibility that there could be some extra funding available…We are cautiously optimistic that some amount of money can be found.”

When Council member-At-Large Manny Langella asked if other school districts were having similar experiences, Adamowski cited a Norwalk Chamber of Commerce estimate that 80 percent of Connecticut’s immigrants are coming to Fairfield County.  As to why Norwalk’s increase this year exceeded that of Stamford and Bridgeport, the Superintendent explained, “Families that are here say that we have the best programs for ELLs.”

Advocating for the appropriation to fund Mid-Fairfield County Child Guidance Center behavioral service, Norwalk’s newly-appointed Chief of Community Services Lamond Daniels articulated immigrant students’ families’ critical need for mental and emotional support, prompting Rilling to note that while NPS has its own social workers, those practitioners can’t engage in home visitations.

Encouraging a “yes” vote, Rilling proclaimed that, “Norwalk has shown the unique ability to prepare…The Strategic Plan is clearly working.”

30 comments

Norwalk native November 27, 2019 at 5:49 am

The Strategic Plan to encourage high needs and expensive Illegals who don’t pay enough taxes to cover the extra costs they generate to locate to Norwalk IS clearly working. The rapid transformation of NPS to a majority minority school system is also clearly working. Thank you Mr. Rilling.

To answer Mr. Kydes’s question, the best way to help non-English language learners is to remove them from NPS and put them somewhere they can thrive. Most parents of non-ELL students have already done this.

Bryan Meek November 27, 2019 at 5:58 am

The request was cut by $200,000. Right now, a section of Kindergarten is being eliminated mid year at Cranbury because they had to provide relief for the influx at 3rd grade level. This is only the beginning thanks to Sanctuary Harry and 9 cents Duff.

There will be no funding from the state, which is nearly insolvent right now according to the latest Comptroller’s reports. Additional Tier 1 funding would have to be approved by the executive branch, with which our delegation is more interested in what 3rd parties said 2nd parties said someone might have said on the phone that actually never even happened, while ignoring the guy who is on video tape saying he did exactly that because well, because actually doing it isn’t a crime, but hearsay about doing it is.

Anyway, we’ll be getting state and federal relief any minute because “we’re reaching out to the governor’s staff”……wait……”we are”? Meaning, we haven’t yet? Who exactly on the Governors staff did we reach out to or will be reaching out to? Are we looking for the phone number? Or is the fact that we never reached out because we are cut off thanks to Duff’s stunt blaming the governor for Duff’s grocery tax? Instead of just writing down what the mayor says next time why not ask him who “we’re reaching out” to?

We’re going to get relief, Epstein killed himself, and the email forwarded itself….or we are being played once again.

Bryan Meek November 27, 2019 at 6:11 am

Also, if you go to hour 3 of the 4 hour BOE meeting last week, you’ll see Dr. Adamowski claim that the money allocated above is already going to run out in March at the current pace. So you can expect more cuts in the spring or a year end deficit, if nothing else happens.

Did Sanctuary Harry know this before the vote? He, being the only paid BOE member, was too busy to attend that meeting because of dinner plans. Of course he did have a little time to stoke the mob to harass our unpaid BOE members. Did he even watch the recorded meeting or was there just not enough time with the busy schedule and all?

John ONeill November 27, 2019 at 9:26 am

I haven’t had my coffee yet, but my head is spinning. #1) We need to embrace these children #2) This is a bigger crisis than leaders have made the public aware of. #3) ELLers have cost Norwalk over $ 225 MILLION dollars over past 10 years #4) If trends continue, next 10 years will cost Norwalk over $350 MILLION dollars – AND, that’s using a band aid approach to the problem. #5) EVERY cost statistic coming from city advisors and Mayor’s office is understated in a big way. Thomas Hamilton through a number of $5 Million dollars out — That’s a gross undersatement. I’d love to see how he came up with that number. #6) The biggest advantage Rilling/Duff camp have on these issues is that most of Norwalkers are too busy working to pay attention to the underlying issues going on in schools. #7) John Kydes concerns (or rather his kids concerns) are the tip of the iceberg – We are quickly reaching the tipping point educationally. If something is not done soon, schools will become chaotic. #8)Where are comments from teachers/teacher’s leadership on this?? They’re on the front lines – I find it strange that this Band Aid approach to crisis hasn’t turned on the publicity spigot from teacher’s unions — If I didn’t know better, I’d think teacher’s union is protecting Rilling/Duff. Shoot, I forgot Rilling’s campaign treasurer is Union Leader’s spouse. That doesn’t seem right does it? #9) Where’s NAACP on this? In a bizarre kind of way, I hope Mike Barbis stays on Board. That wound stimulate NAACP to keep showing up to Board meetings. Maybe they’d come to realize resources are being REALLOCATED away from the kids they claim to support. I’m baffled by their silence on lack of state support. They should be hammering our state reps on Hartford’s lack of support. #10) Maybe we can collect bottles and cans as one of your readers mentioned the other day. — We’d only need about 600 Million cans/bottles per year to correct our current situation. Let’s go Green…MIND BOGGLING

John Levin November 27, 2019 at 9:34 am

I wish to repeat a comment I posted to a NoN story 6 days ago (“NPS enrollment swells; additional new school possible”):

“Easy: merge Norwalk’s school district with Wilton’s. Other than a three-student increase in 2011, according to NESDEC, student enrollment in the Wilton Public School District has dropped every year since 2008.
Wilton’s 4,048 students have only 1.7% qualified for free or reduced lunch based on income. That’s 69 students total. That compares to 61%, or 7,147 students for Norwalk. They need us. Wilton High School is 86% white, 1% black, and 4% hispanic. They need us.”

Seriously. Norwalk neighbors a town that has declining school enrollment, the opposite of diversity, only a handful of ELL students,and a more affluent tax base. Why not merge school districts and solve everyone’s problems? For those of us old enough to remember, Wilton was a part of Norwalk, until our state legislature granted it a separate legal status in 1802. Just repeal that legislation and it’s done. This seems simple and easy. What am I missing?

Seth Kent November 27, 2019 at 10:55 am

@ John Levin, you’re missing the fact that Wilton would never allow that to happen, and doesn’t even remotely “need” Norwalk. Some of us moved here specifically because we loved Norwalk but the schools were completely inadequate. We paid a huge premium to do so, and take pride in how efficiently Wilton is managed compared to Norwalk. Norwalk needs to get itself together before throwing its problems on Wilton.

John Miller November 27, 2019 at 2:29 pm

@John Levin: I agree with your concept but also remember that it was Wilton and its equally affluent neighbor to the North, Ridgefield, who stopped the Super 7 project in its tracks and finally killed it with decades of litigation. I suspect that the same would happen were we to attempt what you are suggesting and can Norwalk afford the legal bill that would most likely follow?

Another Opinion November 27, 2019 at 2:36 pm

One not be a rocket scientist to understand this issue has been festering for years. It is also shameful that with clear broadcasts from both the BOE and superintendent, no additional funding has been secured nor likely will and the lack of housing code enforcement which is enabling up to five families per house in South Norwalk is running amok. . . . so hang on to your wallets, expect more property tax increases, more families to look elsewhere to educate their children and more for sale signs as longer term residents depart. Rest assured though that the Common Council and mayor are hard at work banning plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam.

John Levin November 27, 2019 at 4:13 pm

Seth and John: thank you for your feedback. I actually think that Wilton needs Norwalk. Who would want their children to attend a school that is 86% non-hispanic white students? Is that what the people of Wilton really want? This is hard for me to imagine. Am I naive?

I think that I know what is best for Wilton residents and their children. I would be happy to lead an effort that gets them to where they need to be.

And I moved to Norwalk only in 1991, so I don’t know the history of Super 7. Maybe we can fix that one too?

Claire schoen November 27, 2019 at 4:21 pm

@john miller – curious how you determined that the schools were ‘completely inadequate.’ Did you send your children to school here and then move, or move because of what you had heard about the schools?

JustATaxpayer November 27, 2019 at 5:55 pm

John O’Neill is spot on….

#9) Where’s NAACP on this? In a bizarre kind of way, I hope Mike Barbis stays on Board. That wound stimulate NAACP to keep showing up to Board meetings. Maybe they’d come to realize resources are being REALLOCATED away from the kids they claim to support. I’m baffled by their silence on lack of state support

Why aren’t representatives fighting? Giving attention to students of need who are citizens of this country is no doubt lessened with the influx of ELL. Sad

Norwalk native November 27, 2019 at 7:55 pm

The NPS exists to teach Illegals how to speak English. This in turn keeps the teachers employed and getting raises every year. Teachers vote as a monolithic bloc in support of the Democrat party that keeps feeding them an endless supply of Illegals. The property owners have no place at the table, even though it’s our money at stake.

George November 27, 2019 at 7:55 pm

Claire, Mr. Miller might be thinking that just like my healh insurance before Obamacare was “inadequate” Wilton schools are to. Clearly he knows what best for everyone without a fact to be had. Wilton, Westport and Darien will sit back and watch as Norwalk falls deeper into Harry and Bob’s great adventure.

The headlines should really read: Norwalk’elected officals gave away 1.4 million of taxpayers money and gave it to illegal alien as Bob Duff is nowhere to be found.

Tysen Canevari November 27, 2019 at 10:31 pm

makes me happy i sent my 4 kids to private school. What a joke Norwalk schools have become. I am surprised that teachers arent transferring out of here. Vaminos!

John ONeill November 28, 2019 at 10:00 am

@George et al: Keep in mind the $1.4 Million headline grossly understates cost. Think about it as the tip of the iceberg. The true amount “like an iceberg” is much, much larger. Think of our elected leaders as being the Captains of the Titanic. That didn’t end well, did it? I realize my posts are redundant, but the issue is far momore serious than we have been led to to believe

David Bayne November 28, 2019 at 1:17 pm

Wiltoners would be marching in the streets, John Levin. The school district is all Wilton has to offer to draw people there. Most parents there do not want their kids going to school with minorities, poor people or ELLs. Look at the test scores in Wilton and compare them to Norwalk. Do you seriously think ANYONE in Wilton would welcome consolidation? I don’t mean to insult, but to answer your question, yes your thinking on this issue is naive.

Townie November 29, 2019 at 8:07 am

Let’s be real. We will never see Wilton or any of our lily white neighboring towns assist Norwalk. Diversity with them is merely a talking point. Not a life style. Connecticut is a model blue state, so for all my liberal, progressive Democratic Party loyalist & friends, we now own these problems. Don’t expect any assistance or relief from the feds, the state, or even Bob Duff.
I recently read where Superintendent Adamowski stated that this large influx of student imagination to Norwalk is due to the great success of their ELL program. Wow!
I am hearing that the migration is not over. More & more children are expected over the next several months. This is not a temporary situation for our schools, city, or state, unles you live in Wilton, Westport or one of the many other lily white Ct towns. It has become a situation that we can’t avoid and must deal with locally.

L. Jones December 1, 2019 at 9:59 am

I would love for both sides of the table to sit down and talk. All the name calling of the present elected officials, is childish. Calling them names, is not going to get them to listen. Maybe if everyone began to act civil, we could get somewhere. @JustATaxpayer, what is it that you would like from the NAACP? Have you ever spoke with any of them, to let them know what they could do? Or are you just upset that they are using their voice right now. You do realize that Barbis has been disrespectful to people of all races?

John ONeill December 1, 2019 at 8:19 pm

@L Jones – Just a Taxpayer was reiterating my previous post. What I would like NAACP to do is stick up for the kids they claim to support. Maybe they should educate their supporters on how reallocated resources are hurting those same kids. Maybe they should dig into to the lack of state support for ELL funding and hold local legislators accountable. Maybe they should stay at Board meetings after public speakers have said their piece to understand what’s happening after crowds leave. Maybe they should worry less abut the headlines and more about the nuts and bolts of issues with ELL crisis. AND, it’s an issue that will suck more and more resources / dollars away from all of our kids. I’m not angry their using their voice right now. In fact I think they have a valid argument. BUT, they are behind the curve regarding effects of ELL issues. Sadly, I think most people are. The NAACP has a strong voice. It is my hope they use it with ELL funding crisis.

L. Jones December 1, 2019 at 9:03 pm

Worry less about the headlines?? Meaning? Oh and I walked outside with many at multiple meetings that were not NAACP members. They don’t have nannies and needed to get home to their children or other jobs. Yet you always want to find fault in NAACP members. There are MANY people who come to speak and leave. BOE members are not really listening to the families anyway. What is your real angry with NAACP? Have you spoken with the members to find out what they do and do not know?? Or are you just assuming?

John ONeill December 1, 2019 at 10:43 pm

I hate to break it to you but very few people I know in Norwalk have nannies. I’m confused by that statement, but maybe you know wealthier people than I do. I havent lived here long enough
I guess. I’m not angry with NAACP. I’m baffled by their lack of energy on our local ELL situation. Wouldn’t you agree? Wouldn’t you agree the poorest kids are effected the most by lack of resources? Regarding headlines – Although Barbis situation needs to be dealt with, it’s nothing compared to lack of state support for Norwalk schools. THAT lack of support is seriously hurting those kids NAACP claims to support.

L. Jones December 2, 2019 at 10:56 am

Lack of energy on our local ELL situation? Is that an assumption because they are fighting for Barbis to step down? They can walk and chew gum at the same time. You never answered my question. Have you sat with members of NAACP to find out what they are or are not do? Spoke to them about how you need their help? Have you gone to the churches of minorities here in Norwalk to ask them to rally with you? If all you can do is complain about what you believe NAACP “is not doing,” you are part of the problem. We have to stop with all this finger pointing, and come to the table together and get things done. Yes, I do know people who have nannies and are nannies in Norwalk. I was just saying this to point that many cannot stay to the end of a meeting when they have little ones to put to bed.

John ONeill December 2, 2019 at 3:02 pm

@L Jones – To your credit you remind me of my wife. That is I sense I won’t have the last word here..Let’s watch how ELL crisis plays out and we will reconnect in 6 months. In the meantime if you can write our leaders and find out why there’s a lack of support I’d appreciate it. Or why haven’t they acknowledged there’s a crisis?

Nora K King December 2, 2019 at 5:29 pm

The strategic plan is working???? I don’t see it written anywhere in the plan that it is okay to break the law and let people live her illegally. The plan clearly states enforcement of zoning. Where is that taking place? How about our tax dollars going toward the children who are here legally and not getting what they need? How about that being the focus. I am so confused on the statement that having people here breaking the law is in our strategic plan.

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