Arrival of new Norwalk superintendent may be delayed

Norwalk BOE 061813 034
Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Bruce Mellion speaks to the Board of Education on Tuesday.

 Updated, 1:46 p.m.: Comment from Bruce Mellion added.  Updated 3:31 p.m., settlement agreement added.

NORWALK, Conn. – Bruce Mellion may have succeeded in delaying the announcement of Norwalk’s next superintendent for a week.

Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons said Tuesday night that the board had selected its superintendent candidate during an executive session that preceded the regular board meeting, as expected. But an objection raised by Mellion, the Norwalk Federation of Teachers president, has merit and may delay the announcement to July 2, Lyons said.

Mellion again protested the secrecy of the search, saying that the finalists should be presented to the community. The search firm, PROACT, had said that would happen, he said.

Then he protested the process on legal grounds.

“It appears that you are on the precipice of doing some really illegal things if you have not already considered them or done them,” he said. “You are under a signed federal settlement agreement with the Norwalk Federation of Teachers, which is also included in the collective bargaining agreement, page 72. We fully expect you to comply with that letter of agreement from the federal court and the spirit of that agreement as all citizens of Norwalk expect you to do as well.”

Lyons said after the meeting that an offer would be extended to the selected candidate, a man, but he “can’t guarantee” the announcement will happen on June 25, although he had been confident earlier that he would be able to do that.

“It turns out the Mr. Mellion was right, for once, tonight when he talked about that legal agreement,” he said. “It was the settlement of a lawsuit back in 2008 that mandates that before we select a superintendent or make an offer to a superintendent we have to give the union four days advance notice. If we can’t get everything finalized for the candidate by this Friday then we can’t take any action next Tuesday because we haven’t met the requirements of that settlement. So that might push us off for a week.”

Mellion said the delay will allow the public time for the type of scrutiny that has been avoided by the board’s confidentiality agreement in the process.

“The purpose is so the NFT and the public of Norwalk can see for at least four days the actual complete contract and can then comment on the particulars if they so choose to do so ahead of time,” he said in an email.

Lyons declined to give any details about the new superintendent, citing the confidentiality agreement the board had made. He did say that all three finalists were men, but would not say where the new superintendent currently lives.

The board had agreed to a salary range of $230,000 to $250,000 total. Former Superintendent Susan Marks was making $230,000, Lyons said.

He did not know if the new superintendent would be present for the announcement.

Lyons had expected the new superintendent to begin work in mid-July if the terms were agreed to, but if the announcement is pushed back it will delay the start date. He predicted it would be in the third week of July.



23 responses to “Arrival of new Norwalk superintendent may be delayed”

  1. M. Murray’s

    This only gives the union 4 days to fully investigate this candidate. Hopefully they are prepared to do their due diligence and dig deep into the background of the Superintendent presented to them. Better to find out the skeletons before the hire.

  2. Lisa Thomson

    The community and many NPS staff want change and were appalled at what Bruce Mellion and the status quo did to Susan Marks. A new superintendent, who has done their homework on NPS will obviously prove a challenge to Mellion’s power base and he will lose further control of the district.

    Could Bruce be trying to scare off the new candidates by his bully tactics, having been quiet all year? Why now? If he is successful in derailing a 1 year search process, while the district has treaded water, I for one will call in the state to investigate.

  3. rburnett

    There are two more important questions here:

    1. Why did the BOE keep the names of the finalists from the taxpaying citizens of Norwalk. They have a right to hear from the finalists BEFORE the ultimate candidate is selected. The CITIZENS are paying his salary and they should be comfortable with and have a voice in the final selection. NOT the nine members of the BOE

    2. Why did the BOE NOT know of the agreement with the NFT? Doesn’t anyone do their due diligence anymore or do they just do whatever they want? Certainly an inappropriate comment by Mr. Lyons saying “Bruce Mellion was right for once”

    Another example of how are city is run.

  4. C. Greene

    Mr. Mellion has said and published comments way worse than Mr. Lyons. Not that it makes it right, but if you’re calling out Mr. Lyons, then review the numerous disparaging remarks made by Mr. Mellion.

  5. M. Murray’s

    Hmm….why wouldn’t the Board know about this settlement or why would they try not to comply with it in the first place. The Board should have insisted on transparency in the process to allow the public and the union to do their own investigations into the background of these candidates prior to a hire. Lets see how long this out-of-state Superintendent lasts before we find out his inadequacies like te last time, and two years from now we will be doing another search. Let’s see if this candidate will move his family up the coast or if they remain out of state while he rents an apartment here for a few years before returning home with a pocket full of cash leaving the district with an interim superintendent again while we spend more money for a search. We never learn. Keep bringing in outsiders until we can find out enough about them to tell that it won’t work out. Why give the opportunity to those who have a vested interest in the community?

  6. M. Murray’s

    Just another reason why it will be necessary to do further research into any candidate recommended by PRO-ACT


  7. Oldtimer

    That snide comment by Lyons that Mellion was right, for once, goes to the heart of BOE/NFT conflict. There is absolutely no reason for a comment like that. Lyons was wrong in missing the four day notice requirement and should have apologized for his mistake, rather than make snide comments about Mellion, who had to point it out. We have to wonder what other contract provisions Lyons conveniently forgets. If there was mutual respect, and Lyons and Mellion spoke to each other, mistakes like this could be avoided. Taxpayers deserve no less. If the job is too much for Lyons, he should step down.

  8. LWitherspoon

    It’s troubling to read comments here and elsewhere predicting failure and loudly undermining the new Superintendent before his name is even announced. Whoever the new Superintendent is, I hope he is up to the task of changing the culture in a system where this sort of counterproductive behavior is so prevalent.
    Many of those screaming for transparency in the superintendent search appear to be school employees who will report to the new superintendent. Would these same individuals also support total transparency in other BoE personnel matters, including teacher hiring and evaluations?

  9. Busy Norwalk Mom

    M. Murray’s link above is disconcerting to read and somewhat ironic. The Pro-Act company we hired to vett our Superintendent candidates has been fired because they didn’t do this properly in a school district in another state. Soooo who is in charge of vetting out the Search firm who is providing vetted Superintendent candidates? On the note of transparency, it is normal to keep the final candidates quiet till they say “yes” to the job since many of them are probably still working and may not have given notice to their current employers that they are looking for a new job? Would you want your current employer to know you were job searching before you had an offer or have accepted a new position? In my humble opinion, the agreement between the NPS Teacher Union should be honored but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the potential candidate information needs to be spread to the local media.

  10. Bruce Kimmel

    I had also forgotten about the court order. This is how it came to be, if I remember correctly. A number of years ago, at a special, that is, not regularly scheduled, BOE meeting, board members tried to extend superintendent Corda’s contract without providing the public much in the way of information about what was in the contract. I’m not even sure if copies were available to the public, hard or electronic. Anyway, the NFT sued and the judge issued a ruling that contained the provision Mellion is referring to. All of this was in the context of a contract extension, and people, me included — and I suppose current board members — never thought about it in the context of hiring a new superintendent. Several days won’t make much difference, I hope.

  11. Bruce Kimmel

    I neglected to say that the special meeting was in August and that I was away on vacation when it took place. I would have voted to table the contract until the next regularly scheduled BOE meeting.

  12. M. Murray’s

    I would be interested in how anyone can thoroughly research a candidate without asking the current employer questions about the candidate. Once through the initial screening, the candidate’s employer would have to know that they are applying for positions, negating any need for top secrecy.

  13. Oldtimer

    There are people involved in this process who believe they are too smart to need any kind of background investigation on applicants. They assume that they can tell from resumes and interviews all they need to know to make such an important hiring decision. Some of us may not be that smart, but we remember Reagan’s motto “trust but verify”. By the time anybody gets around to verifying, contracts will be signed and the City will be on the hook for a half a million for the first two years. People forget. even highly educated candidates for school superintendent jobs make mistakes and, sometimes, fail to tell the whole truth. The most important piece of information I would look for is why is the candidate looking to leave a present position ? What kinds of problems cause people to seek a new start in a new location ?

  14. Ante Litteram BOE

    From Mike Barbis’ twitter feed: “I can’t wait for the Superintendent search to be done. I will expose the negative and shortsigted members of the BOE. Voters beware!”
    Hope he has a mirror for that one— nice to see Mike Barbis isn’t too proud to use the superintendent search for political gain!

  15. M. Murray’s

    The block of 5?

  16. marjoriem

    Good for Bruce! There has been no transparency from this BoE. I also read that there was no site visit! Was this appointment a done deal from the beginning? Another out of towner? How could this man be ready to take the helm in just three weeks? Is he losing his job elsewhere? A retiree? Are we taking on someone who has given another district problems? Yes, we sure do want time to investigate!

  17. LWitherspoon

    Does any other enterprise exist where employees use their lengthy summer vacations to publicly undermine the new boss before his name is even announced?
    Many of those screaming for transparency in the superintendent search appear to be school employees who will report to the new superintendent. Would these same individuals also support total transparency in other BoE personnel matters, including teacher hiring and evaluations?

  18. Those That Can’t Do

    How can we expect our children attain an education when so many won’t bother to educate themselves on the laws that apply here? The citizens elect a board, who then makes the personnel decision to appoint the superintendent. YOUR SAY IN THE MATTER BEGINS AND ENDS WITH ELECTING THE BOARD.

    Disclosing this persons identity and motives for leaving a former job would violate that persons privacy. Pretty simple to understand. You would think that teachers who enjoy even greater protection under the law than the general populace does would respect this. Sorry you can’t have it both ways.

  19. M. Murray’s

    FYI I am not a school employee. We do need I find out if there was no site visit. How else could a proper investigation of the candidate be done if thy only talk to those people that the candidate directs them to?

  20. LWitherspoon

    @M. Murray’s
    What exactly is meant by a “site visit”? The only folks I have heard using that term are Teachers Union head Bruce Mellion and the individual(s) posting at Norwalk Speaks who are clearly employees of the BoE.
    If I understand you correctly, your position seems to be that we won’t truly know whether or not the new Super has skeletons in his closet unless the Teachers Union and public do their own investigations of the new Super’s background.
    I’m not sure how you can make such a claim when it’s clear from your own comments that you don’t know what vetting the BoE is doing or has already done. While I’m not familiar with the BoE’s hiring procedures here, it does seem to me that there are more than a few competent Board members and I would certainly want to know what they have done by way of vetting before I declared it insufficient. Likewise, I would not presume to declare that the new Super will be a failure from out of state before his name has even been announced.
    I find it interesting that nobody has addressed the question of whether or not we should also bring greater transparency to other BoE personnel matters such as teacher hiring and evaluations.

  21. JustAParent

    Perhaps no visits were done because the position was given to Tony Daddona! Mike Barbis wants to expose others because the majority voted for Tony! It was clear that transparency was important and parents should of had the opportunity to meet the last three candidates. If you apply for a public position, no secrets or confidentially of the last candidates should of been considered. I’m ready to cite for new BOE

  22. M. Murray’s

    A site visit is where the hiring committee, in this case the board, goes to the location ofthe candidates current job. They are often guided to individuals selected by the candidate and ask questions of them. They can also approach people at random ( staff, parents, and just regular citizens and ask if they know the candidate and their opinions. I was a parent representative on one of these site visits in a principal search and you learn a lot from people. It was while on that search committee that I learne how little background research is done on prospective employees. The administration presented what they described as a wonderful candidate to us. With a little research and a few phone calls I found out that this was not the case.

  23. marjoriem

    I am hoping that the list of qualifications of this new superintendent reflect the list of qualifications that parents spent their time producing. We’ve had some pretty awful retired superintendents appointed in the past. I hope this is new blood who cares about Norwalk. There are superior candidates in Connecticut and even in Norwalk. At least Daddona listens and cares about what parents want. He is rebuilding the system based on parent input. His last budget proved that.

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