BoE member alleges lack of sensitivity to her condition

Board of Education member Migdalia Rivas
Board of Education member Migdalia Rivas

NORWALK, Conn. – A Norwalk Board of Education member who is having a problem seeing said no allowance has been made by the board to assist her in her duties while she has a temporary disability. Board Chairman Mike Lyons denies it.

“I have a temporary disability presently that I am unable to really see. I can’t read emails. I can’t read whatever,” Migdalia Rivas said at Monday’s Democratic Town Committee meeting. “… I have spoke to the board and I have said I cannot read emails, please accommodate me. No! I was told if I am not able to fulfill my job as an elected official I should resign. I said what about the American Disabilities Act. OK? I have said that in public.”

Lyons confirmed that she has said it in public.

“She asked at one of our recent Board meetings if people would call her on the phone to notify her of meetings and the like (she said she has her daughter read her emails and documents to her),” Lyons said in an email. “I told (Superintendent Manny) Dr. Rivera to make sure she gets such calls as requested.  That was the only accommodation she requested, and I made sure it would be provided.  I am not aware of anyone saying that if she couldn’t perform her duties she should resign; I certainly have never said anything like that.”

Rivas is one of three board members who allege that they have been subject to racial discrimination in a complaint filed with the Norwalk Branch NAACP.


52 responses to “BoE member alleges lack of sensitivity to her condition”

  1. Norewalk Lifer

    Mr. Lyons should first research whether anyone under his auspices made the statement before jumping in and denying it.

    Ms. Rivas has served the city of Norwalk a very long time, she is a very productive member of this community, and this brash dismissal of her statement speaks volumes about Mr. Lyon’s inability to objectively gage whether there is truth in the statement or not.

    Norwalk Lifer

  2. YankeeC

    @ Norewalk/Norwalk Lifer: are you kidding me? Could you give me one example of how she has been productive? Just one?

  3. Norewalk Lifer

    @YankeeC, Mrs. Rivas served as an Adult Education Representative prior to her work on the BOE, she has been active in serving a community that required uplift in order to maintain the kind of economic success that you see in people like Warren Pena and others who now celebrate the real spirit of American exceptionalism; WE all have history in this country, of a migratory nature, when you see individuals who were supported and became successful, giving back, you see the real meaning of that exceptionalism.

    Would you care to debate that? and insofar as Ms, Rivas’ statement is concerned, she has certainly earned the gravitas to be afforded an objective investigation into the allegations.

    You may not like this, but we all have that right.

    Norwalk Lifer

  4. Mike Lyons

    Lifer – “Mr. Lyons should first research whether anyone under his auspices made the statement before jumping in and denying it.” Read my statement. I didn’t deny anyone said she should resign. I said I was UNAWARE of anyone saying that and that I myself haven’t said that. After giving the comment to NON I looked at other NON articles and found one comment from a Democrat on the Zoning Commission calling on Ms. Rivas (and Ms. Mosby and Ms. Murray) to resign, but that individual isn’t “under my auspices”. My statement wasn’t a “brash dismissal”, it was a simple statement of fact.

  5. EveT

    Many of us have heard Ms. Rivas complain that she is disrespected and “told that I am nothing,” and that Norwalk schools have failed her children, without any specifics to support these accusations. It is clear she is very upset, but it is not clear who actually did or said the things she is complaining about, or what she would like to happen to remedy the situation.

  6. M. Murray’s

    Once again public allegations are made by people without the specifics. Why doesn’t Ms. Rivas state in her accusation exactly who said this to her and when?

  7. Suzanne

    I forget: what does the Board of Education do? Isn’t it about educating children? This seems like a personnel problem that should be taken care of personally and privately.

  8. MarjorieM

    What ever happened to the days when people were kind to each other? I am distressed over the lack of sensitivity here. Have we lost simple kindness and respect in our lives?

  9. piberman

    How can the BOE properly function if individual members take their complaints and accusations public ? Public service used to mean just that “public service”. And if difficulties arose for an individual an appropriate declared absence was arranged.

  10. Marj, when Ms. Rivas asked for an accommodation, I immediately implemented the accommodation she requested. How is that being “insensitive”?

  11. Casey Smith

    Ms. Rivas has been claiming “disrespect” for years. And although the Board members have changed over that time, it still apparently doesn’t get any better. That seems odd to me.
    It also seems a shame that internal Board issues are now being aired in public. I know there was one Board member who soldiered on despite a bout with cancer and another who resigned because of health issues. Both were handled by the Board and the District with dignity and professionalism. So, I’m baffled as to why this personal situation is perceived to be different.

  12. M. Murray’s

    This article is a little incomplete. Did anyone on DTC at this meeting ask her who the elected official was that told her to resign? If so, what was her response? If not, why didn’t they ask? Did NON contact Rivas and ask her that same question? Did NON contact Rivera and ask if Lyons requested that Rivas be called regarding meetings? Did NON ask Rivas what special assistance she requested, who she requested it from, and that person’s response?

  13. LWitherspoon

    I have questions similar to those of M. Murray. Ms. Rivas alleges that someone refused to accommodate her, and that someone told her that if she couldn’t do her job she should resign. Did NoN ask Ms. Rivas for the name of this person or persons?

  14. MarjorieM

    Mike, I am simply stating that when a person complains, that person’s entire life goes on trial in a public manner. Attacks are made by people (who comment on blogs) on individual’s lives that have no relevance to the complaint made. Whether Ms. Rivas has contributed to the community, to the BoE or to the planet has no bearing on the complaint. I am not suggesting that you are at fault, Mike. I don’t know that. I am disgusted with personal attacks that are the norm on blogs, Facebook, etc. Attack the issues in this case, otherwise the attack does appear to be racist.

  15. Casey Smith

    Marjorie – Ms. Rivas’ statement isn’t a complaint, it’s an accusation. And your statement of “Attack the issues in this case, otherwise the attack does appear to be racist.” Why are they racist?

  16. piberman

    Curious that BOE members making accusations and complaints in the public arena have neither leadership positions within the BOE nor are well regarded for making contributions within regular BOE meetings. If they can’t properly function within the BOE in a professional manner as behooves “public servants” they’d best serve their constituencies by resigning so more capable citizens could properly serve the BOE. Why is it that this unseemly behavior occurs only by BOE members, not in the Common Council ? Is the press responsible for encouraging such displays ? Or does the BOE attract perennial complainers who can’t usefully contribute ?

  17. MarjorieM

    Casey Smith, most of the personal attacks I have read here seem to be against the minority community members. Considering the numbers of minority community members, I would think Norwalk would want to encourage this segment of the community to participate in elections. The majority in Norwalk is or is about to be Hispanic or Latino. Ms. Rivas deserves respect for her service, not nasty comments about what she has or hasn’t done. Her complaint has nothing to do with her accomplishments. Focus on her complaint. Find out who told her to resign. Who told her ” No”. It’s common courtesy.

  18. One and Done

    @MarjorieM. most of the personal attacks I have read here seem to be coming from you towards Mike Lyons. Why should Casey Smith or anyone besides Ms. Rivas deliver these accustaions with specifity? What the heck does any of this have to do with having minority members of the community participate in elections? p.s. not that it matters to me but you might want to educate yourself on the actual racial makeup of the city. 25% is a long way off from overtaking a majority of 55%. The gap is shrinking for sure, but hardly close to a majority….I can assume by your comments that were whites to become a minority then they too could make baseless, factless accusations and you would support the need for others to refute these.
    Norwalk may have some racists, but it is not a racist city. It does have an over abundance of outspoken race hustlers who pathetically see it as a means for advancement instead of hard work. We need to rid ourselves of these perpetual chip on the shoulder misfits and focus on the kids regardless of their skin color.

  19. MarjorieM

    I really want these comments to stay on topic. I said my piece. I stand by it. I will not reply to an off topic accusation about my comments. ( The minority percentage of Hispanics and blacks vs. Caucasians should be checked, however)

  20. According to City.Data, here are the percentages as of the 2010 Census:

    White alone – 47,718 (55.7%)
    Hispanic – 20,770 (24.3%)
    Black alone – 11,472 (13.4%)
    Asian alone – 4,045 (4.7%)
    Two or more races – 1,235 (1.4%)
    Other race alone – 244 (0.3%)
    American Indian alone – 94 (0.1%)
    Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone – 25 (0.03%)

    See http://www.city-data.com/city/Norwalk-Connecticut.html.

  21. M. Murray’s

    Race should not have anything to do with it. Meetings are held and votes are taken. Decisions are made. If there are accusations to be made, back them up with evidence and facts. Don’t be vague, and don’t make claims without providing details, names, etc.

  22. MarjorieM

    Thank you, Mike. Since the majority population living in Norwalk is approx 55%, and since the minority population in NHS is 55%, is it safe to state that a decent percentage of white folk send their children to private schools? Or are the whites an aging population in Norwalk? What is going on? Perhaps a different article could be written about that so we don’t go off topic?

    M.Murray, I do agree with you. It shouldn’t be about race. But, after reading comments and accusations, I think it is about race. That’s my opinion. Ms. Rivas and the other two Board members agree.

  23. Bill

    If you can’t reasonably do your duties to serve on the board, resign, it is that simple. Ms. Rivas has lost the support of the community and she and Ms. Mosby should resign immediately.

  24. MarjorieM

    Bill and others who think the same way, perhaps we need to listen to other opinions and not determine that people should resign because they disagree with the majority? If there is lack of knowledge, then support those who don’t understand. Help them to understand. I don’t know if there is lack of knowledge, but listening and supportive help seem to be the logical ways to keep the minority Board members interested and willing to run for office. Kindness goes a long way.

  25. MarjorieM

    NON, why are my comments suddenly “awaiting moderation?”

    1. Mark Chapman

      That’s funny, Marjorie, considering this one was not held.

      There are keywords and names and such that trigger a hold. You, by yourself, are not moderation. If you were to mention someone or use a word that is on thee list, then it goes to moderation. We have some folks on permanent moderation because they just can’t stop themselves from crossing the line now and then. You are not in that group.

  26. Casey Smith

    Oh for heaven’s sake, Marjorie!
    My comment that followed your statement …”otherwise the attack does appear to be racist” was pulled for moderation. Since it wasn’t a personal attack, it was later posted in its entirety .
    I’m sure that others who have posted to this thread have also had their comments subject to moderation. And I have seen comments where the moderators have removed inflammatory comments and the moderator actually will say that in the post. I find it hard to believe that you have never seen that on any of the various comment threads.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ Casey

      FYI, you are not on moderation either. Something — or someone else’s name — in your post triggered it.

      In a perfect world, we could just let everyone post in real time and just flag George Carlin’s “7 Words You Can’t Say on TV” — two of which, I am told, are no longer banned… Unfortunately, if we did that, things would descend into the sewer, and, having worked there for a while (no, not The Hour, which usually does a pretty good job with moderation), I would rather not have my name attached to it.


  27. Lisa Thomson

    @ marj. You’re defense of Ms. Rivas is admirable if not misplaced. How come you don’t give me the same kind of love 🙂

    Plenty of BOE members have come and gone or still remain and have somehow managed to work through disagreements or majority votes and not make it ‘personal’ or invoke ‘race’ at every juncture. Most recent and vocal BOE members Haynie and Colorossi disagreed on most everything but did not make it ‘personal.’ Ms. Harris and Ms. Murray discuss and debate ‘public’ issues about raising the bar in education without making it a ‘personal’ political spectacle about race.


    Norwalk is committed to closing the achievement gap and did so by hiring the nationally revognized ‘minority’ Superintendent Dr. Rivera, whose efforts extend far beyond ‘race.’ The majority of BOE members endorsed and continue to support him in his efforts to close the gap and raise the bar for all students.


    Perhaps the lack of support on this blog for Ms. Rivas or Ms. Mosby (refering to other posts) stems from their ‘personal’ tactics to pull in the ‘public’ DTC or NAACP at every juncture to further their personal political agendas (whatever they are.) Since both are seasoned politicos, maybe it is time to consider shifting political tactics since it doesn’t appear to be garnering the support of most Norwalkers or helping the kids.

  28. Norewalk Lifer


    Your competency is unquestionable, but your demeanor, is.

    Your insistence here to defend a situation instead of picking up the phone and speaking to Ms. Rivas, speaks volumes to me.

    Ms Rivas, whether people here like it or not, has contributed to this town, as many have, myself included, she is owed the respect for that, at the very least,

    Reviewing the comments here? I would argue that this veered off into a racial debate, and I would also argue that the real point of the matter, common decency, was lost in the shuttle.

    Mr. Lyons, again, no disrespect intended, but just read your comments here. if you wish to persuade, you are not doing a very good job of it.

    Citing statistics in a humanistic conversation like this, well it’s not necessary.

    Norwalk Lifer

  29. John Levin

    I have self-censored all of my own pirate jokes.

  30. piberman

    Imagine if every member of Norwalk’s BOE was pulling their shoulders to the wheel and being real public servants rather crying “foul” periodically in the press to further their political agendas. Maybe the Norwalk DTC could explain why it continues to endorse BOE members who have difficulty making positive contributions ? Do they care ?

  31. Paul

    Someone should really tell her the eyepatch strap shouldn’t really cross over her other eye………………………………….

  32. Mike Lyons

    Lifer, I have successfully ‘persuaded’ bipartisan groups of public officials on every board I’ve served on (Common Council, Zoning, Board of Estimate and the Board of Education – the latter electing me Chair even though I’m from the Republican minority). But even the best of us can’t pursuade everyone. Contrary to many comments posted here, I have attempted to treat the minority members of the Board fairly. I appointed Ms. Murray, Ms. Mosby and Ms. Rivas to every board committee they requested at the beginning of each of my chairmanships. I appointed Ms. Murray to the Superintendent Search Committee, and appointed her Chair of the important Board Finance Committee. There has been no notable reciprocity for these actions. I’m not sure why these members have gone into opposition to many of Dr. Rivera’s reforms, but I am not prepared to abandon those reforms in order to make them feel better. Sometimes differences are genuinely irreconcilable. I will continue to run the Board meetings in a civil manner, giving all opportunities to participate to all members. And perhaps the dissident members should ‘pick up the phone’ instead of filing racially-charged complaints against me – something I’ve never done to them.

  33. Casey Smith

    “FYI, you are not on moderation either. Something — or someone else’s name — in your post triggered it.”
    No problem. I figured that’s what happened. I was just trying to point out that occasionally, posts trip a flag. And the comment is reviewed by the moderator, who I am assuming is you, for appropriateness.
    I actually like the fact that NON moderates the posts rather closely, since the lack of moderation virtually killed off any kind of meaningful exchange on the Daily Norwalk and there is someone on that board that continually whines about a site called Topix or something like that. Anyway, no problem on my end, I was just trying to point out that our posts are reviewed when necessary to keep the discussion on track and worthwhile.

  34. RU4REAL

    I agree with MarjorieM, attack the issues or it does look racist, there’s a lot of that going around lately.

  35. Norewalk Lifer

    Dear Mr. Lyons, you appointed these people as they were competent and had the skills to serve in these positions, not because there would be reciprocity, yes?
    Do they owe you something?
    Aren’t they also just as important as Mr. Rivera?
    Are you aware of why they oppose certain plans?
    I see statements, but no motivation
    And basically your summary to those who have raised their voices in dissent is there is a better way but……,
    You first.
    Leaders don’t do that Mr. Lyons, they lead, and surely your opening statement they persuade is intend the sign of leadership
    But you first, doesn’t make the grade sir

    Norwalk Lifer

  36. Mike Lyons

    Lifer, leadership doesn’t consist of making every dissident happy (by such a criteria Washington and Lincoln would be deemed failures). Leadership consists of building coalitions and achieving good things for the people. On those criteria I believe I have done well: https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2014/06/opinion-a-status-report-from-the-board-of-education.

  37. M. Murray’s

    Still waiting for specifics and facts from the Rivas camp. Prove your point or apologize

  38. As I noted on another post, regarding the allegations of racism, I would suggest that this issue might have been addressed better had the complaint been kept private rather than publicly released by the NAACP. As Councilman Watts put it regarding allegations directed at Zoning Commissioner Nate Sumpter, “If you have the smoking documents, if you have some proof, you should have shared that with your caucus and they should have shared it with our caucus,” Watts said. “But absent of that, you do not come out into an open council and accuse someone or even suggest that someone is being unethical, because that’s wrong.” – NON, 7/23/14.

  39. piberman

    Nobody could make this up. First, the BOE appoints its first Hispanic Superintendent, a nationally prominent individual, but two minority BOE members oppose his appointment. Second, an attempt to elect a new BOE receives but 3 votes. Third, the disaffected “group of 3” publicly allege “racial discrimination” but provide no evidence. But they do have the support of the local NAACP which also has no evidence but demands a meeting to fiscuss “the issue”. Fourth, one of the group of 3 alleges the BOE is insensitive to her special needs. Meanwhile no elected official outside the BOE has either chastised or supported the “group of 3”. Not even the DTC – presumed supporter of minority citizens. What to make of such immature
    behavior on the part of the 3 BOE members and City officials ? Critics of Norwalk’s governance
    now have even more evidence of the sad state of City politics. What other CT city reaches these lows ? Its a good question. Where else in CT can elected officials cry “discrimination ” and no other elected official objects that there’s no evidence ?

    1. Mark Chapman


      Just a thought for the guy who consistently pleads for the city to hide its dirty laundry from the public: Perhaps some of the city’s leading Democratic officials are talking to these folks quietly, offline, like you think they should.

  40. Norewalk Lifer

    @ Mr. Lyons, others must think you do well also.

    Norwalk Lifer

  41. piberman

    To Mark Chapman:
    The DTC leaders have an obligation to encourage responsible behavior by Democrats elected to City office. Ditto for the RTC. There is no analogue in recent decades to the public cry alleging “discrimination” by the disaffected BOE members. Why should we not expect the DTC leadership to not let the community know publicly that such behavior is unacceptable and damages the City’s public dchool system and reputation. The DTC’s public silence speaks all too loudly, grieviously so, about irresponsible behavior by public officials. Unfounded cries of discrimination by elected officials ought to rebuke by Party leaders. Why is that an unreasonable expectation ?

  42. Don’t Panic

    @Mark Chapman,
    Thank you for pointing out the obvious. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just because the Democrats have not rushed publicly to have this devolve into mutual finger pointing and shouts of “you’re a liar”–“no, you’re a liar” does not mean the party is not taking the actions of all involved seriously.
    And for those who keep crying “where is the proof”, they should understand that studies of discrimination against race, gender AND class (these women have been triple-whammied here) had become much less overt and conscious and much more subtle. This takes form in ways that do not show up as “smoking gun evidence” like Mr. Chiaramonte’s inflammatory statements.
    For example, men in boards like BOE will typically allow another man to complete a point, even if they disagree, but statistically, they tend to cut off women they disagree with.
    That is only something that shows up when you examine the whole body of interactions, and the people doing this unconsciously often believe they are not acting differently at all. Cursory examinations of vidoes such as the one done by counsel here do not tell the story.
    The effect on the individual though, can be profound, manifesting in frustration. What we see playing out here looks very much like the kind of subconscious discrimination seen in these studies.
    It may be time to hand this off to an impartial panel. A citizens ombudsman panel who can look at the whole of the evidence (including deleted portions of the videos) and any communications that the individuals care to provide PRIVATELY. They should have access to these studies and science and be able to make recommendations to improve communications. No member of any board who was elected should marginalized as these women are being marginalized.

  43. Panic – “studies of discrimination against race, gender AND class (these women have been triple-whammied here) had become much less overt and conscious and much more subtle … For example, men in boards like BOE will typically allow another man to complete a point, even if they disagree, but statistically, they tend to cut off women they disagree with.”

    Examine the videos of any Board meeting and you will see that Ms. Mosby and Ms. Rivas speak more often and longer than all the other 7 members combined. They are certainly not being cut off at this BoE.

    “The effect on the individual though, can be profound, manifesting in frustration. What we see playing out here looks very much like the kind of subconscious discrimination seen in these studies.”

    Of course, it also looks like the frustration felt by any group that finds itself on the losing side of many votes, as our dissenters have since they flipped and started opposing Dr. Rivera’s reforms. I’m sure Larry Cafero and his fellow Republicans often feel frustrated in Hartford by being in the minority and losing many votes, but they don’t claim they’re being “discriminated against” because they lose votes.

    “It may be time to hand this off to an impartial panel.” That one I agree with. The idea of having the NAACP “investigate” a complaint filed with it on behalf of two of its own Executive Board members against an outside party is so rife with conflicts of interest that to expect anything but a biased result is clearly unrealistic. Let an agency with no axe to grind (the CHRO?) take a look. I am confident, as with every other complaint filed against this Board to date, that the ruling will be in the Board’s favor.

  44. By the way, a curious point. The NAACP complaint claims that there has been discrimination against a “majority” of the minority women on the Board. Why not all of them? Sherelle Harris, a Democratic, African-American woman, has not claimed that I or anyone else has discriminated against her. Presumably a person motivated by racial animus would discriminate against ALL minority women, not just some of them.

    Perhaps a better explanation is that Ms. Harris supports Dr. Rivera’s reforms and votes that way – and thus feels no frustration or ‘marginalization’, because the reforms she supports are getting approved. By contrast, the other members, now voting against the reforms and losing the votes, are frustrated by THAT (not any racial animus), and have in effect marginalized themselves. That interpretation is certainly more in keeping with the facts, since it makes no sense to believe that people motivated to differ not by policy views but by racial animus would randomly pick one minority woman to not direct animus against.

  45. LWitherspoon

    “No member of any board who was elected should marginalized as these women are being marginalized.”
    On what basis have you concluded that these women are being marginalized?
    I agree that discrimination, harassment, and intimidation can take many forms. For example, someone might be quoted in the media threatening to pull every white hair out of a person’s head. Or she might roll her eyes and sigh loudly when hearing points of view which are different from her own.
    If we are going to have an independent panel let’s have them look at everyone’s behavior. And before we spend a boatload of taxpayer money to examine hundreds of hours of video, let’s hear some more details of the claim. Ms. Mosby hasn’t even identified the people who she feels have discriminated against her, nor has she provided any example of how she was discriminated against.

  46. Don’t Panic

    Agreed, everyone’s behavior should be looked at.

  47. Gypsy

    What a shame that Midaglia Rivas will never amount to the caliber of her late sister Judy. How sad.

    If she can read a printed page, then she can read an email. Go find another excuse, Ms. Rivas.

  48. Mr. Ludlow

    Seeing the thrust and parry without hearing a single “En Garde” leaves me wondering if the point-counterpoint is more show than contest.
    With the exception of Piberman, who seems to believe that his opinion about District B elected officials matters to anyone in District B, the other players seem to appreciate that they are playing to their bases with little risk of moving the other side.

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