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Change is a necessity in Norwalk

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To the editor:

There is no question that Manny Rivera’s decision to leave Norwalk Public Schools came after much thought and foresight of Norwalk’s political landscape.  After all has been said, Dr. Rivera’s interest is in our education system and closing the achievement gap for our children.  We have to ask ourselves as a community, why a man of high caliber and national recognition came to bear a decision that ultimately left Norwalk in a state of shock?  Dr. Rivera is exactly what we all craved for, a professional with integrity and the gravitas to bring our school system into the 21st century.  He had a mission, a vision that most in our community embraced with the exception of a small group that worked hard to ensure his demise. 

It is sad to read and watch some of the episodes and political theatre on the BOE.  The dynamics are an interesting one as some felt the need to be obstructionist and overly micromanage an extremely competent superintendent.  Most of the members on the board are tenured and have had the training and experience to fully understand their role as elected officials.  It is an unfortunate reality that some feel the need to object without cause.  A board is never perfect but in serving on one, we have to find common ground.  Elected members must remember that it is all about the children not power, position and control.  I realize that some complain about exclusivity and feel sidelined by board governance.  However, a position on the BOE requires relationship building, understanding personalities and being able to play the political chess game.  It is about agreeing to disagree respectfully, having a dissenting opinion that is articulated in a professional manner; it is about respecting so that one can be respected.

Giving our superintendent the proper tools, creating the appropriate infrastructure and hiring or firing personnel to carry out a vision that would change the culture seemed to be a no brainer.  The reality is that when you have entrenched bureaucrats and subordinates undermining you every step of the way, it makes anyone’s job difficult.  When you delegate but end up doing the work, how can a superintendent really do his or her job successfully?  When you have senior members on your team orchestrating or politicking about board leadership, how can one operate? This is clearly an ethical problem or conflict of interest, if not both.  There is no trust in an environment of manipulation.  I would encourage Manny to hold those accountable prior to his departure.

Now there is the issue of race baiting.  If we do not change our messengers or the narrative, we are in big trouble.  We cannot use the term racist just because we do not get our way or what we want.  Through my experience in politics, I have found this to be used often as a chip to freeze an adversary.  I have also personally experienced others use race as a political tactic to advance their agendas.  This is wrong and should not be tolerated in our city!  We have to start standing up to this despicable call for attention.  If you are to be in politics, learn how to play the political game to obtain what you desire.  Be smart, embrace change, respect others, and learn how to articulate a message in a civil manner.  Only after we change shall we see the change.  There needs to be private and public discourse about the fact that 1960’s racial divide politics still exists in Norwalk today.

Warren A. Peña

President & Chairman of the Board

South Norwalk Community Center, Inc.

Comments

11 responses to “Change is a necessity in Norwalk”

  1. LWitherspoon

    Well said Mr. Pena.

  2. Oldtimer

    Well said, now the challenge will be to select better qualified candidates for the BOE and get them elected. Whoever is considered needs to leave politics outside the meetings. It has all been about perceptions. It is way too easy, and unjustified, to cry “racism” when things don’t go your way. It is also, from the other side, way to easy to act as if the people who don’t always agree, for whatever reasons, are insignificant. Just because you have the votes doesn’t make any elected official insignificant. Just like school, doing your homework before meetings, makes an enormous difference.

  3. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    Right on!

    Your recommendations are a good primer on civil civics.

  4. Lisa Thomson

    Nice oped Warren. Rivera may have been what the community wanted and students needed – but he is not what the entrenched NPS staff wanted. Right now Norwalk is losing: NPS Status Quo 2
    Reform: 0

  5. Bill

    Warren, it has been a while since I agreed with you, but I’m on board with what you are calling for here. Why do you not run for the BOE? We need a competent Latino on the BOE, not the tonta we have currently.

  6. ROB

    Well i dont want any person in the boe who is looking to kick the custodians out of our jobs. Meanwhile we are the ones that make the school run smooth. But we get treated like garbage.

  7. Bill

    ROB, if you think you are treated like garbage, feel free to go work in the private sector where you don’t make $60-80,000 per year like you do for NPS. Also, there won’t be any summers off or plenty of sick time. Give me a break and quit whining.

  8. Stan

    Bill, not sure where you get your information. Custodians make half what you are quoting you can view that in our contract online. You can also see that we are in fact 12 month employees. The only reason a few custodians are able to make that is because the administration allowed it. Maybe you should ask them why.

  9. ROB

    Your facts are very wrong bill. And im one of the guys who dont even take the boards insurance, i actually save them 30k a year and for your info i did work in the private sectore for years before i came here.

  10. Bill

    Average salary for custodians at NPS is over $50k, that is double the private sector. You guys need to be happy with what you got.

  11. piberman

    Well said but isn’t it the responsibility of our parties especially the Democrats to nominate candidates for the BOE with the appropriate backgrounds, credentials and abilities to positively interact with other BOE members ? Why is that such a continuing hurdle ? And when 3 BOE members behave outrageously with unsubstantiated discrimination claims why does our Mayor and other City officials remain silent ? Is it because the BOE members who embarrassed all of us are Democrats and it’s always the Party first ? Do our City officials have no “public moral compass” ? It seems that way in Norwalk., Is it always about elections and Party control not serving the community ?

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