NORWALK, Conn. – Haroldo Williams wants to make a difference in the Norwalk Public School system. The management consultant is running on the Democratic ticket for a seat on the Board of Education, and cites his life and professional experience as giving him insight he can bring to the board.
NancyOnNorwalk asked all candidates for the Board of Education to answer the following questions:
NoN: Why are you running for the Board of Ed? What are your qualifications?
HW: I am running for office because I believe that my professional and life experience provide me with a unique perspective that will enable me to drive the changes that are required (in Norwalk) to:
a) Academically engage the under-performing students;
b) Boost the education achievement of all students; and
c) Overcome the Achievement Gap.
My qualifications include:
▪ A range of consulting, and professional leadership roles – see my LinkedIn profile.
▪ Direct experience in the Norwalk Public Schools (with my children who achieved academic success, as a volunteer with students who faced a range of challenges and with others that excelled, and as the husband of a teacher at Columbus Magnet School, in Norwalk
▪ Volunteer experience, as a corporate sponsor of a program that provided business exposure to high school students from NYC Public Schools.
▪ Two terms as VP Norwalk PTO Council (’89-’91)
▪ Chaperone, NHS Marching Band (’93-’96)
NoN: What are your plans if you get elected? What do you think needs to be addressed? Priorities?
HW: If elected, I would like to do the following:
1) Work with the BOE members to formalize the decision making process to ensure that the Board’s decisions are based on facts derived from analysis and data, and not from opinions or ideology. Specifically, I would like the board to adopt a Management by Facts type of decision making process, to ensure that the major decisions (such as those related to the curriculum and the budget) would always consider the impact that any proposed changes would have on the academic achievements of the students.
2) Work with the BOE to:
▪ Establish Community Education Goals & Objectives that specify the board’s desired outcomes
▪ Establish accountability for the superintendent to propose initiatives and programs that that he recommends implementing to achieve the BOE Community Education Goals & Objectives.
▪ Review, approve, and support the initiatives that the BOE believes are the most effective to achieve the community education goals of the BOE.
▪ In cooperation with the superintendent, define the metrics that would be used to measure the achievement of the community education goals
3) Recommend that the board work with the superintendent to develop a community strategy that would engage the community – including parents, community centers, religious institutions, service organizations, and volunteers – to work with the Norwalk Public Schools system in a broad initiative to :
▪ Academically engage the under-performing students
▪ Significantly increase the percentage of Norwalk students that achieve at or above the state average
▪ Overcome the achievement gap
4) Have the board engage the superintendent to:
▪ Perform a full assessment of how Norwalk is servicing the needs of the students with learning disabilities and special needs.
▪ Recommend measures and services that Norwalk should undertake to ensure that the needs of these students are being serviced effectively.
NoN: A lot of people think the professional staff salaries are too high. Do you concur? If so, what can be done about that?
HW: I do not have information on the salary of the professional staff, other than that of the teachers. However, I do not agree that the teachers’ salaries are too high; but I do believe that there are opportunities for reducing the labor expense in the Central Office staffing.
My wife is a teacher in the Norwalk public schools, and I understand the value of the role of public school teachers. In addition, I have been able to observe that teachers, like my wife, spend at least 20 hours per week above their scheduled/contracted hours developing lesson plans and homework packets, grading papers and tests, and customizing lessons to meet the range of learning abilities of their students. I have also observed that these teachers spend at least two weeks during their summer vacation preparing for the upcoming school year.
To ensure that my opinion (regarding the teachers’ salary) was objective and correct, I benchmarked teachers’ pay against the starting salary, the average salary, and the peak salary for other professional positions in Fairfield County. The comparison indicated the salaries for the positions that I benchmarked (i.e. database administrator and software engineer) are higher than that of the salaries of Norwalk teachers. Therefore, I did not identify any evidence that would indicate that the teachers’ salary was too high.
The above notwithstanding, I do believe the BOE needs to ensure that the teachers that are hired, and those that remain employed in the Norwalk Public Schools, have the expertise, skills and empathy that are required to be an effective public school teacher in a multi cultural public schools system like the Norwalk Public Schools.
NoN: Jack Chiaramonte said recently that he would be in favor of armed guards in the schools. What is your opinion on this topic?
HW: I strongly oppose having armed guards in the schools.
I believe that the BOE needs to ensure that our schools are secured, and operating with sound security policy and practices. I also believe an effective emergency alarm system (that can be securely activated from each classroom and from strategic points throughout the school) should be installed in each school.
Having armed guards in schools would provide less security value than an effective alarm system. It should also be noted that there was an armed guard at Columbine, who even engaged in a gunfire exchange with one of the perpetrators, and his presence did not prevent or limit the massacre at the school.
I also believe the presence of armed guards in school would be the wrong image to present to students – that arms are required to resolve issues.
NoN: Do you support the transition to Common Core State Standards?
HW: Yes, I fully support the transition to the Common Core. However, I believe that the BOE needs to ensure that the Norwalk Public Schools do not adopt any curriculum or policies that would require an excessive amount of testing of the students.
Nevertheless, I believe that the current Common Core transition process is lacking, in that it has not provided the Norwalk teachers with either a timely or an effective level of training, or with effective access to support resources – all of which are required to maximize the opportunities available from the Common Core program.
I would recommend that the BOE ensure that a comprehensive transition plan is included as part of any proposal that is presented for the board to approve. My expectation would be to use a model similar to what major organizations use when transitioning to new business disciplines (such as Six Sigma or Lean Manufacturing).
NoN: Are you in favor of education reform? What are your reasons for your opinion?
HW: Yes, I am in favor of education reform. However, I believe that education reform should be led by educators.
I believe that the Board of Education should define the community educational goals and objectives, and have the Superintendent propose the education reform initiatives that he believes would help Norwalk meet the goals of the BOE.
NoN: Is anyone in your family a teacher? Work for the schools?
HW: Yes. My wife is in her 23rd year as a teacher at Columbus Magnet School.