To the Editor:
It has been reported that Bruce Mellion, head of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers, thinks the superintendent candidates should be vetted publicly and that parents should have a say in the process. With all due respect, his advocacy for parents should be met with a solid dose of skepticism.
Mr. Mellion isn’t a Norwalk parent or taxpayer, he doesn’t even teach in Norwalk. He is an employee of a multi-million dollar private corporation funded by a dues-paying membership. All of his member communications are done via private emails so as to not be subject to FOIA. For the NFT, the less transparency the better.
With calls for inclusion, Mr. Mellion and others are hoping that those leaders and BOE members who received union endorsements will press the case for “transparency.” Why? Because transparency gives the unions spin control over the superintendent candidates. Mr. Mellion is just doing his job, however. As Albert Shanker, the founder of the American Federation of Teachers stated, “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”
In any case, Mr. Mellion does his own private vetting during superintendent searches. Right after our vote to hire Dr. Marks, he stood up and told the Board that, according to his union contacts in Maryland, Marks was a great choice. Sixty days later, when Dr. Marks recommended that the BOE fire a menacing tenured teacher, something that hadn’t happened in Norwalk for 40 years, all but one Board member agreed with her. $250,000 and two years later, the Board prevailed but not before Marks became public enemy No. 1 to Mr. Mellion’s NFT and the others in this district who fight change.
Marks left and an insider was hired as interim. We heard no calls for a public vetting, and no calls for transparency from Mr. Mellion, any other unions or from the status quo. Mellion didn’t even attend most BOE meetings that year; he didn’t need to.
During the search for Dr. Rivera, Mr. Mellion again did his own reconnaissance.
Getting back to transparency, a superintendent search that doesn’t provide confidentiality will seriously reduce Norwalk’s chances of attracting a vibrant and quality pool of candidates. It will seriously reduce Norwalk’s chances of getting another top-notch superintendent. We all know that, including the NFT.
A search process that is redundant and subjected to random and deliberate delays, as witnessed under our last interim period, wastes student’s time. We all know that too.
But let’s give credit where credit is due. Those who have fought change have done a fabulous job. Norwalk Public Schools’ reputation as a district able to keep top talent is in tatters. We are damaged goods. Hire a search firm who comes in with eyes wide open. Keep the search confidential. Don’t waste time. For the sake of our students and this city, do not make this any harder than it already is.