In the Vanguard: Mellion issues words of wisdom

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Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Bruce Mellion wondered in a May 2012 edition of the Vanguard why the Board of Education could not get the same cozy deal as the Oak Hills Park Authority from Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia and Board of Estimate and Taxation Chairman Fred Wilms in regard to paying back its loan. In April, he pointed to cuts in school budget requests since Moccia took office and said, “Time for a change.”

NORWALK, Conn. – It’s not all rancor against Norwalk Board of Education members – Norwalk Federation of Teacher President Bruce Mellion has some other targets in the union’s newsletter, the Focus/Vanguard.

Here are some notable samples:

April 2011: “He said what?”

On the CBS-TV program “Sunday Morning,” on March 6, 2011, the entire show was devoted to the topic of “Money 2011.” One segment was about a company called The Container Store, which has about 50 stores across the country.

The average Container Store employee’s annual salary is about $46,000 a year, only slightly less than that of a starting teacher in Norwalk with a BA — this year it’s $47,683. In addition, all full- and part-time employees of The Container Store enjoy health benefits, and they have 401(k) plans. A 401(k) is a retirement plan whereby the employer contributes money to the plan for the employee. A 403(b) plan for certain public employees, including teachers, is fully employee funded. Container Store employees go through many, many interviews, with only 3 percent of those interviewed being hired, and, once hired, each employee receives 260 hours of training, which is 10 times higher than the average training time received by employees of other larger companies. I will leave it up to you about the amount of quality training that new employees in education receive from their employer, including colleague time.

Finally and most importantly, the CEO of The Container Store corporation emphatically stated that his most important asset are his employees, not his customers. Have you had that feeling with respect to your employer this winter as we have gone through the operating budget process for the next fiscal year?

November 2011: Equal access to technology needed in schools

Recently, I spent about an hour and a half at Kendall and then Brookside elementary schools on two different days, and to say that I was impressed with what I saw is an understatement, and I am sure that would apply to 17 other schools as well.

One aspect that does concern me is unequal access to technology among teachers in the same building and between buildings, i.e. those classrooms that have and those that have not. Yes, we are heading in the correct direction, but far too slowly for teachers and student needs. Clearly the capital budget for 2012-13 needs to be beefed up so classroom technology can be accessible to all teachers and all students. Teacher responses to all surveys indicate the need for more technology, but it is coming far too slowly. An appropriation of $875,000 for the sixth biggest district in Connecticut needs to be at least doubled.

May 2011: The NFT stands firm

I have been yelled at, finger pointed, berated, demeaned, ridiculed, and verbally attacked in highly inappropriate ways and much more.

February 2012: Would you believe?

The 12 elementary school principals in the Norwalk Public Schools meet together only five times over the course of the entire school year for a total of 450 minutes, which does not even equate to three minutes for each school day of the school year. This is considerably less time than the NFT building stewards meet over the course of the school year. It is considerably less time than the Norwalk Board of Education meets over the course of the school year. It is considerably less time than all the meetings that elementary teachers are required to attend – including Wednesday morning meetings – over the course of the school year. Would you believe?

May 2012: Golf trumps education in Norwalk

I suppose if we were a golf course, we would get assistance. In The Hour on Saturday, May 26, 2012, the front page is entitled {sic} ‘Norwalk Restructures Debt for Oak Hills Park, Hires Pro.’ The Common Council and the Board of Estimate and Taxation are willing to come to the aid of Oak Hills but not to the Board of Education. Also, they are giving Oak Hills until 2037 to repay its debt, with no principal payment due until September 2013, since Oak Hills cannot afford to pay any earlier. Cozy deal, no?

So, tell me, what is the difference between the city lending Oak Hills over $3 million, with deferred payment, and not doing the same for the Board of Education? With the board, it is said the bond rating is the issue, or as he mayor sees it, the city cannot do anything because the process is over for fiscal year 2012-13. So, once again, what has emerged as the favorite fig leaf for this whole mess, do we not blame anyone?

Apparently, the bottom line is golf is more important than 11,000 children in the Norwalk Public Schools. What shameful behavior by elected and appointed city officials!

Hey Jack {Chiaramonte}, why don’t you go and talk to them and make a deal at least as good as Oak Hills did, or is it that you do not want to upset the mayor? Oh, and by the way, are you going to hold the superintendent accountable or does she get a pass as well?

November 2012: Arbitration award

The Board of Education never really negotiated. There were only three regular negotiation sessions and two mediation sessions. The Board took a shotgun approach with its proposals just to try and get anything it could, even if it had no reason or justification for many of them. And so, for the first time since 1982 (30 years) the NFT was forced into final and binding arbitration, so that a panel of three lawyers would make a decision on 66 open issues involving salary, health insurance and contract language. When this happens, you lose control of your destiny and outsiders decide your fate. For the board it was a political game, while for us, it is very real.

April 2013: Operating budget reductions prevail in Norwalk

Each year, there is the annual ritual of the Norwalk Board of Education operating budget. The BOE makes a request based on the needs of the 11,000 students in the Norwalk Public Schools only to have it reduced each and every year by the city. While the amount of the reduction greatly varies, the cumulative reductions since 1990-91 is $55,581,389. Wow!

Since the current mayor has been in office, $24 million has been slashed. Time for a change most definitely!


4 responses to “In the Vanguard: Mellion issues words of wisdom”

  1. LWitherspoon

    Mr. Mellion’s use of statistics brings to mind a saying popularized by Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
    Nobody has taken away $55 million or $24 million from education. What happened was each year the BoE submitted a request for increased funds. The City looked at the request and decided how much pain taxpayers could reasonably be expected to bear, and then increased education spending accordingly. Usually that meant not every single item on the wish list got funded.
    What Mr. Mellion conveniently neglects to mention is that education spending has INCREASED every single year in recent memory, with the exception of one when I believe it was flat.

  2. Oldtimer

    Any body else notice LWitherspoon makes no effort to dispute any of the other statements by Mr Mellion ? Sometimes,speaking for the administration is not easy.

  3. LWitherspoon

    I’m sure there are plenty of other things to dispute in this article but there are only so many hours in a day, so I focused my attention on the most glaringly dishonest statement, namely the false suggestion that Norwalk has been slashing education spending left and right. I guess by your standard, since you didn’t dispute the facts in my post, you must wholeheartedly agree with them.
    I think what people noticed more than what I did or didn’t comment on is your attempt to make me into a spokesman for the administration which you have declared to be your political enemy. It would be unkind to speculate as to why you have done this. If I am the City administration’s spokesman I must be doing a pretty lousy job, since I have criticized them on bike lanes, taxes, use of the Notify Norwalk system, coddling unions, and more.

  4. Tim T

    Every time you are challenged about being the spokesperson for the administration, you bring up the same old same old token critiques that you made months ago . Its just not working for you is it as it seems your agenda is clear.

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