By Sara Sikes
To the Editor
NORWALK – I worked at NEON from 1986-87 and find it sad how little the agency has changed for the better over the years. NEON at that time had some very good people on staff and on the board. I worked on getting contributions from local corporations, many of which supported NEON. If one of the donors asked for an individual program evaluation, however, there was nothing to show. NEON had recently taken over Head Start after the Board of Education decided to let it go. Unfortunately, I can’t say that it was a well-run program under NEON’s direction.
When I left NEON, the Board of Directors had just reviewed an initial audit by an independent CPA firm, who found $250,000-plus missing in the most recent fiscal year. This fact never became public; no was held accountable, and everyone got their raises as usual. … Later, NEON experienced a scandal regarding the executive director being accused of sexually harassing a woman, who sued.
Years later, I worked for the Carver Center as a fundraiser and had the opportunity to observe two NEON programs on site, Head Start and the Summer Camp program. Still no program evaluations were done to show the donors and I can’t say the programs were well run. In fact, both of these programs had serious problems with staff oversight and there was a reprimand from a state agency after a parent complained.
Reading about all of the latest developments at NEON, it makes me wonder if it isn’t time for those in charge to just call it quits. An entirely new Board of Directors, no matter how well intentioned, does not seem to have made a difference in this culture of corruption and incompetence. NEON is merging with the Stamford counterpoint when the Norwalk one is in a crisis — really? What possible good could come of this? The staff may benefit by getting bigger salaries, but neon does not exist to provide big salaries for executives in charge.
Perhaps the time has come to dissolve NEON, and let other agencies with good track records take over the programs. I read that Norwalk Housing Authority and NCC have collaborated in applying for a grant for Head Start. They seem like a far better choice for overseeing such an essential program. There are other such local agencies with longstanding records of fundraising and outstanding service to community needs who could take over the NEON programs. Isn’t it time?