NORWALK, Conn. – Mayor Richard Moccia responded with a press release Monday to the education platform announcement made Thursday, Oct. 10, by Democratic mayoral candidate Harry Rilling, saying there was nothing in the plan that isn’t already being done.
“There are two key takeaways,” the Moccia release stated. “First, Mr. Rilling has laid out a great program for the Norwalk schools, practically every element of which is already being done. With the continued leadership of our new superintendent of schools, Dr. Rivera, who was supported unanimously by the BoE Republicans (with only two Democratic members not supporting his appointment), things are looking up for Norwalk’s schools.
“Second, however, there is one glaring omission from Mr. Rilling’s release – any mention of fiscal responsibility at all. He continues his process here of proposing new spending on everything he talks about, but without any attention paid to protecting the taxpayers. I and the Republican majority BoE have done that, with a new Chief Financial Officer, responsible budgeting, tough but fair union contract negotiations, commencement of work on the school’s first-ever three-year budget plan, and complete pay-back of the insurance shortfall. Other than vague promises to try to get money from the State and Feds (both of which are broke), Mr. Rilling (as usual) ignores the question of how to pay for it. I haven’t, and won’t.”
In his press conference, Rilling said, “We need to do more to prepare our young people to give them the best education possible, to prepare them to go out into that world. You do that by working closely with all Board of Education employees. The teachers, the school nurses, the library aides, the teachers’ aides, the custodians, all the people who have direct or indirect contact with our students and who have an impact on them.”
He called for better leadership in Hartford to get a greater share of Educational Cost Sharing, getting parents more involved with the schools, making sure the implementation of Common Core Standards is fully funded and ready to go on schedule, and improving school safety.
Moccia said he has “led the fight for equitable ECS funding from the state, traveling to Hartford with BoE officials and parents (but notably without Mr. Rilling) to lobby for more state aid; the board also just submitted an application for $5 million in Race to the Top funding to the Federal government.”
Rilling also said it was “shameful” the Moccia pulled back money that had been earmarked for the schools after Gov. Dannel Malloy increased state Priority School funding, creating “a wash,” and leaving the schools without the increase the state intended. Rilling also said a good school system would attract more residents and grow the city’s tax base, which would relieve some of the burden on Norwalk’s homeowners.
Moccia said his office already has the “positive partnership with the Board of Education, the Superintendent, and school leaders” that Rilling called for, “as evidenced by the close cooperation of my office, the Council and the BET with the Board of Education on this year’s budget.”
Moccia also pointed out thee schools have already addressed safety concerns.
“We have adopted a new School Safety Plan, trained staff, added school police resource officers, have $100,000 in safety improvements underway, and, with most Police and School Safety Committee reviews completed, the Board is requesting another $500,000 in funding for safety improvements, which I will support,” he said in the release.
In addition, Moccia said, “We have major renovations of Naramake and Rowayton schools moving forward, and plans for Jefferson renovations in the works. He says he will ‘implement the Common Core curriculum’ – but Norwalk is already well ahead of the curve here. We made an extraordinary commitment of resources this year on the Common Core ($2.1 million in capital spending approved already, with over $1 million more planned for next year). Common Core math is already implemented at all schools, K-12; English is being implemented in 6-12 already, with K-5 to be implemented next year on schedule; a science curriculum specialist position was added to the budget in preparation for the science Common Core.”
Moccia took exception to Rilling’s call for more respect for the teachers and more support for their positions.
“Mr. Rilling says he ‘will respect the value and worth of all employees in the Norwalk Public Schools’” Moccia said in the release. “I am in the schools on a regular basis, every week. I show respect for our employees every time I visit a school, and they are listened to and have input on everything from curriculum decisions to teacher evaluation systems.”