Mosby criticizes lack of diversity in Norwalk Public Schools

NORWALK, Conn. – Complaints about lack of diversity and needed help for minority and disadvantaged children continue from one of Norwalk’s most vocal citizens.

John Mosby’s latest speech to the Board of Education touched on the separation between the city and the board, the lack of black and Hispanic teachers and the recent West Norwalk Mayor’s Night Out, where another Norwalk resident criticized the lack of diversity in city employees.

Mosby began by citing state legislation that says a Board of Education is an agent of the state and not of the town in maintenance and management of public schools and in matters not involving strictly budgetary concerns.

“I went through this charter. It’s a big charter. … It states that the Board of Education is separate and the city doesn’t have anything to do with the Board of Ed. I want you all to read it,” Mosby said Tuesday.

He said Briggs High School does not get the money it needs and that “everything is done in the back room.”

“Everybody knows me in Norwalk. I was over to Fox Run – you ought to see the white people praising me. But they don’t put it in the paper. They say Mr. Mosby is right.” Norwalk is supposed to be diverse, he said.

There are more than 700 employees of Norwalk Public Schools and there are only 22 black teachers, and “twenty-something” Hispanic teachers, he said.

That does not look like diversity in the school system, he said. “… Our black kids, and black boys, are being treated wrong. The poor whites are being treated wrong. I’m speaking up for all the children. We got some autistic kids. Whites come to me, Mr. Mosby, they need help. Mr. (Jeffry Spahr) spoke one day about how you treated his kid. You all went and did something for him. But when we speak you don’t do nothing. It is a double standard in our school system.”

The comment about Fox Run referred to the Mayor’s Night Out, where Mosby made similar comments.

Norwalk 022014 074
John Mosby talks to Mayor Harry Rilling at the recent West Norwalk Mayor’s Night Out.

“I’m not talking just for the black kids, I’m talking for the Hispanic kids, I’m talking for the autistic kids,” he said. “They come to the Board of Education. The white and blacks say ‘our children are bleeding. Please help us.’ And nobody’s doing anything about it. Every time I’m talking about it I’m being called a troublemaker. Somebody got to do something for these kids because they’re getting in trouble, they’re costing their parents a lot of money. These kids have problems. I told the superintendent, please, let’s do something. They won’t let us sit on no committees. … ‘No, we don’t want Mr. Mosby here, he causes too much trouble.’ That’s not right. I’m here to help the people.”

Mayor Harry Rilling told Mosby to come and see him, they would figure out what board or committee he could be on.

Regina Krummel later stood up to speak, urging people to listen to Mosby.

“I don’t think we can just say he’s annoying or he doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” she said. “I think what Mr. Mosby is telling us is of such primary concern. … I think it’s finally time that we listen to people like this. They are our fellow citizens in Norwalk and the school system needs tremendous improvement in the primary years from 3 to 5.”

She referred to the need to close the achievement gap.

“This is a crime in America and it is a crime in Norwalk,” she said. “I know I sound a little dramatic but I think you know I am speaking from the heart. This is a primary thing you can do, Mr. Mayor.”

“Nobody that I know of told Mr. Mosby that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Rilling replied. “I think he’s got his heart in the right place. … I never told him that.”

Rilling said he had been in Brookside Elementary School that morning and been very impressed by team teaching approach there. The governor has promised more Pre-K seats and “we’re striving toward universal Pre-K,” he said. He had been to the Naramake Elementary’s School’s “absolutely amazing” Family Resource Center, he said.

“There are programs,” he said. “Certainly we need to take a cradle-to-career approach with our people. I have stated before as I will state right now, I am committed to early childhood intervention programs and looking to see whatever we can do. Dr. Rivera is very, very committed and he has a history of achievement. I am sure he is working very diligently towards helping all children. We fully funded the Board of Education. Whatever they asked for we put in it and we hope that it stands.”

Farhan Memon also stood up to speak, pointing out that all of the department heads sitting at the table next to Rilling were white men. “Your leadership team doesn’t any women on it, at least those that are present today,” he said. “The other thing that struck me is it doesn’t seem to have any African-Americans.”

“I’ve only been in office three months,” Rilling said. “Unless anybody is willing to step down right now we can’t fill those positions. But we are committed to diversity in boards, commissions, leadership team.”

He pointed out that Norwalk Public Library Director Chris Bradley, a woman, was there.

Mosby’s comments about the Board of Education being separate from the city seemed to be a continuation of his recent complaints about Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola representing the BOE in a Freedom of Information Commission hearing.

Chairman Mike Lyons refuted the complaint by providing a 1975 Connecticut Supreme Court decision that states, “It is basic that a town board of education is an agent of the state when carrying out the educational interests of the state. … However, the members of a board of education are still officers of the town. … They are also empowered by General Statutes § 10-220 to “perform all acts required of them by the town.”

That decision is attached below (Cheney case).

“When we deal with PURELY educational matters (e.g., choice of curriculum), we act as state agency completely independent of the city,” Lyons wrote in an email. “But when we act in many areas the same as a non-educational entity does (HR decisions, budgets, building maintenance, IT, etc., etc.), we are treated as a city agency.  It is in precisely in those areas (e.g., CHRO and FOI complaints, some kinds of litigation) that we use the Corporation Counsel’s office. When in the ‘educational’ realm (teacher contract negotiations, litigation with teachers where tenure rights and the like are involved, etc.) we can and do use outside counsel with specialized knowledge in these areas.

“Everybody does this.  Only in Norwalk — and only with a handful of people — is there controversy over this.”

Cheney Case


19 responses to “Mosby criticizes lack of diversity in Norwalk Public Schools”

  1. Bill

    I can see why this guy worked as a janitor for many years, his rambling speech was poorly presented, almost gibberish, and had no central theme. I don’t understand from this clip how the BOE is “hurting kids”, other than lack of “diversity”. Earth to Mosby, our Superintendant is latino. Sorry if whites are better qualified for these roles currently, would you rather us hire less qualified people so we have “diversity”? I’m certain that would really hurt the kids, but do you really care about kids in the end?

  2. EveT

    Whenever I hear or read about Mr. Mosby speaking, I see that he has a lot of passion and he’s very upset. But I don’t understand specifically what his complaints are, or what specific solutions he is advocating. You don’t get results by just venting and acting out.

  3. Oldtimer

    Mr Mosby observes correctly, but then draws conclusions that may not be fair. He seems to think the BOE is not hiring minority teachers because of some evil conspiracy. Others wonder how many minority teachers are available to be hired. First, teacher candidates must be qualified to do the job. Out of a pool of qualified applicants, choices are made. Mr Mosby believes the selection/hiring process works against minorities. Mr Lyons says it doesn’t. Nobody has presented real numbers so we can know who is correct.

  4. Bill

    @Oldtimer, I’ll trust the hiring managers judgement over a random ex janitor’s ramblings anyday

  5. Anon

    This guy makes accusations and then, when our Latino superintendent responds, HE WALKS OUT OF THE ROOM! This guy has been and continues to be a troublemaker. He just wants his name in the news … what has he done to help one child?

  6. Longtime Resident

    I have heard him speak many times, and have yet to be able to follow his logic or understand what he is saying.

    There is no ‘conspiracy’. First and foremost, we try to hire the most qualified teachers. Next, we look for the best fit with the team. If they are minority, we would and snap them up in a second. Young teachers aren’t flocking to the northeast with our high cost of living. There are just not many minority candidates available.

    Mosby loves to waste our time and money with his accusations. Scroll down to see his son doing the same. Let’s not hold the door open for him.

  7. lightning

    @ Bill that seems to be a racist comment about “whites being more qualified.” Maybe minorities are just choosing other fields to work in.

  8. spanner

    Why is he angry?

    Most of the problems stem from the $100,000 dollar club or those who enjoy taking money in grants so we can make places like the train station great yet if you live outside the station there is no where to park.The city gives us all 3.5 parking spaces for the post office yet a full street on wall st for burned out,or empty buildings next to bars.

    We all watch those who have given years of service to the city protecting the water and ewnvironment to be treated like crap by social planners and Lego or Lincoln log experts.

    We have seen people run for office and ignored in the city that need help,as long as they vote special interest,they don’t become under the bus victims.

    We have a train station in South Norwalk that now has become a continious crime scene and resort for homeless and susbstance abusers.Metro takes care of it they send the people who need help back into South Norwalks streets.The train station is a vehicle for trouble our parking auth, has security gaurds missing in action most of the time instead of an officer who can react for our train passengers,why do we pay LAZ to do nothing?

    Summer brings day workers from Stamford and Bridgeport early mornings to eat at out shelter before the work day starts,the after work they take the train back home.Guess Wyman,Fluff Morris and Perone don’t understand what jobs in Norwalk means to Bridgeport and Stamford.None of the hundreds who stand for jobs on the Lowe st bridge are clearly marked Norwalk family providers.What about those who live in Norwalk and want to work?

    Build a loop and who picks up the trash like the city does for out of towners at the Lowe st bridge?

    Local residents pay to park,outsiders use the empty lot on water st to work on new construction downtown sono,most workers are from where?Out of state.New constuctuion on West ave all Norwalkwers promised jobs when the plans were submitted.fences are from out of State,workers car plates tell the story.

    Bus service from South Norwalk to Danbury Peter Pan with RI plates provide the service not even Norwalk hotels are used for the drivers.

    Outsourcing for the Norwalk transit, city rubbish and Norwalk parking lots but why would anyone be angry Norwalk uses green water bags on our new trees next to the strip club in East Norwalk.

    My list can go on but why paint such a picture when I can go pay to park and see the ones at the train station.

    Some places you show your address and its free for places like stepping stones aquariums and parks if you have no car it provides for those who pay taxes and have no reg what does Norwalk have?

    Maybe John is grumpy i figure he can be he lives in Norwalk.

  9. Bill

    @lightning, it’s not racist to say that the most qualified people get the job, and the majority who have the jobs are white, therefore the most qualified people in this case are white. If minorities are choosing other fields of work, then that would make Mr. Mosby’s point moot. I agree with you and suspect there aren’t that many minorities looking for these jobs.

  10. Piberman

    Mr Mosley ought to explain why two BOE members associated with our minority communities refused to endorse the hiring of our most well qualified Supt in decades and one who happened to be Hispanic. Mr Mosley ought to explain the virtual absence of significant contributions on the BOE by BOE members associated with the minority communities. Similarly the near absence of minority community interest in the well functioning and proper management of NEON over many, many years. Where is their leadership on these vital areas ? Long past time for more vigorous and more well qualified minority leadership to participate in City governance. And for much greater participation in our governance by these communities. That’s the core issue here – lack of participation and capable leadership.

  11. Mike Lyons

    A couple of the posters above have raised good points about Mr. Mosby — he “has a lot of passion and he’s very upset”, but he doesn’t propose any specific solutions. He sometimes “observes correctly, but then draws conclusions that may not be fair.”

    Let me say something that Mr. Mosby may find shocking — I agree with him and Ms. Krummel, who “referred to the need to close the achievement gap. ‘This is a crime in America and it is a crime in Norwalk,’ she said. ‘I know I sound a little dramatic but I think you know I am speaking from the heart.’”

    One of the reasons I ran for the Board of Education was to do something about that gap. Manny Rivera has dedicated his superintendency to closing that gap. After decades of Boards of Ed that talked about the gap but did NOTHING to close it, we finally have a plan to dramatically boost literacy in our elementary schools, up for a vote on March 18, that could have the biggest impact on closing the gap of any reform ever attempted here.

    E.D. Hirsch, the founder of Core Knowledge, showed over 20 years ago that the lack of a solid, knowledge-based curriculum was the largest controllable aspect of public education that we could change for the better. He wrote an article arguing that the failure to close the gap should be viewed as a major civil rights struggle, and that building that core knowledge curriculum was a clear way to reduce it. I was inspired by that article to an interest in education that eventually brought me to the chairmanship of the BoE. Here is the link: http://www.coreknowledge.org/mimik/mimik_uploads/documents/2/Fairness.pdf.

    With about 50% of our students not reading at grade level (a large majority of them being minority students), folks like Mr. Mosby are right to be upset about what’s been done in our schools until very recently. But he gives no credit for — indeed, almost seems to deliberately ignore — the large scale efforts commenced over the last two years to do something about it, from the rejuvenation of Briggs high school, to the adoption of the Common Core, to an aggressive K-5 literacy program and Pre-K pilots designed to directly attack the achievement gap.

    Passion is a great thing. But unless you couple it with Reason, what you get is ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing.’ Dr. Rivera and the BoE are making great efforts to finally address the gap and close it. It would be nice if Mr. Mosby would open his eyes and acknowledge that.

  12. EveT

    The comment by Mr. Lyons prompts me to wonder, does Mr. Mosby give of his time as a literacy volunteer or do any other concrete activity to help the kids he is so upset about?

  13. For years Peter Berman has sparred with the truth, occasionally landing a weak jab through the shear wealth of his flailing misinformed opinions and erroneous conclusions. Despite changes in the majorities of the two political bodies on which he seems most intent to land a knock-out, his recent comments suggest that, rather than returning to the gym to develop some substance for his constant criticisms, he’s decided to simply add character assassination to his arsenal of rabbit punches and shots below the belt.

    First, Mr. Berman’s veiled innuendo and habitual mis-truth aside, Migdalia Rivas and Rosa Murray did not fail to support Superintendent Rivera when he was hired last year. They raised concerns about process and contract (as sincere public servants should), asked some tough questions and then voted their conscience (which sometimes includes abstaining). They then supported the superintendent as the choice of the majority.

    Secondly, I don’t know how Mr. Berman reached his slander of claiming the “virtual absence of significant contributions on the BOE by BOE members associated with the minority communities”. What is the standard to which he is comparing the “BOE members associated with the minority communities”? Has Mr. Berman analyzed the legislative achievements of all BOE members (and broken them down by gender, religious and ethnic considerations)? Has he reviewed the contributions that many members make through the perspective they bring to debates, the outreach they do with their constituencies and the guidance they provide in helping the school department improve its service for all students and their families?
    And what does someone’s “minority community association” have to do with how their public service is evaluated?

    I had the privilege of serving with Rosa Murray and Migdalia Rivas- I learned early on that they both feel a profound responsibility to all children, that their passion for promoting equality is an extension of their religious faith and that their years of experience provide tremendous insight for evaluation of the practical considerations that must be addressed for meaningful change. They are tolerant, well-informed and direct– attributes which would seem to escape a frequent poster who suggests that the minority community with which a BOE member “associates” should somehow be a factor in evaluating that BOE member’s service.

  14. anon

    Fact check@ Riva and Murray voted against minority Superintendent hire when given the chance. Provide any significant contributions from Riva and Murray.

  15. piberman

    Thank you “anon” for setting former BOE member Colarossi’s faulty memory straight. Anyone interested in the contributions of individual BOE members has only to read the BOE minutes and examine the leadership positions within the BOE. It’s worth mentioning here that the former Supt. did recommend the new Norwalk High School principal – a Yale graduate – who happens to be African and by most accounts is highly regarded. Unsupported charges that the BOE is not “fair” or “discriminating” denigrate the good work taking place within the BOE. Education is a tough business. Throwing bricks doesn’t make it any easier or achieve better results.

  16. Mr. Berman once again displays a fixation on race politics and out-dated stereotypes (as well as a penchant for revisionist history).
    Sadly, rather than call him out on racially-tinged and highly insensitive wordsmithing, at least one poster wants to suggest that we as a community should take no offense by his commentary that BOE members should be evaluated as “associates” of various “minority communities”, rather than on their own merits.

    But then again, Professor Berman has somehow convinced himself that the Norwalk High School principal (who is a native of Georgia) must be “African”. Really, Professor? Broad, inaccurate generalities based on the color of someone’s skin don’t further his cause but substantiate the need for greater awareness that vestiges of racial insensitivity continue to find shelter in closed minds.

    Now, his foray into political eugenics aside, Prof. Berman offered an analysis of the relative merits of various Board of Education members, which he suggests one could ascertain by examining the “minutes” and “leadership positions”. Perhaps he could share this detailed analysis with the public– I’d be curious to see how he differentiates among the members of a body who typically enjoy nearly unanimous votes for most actions undertaken by them.

  17. Scout

    Hey peeps, pssst, love him or annoyed by him, Mr. Mosby is a Norwalk’er and has wide respect in the community. He does posses much passion and energy and Mayor Rilling is correct that John has his heart in the right place. That alone should be encouraged. To say nobody speaks up or participates from minority communities and than berate those that do stand up, validates what exactly? Mr. Mosby is correct that kids have not been getting opportunities and have been short changed in life by a failed education system. It’s no secret, we all know it to be fact. And the majority of us are working hard to make it better. Is it not counterproductive when studies and leaders state more participation is needed by parents and the community, than openly discourage even disparage and berate participation? Mr. Mosby is a quasi community leader with passion and energy and his dedication and energy should be tapped and put to good use. If there is not an appropriate open committee seat that Mr. Mosby could devote his passion, than we must find an avenue where all this energy and passion can contribute productively. How about a community liaison officer appointment or new liaison committee? Wise leaders look for ways to tap into the energy and put people and things in there rightful place, that are conducive to progress and harmony. Mr. Mosby wants to help, certainly lots of work to do, how about giving the gentleman a title and a mandate and let him contribute and focus some of that passion and energy?

  18. What do you mean that the kids in SoNo are not getting their fair share? How about the numerous after school programs, all the “scholarships” to programs within the city, all the freebies such as back pack day? How much more do these kids need to succeed? Oh yeah, a mother and father that care enough to get them through. All these programs don’t amount to much if the mother AND father (if present) aren’t there to work with their rugrats.

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