Nathan Hale Middle School a hot topic at BOE meeting

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Norwalk Board of Education member Migdalia Rivas listens to Gloria Tenofsky Tuesday.


NORWALK, Conn. – The appointment of a new Nathan Hale Middle School principal will be delayed so that new Norwalk Public Schools Superintendent Manuel Rivera can have input into the decision, Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons said Wednesday.

Rivera’s contract begins July 18.

Things have been rocky at the school this year, according to two speakers at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

Gloria Tenofsky, who noted that she wasn’t speaking in her role as executive director of the Norwalk Education Foundation, but as the parent of three children who have gone through NHMS, lauded former Principal Bob McCain but said things had been tough for her youngest child this year as he made his way through eighth grade.

Former BOE member and potential Democratic BOE candidate Shirley Mosby said she had been notified by two parents that NMHS is not following the board’s honors policy, resulting in minority students not getting the recognition they deserve.

McCain resigned last year.

Tenofsky said everything had been smooth while he was principal but, “Over the last year, we have endured a period of enormous upheaval.”

Her son had four different algebra teachers and three different science teachers over the course of the year.

“I will add that many of these teachers were either not certified in the subject area or had not been teaching this subject for many years,” she said. “To us parents it felt as though bodies were put into the classrooms to fill a void rather than to drive achievement. The math situation has been so disappointing that we hired an outside tutor to ensure he is prepared for honors math in high school. I know that not all parents could afford to do this. I was so disillusioned that for the first time in 14 years I considered leaving Norwalk for a higher functioning school system.”

Mosby said she was there in her role as National Association for the Advancement for Colored People (NAACP) education chairwoman.

She had gotten a complaint in March, she said, and spoke to school officials who assured her it was being looked into and would be resolved. Having gotten a second complaint, from a family unconnected to the first one, she was coming to the board, she said.

“I was informed that Nathan Hale has its own set of rules that are not in accordance with the student handbook or the Norwalk Public Schools Board of Education policy,” she said. She was troubled, she said, and wanted to know what sort of checks and balances the board had to ensure that things were being done correctly.

“I keep hearing that we should get parents and students engaged to encourage the children to succeed,” she said. “How can an action like this keep children engaged or a parent encouraged? Disallowing a child to be recognized for positive achievement and accomplishment towards reaching a positive goal will have an overall affect on a child’s future education, performance and self esteem.”

Lyons said Wednesday that that was the first time he had heard that complaint. He had asked Interim Superintendent Tony Daddona to brief him on it.

Lisa Thomson also spoke to the board Tuesday, urging that Rivera be allowed to pick his own staff.

“Perhaps we can learn from the BOE playbook this year on how parents and the community were included in the hiring process and helped to develop the superintendent profile prior to Dr. Rivera’s selection,” she said. “Maybe parents and the community can do the same thing by providing input into other critical staffing profiles.”

Tenofsky had done just that in the case of the new Nathan Hale principal.

“Several members of the staff and parent body have drafted a profile of what we’d like in the next principal,” she said. “I will share that profile and leave you with copies. Let’s do what’s right for kids.”

The profile:

• A leader with a strong vision for what NHMS can be and a road map to get there.

• Someone with demonstrated leadership ability who can motivate and inspire teachers and staff

• Someone with middle school leadership experience and love for middle school kids

• Someone who is knowledgeable about NHMS, BARK, and the team concept

• Someone who is agile with data and can use data to inform decision making

• Someone who believes in the potential of NHMS to regain its footing as a Spotlight School

• Someone who will engage staff, students and parents in the process, particularly the team leaders and department heads

• Someone who has the skill sets to “hit the ground running”

Board members interviewed candidates for the position in an executive session Tuesday, after Rivera left, but Lyons said the decision had been delayed.


2 responses to “Nathan Hale Middle School a hot topic at BOE meeting”

  1. “Nathan Hale has its own set of rules that are not in accordance with the student handbook or the Norwalk Public Schools Board of Education policy,”
    What?!! Mosby drops a bombshell statement like that and no one wants a full complete explanation of what it means?? Sounds very accusatory! Hard evidence of these allegations needs to be brought to the public for review. Alluding to prejudice is dangerous.
    I know this year was terrible with a “principal” who was just biding time. The hole left by Bob McCain is enormous but let us hope with Dr. Rivera in place, he will find us another Bob McCain.

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