Next Norwalk superintendent needs ‘strong working knowledge’ in many areas

The next Norwalk Public Schools superintendent will have to deal with thorny issues such as a potential reform of the special education department and the transition to Common Core State Standards.

NORWALK, Conn. – Knowledge of the coming revolutionary change in public education and expertise that could be applied to a much-criticized Norwalk Public Schools special education department – responsible for an unpredictable money drain – are some of the things Board of Education members are looking for in their next superintendent.

The superintendent profile, finalized Tuesday evening, was released by BOE Chairman Mike Lyons Wednesday night. That, the schedule for the search and the engagement summary are attached below.

Board member Steven Colarossi shared some specifics of the board’s work with NancyOnNorwalk. He talked about the qualities added to the profile developed by the search firm PROACT through a series of 16 public hearings and questionnaires.

The board is looking for someone with demonstrated grant and/or philanthropic resourcefulness and a working knowledge of Connecticut education law, Colarossi said in an email.

“We also added to the position criteria a preference for candidates with a ‘strong working knowledge of the Common Core State Standards’ and who has ‘school leadership’ experience,” he said. “We also added to the criteria that we would want a candidate with a ‘working knowledge of special education’.”

The special education department has been criticized sharply. A recently delivered study said it had not improved since the last study was done in 2008. The unpredictable nature of special ed is also the source of intense budgetary challenges.

Common Core State Standards, a mandatory switch to nationwide standards in education, is being described by school officials as the biggest change in public education in decades.

Looking to attract a candidate with these qualifications, the board increased the salary range for the new superintendent to $230,000 to $250,000. Former Superintendent Susan Marks made $200,000 in 2011.

Qualities the public would like to see, as outlined in the engagement summary attached below, include a person with a minimum of 10 years of experience as a K-­12 educator who rose through the ranks as a teacher and administrator, who lives in Norwalk, with an understanding and sensitivity to the culture and diversity of the community. The new superintendent would “set the tone early, not to be manipulated by negative groups/politicians/officials and won’t get pushed aside.”

The board profile specifies that the successful candidate will be:

• A visionary leader who can facilitate the district goal of being a high performing school district, has successful strategic planning experience, and can lead the development of both long and shortterm goals for NPS

• A proven leader who puts students first and has a demonstrated commitment to improving outcomes through a strong instructional core

• A skilled negotiator who will have a proven track record and demonstrated ability to work successfully with teacher and paraprofessional unions

• An educational leader who will be committed to working closely with school leadership, and who is committed to a high degree of visability throughout the schools and the community

• A consensus builder who will work within and among the community, school board, parents, administrators and staff

• A strong, resilient and decisive leader wholly committed to the best interests of children

The successful candidate will possess the following skills and experience:

• A proven track record of success in a culturally and ethnically diverse urban educational environment and proven ability to work effectively with multiple community groups

• Commitment to working strategically with Board members through collaboration and consensus building

• Commitment to engaging the Board of Education in decisions that best support the Norwalk Public Schools and its students

• Demonstrated experience balancing budgets in challenging fiscal environments and extensive knowledge of financial and budgeting procedures

• Strong instructional leadership skills grounded in best practices and current research

• Ability to hire the right people with skills aligned to the mission of NPS

• Bilingual candidates (English/Spanish) preferred

• Demonstrated grant and/or philanthropic resourcefulness preferred

•  Working knowledge of Connecticut education law preferred

Application criteria are:

•  Seven or more years of successful executive experience, and school leadership experience, required

•  Successful experience as a superintendent preferred

•  The Board of Education prefers candidates who are prepared to make a long‐term commitment to the district

• A valid superintendent certificate or comparable certification or endorsement

• Once selected, the superintendent is expected to reside in or near Norwalk, with a preference that he or she resides within Norwalk Public Schools boundaries

•  A terminal degree in the candidate’s area of expertise is desirable

•  Strong working knowledge of the Common Core State Standards preferred

•  Working knowledge of special education preferred

The public thinks the next superintendent needs to have a “thick skin,” and Lyons agrees.

“Norwalk is a tough place, everything here is with a fight, so the candidate that comes in here has to have some thick skin,” said Lyons, according to It’s Relevant. “You got to have the ability to deal with the rough and tumble environment that Norwalk is and still get your job done.”

Norwalk Engagement Summary

NPS Gantt 03-15-13

Norwalk Superintendent Profile


4 responses to “Next Norwalk superintendent needs ‘strong working knowledge’ in many areas”

  1. One clarification. Dr. Marks’ salary when she left (all-in, inclusive of annuity) was $230K per year. The salaries above are also all-inclusive, so the base of $230K matches Marks’ ending salary, with the top end of $250K about 9% higher.

  2. Steve Colarossi

    It’s important to note that Chairman Lyons encouraged all of us to review the proposed profile and to make meaningful changes to it.
    I believe that the consensus document that emerged, and was unanimously approved, represents our community’s values.

  3. Principal Peter

    Hopefully we’ll finally get someone who has published real work on education instead of the usual scrubs we get from the third rate PhD factories with useless dissertations.

  4. Mark Robinson

    I believe that Dr. Marks received a salary of $200,000 plus a $30,000 annuity annually. The $200K counted towards her pension, but since she had no history in Connecticut schools, it was the annuity that would started an retirement payout (I think one needs five years to be vested). On the other hand, an individual with 30+ years in Norwalk Public Schools gets 2% times the number of years (with 30 years history, this would be 60%) times the high three years salary. For such an individual, each $5,000 of salary increase extended for three years means $3,000 per year. A $35K pay raise lasting for three years means $21,000 more each year for the rest of one’s life. With 35 years history, even more. When a defined benefit retirement system exists, it is worth looking at all elements of compensation , not just annual salary.

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