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Norwalk BOE seeks community input, hires search firm for superintendent

Norwalk Interim Superintendent Tony Daddona speaks at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

NORWALK, Conn. – Are you a Norwalk school parent? The Norwalk Board of Education is looking for your opinion and is willing to pay money to get it.

The board on Tuesday night approved spending at least $17,250 on an executive search firm, saying the firm it had selected was fully equipped to get input from the public.

“I have this concern that we hear from the same parents, the same public, over and over,” said BOE member Rosa Murray. “The fact of it is I think we need to speak (to) and hear from the entire public. … We say we want their input but we keep doing the same things, setting the same type of schedules.”

She was impressed that the firm selected, PROACT, would be able to reach out to most of the community, given the diversity of its staff, which includes three bilingual members, according to board member Mike Lyons.

Only one board member voted against the decision. Migdalia Rivas said she agreed a superintendent search firm is a good idea, but did not like where the money was coming from.

Norwalk Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Elio Longo said there was $22,000 available because of a prepayment to the special education out-of-district transportation fund, which saved the board money. Rivas thought that money should stay in special ed.

“Special ed is being underfunded anyway,” she said. “…I think every little bit of money that we get, we had mentioned that we would try to put back into the schools, back into our district.”

The firm’s fee is $17,250 plus expenses.

Board member Heidi Keyes said PROACT is “a small, lean firm” that seems engaged, transparent and open, and will look in the private sector as well as in school districts for the right candidate. “We may get a mix of both worlds,” she said.

Lyons said the company has “some really top-flight talent” that it brings in on contract to augment its staff, specifically mentioning Barbara Byrd-Bennett, former superintendent of the Cleveland, Ohio school system and now of the CEO of Chicago school systems.

Board member Steven Colarrosi said he hoped that Interim Superintendent Tony Daddona would apply, as he is doing an “outstanding job.”

Norwalk Education Foundation Executive Director Gloria Tenofsky welcomed the search firm decision. “We want to do what we did a few years ago, which is to have a community conversation on the superintendent search,” she said. “We’d like to make plans for that, looking to have a community conversation in January.”

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