NORWALK, Conn. – Mayor Richard Moccia was square in the bull’s eye Monday night when the topic of education came up at the Norwalk Democratic Town Committee mayoral forum.
Each of the four Democrats vying to be Moccia’s opponent took shots at the Republican mayor, whether it was related to the turnover in school administration or the cuts to last year’s school budget.
The question, asked by NDTC member Carolyn Fuller, was, “Education is one of the reasons people move to a town. Looking at the current Board of Ed and its contentious makeup what would you do to make Norwalk an achieving district?”
Former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel implied that Moccia had stifled past superintendents.
“We need to allow this superintendent to do their job,” he said. “This superintendent doesn’t have to be someone from within. It can be someone from without. It needs to be someone who is innovative, someone who is free thinking and someone who can stand up to the political end, which is what’s dragging down our Board of Education right now, and has been over the last eight years.”
Common Councilman Matt Miklave (District A) said last year’s school budget battle inspired him to run.
“The fact of the matter is we had a fix for the Board of Education’s budget problem,” he said. “We put that fix together and ended up getting a bipartisan unanimous council approval of a resolution. A resolution the mayor actually signed – I know he signed it because I have a copy of it. Then he refused to implement it.”
Former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling said he was a “little disconcerted” that the three superintendent finalists hadn’t been introduced to the public. Then he echoed the common theme.
“You don’t lose good people because of lack of pay or compensation,” he said. “You lose good people from lack of giving them the support they need to do their job.”
District D Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra also mentioned turnover.
“We need to change the culture of our school system.,” he said. “When you have six different superintendents in eight years, you know that you need to change how we go about our business on the Board of Ed.”
Mangiacopra has said that Moccia does not make his agenda known in Hartford.
“We need to ring the bell as loud as we can, whether it’s here in our city, around the region to our philanthropic community who are so generous and give so much, or whether it’s up at the state capital, letting people know that again, Norwalk is ready to be the city that we know it can be, and it has to start with education,” he said.
You can see it all in the video above.
Also in the video is Miklave’s apology for being late.
A special Planning Committee meeting was scheduled for the same evening as the forum. Miklave said before the forum that no one had reached out to his campaign to let them know about the event. NDTC Chairwoman said the event had been planned at the last NDTC meeting, a month ago.