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Norwalk education notes: New hire; BoE member explains; budget season debuts

Board of Education member Mary Ellen Flaherty-Ludwig, Friday in City Hall.

NORWALK, Conn. — Some Norwalk Public Schools-related information for you:

  • Rios has left NPS; new safety coordinator named
  • Flaherty-Ludwig details her experience
  • 4.5% budget increase ask expected
  • NPS clarifies: One NHMS teacher resigned

Harold to become NPS Safety and Security Coordinator

Ryan Harold. (LinkedIn)

Norwalk Public Schools has named a new Safety and Security Coordinator, replacing NPS School Preparedness Coordinator Joe Rios.

NPS Chief of Staff and Communications Brenda Wilcox Williams confirmed that Rios has left the district but has not said when or why. NancyOnNorwalk last got an email from him in August.

Ryan Harold is a “passionate leader” with more than 10 years of management experience in education, gained at both public and private organizations, NPS states in a news release. “His expertise includes the ability to successfully create and apply systems, structures and procedures to promote a culture of excellence and provide a safe learning environment for students and staff.”

He’s “held a variety of educational and safety roles throughout his career including dean of students and coordinator of safety and security/student life specialist,” NPS states, without naming any specific institutions he’s worked at. He has “developed schoolwide policies to improve school culture in his previous district in order to foster a climate of respect between students, staff, families and the community.”

Harold’s LinkedIn page shows that he’s been Dean Of Students/Student Life Specialist for the New York City Department of Education since 2016. Before that, he was general manager for XSport Fitness.

The news comes as NPS struggles with increased tensions at the schools, with parents complaining of fist fights in addition to recent lockdowns due to threats.

The troubles appear to be part of a national trend.

“School districts across the U.S. say they are seeing a surge of student misbehavior in the return to in-person learning, after months of closures and disruptions due to the pandemic,” the Wall Street Journal reported last week.

“Mr. Harold has experience with behavioral crisis-interventions and acute behavioral incidents, having worked with administration, school counselors, social workers and staff to tailor individual behavioral plans,” NPS states. “Working with school leaders and members of the community, Ryan facilitated opportunities to establish a positive, achievement-oriented, and culturally responsible school environment through various programs and initiatives including mentorship opportunities, restorative justice practices, social emotional training, classroom management tools and community building initiatives.”

He:

  • “Holds certifications in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, School Violence Prevention and Intervention, Identification and Reporting of Child Abuse and Maltreatment, and Dignity for all Students.
  • “Earned a Master of Science in Education in teaching students with disabilities in grades 7-12 from CUNY City College, and a Bachelor of Science in Public Health and Wellness with a Minor in Coaching Theories and Techniques from SUNY Buffalo State College.”

 

Flaherty-Ludwig taught in Darien for 18 years

The Norwalk Democratic Town Committee appointed retired teacher Mary Ellen Flaherty-Ludwig to the Board of Education last week, over the objections on non-Committee members who supported Jody Sattler for the post.

DTC members cited Flaherty-Ludwig’s experience in education as an asset for the Board of Education, but some opponents accuse her of spending her teaching career in Darien. One wrote, “The issue is that while she may have teaching experience, it was in Darien, a far different socio-economic community than Norwalk.”

NancyOnNorwalk invited Flaherty-Ludwig to address the issue. She wrote:

“First: I taught at Darien Middlesex School for 18 years. Yes, that is a far different socio-economic community.

“Second: I taught at Ponus Ridge for 3 years a Norwalk school, 1 year at Central High School in Fort Pierce, Florida, an inner-city school and for 12 years at Village Green Magnet School in Port St. Lucie, Fl, a mix of socio-economic students similar to Norwalk.

“Third: Syracuse University Masters degree was called Inner City Teaching Preparation Program. My intent as I approached a teaching career was always to understand and reach all children.”

A budget hike?

The Board of Education is set to review Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella’s recommended 2022-23 NPS operating budget Tuesday evening.

Materials already online indicate that Estrella seeks a 4.5% increase over this year’s budget. She’s also asking for a .9% additional increase to fund an “incubator” school in South Norwalk.

“The continued impact of the Covid pandemic, contractual increases for teachers and staff, plus rising inflation in other areas contribute to the base budget increase,” Estrella wrote. “With plans now moving forward to build a new neighborhood school in South Norwalk, we {are} also recommending that an additional $1.8MM , a 0.9% increase, will be allocated in addition to the 4.5% increase in order to begin the initial enrollment and programming for the school, following the approved relocation of CMS.”

 

Rumor squashing

A Nathan Hale Middle School teacher resigned last week after a school district investigation into allegations of racist language. Days later, NancyOnNorwalk heard that another teacher had resigned.

Not true, Wilcox Williams said. “Not sure where that rumor originated.”

Information added, 2:16 p.m. Wednesday.

8 comments

M Murray December 14, 2021 at 6:46 am

Wow. No one is concerned that the new Safety Coordinator for the school district is a former Dean of Students/Studwnt Life Specialist with only 5 years experience ?? His BS is in Organizational Health and Wellness and only obtained his Masters in Education in June 2021. Prior to working for the NUC Board of Ed in 2016, his experience in security appears to be managing a gym. Please tell me there is more to his resume than this. Especially after the Michael Patterson hiring fiasco by Norwalk Public Schools and his quick, quiet exit.

Seriously? December 14, 2021 at 7:16 am

Let’s see if I understand this correctly. It’s a request for a 4.5% operating budget increase, plus a request for an additional .9% operating budget increase for the new SoNo school? That, Norwalk taxpayers, is a request for a 5.4% increase.

As for the “incubator” school, which would consist of a few pre-K and kindergarten classes, why is there a need for a separate principal for so few teachers and staff? An inexperienced elementary principal next year will have a salary of over $182,000, plus benefits that cost about $25,000. Putting an experienced principal in that role would increase the salary by over $10,000. Re-think that idea, please.

As for the 4.5% increase, I hope that the city’s financial leadership gives the board of education a zero percent increase. It’s time that people begin looking at not only the number of NYC administrators this superintendent has imported from that city, but also at the number of administrators in the NPS central office — including the parent center that will open soon.

It’s time that people who have the taxpayerss’ interests at heart begin doing some comparisons of the size of the NPS central administration to the sizes of the central administrations of the biggest school districts in the state. I’ll bet Norwalk’s is the largest, and that is not a list where I want to see NPS at the top. Oh, and please include the salaries of the NPS administrators. It will be a heart-stopping list.

For the sake of informing our thinking, I’d also like to see the comparisons of numbers of NPS administrators in each of the past five years, including the current school year.

Last year’s board of education impressed my not one bit by its oversight of the superintendent and her spending. Will the new board be any different?

Patrick Steele December 14, 2021 at 8:20 am

Surely it should be mandatory to have at least one person on the BOE with kids who are currently in school? How do you expect older BOE members to stay current with today’s parents and children? And 31 years teaching outside Norwalk does not qualify anyone to serve in the BOE, in my opinion

Oversight December 14, 2021 at 9:35 am

I’m sorry, Joe Rios is gone and no one asks why, when or how? Someone is hired and we’re just finding out about it now and no background info is provided? Who from BOE is asking hard questions anymore? Where is the oversight function of this Board? I believe leaders should have their own team but if you’re going to hire you need to come before the public/BOE and disclose your rationale and priorities. COVID has presented significant challenges to this district and our communities. You can’t blame everything on COVID and ask for more $ without shoring up your own house. C’mon BOE (and the single party that has ultimate rule in the city) get your act together and perform the oversight function your were elected to do.

Seriously? December 14, 2021 at 5:55 pm

M Murray,

Your reference to the “Michael Patterson hiring fiasco” was very interesting. I did a Google search and easily found serious and extremely disturbing charges made against the man, who had one of the management positions within the HR department, but what concerns me as much is that a Norwalk person posted on Facebook that there was no background check when Patterson was hired for the HR department. It matters not that the charges against him are from a number of years ago. (BTW, I don’t know the man and I don’t know the outcome of the charges.) The person who posted the claim clearly identified herself, and so it wouldn’t be difficult to make inquiries about her claim regarding the background check.

Was there background check, which is a legal mandate for all school system employees, regardless of their roles? If there wasn’t a background check, why not, and who was responsible?

Oversight,

The board of education, at least up until now, has been pathetic, and I haven’t seen evidence of their critical thinking with regard to anything the superintendent says or does. Rather, they prefer to be a panel of obsequious individuals who were elected largely by people who don’t pay much attention to board of education candidates. I wish I could say that I am hopeful that the new members will change the behaviors of the others, but I don’t expect that to happen. This is yet another reason that the City of Norwalk shouldn’t give the board of education any increase at all for 2022-23.

Nora K King December 14, 2021 at 8:46 pm

The BOE should not get one penny until they can explain how they are educating our children. Right now with no homework, no accountability, no parental involvement, no parent teacher conferences in Middle School, no reading of novels, a lack of teaching of our younger kids math, no installation of ACs in 8 of our Elem Schools. Our kids are not being taught multiplication tables, no book reports, no work coming home graded anymore for the parents to see. Way too much time on computers. The list is long. No accountability for learning except for social workers in our schools teaching how to have an open mind versus a closed mind or a 1/2 day of different holidays. Our kids need to learn math, reading, science, social studies ….all the things needed to be competitive in a global market. NPS is failing our kids. I can say this because I have two young kids in the system. Cut them off until they are held accountable for the academics these kids need. No FUNDS until you produce results.

Nora King December 15, 2021 at 12:12 am

I agree with Seriously. I can’t believe I am saying this but we have a top heavy NPS, a board not holding administrators accountable, teachers told what to teach and being micro managed and a deputy superintendent we are paying too much too if they are driving around in a Maserati. Pay the teachers who are actually delivering the test score results they need. Maybe salaries should be tied to that instead of the current Boards mentality of dumbing down these kids.

Jo Bennett December 15, 2021 at 6:31 am

A simple LinkedIn search shows that the new safety coordinator had been with NYC Department of Ed since 2016 (no surprise there, today’s golden ticket for NPS employment), and prior ran a couple of gyms.

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