Norwalk education notes: SpEd progress, South Norwalk school desires

Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski.
Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski.

NORWALK, Conn. – Some education tidbits for your consumption:

  • SpEd parents ‘collaborate’ with Adamowski
  • A South Norwalk charter school?
  • Brien McMahon a ‘Special Olympics champion’
  • Black History Month


Adamowski impresses SpEd parent

Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski met with a small group of Special Education parents for 90 minutes Thursday, discussing “everything from ESY concerns to the budget, to the search for the new SPED Director,” Margaret Kozlark said.

Kozlark is co-chairwoman of SpEd Partners, a group formed several years ago to advocate for Special Education issues. SpEd Partners asked Adamowski for a meeting in December; attending were co-chairman Eric Neiderer and former chairman Jeffry Spahr.  

Spahr and Neiderer declined to comment. Kozlark said her statement was approved by the group:

My impression was that Dr. Adamowski did not agree to take this meeting because we pressed him to, or for political reasons.  The tone was collaborative and he seemed genuinely interested in our feedback.  We came to the meeting with a page full of comments and concerns from SPED parents and he responded to each area and even asked for our recommendations on specific aspects of ESY (Extended School Year services).

“I don’t know if Norwalk SPED will improve moving forward, although I hope it will.  What I am optimistic about is a more collaborative tone between SPED Partners and the district moving forward.  There is a lot of work to be done, there’s no doubt about that – but this was an important first step.  We may not always agree on everything, but if we keep talking to each other and learn to collaborate, I do believe that will be for the benefit of everyone associated with Norwalk SPED.”


A South Norwalk charter school?

The Rev. Lindsay Curtis, who tried for years to get South Norwalk a charter school, indicated interest in the topic again recently after District B Democrats hosted a talk by Steven Perry, Ph. D., founder of a Hartford charter school.

The Perry talk was in response to Norwalk Public Schools’ effort to build a school behind the Nathaniel Ely pre-school center in South Norwalk, and to renovate the Concord Street building now housing Columbus Magnet School. Although South Norwalk leaders fought the idea of a new school the mood has shifted to disappointment that if Ely is built it will not be strictly for the neighborhood, but instead the new home of Columbus.

There’s also a feeling that the community did not get to weigh in on educational choices.

Curtis said rumors are correct: there’s a thought that the drive to create a charter school should be “resurrected.”

“As you know, there has been a lot of discussion; I am favor of a new school but we really want to make sure that if there’s a new school in Norwalk that the kids – we’re not going to be able to do it all because you still have to keep all 19 of our schools in a racial and cultural balance. But If I can participate in that somehow, I would certainly be more than happy to resurrect the opportunity,” Curtis said.

Even if Norwalk builds two new schools, there would still be South Norwalk children bused to other parts of town. The schools would create 290 seats in South Norwalk, but there are more than 400 children there. It will take five years for those seats to develop.

There are “many moving parts” to creating a charter school, Curtis said.

“They’ll have to wait for the state to grant a charter,” Curtis said. “It can be done through a local charter but you’ve got a lot of dynamics there, with both the superintendent and the Board, and the city. There are a few things that would have to be worked out but I do think that people are interested in visiting the discussion.”


BMHS recognized as Special Olympics champion

Brien McMahon High School has been named a Special Olympics Unified Champion School by Special Olympics Connecticut and the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, according to the Board of Education.

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools have an inclusive school climate and exude a sense of collaboration, engagement and respect for all members of the student body and staff, the BoE said, as part of its Spotlight script for Tuesday’s BoE meeting.

To qualify for recognition, schools must:  

  • Have a Unified Sports team or teams that participate in at least two sports seasons  Demonstrate inclusive youth leadership  
  • Demonstrate whole school engagement  
  • Ensure the sustainability of these components

“At Brien McMahon, the Best Buddies program has become an integral part of the school culture. The student-run friendship club creates buddy pairs between students with and without disabilities, and helps create an inclusive school climate and culture of acceptance. The McMahon unified sports team is part of the program’s extra-curricular activities. This is McMahon’s second year of competition, with unified teams now competing in both soccer and basketball. Over 25 students participate in the program, which includes after-school practices to prepare for inter-scholastic friendly competitions. Families, friends and faculty cheer for teams and celebrate with them during medal awards ceremonies, and with pizza parties after each competition,” the BoE packet said.  

McMahon was awarded a banner that reads “Special Olympics Unified Champion School,” similar to the athletic championship banners that hang in many high schools, the packet said.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Education, we congratulate Brien McMahon Principal Suzanne Koroshetz, program advisors Amanda Bolz and Kelsey Murphy, and all the students who participated in making this program a success,” the Spotlight script said.  


NPS Black History Month

Norwalk schools, teachers and students are encouraged to set aside time to celebrate the achievements of black Americans, and to recognize the central role of African Americans in U.S. history, the BoE said in its meeting packet.

“Black History Month is known as one of the nation’s oldest organized history celebrations,” the packet states. “The origin dates back to 1926 with a weeklong observance initiated by the American historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Dr. Woodson chose February for the celebration because it included the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

It continues:

“In 1975, the observance was expanded into a month-long-celebration as part of the nation’s bicentennial. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. The Board of Education and Norwalk Public Schools are pleased to join in this annual tribute.

“Every year, schools throughout Norwalk highlight Black History Month by learning about the accomplishments of a wide range of historical figures, from inventors to educators to civil rights leaders. Across all grades, age-appropriate books, videos and online materials are used to in lessons tied into black history. African American authors and poets are highlighted, while non-fiction books bring subjects like school integration and civil rights to life. Landmark legal decisions are discussed in some classes, while others focus on the role of African Americans in military history.

“This year, many Norwalk students will also have the opportunity to learn about the contributions of mathematician Katherine Johnson, one of three black women whose roles at NASA during the space race are currently featured in the movie ‘Hidden Figures.’ By joining together to observe Black History Month, we expand our knowledge and deepen our appreciation for the contributions and achievements that African Americans have made to the City of Norwalk, the state of Connecticut, and our nation. We encourage all to learn more and to celebrate the generations of African Americans who have positively influenced our collective history.”  


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