Norwalk officials urge transparent superintendent search

Norwalk Democrats 024-20130122
NAACP President Darnell Crosland speaks at a January meeting of District A Democrats.

NORWALK, Conn. – The secrecy of Norwalk’s superintendent search has drawn objections from at least two high-profile Norwalk officials.

Both Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Bruce Mellion and NAACP President Darnell Crosland made public statements this week condemning the BOE’s decision to keep the process to itself until a new superintendent is selected.

Bruce Mellion, speaking at the BOE meeting:

“When you began the process to secure a new superintendent, there was considerable talk about openness and transparency in the process by the board. Certainly, when there are 80 or so applicants, then reduced to 20, then reduced to 11 and then reduced to five or six, confidentiality is understood. But when there are two, three or four finalists, they should — no, they must — be made public. In this way, the Norwalk community has an opportunity to see, hear and engage — I want to say again, see, hear and engage – the finalist in a way different from the board.

“It loses nothing and in fact gains from the community. It still has the final say. Not to be truly open and transparent is a catastrophic mistake and a repeat of what transpired between the spring of 2010 and April 17 of 2012. Does history repeat itself? It sure appears that way when it doesn’t have to.

“When you go into executive session, please reconsider what you are doing and the message you are sending to the 85,000 members of the Norwalk community who elect you, but, most particularly, the 11,000 students for whom you are supposed to be a model of openness, transparency and Democratic process. As it stands, what you are about to do is so very, very wrong, but you still have the opportunity to make it right.”

Crosland expressed his thoughts in an email:

The NAACP is committed to the education of our children, and wants a superintendent of schools that is more than a person seeking employment, but is a person who is equally committed to the students of Norwalk as we are.  The path to finding the best candidate isn’t the path covered by bush that no one can see, it is the path that is clear and transparent.  Since the search process began late last year, the procedure the board laid out was that the finalist would become public.  The community has urged the board to make this process transparent, and what Mr. Lyons is now proposing is not true to form.

What we don’t want to do is end up having spent a boatload of money on a professional search firm that spent time with us, wasted legal pads of notes, and our voices are still not heard.  This is not the democracy we voted for.

Listen, I understand that people want to secure their jobs, but what we know is this, when you love a community like we love Norwalk, you take risk, you are proud to profess your desire to make change, we saw that when Mr. Garfunkel gave up a top spot as town clerk to run for Mayor, he didn’t win and didn’t get his job back, but he survives, and we see that with Harry Rilling having announced his candidacy; he also put his current corporate job on the line. It’s the sacrifice we make.

The candidate for superintendent that can make a pledge and a sacrifice to Norwalk is the candidate that the people want to hear from.  The others can go back to their jobs.  I hope Mr. Lyons appreciates that we are tired of playing games.


5 responses to “Norwalk officials urge transparent superintendent search”

  1. M. Murray

    Although keeping the finalists names from the public doesn’t allow for public input prior to offering one the position, there still exists the opportunity for the public to investigate the finalist prior to any contract being signed. There is a window, albeit a small one, for concerned members o the community to conduct their own investigations and bring any concerns to the board and the public at large. With the advent of the Internet, it is easy to search out blog sites such as this and find out about the candidate. Judicial websites offer information about civil suits filed against them. Settled ones may take a little more work as there are often non-disclosure agreements, but a little legwork will usually reveal the outcome. For those such as unions and parent groups, often a day visit to their home community will reveal much about a candidate. Getting a haircut at the local barbershop or stopping for a coffee in the diner provide an opportunity to get some background information. For larger, more involved groups like unions or PTOs, hiring a private investigator can usually get results in a few days.

  2. LWitherspoon

    What “current corporate job” has Mr. Rilling “put on the line” by running for Mayor?
    The Hour reported that several candidates said they would withdraw their names from consideration if their candidacy were made public. That’s a rather important part of the story, any reason why it’s not included above?
    Publicizing the names of finalists who won’t get the job would be unfair to them and jeopardize their careers. Do we really want to limit the applicant pool to people who care so little about their relationship with their existing employer that they’re willing to tell that employer they’re looking for jobs elsewhere? When I hire someone, I look for the best qualified person, period. I don’t look for the best qualified person who doesn’t care about jeopardizing his or her relationship with a current employer. That would be a ridiculous and limiting move.
    This seems like yet another example of individuals with agendas seeking to apply a special protocol in the public sector that doesn’t exist in the private sector.

  3. Harry Rilling works as a compliance manager at Brescome Barton, according to Linked In.

  4. Peter I Berman

    Bruce Mellion is the NFT’s union chief, not a Norwalk “official” elected by the people of Norwalk. It’s hardly news that Mellion objects to the BOE search that denies the well known hostile NFT a role. Just read their monthly Vanguard consistently denigrating the BOE and Supts. See what Mellion says about Dr Marksvin a recent Vanguard. The real story is that a city of 80,000 supports the BOE search process. So why does Mellion’s objections merit a headline by Nancy ? Because the Hour also made a story where there was none ?

    1. Mark Chapman

      Mr. Berman is correct: Neither Bruce Mellion nor Darnell Crosland are Norwalk city officials. That was a poor choice of wording and we apologize for any confusion. Mr. Mellion is the NFT chief, and Mr. Crosland is the president of the local NAACP. However, we disagree that it is not a story that two high-profile people representing significant groups disagree with keeping the search a secret. While the search method is quite common, it is not universal, as many municipalities and school districts open their searches to public scrutiny and allow the public to vet the finalists themselves. Given the controversial history of Norwalk school superintendents and their relationships with the city, the BOE and unions, this was absolutely a story. And, FYI, we do not take our editorial cues from The Hour. We were not even aware of The Hour story until after we did ours. Perhaps it is simply a case of journalists thinking alike in this case.

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