Settlement ends Chumney lawsuit
NORWALK, Conn. — Some Norwalk political notes for you:
- Cranbury school to begin construction
- Penn-Williams seeks to oust Carpio
- Chumney is settling lawsuit
Cranbury School construction expected to begin shortly
Construction to build Norwalk’s first entirely new school in decades is set to begin next month.
The Common Council on Tuesday approved a legal settlement with neighbors who objected to the plan for a new Cranbury Elementary School and then approved the contract with Newfield Construction Group to build the school.
The Common Council approved a $45 million capital budget expense for a new Cranbury Elementary School in 2020, but the contract approved Tuesday is for just under $40 million, with an additional $1.3 million possible in change orders.
“This is below the approved budget for the school and reflects the hard work of (Building and Facilities Manager) Alan Lo and his team to bring this project in within the budget and particularly in this current construction market,” said Land Use and Building Management Committee Chairman Thomas Livingston (D-District E).
Lo on Thursday said April 6 that inflation and supply chain issues were a big issue and “the project came in slightly higher than I estimated but we were able to maneuver – I’m not sure that’s the right word – but within the project contingency allowances to make this project work.”
“The new Cranbury School will be state of the art including all new classrooms, new furniture technology security, standalone gym,” Livingston said Tuesday. Children should move into the school in fall 2023 and the project should be complete the following June.
The school is planned to be adjacent to the existing Cranbury School. Neighbors, including Matt Forte and Matt Bury, objected to the school’s setback, two half-court basketball areas and other issues and filed an appeal although the City’s legal department announced a compromise before the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the project in January.
At that point, Norwalk Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola called the legal challenge a “friendly appeal” and predicted it would be settled soon.
The project is “the next step in the school’s a city’s ongoing school construction project,” Livingston said. An addition to Ponus Middle School was recently completed and renovations to Jefferson Elementary should be complete in June or July, according to Jim Giuliano of Construction Solutions Group, the city’s project manager for new school construction.
Carpio accused of ‘being friends’ with Estrella
Brenda Penn-Williams said Wednesday that she hopes to replace Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Diana Carpio by finding an alternative candidate before next year’s election cycle.
“I have received multiple phone calls from her constituents who voiced their concerns (about) ‘closeness to the superintendent.’ They say she’s at City Hall so much on the third floor that you’d think she worked there,” Penn-Williams said to District C Democrats. “We need someone in place who can be objective and represent the best for best and interest of the taxpayers.”
Penn-Williams, Democratic Town Committee District C Committee co-chairwoman, said, “I hope that I can find someone that’s going to support District C and the entire city instead of doing whatever the superintendent tells her to.”
Carpio denied the charges. “Everyone here knows for a fact that I have not voted every single time with the superintendent,” Carpio said.
She brought up Penn-Williams’ feelings about her goddaughter, Renita Crawford, being transferred from P-Tech (Pathways in Technology Early College High School), where she was a Curriculum and Instruction Site Director (CISD), to Brien McMahon High School, where she is a history teacher.
“I cannot get involved,” Carpio said, citing the confidential nature of the personnel issue and her need to be a nonpartisan BoE member, potentially voting on a grievance dispute.
Penn-Williams said she hadn’t brought that up and it wasn’t the issue. “I have received multiple calls.”
District C Chairwoman Pam Parkington said she had also heard rumors that Carpio is friends with Estrella.
“I’m not friends,” Carpio said. “I am Vice Chair, and as vice chair, Colin, Godfrey and I spend a lot of time with her. But we are not friends.”
She said, “Every time you see me with her, outside of meetings, it’s for something. I am never with her out and about just to be out and about.”
She’s at school events and Estrella happens to be there, too, she said. She also denied being at Central Office. “The only time I’m there is the night of Board meetings.”
State Rep. Stephanie Thomas (D-143) said she had always found Carpio “to be pretty straightforward and open. And it’s possible she does not know that, you know, this is also her first elected role, which she may not know that people perceive it badly.”
Carpio was elected for a four-year term in 2019.
Penn-Williams said after the meeting that she is going forward with recruiting alternative candidates.
Another lawsuit against NPS settled
Donalda Chumney has settled the lawsuit she filed against Norwalk Public schools, according to the federal courts website.
Chumney alleged breach of contract and bad faith in her brief tenure here as NPS Chief Academic Officer. The complaint alleged that Chumney, labeled “damaged goods,” was forced to become a school principal in Virginia after departing NPS.
Chumney was enthusiastically recruited by Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella in 2020 only to have her position eliminated five months after taking the role, despite not being told of any performance deficiencies, according to the complaint.
The parties reached an agreement in principle on March 17 after an 8.5-hour settlement conference, according to the courts website. The case was administratively closed.
Lawyers representing Chumney did not respond to an email requesting details about the settlement. Neither did Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr nor NPS Labor Relations Attorney Barbara Namani.
NancyOnNorwalk filed a Freedom of Information request seeking settlement details 10 days ago. It was acknowledged but not yet fulfilled.
As previously reported, the lawsuit filed by Norwalk Association of School Administrators (NASA) President Lynne Moore has also been settled, according to the federal courts website. Attorney Ryan Daugherty, who represented Moore, said he had no comment.
Moore was removed from her post as West Rocks Middle School principal in 2018 under then-Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski and transferred to Norwalk High School. The lawsuit alleged racial discrimination, age discrimination and retaliation. It was settled in January.
Moore has been appointed Tracey Elementary School principal and is slated to begin that role in June.
Updated, 4:11 p.m.: Copy edit.