Norwalk Schools has lost major grant

The Norwalk Board of Education is meeting Thursday night to approve year-long contracts for Norwalk Public Schools Communications Director Brenda Wilcox Williams and Director of Technology and Innovations Ralph Valenzisi, and to tackle a major problem - the 2015-16 operating budget.
The Norwalk Board of Education is meeting Thursday night to approve year-long contracts for Norwalk Public Schools Communications Director Brenda Wilcox Williams and Director of Technology and Innovations Ralph Valenzisi, and to tackle a major problem – the 2015-16 operating budget.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Public Schools has lost a substantial grant, adding to what was already described as a challenging need to rework the schools 2015-16 operating budget.

Although the Common Council, with the support of Mayor Harry Rilling, fully funded the Board of Education’s budget request filed under former Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera, since then an unexpectedly high amount of money has been spent on special education. On Monday night, BoE member Mike Barbis informed Democratic Town Committee members that NPS has lost its Dalio Foundation grant.

“It was 2-year gig, they had an out after a year. They exercised that out,” Barbis said.

The grant was lost because some school principals did not follow Rivera’s instructions on using curriculum and instruction site directors, a position Rivera created to replace assistant principals, BoE Chairman Mike Lyons said.

The loss of the grant was first reported in May in the NancyOnNorwalk comments section. Lyons said at the time that there was still hope that Dalio might be persuaded to continue funding the grant, that this development wasn’t cast in stone.

Rivera said in August that Dalio’s $1.1 million grant supported the district’s efforts to implement the Common Core standards, enabling the district to hire “full-time curriculum and instruction site directors in five schools, as well as a key position for research, data analysis and accountability.”

Barbis said Monday that there is one curriculum and instruction site director at each of Norwalk’s 12 elementary schools, and Dalio funded half the cost of that.

A comment on this website said that Norwalk might have lost a large grant because of an argument between administrators.

“I have also heard of funding issues with the Asst. Principals but understand it may be due in part to an incident in which two administrators openly fought in front of a foundation funder,” Lisa Thomson wrote on May 20. “There seems to be an internal ‘battle’ going on at the elementary schools as the academic bar is raised and roles and responsibilities of staff change; but openly fighting in front of funders, who help make-up the budget difference of our short-changed ECS state funding, is unacceptable.”

Lyons said Monday that it wasn’t an argument, but a misuse of resources.

“It has to do with failure by some principals to properly implement the K-5 literacy program,” Lyons wrote in an email. “Some directed the CISDs to function essentially as assistant principals instead of doing the CISD duties the jobs had been redesigned for.  That, plus resistance to implementation of some assessments, was inconsistent with the grant terms.”

Interim Superintendent James Connelly has been “working on preserving as many of the positions as possible, with Alliance and general funding,” Lyons wrote. “We will finalize the budget on Thursday.”

The special BoE meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Common Council chambers.


81 responses to “Norwalk Schools has lost major grant”

  1. John Hamlin

    For most taxpayers, if their misconduct or insubordination at work led to a loss of that magnitude, they would lose their jobs, justifiably. What about these administrators? Or are they simply unaccountable? What will the BOE do about this?

  2. Anne Sullivan

    Could NON put a link to the actual grant up so we could all see what the grant requirements were?

  3. Mike Lyons

    John, this is one example of why the school system needs Steven Adamowski.

  4. Tony P

    Mr. Lyons, please. Perhaps if the HR department wasn’t such a mess for so long, this could have been avoided by a simple following of their existing performance reviews and standards. I have first hand knowledge of this. Charter schools and outsourcing, what your Boards’ choice seems to be, definitely aren’t the anwser.

  5. Mike Barbis

    Tony P — do you understand how charter schools work??? The Norwalk Board of Ed has nothing to with charter schools … we don’t create them, we don’t approve them, we have nothing to do with them. Reverend Lindsay Curtis has twice applied to the State Board of Ed for his South Norwalk Collegiate Academy. The Norwalk BOE has NOTHING to do with this. So why do you think this is on our agenda?

  6. Tony, we have no charter school plans at all, so I have no idea where that comes from. Nor have we outsourced anything relating to HR or evaluations (or have any plans to). Our evaluations of administrators have been poorly performed; that will start to change dramatically in July.

  7. NPS Parent

    WOW. This is such a complete shame and truly unbelievable.
    and we wonder where the kids get their attitudes??

  8. Anne Sullivan

    Mike, that’s a bit of a disingenuous response given the overall systemic problems- you could dismiss the “problematic ” principals tomorrow and still have other wide-spread problems that hampered the fidelity to the grant. While I still haven’t seen the actual grant in my discussions with various NPS stakeholders I have a sense of the grant expectations and thought it might be difficult for Norwalk.

  9. Admo

    Everyone goes after teachers but a major problem is the do nothing principals in Norwalk who are just figure heads and bullies. It’s time there is accountability. Who evaluated them? It’s not just test scores . It’s interaction with teachers parents and students and a well run school. Start cleaning house!! What a shame to loose this money because these principals think they can do whatever they want and as a result loose these site managers if the money is not there.

  10. Anne, no denying the systemic problems, but I’ve directly witnessed, in 21 straight years of having my own kids in NPS, the transformative power of having a great – or terrible – principal in a school. Having a strong principal, dedicated to making the school great and held accountable for results, can have a bigger impact than anything else we do. That will be a top priority for Dr. Adamowski.

  11. Tony Ditrio

    The idea that the Dalio Foundation left because of the five Principals is absolutely false. Once again the spin has been put on to deny the truth. The real reason that Dalio left was a dysfunctional Central Office that did not deliver anything on Common Core or engagement. In essence, what was a project that was to use innovative teaching strategies to improve student achievement for minority students in Title I schools became the same literacy project that was in all 12 schools. No funder wants to pay for what everyone else is getting. A funder wants to back new and forward thinking projects that could be self supporting and replicated. That is what was promised and not what was offered. The bigger shame is that the five schools did provide new and innovative teaching strategies that produce the excellent results for each of the five schools involved. The reading scores for the five school even surpassed expectations. It was Central Office that produce a mid year document that predicted failure and falsely accused the five Principals of not implementing a plan. I would refer anyone to the July 1, 2014 Board meeting to find out what the five schools were committed to implement. At this meeting I presented the plan to the Board. The plan presented was endorsed by Dr. Rivera. I can not speak for what happened when Dr. Rivera decided to leave for New London. I would ask those that accuse us of not implementing a program to take a look at the data. What was accomplished by the five schools should be commended instead of bashed by those elected to improve education in Norwalk. I am starting to wonder what their real mission is? Is it a vendetta at the expense of student achievement for minority students? I truly hope that time will show that this is not the case. I believe we are on the verge of doing something special for many students and that this opportunity may be wasted because some are choosing to start a battle that has nothing to do with kids.
    I have worked with the Dalio Foundation for four years. They have been supportive and have helped me develop and implement a program that has shown great promise in our efforts to eliminate the large achievement gap. It was not until we began working with Central Office that our project began to fall apart. The Dalio Foundation was interested in creating a learning environment that would be self sustaining after they left. It was a two year agreement and they did not see Central Office support after Dr. Rivera left. Why do Mr. Barbis and Mr. Lyons continue to attack Principals? I would be more than willing to have a real discussion of the Dalio grant and the many other misconceptions that are being spread using this forum. I realize that they speak with the information they are given. It is a shame that it is not checked out for accuracy before they speak.

  12. Tony, I know what the Dalios said about why this grant was pulled. They didn’t cite central office as the problem.

  13. MarjorieM

    Mike, when the assistant principals became curriculum site directors, I commented here. I wondered how assistant principals could suddenly become experts in the curriculum. I wondered if they would continue to do Special Ed meetings. I wondered how evaluating teachers would affect their time as curriculum directors. You assured me that I was wrong. Looks like the sky is falling once again, but not on me.

  14. Drew

    Is it at all remotely possible that the Dalio’s couldn’t stand the fact that the obstructionists continue to operate? We chased the last 2 very qualified Superuntendents out the door and 4 members couldn’t even support Adamowski to help make a fresh clean start. And maybe is was the false allegations that were made by certain board members who have YET shown us there evidence! Maybe those are just some of the reasons they pulled the funding…I know I would. I’m at least very happy that we have 5 ver committed BOE bi-partisan members committed to our children. And did the right thing by bringing in a superintendent who has the best interests for our children and district as well. Let’s hope the Obstructionists don’t run this out of town as well!

  15. Mike Barbis

    Tony Ditrio: Where did I attack a principal? You need to check your facts. And, by the way, the Dalios funded CISDs at our Title I schools but we have six of those … not 5. Please, check your facts

  16. Marj, regrettably you were partially right — the program was set up in a compromise between Dr. Rivera and the administrator’s union that left some unqualified people in the CISD slots, and even the qualified ones got pulled off CISD duties to do old AP duties. Even knowing what I know, I underestimated the degree of resistance to change that we would encounter there.

    This is not a falling sky (do you always need to get hyperbolic?); we’ll lose 4 of the 12 positions, and will need to reallocate the remaining 8 based on need.

    What this IS is a reminder that the best Strategic Plan in the world is only as good as its implementation. The resistance to change in NPS is very strong (see comments from Mr. Ditrio above, and the 4 independent studies that have confirmed that resistance (https://nancyonnorwalk.com/2013/06/norwalk-schools-culture-seen-as-an-obstacle-to-growth)).

    We need to get to the point that administrators in both central office and the schools are held accountable for their actions (or lack thereof). We have a new system for evaluations, but it hasn’t been used. But with a new superintendent, a new chief curricular officer, new chief business officer, new SPED director and other CO positions to fill, as well as several principalships due to retirements, we now have a real chance to bring in new blood, start applying the evaluation systems they way they were intended, and prevent this kind of thing from happening again.

  17. M. Murray

    What is the new system for evaluations? Hopefully it is a 360 type where participants evaluate their subordinates, their peers, and their supervisors.

  18. OMG

    Jesus take the wheel! For the children’s sake.

  19. Peter Torrano

    @Mike Lyons


    Thank you for being as crystal clear as possible explaining the reasons behind many issues for which you needlessly come under attack. I don’t often comment when I read articles such as this, but my personal experience with issues on the BoE have led me to believe that there is certainly a culture of obstructionism not just on the board (by some) but with several of the administrators as well. Dr. Adamowski is here as our newest (and hopefully long serving) Superintendent, and he needs the chance to prove himself. DTC Chairman Camacho and even our mayor have thrown their support behind him, as have I as RTC Chair. It is unfortunate that four of the members of the BoE, members of the mayor’s party, found it necessary to speak out, after the choosing of Dr. Adamowski, in what is probably a violation of confidentiality regarding other applicants. As for losing the grant, I have known you personally for many years and have no doubt that you do know the real reason for the non-continuation of the grant by Dalios. I also have to assume that due to protocol you cannot just blurt it out to appease or correct those who are speculating (as maybe I am).

  20. M. Murray, see https://nancyonnorwalk.com/2014/08/norwalk-boe-approves-teacher-school-administrator-evaluation-process. It DOES provide for some input into the evaluations of administrators from teachers and parents, and into evaluations of teachers from parents (so there is some ‘360’ in the new system). It just needs to be used with fidelity.

  21. AR

    BOE has too much power over the educational needs of the district. Many have the interest of their party and not the children. They like to fight instead of work as a team. Too many ego’s that always want to be right. How do individuals without children in the school system or teaching degrees make the decision for our children’s education.

    It starts off with the voters! Vote for the best candidate that has the interest of Norwalk at heart and not the party.

  22. MarjorieM

    THis is a quote referred to by Mike:

    Administrators will have 40 percent of their rating based on observation of leadership performance, 10 percent on stakeholder (parents and teachers) feedback, 45 percent on student learning and 5 percent on teacher effectiveness, Daddona said. Half of the student component is how the kids perform on state tests and half is based on local standards, he said.

    If most of the evaluation of curriculum directors is dependent on student performance, it seems that holding building administrators accountable for following through with making sure curriculum directors do their job is not important. The fault appears to be with the measures used in the evaluation process. If principals made a building decision to use curriculum directors in a more effective way, well, they were doing their jobs!

  23. The sad part is that ALL persons receiving any grant funding know the following. Grant funding will get pulled if grant guidelines are not adhered to. I know I wrote around 50 grants. All for children, teen, young adult programs, and received funding for 48. The only way to get, and keep money coming in, is to be honest about your program when you apply, follow all guideline better than the best, and above all maintain program integrity at all times. Just as in any investment…The investor wants to make sure their money goes to exactly to the idea or “what” they’re funding. I wouldn’t re-invest in anything that didn’t follow this basic premise. Who would in their right mind.

  24. MarjorieM

    More importantly, if I knew curriculum directors were just assistant principals, why didn’t Rivera or the Board know this?

    Also, the loss of the grant was BEFORE the Adamowski news, if I am reading this correctly!

  25. We now have to fix this mindset…

  26. Bill

    Lets keep wasting millions on special ed kids that will never pay a dime in taxes, and funding unions’ bloated salaries…meanwhile:


  27. MarjorieM

    Mark Chapman, could you possibly print the job description for the curriculum directors?

    Thank you for considering this request.

    1. Mark Chapman


      We will try to run it down…

  28. Marj – “The fault appears to be with the measures used in the evaluation process. If principals made a building decision to use curriculum directors in a more effective way, well, they were doing their jobs!”

    The measures are fine – they haven’t been applied properly by the responsible administrators. As for principals ‘using directors in a more effective way’ — using them in a way that lost us a major grant (and will lose 4 of those directors their jobs) seems rather IN-effective, to me.

    “If I knew curriculum directors were just assistant principals, why didn’t Rivera or the Board know this? Also, the loss of the grant was BEFORE the Adamowski news, if I am reading this correctly!”

    Marj, we know you have sources in the central office who keep you advised. We did know that this problem existed; I discussed it months ago with Interim Superintendent Connelly, and he updated the full Board several times in executive session. He asked us to low-key it while he first tried to save the grant, then as he’s worked at saving as many of the positions as possible. And correct, we knew this was likely to happen before Dr. Adamowski was selected as superintendent, though I don’t see the relevance.

    Steve Serasis – right on the money. It reminds me of a funny (but very true) line from the old movie Ghostbusters – “Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn’t have to produce anything. You’ve never been out of college. You don’t know what it’s like out there. I’ve *worked* in the private sector. They expect *results*.” The Dalios expected results.

    Finally, here is a link to the job description for the CISDs, as well as the appointees and their resumes: http://www.norwalkps.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_71596/File/BOE/MeetingDocs/2014-2015/AUG/Action%20I%208-5-14%20part%201.pdf.

  29. MarjorieM

    How can principals be blamed when the job description clearly states:

    Performs other duties as may be delegated by the principals?

    The curriculum directors were still in charge of evaluations, student engagement, noncertified staff, etc. etc. etc…….

    Also, I was directing the Adamowski comment to someone else who suggested that the foundation backed out (partly ) because of the turmoil with the Adamowski appointment.

  30. jason white

    FYI. .the file mike attached has resumes that contain email and home addresses as well as phone numbers..may want to take it down

  31. Marj, the general job description is clearly focused on curriculum and instruction duties — that is the whole point of the job. By your interpretation, the principal could assign a CISD to custodial duties all day long and they’d still be OK (“other duties”, right?). But you may make a good point. Knowing that some principals have abused the job description, we should probably tighten it up to eliminate that general language (or what would be my preference, put the CSIDs under the direct authority of the K-5 Literacy director in the central office and take the principals out of the loop entirely). Either method would eliminate the current abuse.

    Understood on the Adamowski situation. A Dalio representative was in the audience to see the distressing performance by the “no” voters on Adamowski (something that may hurt our ability to reach out to them for grants in the future), but THIS grant was pulled because its terms weren’t complied with, not because of the Adamowski vote.

  32. sofaman

    OK, snarky comments here are rightfully banned, and as an unnamed commenter here, I’m especially careful not to let discussions get rude. But Bill, I have to say, you have repeatedly insulted “special ed” children here, and someone needs to call you out for it.

    Since, apparently, it needs to be explained to you, the ENTIRE reason for including “special ed” kids in various programs, is so that like all kids, they can reach their full potential. And yes, by that I mean making a real and positive contribution to society. And, since I’m pretty sure you’re still not getting it: get and hold a job and pay TAXES. This bothers you exactly why? Perhaps there’s not enough ROI for your tastes. My what a human being you’ve become.

    And, given the extraordinary information out there on fantastical executive pay, the extraordinary wealth shown all around us here in Fairfield County , the numerous studies showing the undeniable decline of the middle class; your repeated rumblings about “bloated pay”, sound as if you have done zero homework on this topic.

    Bill, let’s make a deal. Let’s tie teacher’s salaries to 1/100th of top executive pay. Now, I’m selling myself short, as we all know any given teacher contributes waaayyyy more than 1/100th of value to society than any executive, but hey, I’m being generous. Deal?

  33. Jason, NON can do whatever it prefers, of course, but the link I provided is to the school system web site — that information is all public record and has been available online for over a year.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Mike Lyons, Jason

      That is our practice — if it is public record readily available online, we allow it. I’m not crazy about having our address out there either, but it is…

  34. Jason White

    Thanks mark although i am suprised that the boe doesnt redact the addresses phone numbers and personal email addresses before they put things online.

  35. Kathleen Montgomery

    @sofaman, you are spot on about Bill’s disparaging comments and views of children in special education.

    @ Bill, it will be helpful for the parents of children with special needs and society at large if you cease and desist.

  36. What?

    If a curriculum director has the responsibility of implementing the full elementary curriculum, ala Common Core, why should they be under the “direct authority” of the K-5 literacy director? I believe NPS employs math and science directors who would also want their programs supported? In any conflict there are 2 sides. Did anyone from central office or the BoE do everything they could to prevent the loss of funds by, perhaps, seeking feedback from the curriculum directors themselves, or did they just rely on “he said/she said” tactics?

  37. Concerned

    Hear, hear, Sofaman!

    Sounds like Bill might need a little social skills training – maybe ‘kinda late for that, but get him a good social worker/SPED teacher to help ‘shape his behavior’ and he can become a productive, caring ADULT!

    Blaming kids with special needs for the mess we call the Norwalk Public School System – shame on you Bill, shame on you.

  38. What?, the facts here were not disputed by the CSIDs. They were directly surveyed by the interim superintendent.

  39. MarjorieM

    Thank you, Mike.

    BTW, my sources are all over the school system! I check several sources to ensure credibility and accuracy. I am (unfortunately) not ALWAYS correct, but I am working to improve the quality of my information.

  40. Tony P

    Thank you for your response Mike. And I think you and I can agree on one point – since I was in district in 2006, I completely believe that no one has been enforcing the eval criteria w/ the administrators. When my building administrators at a city high school were toilet papering each others offices as pranks toward each other, that’s when I knew that two standards existed – one for admins, and one for everyone else. Actually had an admin HIDE UNDER HER DESK to avoid dealing with a parent whose student she suspended (as it turned out, w/o cause) However, HR KNEW ABOUT THIS! They never had the teeth, nor the paperwork to take ANY sort of remedial action in re: ineffective administrators. So, again, in my humble opinion, the attention needs to be paid to several areas, but CO is the first place I’d start. If the bill of goods that you and Board are going attempt to sell the City re: Adamowski is that he is going to somehow wrangle administrators, I don’t see where in his history he either at temped to do so, or was successful doing so. I’d also respectfully disagree with both yours and Mike Barbis’ opinion – you hired a candidate that CLEARLY has the background in bringing in private companies as contractors – his failed experiments in Cincy and Hartford are pretty stark to me. I was a strong supporter of you and the Republicans on the Board – I hope to be able to vote for you again next time around. Thanks for all your efforts on behalf of the kids of Norwalk.

  41. Questioning the

    NOT all CSIDs were treated as APs. Can’t paint all principals with the same brush, but most comments make it seems like every principal purposely misused the SDs. In fact, very little communication about the position was shared. Each group was told what they wanted to hear by the former super.

    SDs were solely used as literacy specialist this year. The other curricular areas were treated as if they did not exist or count.

    In order to improve SDs’ credibility with the teaching staff they MUST continue to work in the schools and be a part of the administrative instructional team.

  42. John Hamlin

    So I repeat —

    For most taxpayers, if their misconduct or insubordination at work led to a loss of that magnitude, they would lose their jobs, justifiably. What about these administrators? Or are they simply unaccountable? What will the BOE do about this?

  43. Mike Lyons

    OK, Tony, I understand your context now. The Board sets policy, not the superintendent – the superintendent carries it out. Adamowski understands that his job is to implement the Strategic Plan we’ve already adopted – not write a new one. He’s smart enough to know that Norwalk doesn’t need, and the Board would never approve, anything like the radically different approach he implemented in Hartford. What impressed us about Adamowski was not the particulars of what he did in Cincinnati, Hartford, Windham and New London, but rather his intelligence and his strength – his proven ability to overcome entrenched resistance. That’s what we need here to get OUR Plan implemented, to end the obstructionism that, by way of glaring example, lost us the Dalio grant.

  44. Mike Lyons

    John H, the Board has no direct legal authority over any staff member other than the superintendent. We get to vote on whether to hire administrators, but after that, their evaluations, discipline or termination are strictly under the control of the superintendent by law. What we’ve done is twofold – first, used our authority to set policy to approve the new administrator evaluation policy / system; second, hired s new superintendent who will believe will apply that policy seriously and hold people accountable.

  45. What?

    Which curriculum people were surveyed? I’m not sure you have that fact correct. Do you have written record of the survey? The only survey that actually took place was done by an outside evaluator (that was smart), with a sample of the curriculum people, principals, and other central office staff AFTER the district learned of the loss of this grant funding. How many times did central office staff go into schools to ensure all of the agreed upon expectations and initiatives in the grant were being adhered to? There was likely no doubt that some principals used the new position as Assistant Principals, but perhaps a lack of leadership in central office was truly at fault. Everything starts from the top.

  46. Abbyh

    @Bill – How sad for you that you take the perspective that you do. As for kids with special needs (never) paying taxes consider the fact that the following, who do pay taxes, are among the many, many successful folks who received an education despite their learning disabilities: Steven Spielberg, Charles Schwab, Tommy Hilfiger and CT’s governor, Dan Malloy.

  47. What?, the K-5 Literacy director met with many of the CISDs during the time that this was happening to try and assure that the program was being implemented. On one of her meetings she was touring a school with Dalio representatives when the principal started a shouting match in front of the Dalio reps (the principal was reprimanded for this). She raised these issues – as well as the problem with principals resisting implementation of the student assessments that were essential to the program – with Dr. Rivera, since as Literacy Director she had no line authority over the CISDs – the principals did. Unfortunately, Dr. Rivera decided to defer to the principals and to delay the program in the hope that he could smooth over the problems. But he left before anything was done. So you’re right, there was a CO failure there, but it wasn’t with the Literacy Director. In Norwalk, smoothing things over often doesn’t work – a firmer hand is needed. He starts in 21 days.

  48. Bill

    I never said don’t spend money on special ed kids. I said spend the same as every other kid, not triple or quadruple.

    This is bankrupting our school system and leading to less resources for our non-special ed kids.

    You that claim we need to spend $50-100k to educate a single special ed child while we spend only $15k on non-special ed kids are the heartless, greedy ones.

  49. Tony Ditrio

    I would love to stop responding to all of this but find it hard to let falsehoods go by. It is hard to listen to the attacks on five good Principals, of which I am one. We used the Site Directors exactly as they were to be used based on their job description. If anyone tried to circumvent that it was Central Office. They wanted the Site Directors to be Early Literacy Coaches. They met many times with the Literacy Curriculum Specialist for all day meetings through out the year. If it were not for the Principals they would have had no role in helping to implement Common Core. All of that work was left to the buildings. At my school the Site Director played major roles in Literacy, Math and just as important evaluation. He also helped me with building responsibilities. We shared it all. I really think one must read their job description before making claims of misuse. They are building administrators. It was Dr. Rivera that might have misled the Dalio Foundation not the Principals. They were promised Common Core coaches and they never got them. What was a multifaceted approach to student achievement for all turned into a k-3 literacy program that was exactly the same in every other school. I don’t think anyone has had more contact with the Dalio Foundation over the last five years than I have. I can not imagine that they left because the five of us did not do what someone else promised them. I believe if someone were to read the e-mail sent by the Foundation to say that they were not continuing that this could be somewhat settled. I ask that those who blame the five of us do so.
    The next issue is whether or not the five of us implemented the District strategic plan. I believe that we did and we did with great success. I think the accusers should look at the assessment results for K-3 literacy before they make such statements. It is easy to make false claims about us without any backup evidence. Issuing old reports that when read carefully don’t support their claims seems sufficient. This is”mean spirited” and unethical for us to be smeared and accused by those who should know better. I would expect more from my elected officials. I have been here long enough to recall when Board members cared about what Principals thought and supported us in our difficult positions. I laugh at the accusations that we are resistant to change. The five Principals are leaders of the most innovative changes that this District has ever seen. Even more so we are doing this as part of Dr. Rivera’s master plan. Why are the results of the k-3 literacy assessments not being talked about? Maybe because they contradict the ridiculous claims of obstructionism being spread on this forum. I want to ask Mr. Lyons to please stop running the school system through this blog and to stop making unsubstantiated claims. If he and Mr. Barbis, our other outspoken critic, really care about the schools system then let’s work together to make it better. I have asked Mr. Barbis countless times to come to my school, to talk with me and this has never occurred. There is nothing more important to the five of us than the students we serve. We all work hard at trying to help our students become successful adults. The false claims and negative comments are an insult to us and a cowards way to be rude and inconsiderate mostly under the cloak of fake identities.

  50. What?

    For what it’s worth, I did not “blame the literacy director”…I was talking about the top. I’m not sure where that came from.

  51. What?, my reference to the Literacy Director was in answer to your question “How many times did central office staff go into schools?”, in explanation of what happened to try to get a handle on it. I realize you didn’t criticize the Literacy Director, but I wanted to make sure people knew she was doing her job.

    Tony D, I was elected by the public to represent them on the Board. That includes explaining our views and yes, sometimes acknowledging faults with the system. I have been a big advocate for our schools and what they have accomplished (in fact, “Marj” regularly attacks me for being a ‘cheerleader’; see https://nancyonnorwalk.com/2015/02/opinion-plenty-of-projects-on-the-table-for-norwalk-public-schools, and https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2014/06/opinion-a-status-report-from-the-board-of-education). I’ve even praised you for your brain-based education initiative.

    That does not require me to pretend that we don’t have any problems. When three straight superintendents have referenced obstructionist administrators to me, I’ve noted that. When four independent studies of the school system have confirmed it (https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2013/06/norwalk-schools-culture-seen-as-an-obstacle-to-growth), I’ve given a lot of weight to that (since none of them had any ‘axe to grind’).

    When the head of the administrators union – you – says that ALL those people are wrong, that everything stated above is just a collection of falsehoods, and basically that everything is absolutely hunky-dory in NPS; well, its your job to defend your union members, but I think you’re just a bit biased.

    As I noted above, Norwalk has some great administrators, and people who have tried innovative approaches, including you (Sue Haynie, of all people, has praised your innovations at Kendall). My kids have had some terrific principals (Pat Dielman at Marvin comes to mind). I have never claimed that all administrators were bad, or even named any of them individually. But I’m not going to ignore the problems, either.

  52. Sped parent

    @Bill — You are barking up the wrong tree here. The decision to spend the kind of money you claim is being spent on special ed students is not a Board of Education decision. Federal law mandates they do that. In continuing to post the same comments in this forum, you not only display your true character, but also your ignorance on this issue.

    In fact, it was (and unfortunatley still is) administrators who believe like you do that it is ok to break the law and not provide an appropriate education to a lot of these special ed kids that led to a lot of the higher spending in special ed in Norwalk today. In doing so, they failed to see that it was not only beneficial for society, but also more cost effective for NPS to design programs in house so that these children would have less of a need for outplacement and would get needed help earlier, thereby being even more cost efficient down the road. The other districts that are not in the same place as NPS with respect to spending levels and outplacements are the ones that not only followed the law but had the vision to see that providing appropriate education was better from virtually every aspect.

    If you are so worried about tax dollars, why don’t you quit wasting your time on this site, and increase your productivity in an area that will actually generate tax revenue. At a minimum, know what you are talking about so you don’t continually waste other people’s time and productivity trying to educate you.

    I would imagine you are a big fan of those administrators, educators, government workers, and society that did not “spend” an appropriate amount of money educating Adam Lanza. That sure turned out to be a good decision, and I am sure that Newtown is so grateful to those that “saved” that district all of those tax dollars.

  53. @Bill:

    Here is some of his prior wisdom:
    May 4, 2015 at 2:36 pm
    Lets keep spending 5 times as much on the less productive kids at the expense of the highly productive and future taxpaying kids…win win.
    China will be eating our lunch in no time.

    Bill- It has been explained before. There is a formula that applies that requires the State to pay excess costs beyond an amount that is the product of the per capita student cost and a statutory multiplier

    My son is a productive student and will be a productive member of our community. He will be a taxpayer. He is an amazing dynamo of ideas and energy.

    Being “fair” I providing each with what they need

  54. Sped parent is right — if we do special education correctly in-house, we can BOTH reduce costs AND improve quality. That was one of Dr. Rivera’s initiatives (see https://nancyonnorwalk.com/2014/12/riveras-plan-to-hire-special-ed-teachers-would-save-money). It’ll take time, but this is definitely the direction we need to move in.

  55. MarjorieM

    First of all, my purpose for writing on Nancy on Norwalk was to seek transparency that taxpayers were promised from this Board of Education. In Norwalk, it appears that transparency is filtered through a translucent lense.
    Would someone kindly answer these lingering questions that have left me quite perplexed.
    (1) Who at Central Office was in charge of the Dalio Foundation Grant and therefore did not oversee that what was required, was accomplished?
    (2) is there a letter from the Dalio Foundation that explains why they withdrew funding?
    (3) -off topic- Was there a top candidate for the superintendent’s position who had the right credentials, but who was not chosen, as claimed by the four women on the BOE?
    (4) why are principals in need of the “hatchet man” who is a “hard ass who will discipline the NPS” if test scores are going up steadily?
    If I can’t keep up with the confusion here, I am wondering if others can!

  56. Kevin Di Mauro


    I would like some transparency also. Why don’t you set an example by revealing your true identity?

  57. John Hamlin

    Mike Lyons — thanks for the clarification and response to my concern. As you have indicated, the BOE has done what it can on this issue. Here’s hoping the new superintendent can clean house.

  58. MarjorieM

    I did some research and found out that Ralph V. was the liaison for the Dalio foundation in Norwalk. He was also evaluating some principals. Isn’t he the one who got a 3% salary raise at the last Board meeting?

  59. Kathleen Montgomery

    Good point, Kevin.

  60. MarjorieM

    @Kevin and Kathleen
    Why does someone who seeks transparency, seeks the truth, bother you? Do you feel threatened by my questions? Who cares WHO I am. Be glad someone asks important questions.

    Anyone who asks questions should be welcome here.

  61. Townie

    I heard the same about Ralph V. As you know, this is Ralphies 2nd time around in Norwalk. He left several years ago to work in the private sector…..big bucks and lots of travel to far away places we were told. During that time he apparently connected with Manny, before Manny came to Norwalk. The rest is history. Keep the closet doors opening. There may be lots more hiding in them.

  62. Sue Haynie

    NPS lost the Dalio grant at five Title 1 schools because, per Mike Lyons, the implementation was “inconsistent with the grant terms.” Inconsistency is a problem in NPS, documented in several 3rd party reports. But, just this 2014/15 school year, some examples:

    • A NPS Special Ed administrator tells the State legislators of the M.O.R.E. Commission in January 2015 that NPS’ implementation of SRBI* (aka Response to Invention) is inconsistent across elementary schools.
    • mCLASS Reading 3D assessments, the ‘little running men’, was given inconsistently to parents– some parents at some schools got them; parents from at least three Title 1 schools didn’t, until forced to.
    • mCLASS Reading 3D formative assessments* for our young, struggling readers were done, if done at all, inconsistently.

    What’s been consistent in NPS? The NFT and NASA presidents and the retiring Deputy Superintendent—three people who have had leadership roles giving them power and control for almost a decade, over all teachers, aides, principals, curriculum, instruction and central office administrators (including the Special Ed Director and the Instructional Specialist for K-5 Literacy). A trifecta of people who along with receptive Board of Ed members, are able to undermine initiatives, grants and Superintendents through a mixture of gate-keeping, obstruction or delay.

    *SRBI (Response to Intervention) and formative assessments, done well, consistently and with fidelity reduce special ed referrals.

  63. Sue Haynie

    Glad to see that both the Democratic and Republican Town Committee Chairman shook hands with Dr. Adamowski and pledged their support. Both parties share the blame for where we are, our 3rd permanent superintendent in 5 years, and share the responsibility to support and safeguard this new leader, Superintendent Adamowski.

    Obstructionism on the Board of Ed is done not with one vote but rather with a pattern of voting.

    While I was on the Board under Superintendent Marks, the obstructionists were a vocal, bi-partisan group of Republicans and Democrats, with a pattern of voting that often aligned with or advocated for NFT and NASA positions.

    While I was on the Board under Interim Superintendent Dadonna, that same bi-partisan group of Republican and Democrats had a reliable pattern of voting; they were steadfast supporters of the Interim and worked diligently to obstruct and delay the hiring of the new, permanent Superintendent. Meanwhile, the NFT and NASA who had so vocally derided Superintendent Marks’ every move happily acquiesced to the obstructionist BOE’s votes and the Interim’s leadership, content with the return of the status quo.

    It reminds me of a great quote: “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” Winston Churchill

  64. MarjorieM

    Sue Haynie, Red Apple, is back speaking for Mike Lyons. I must have hit a nerve (or two or three).

  65. Sped parent

    While I agree with broad point of your comments, and I am so thankful there are people out there like you that care about special ed children, I want to clarify one thing. Special ed students are not neccessarily entitled to reach their full potential, by law. I was told by administrators in the district that they only need to provide my child with an “appropriate” education, per FAPE in IDEA. As a result, these administrators did not seem to care if my child was working anywhere near his potential, and refused services as a result – even ones that were very low cost. I wonder how parents of regular education students in NPS would feel if they were told that the district doesn’t care about their child reaching their potential, but rather only care about them receiving an appropriate education? In some school districts appropriate means full potential with respect to special ed kids, but, in my experience,the two words mean drastically different things in some areas of NPS.

  66. Anne Sullivan

    After sifting through the commentary it’s clear that if we could harness all this passion and work together we could create a responsive, appropriate, world-class educational system for our children.

  67. Kevin Di Mauro


    What bothers me is the HYPOCRISY of your plea for transparency and your reluctance to reveal your true identity when posting comments here at NoN.

  68. MarjorieM

    This unfortunate loss of the Dalio Foundation Grant has stirred up so much controversy that it would seem another story on the details would be welcomed by the readers. Perhaps the actual letter from the Dalio Foundation opting out of the 2nd year of the grant could be published? It is FOIable. Just a suggestion.

  69. jason white

    Is that the same Ralph who was the former mayor’s nephew??

    Why would an it person be in charge of administering grants?

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Jason White

      Yes, he is the same Ralph. And the key to why he is involved in the grant is revealed in his title, Chief of Technology, Innovation and Partnerships. The position was created by Manny Rivera.

  70. MarjorieM

    @ Jason White
    Yes, same Ralph V.

  71. MarjorieM

    So, the Chief of Technology, Inovations and Partnerships loses a 1.1 million dollar partnership and he gets a 3% raise in salary? What happened to the accountability the Board is demanding?

    1. Mark Chapman


      Can you please source the 3% raise? There is nothing in the agenda for the past two meetings that indicates any raises. The new budget is being voted on tonight, and there may be some adjustments included, but we have seen nothing backing up your claim that he has alrerady gotten a raise as fact.

  72. MarjorieM

    Mark, all the administrators and central office administrators are getting 3%, according to what I heard. Perhaps you could ask for his contract?

    1. Mark Chapman


      “According to what I heard” is not the facts we deal with. It could happen tonight (Thursday), but there is no record of any raises yet, and, with the BoE looking for places to cut because of the unexpected SPED costs and the grant loss, expected raises could be on the block. We will know more in a few hours, but there have been no raises approved as of now.

  73. MarjorieM

    Mark, negotiated contracts can be changed at such a late date? I can’t imagine the unions would reopen contracts because of the sloppy handling of a grant. Am I wrong in thinking people have contracts at this time? If so, I apologize for the misinformation.

    1. Mark Chapman


      The 3 percent increase was voted on and approved at tonight’s meeting. It is now a fact.

  74. Concerned

    I agree with Anne Sullivan! If those people who are constantly battling it out on these feeds spent the same time and effort working with children as volunteers – and there are plenty of opportunities to do so here in Norwalk – instead of “talking’ about working with children, or worse yet “arguing” about working with children, we could have a world-class education system here in Norwalk with happy, successful students. No messiah is coming people, there’s no magic bullet, just roll up your sleeves – start working and stop yammering.

  75. MarjorieM

    Thanks, Mark.

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