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Norwalkers protest outside City Hall

A protest Tuesday outside Norwalk City Hall. (Harold F. Cobin)

NORWALK, Conn. — A

About 20 people, including some political candidates, gathered Tuesday outside City Hall in a dual protest against NPS’ planned switch to Middle School Choice and the Board of Education’s holding meetings on Zoom.

In a Friday announcement about the latest “choice” development, Norwalk Public Schools had said students might not be able to attend the middle school in their neighborhood, then added to parents’ outrage by saying that NPS’  planned town hall to discuss the transition was only going to be online.

Video by Harold F. Cobin at end of story

“They are going to go back to the old Norwalk way of doing things. We are done with that,” said Drew Todd, one of the event’s organizers.

Avril Johnson and Daisy Sebastian, both mothers, said they want their children to be able to attend their neighborhood middle schools. Sebastian said, “Middle school is really tough to transition to and what made it easier (for her children) is the neighborhood kids that they knew were in that building.”

Board of Education Chairman Colin Hosten released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying that students will be able to attend their neighborhood middle schools.

“A recent NPS communication to 5th grade families included some wording that unfortunately led many families to be understandably concerned about the process of middle school assignment,” he said. “The intent of the proposal is only to give families more autonomy when planning their children’s education, not less. To be clear, every student who wishes to attend their local feeder middle school will continue to be able to do so. The new choice proposal adds transportation options for new middle school families who may wish to explore academic pathways at another school.”

Todd, at the protest, call for Hosten to resign because of a Tweet.

Hosten had Tweeted a link to a petition calling for him to be removed, with the words, “Look ma I’m famous,” then deleted the Tweet. In a follow up Tweet, Hosten said he’d posted in a “glib attempt to laugh through” some of the “hurtful language” in the petition. He regretted the Tweet.

A Tweet issued by Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Colin Hosten at about 2 p.m. Tuesday.

“To try to cover it over with an apology is garbage,” Todd said.

Common Council member Bryan Meek (R-District D) spoke to protestors, offering support for “open meetings.” Meek, a former Board of Education member, said the original idea of “choice” was to give kids options. Their parents were expected to drive them to their chosen school and the “idea that we’re going to have buses crisscrossing the city at rush hour” feels like the “same old mistake we just made with high school start times.”

He said, “Let’s offer all the choices at all the schools and just rotate the teachers.”

 

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7 comments

Niz Judia September 28, 2022 at 4:15 am

Sorry that this is happening without due process, there should be notices to public as well as time for parents to discuss how their kids will be impacted! As well as elementary kids families. Norwalk BOE, city / district council are failing at their roles in serving the people.
Addressing teacher shortages, and how few public school kids actually graduate college- reflecting low standards to graduate. Or implementation the needed skills for adult life are a serious and critical topic!

David McCarthy September 28, 2022 at 9:06 am

I read the release. It was not an unfortunate word choice. It explicitly said kids had to be in a lottery and were not guaranteed a spot in their neighborhood school. If they’ve seen the error of their ways, ok…but don’t lie.

Bob Giolitto September 28, 2022 at 2:55 pm

Interesting assumptions which folks are stating as facts despite what has happened or been written. Kids can stay at their neighborhood school. There were multiple meetings both live and online and the process has been going on for quite awhile. And there will be more meetings.
Also interesting: Parents who have a middle school in their nrighborhood crying out that their kids should not have to go anywhere else. There is not one middle school in Norwalk south of I95. Those kids, the majority of whom are people of color and/or latinx, are forced to go to school outside of their neighborhood. Anyone who is priviliged to have a school near where they live care about them? Give the kids south of I95 the same opportunities as the kids nort of I95 and watch the grades and school ratings go up.

Nora King September 29, 2022 at 1:20 pm

@BobGiolitto Your post is incorrect and misleading. There are two middle schools south of I95. Columbus (Concord) and Roton. Roton is only 23 percent white with the majority hispanic. Middle Schools are all over the city of Norwalk. People buy homes and live typically where they want their kids to go to school, shop or go to church. Parents are upset all throughout Norwalk over another one of their pie in the sky ideas with no substance. The schools all throughout Norwalk are primarily Latino now. The reason the scores are not improving has nothing to do with race. It has to do with the fact that the central office has no accountability and they are focused on Welcome Centers, Incubation Centers and Pathways versus basic fundamentals. Start teaching our kids to write, read, math, social studies and the basics and the test scores will go up. As a mom of two kids – I witness how poorly the central office is not supporting teachers in the classroom to focus on traditional academics. The Chairman of the Boards role is to hold administration accountable. He and the entire board does not do that. I do not see one board member holding central office accountable.

Sarah LeMieux September 29, 2022 at 4:59 pm

Test scores are a flawed metric and Norwalk outdoes our peer districts on them anyway. The cognitive dissonance in these arguments is tiring, as is the coded bias about Chairman Hosten’s “lack of children.” The idea that the board and Central Office are not supporting traditional academics is laughable. Colin is a literature professor with three degrees, and the superintendent is a former science teacher! The only “agenda” they have is improving outcomes for students, and I am thankful we have such intelligent and qualified folks on our board and in our leadership. We did better than many other districts during the pandemic, and kept kids safely in school more, too.

Bob Giolitto September 30, 2022 at 11:13 am

Nora King I stand corrected and apologize. However, we should realize that Roton is there to primarily serve Rowayton, leaving one school for South Norwalk. And bravo to Sarah LeMieux. Colin is a dedicated and hardworking man, eminiently qualified to serve all of our children and families.

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