Norwalk’s next super is Manuel J. Rivera

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Manuel J. Rivera

Updated 5:28 p.m. Monday, July 1, with additional details.

NORWALK, Conn. – A man who was named National Superintendent of the Year in 2006 has been selected by the Norwalk Board of Education be Norwalk’s new Superintendent of Schools.

Subject to approval of his contract by the Board at its meeting of July 9, it is expected that Manuel J. Rivera will begin his term as superintendent on July 18.

He will be the first Latino superintendent in Norwalk’s, history, according to Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons.

The announcement was made Monday afternoon in a press release. The BOE said earlier that the announcement would be held up until July 9.

The former superintendent of the Rochester Public Schools (with 47,000 students, 56 schools and 6,000 employees) is no stranger to Norwalk, the release said.

“He lived in Norwalk for many years and his children attended Silvermine, West Rocks and Norwalk High School (one of his daughters graduated with the Class of 2004 at NHS),” Lyons said in a press release.

A graduate of Brandeis University with a degree in urban studies (and where he was an NCAA Track and Field All-American), Rivera later received his masters and doctorate degrees in education from Harvard University, the release said. He served as Deputy Secretary of Education for the state of New York (taking that position in lieu of an offer he had received to become superintendent of the Boston Public Schools), and has also had extensive private sector experience with Edison Schools Inc. and Education Learning Alliance Inc.

Rivera has a long record of working to close the achievement gap affecting minority students, for which he received recognition from the Congressional Black Caucus as its TEC Champion Award recipient in 2005.

Lyons said in the release that Rivera “shares the board’s commitment to building a school district of excellence for the 21st century, one that truly embraces diversity and the goal of success for each and every student. We believe that he will bring to his superintendency all the talents and values the board – and the Norwalk community – looked for in our lengthy search.”

Rivera told the Board that he is “very knowledgeable about the city of Norwalk and knows first-hand that it is a wonderful and terrific community in which to live.” He was a Norwalk resident (homeowner) and parent for many years, according to the release. “We are happy to welcome him back, and excited to have him take the helm of the Norwalk Public Schools,” Lyons concluded.

Rivera was recognized as New York State Superintendent of the Year in 2005 by the N.Y. State Council of School Superintendents  and National Superintendent of the Year in 2006 by the American Association of School Superintendents.


23 responses to “Norwalk’s next super is Manuel J. Rivera”

  1. NorwalkVoter

    He sounds like an excellent choice. Welcome back to Norwalk Mr. Rivera. We need you.

  2. M. Murray’s

    Initial reviews appear promising. A little concern about getting him signed after his initial hiring in Boaton and then backing down on the deal, but their BOE may have been part of the problem. Will make some more calls and do research in Rochester and Albany and let you know what I hear. He was also exec for GEMS schools internationally. Don’t know much about that organization yet.

  3. EveT

    According to this article, one of his great accomplishments was to close all the middle schools. “He agreed, but came back three months later and said, “I know what we agreed to, but I really think we should eliminate all the district’s middle schools.”Three months later, the district was composed solely of elementary schools that ran K-6 and high schools that went 7-12. Other major changes include: creating seven smaller high schools, partly from a $5 million Gates Foundation grant; giving parents the ability to choose any public school for their children; and creating an early college high school model.”
    Found at http://www.districtadministration.com/article/manuel-rivera

  4. piberman

    What an outstanding appointment by the BOE under the leadership of Michael Lyons. And coming almost a year after the historic Arbitration Award. All of Norwalk can look forward to a revitalized public school system. We all owe the BOE our deep thanks and appreciation. And to Dr. Rivera godspeed in your mission.

  5. M. Murray’s

    Wow Peter. I thought I was pretty good at doing timely and thorough research into people’s backgrounds. You must have either had advanced notice or a full squad I investigators on call to be able to find out his name an determine the was an outstanding appointment in such a short period of time.

  6. Oldtimer

    M. Murray
    No, Peter doesn’t have enormous resources to do background checks. I suspect he doesn’t even approve of the concept. However, he really likes to sound like he knows everything. Haven’t you read some of his “expert” comments on labor unions, especially teacher’s unions ? He pretty much recites the party line everytime. His comments can be entertaining, if not taken seriously.
    Mr Rivera does sound like a pretty good choice, if the PR is even close to accurate. I hope he is a good choice and calms the waters between the City and the BOE. That should never be an adversarial relationship, if both sides work for the kids best interests. If Mr Rivera is not easily intimidated, he could do very well. By law, he will be the CEO of the BOE. I would love to be there when he explains that to the BOE.

  7. Bruce Kimmel

    He sounds quite good to me. An interesting background, excellent credentials, and some prestigious awards. Plus, his kids went to our schools and he knows the community. That might be exactly what we need; someone who knows how our system works, but also has considerable experiences in other systems. I have a good feeling about this choice.

  8. Lisa Thomson


  9. marjoriem

    Edison Schools? I think they lost all their money and failed to achieve their goals.

  10. Simmie

    Considering the colassal failures of the last superiendents….ahhh, crossing my fingers!

  11. M. Murray’s

    I remember Mr. Rivera from years back and he seemed to be a pretty good guy. A quick check shows that he is pretty well respected in the field. Spoke with some colleagues in Rochester and they said that he worked well with the union. He negotiated a deal that had teachers doing more but were well compensated for the changes. He also has pretty good corporate and political connections which could result in more money for the district. Questions that I hope the board asked were about his leavin Rochester due to conflict with the Mayor and resulting budget cuts. Budget disagreements are common here. I would also ask about his decision to leave the Boston superintendent’s job without even starting. This left Boston without a superintendent after an expensive search process where e agreed to be superintendent. Still researching Edison.

  12. I can tell you that there were contractual issues with Boston that left his situation there up in the air, and that during that time he was asked by the New York Governor to take the #2 spot in New York State on Education:



    The Board discussed these matters with both Proact and Dr. Rivera at great length and were satisfied with the explanations we received.

  13. Joe Espo

    That he’s a union pushover is not good. I was hoping we’d get someone to get in the union’s face. Until this union is sent packing, we won’t have any meaningful reform.

  14. Inquiring minds

    Seems all the secrecy was out of sync with the inclusiveness and transparency direction the district,(was),working toward. Oh well, just the most important decision a community can make, no need to be informed, right? Trust these volunteers that we elect, no need to question or challenge them, right?

    Now when will the details of the contract be released? Or is that, now, also none of the communitys conerns either?

    NEXT!! Sounds like the soup guy in NY.

    Been some poor judgements made in the past. The district has gone through half a dozen super’s and interims in as many years. This one hired with no discussion, no input from anyone or anywhere with the teachers and staff or the parents, through the entire process. Well, the teachers and parents dont have to be consulted, they dont have any clues anyway, right? This behind the closed door process reinforces a precedent that the district was trying to step up from, right? Lets just trust the board, roll the dice and cross our fingers and toss another half a million at someone. Again, right? Just cross our fingers and hope that the new guy has the passion, the commitment and the chutzpah to take on and conquer the challenges the district is struggling with.
    As for the board? Public relations, FAIL.. NEXT!!

  15. LWitherspoon

    @Mike Lyons
    A few Nancy on Norwalk readers have stated here that the vetting process was insufficient because 1) the names of finalists were not made public and 2) this did not allow the public to do their own vetting before the selection.
    Now that the selection has been made, can you respond to those claims? Is there anything you can tell us now about the selection process that you couldn’t tell us before?

  16. LWitherspoon, I can tell you that we evaluated 11 candidates recommended by Proact at great length, first cutting the list to 7 for initial interviews, then 3 for final interviews (obviously including Dr. Rivera). We had detailed background checks performed on the finalists, interviewed references, and conducted final interviews that lasted up to 2 1/2 hours. Board members also did their own research, both on the Internet and with checks into candidates through our own contacts. We also extensively discussed and debated the candidates; there were Board members who advocated other candidates, too, but the candidate with the most support on the Board (who almost all Board members could agree on) was Dr. Rivera.

    I can also confirm that none of the three finalists would have kept their names in for consideration if we had subjected them to a ‘public vetting’ as part of the process. The process we followed is standard operating procedure in the private sector, and in my opinion was the right thing to do here, too; our priority was picking the best candidate, and if maintaining confidentiality was the best way to keep the best candidates in the mix (it was), that’s how we moved forward.

    I understand some people’s frustration with this process; past Boards of Ed haven’t established a stellar track record with some of their picks. But ‘public vetting’ (done with most of our past unsuccessful superintendents) didn’t solve the problem.

    The Board was elected and given the responsibility under State law to make this decision. I think most people who look at Dr. Rivera objectively (even some of the bloggers!) may have to grudgingly admit that we did a good job – and that’s the bottom line.

  17. Joe Espo

    Once the teacher’s union got their stipulated four day notice, (twice) not a peep from Bruce Mellion. For good reason. Manny Rivera seems to have been known in Rochester as a free spending, union cozy-up. Many thanks to our Board of Ed. Hold on to your wallets, everyone.

  18. 0ldtimer

    Joe Espo doesn’t like unions, doesn’t want teachers to be well-paid, doesn’t like the new superintendent. That Joe doesn’t like him is, in my book, a good reason to think Dr Rivera will be a good choice.

  19. Fred Wilms

    An excellent choice! Dr. Rivera has impressive credentials plus has proven connections with Norwalk. Our school system is at an inflection point, and we now have the opportunity to make them the very best they can be.

  20. Joe Espo

    Manny Rivera, as assistant super of Rochester, endorsed a 40 PERCENT pay increase over three years!!!!!! Are you kidding me? This is a disaster!!!


  21. Thoughts to ponder

    Operating in stealth may have short term adavnatages but in the long run excluding everyone with skin in the game certainly leaves the door wide open for animosities to fester for being excluded if not all but ignored, in the entire process, no? There are significant differnces between SOP’s of private industry and actually governing a public entity, no? There are ways that the board could have been more inclusive to the comunity, perhaps not in the entire vetting process but certainly meetings and polls could have been held and posted. Discussing what the districts needs are and what people think was wrong and right about preceeding adminstrations. It remains to be seen, whether the choice was good for the district. On paper, certainly looks like a prudent choice but paper means nothing in real world enviroments. The job is challenging and certainly must be frustrating given the internal and external dynamics. Mr. Rivrea may be a solid candidate with a stellar curriculum vitae but that doesnt automatically guarrantee that the candidate is a good fit or has the personal commitment, energy and fortitude to remain and right the districts ship and set a heading for a true course to success. Just the fact that local bloggers, teachers and parents, those with skin in the game, have to do their own research and vetting and post their findings in public forums after the decision is made begind closed doors, leaves open the garage door for more chaos to also doom any possible progress. A job well done is not always given fair recognition, however, obviouous errors are sure to see daylight and eventually will come back to bite one’s rear end, every single time.

  22. Mike Lyons

    Regarding the comment from “Thoughts to Ponder” — “There are ways that the board could have been more inclusive to the community, perhaps not in the entire vetting process but certainly meetings and polls could have been held and posted. Discussing what the districts needs are and what people think was wrong and right about preceeding administrations.” We did that: https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2013/01/boe-names-outreach-committee-in-superintendent-search. Sixteen public sessions seeking input on these topics were held in venues all over town in February, and the results led to the Profile (job description) for the candidate we would seek. Manny Rivera meets practically all of the criteria the public said they wanted to see. Pay attention, Thoughts to Ponder; don’t criticize for not doing things we clearly did!

  23. Jay hariton

    I have been a teacher at Norwalk High school for 38 years. The last successful superintendent was Ralph Sloan. Dr Sloan made it a point to get to know every teacher. It took a few years but he invited every teacher to his office for a 30 minute meeting after school. He was visible in the schools and encouraged and valued your input. The last two superintendents have been missing in action. They rarely visited the schools and never encouraged or valued anyone’s thoughts. .
    If I could give Dr Riveria one piece of advise it would be to get into the schools get to know your staff and make an attempt to raise moral which is currently at an all time low. What ever your vision is to improve the Norwalk schools you can only accomplish if you have the support of the faculty who are responsible for implementing your vision.
    Good Luck
    Jay Hariton
    Social Studies
    Norwalk High School

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