Now is not the time to give our students less

Norwalk Board of Education member Mary Ellen Flaherty-Ludwig. (Contributed)

I have been grateful to serve on the Norwalk Public Schools Board of Education since 2021 following a more-than 40-year career as an educator.

And with that experience, I know one thing is certain – as students begin to regain a sense of normalcy and belonging following two years of pandemic-induced trauma and interrupted learning, now is not the time to give our students less. 

I can appreciate the tightrope that our friends on the City-side have to walk between raising taxes – something that could ultimately drive out some of our valued district parents – versus cutting the school budget’s request increase.

While this is certainly not an easy decision to make, a significant reduction to our budget leaves numerous talented members of our staff across the district vulnerable. Integral positions such as school counselors, social workers and instructional coaches will be affected. The school district is a people business as is often said. We must meet our staff contractual commitments and our federally special education IEP mandates.

Our request centers on reinstating school counselor and social worker positions back into the local budget that we had previously covered with ESSER funds over the last two years. In addition the federal IDEA Grant and the Medicaid Grant have reduced their funding forcing us to move some of those associated teachers back to the local budget.

Acknowledging that we would all like to give more, not less, this is a moment where the Board of Education can come together with the City of Norwalk to responsibly provide our students and teachers with the most support as is fiscally possible.


John O'Neill February 16, 2023 at 1:17 pm

It seems to me that the Board of Education has more of a problem with Jim Himes and DC contingent for not flooding DC “Fun” Money long enough. Shouldn’t there outrage be directed at Himes? How about Robert Duff and his followers in Hartford…I see no outrage directed Hartford’s way either. Democrats have controlled Hartford for 50 years. We get crumbs, while mostly White districts in upstate as well as Looney-Land New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport are taken care of. I think our Board would serve us better if they would more consistently call out Democrat Led politicians who are obviously failing us.

Bryan Meek February 16, 2023 at 10:45 pm

Basic math from history. It took us 5 years to whittle back inappropriately funded headcount from grants in the 2000-10s. This is off the chart and will take considerably longer. Sad days, but kids are more resilient than we give them credit for.

Bryan Meek February 17, 2023 at 9:44 am

@JO. Amen. This has been the problem all along IMO. Too comfortable with being led around by Hartford.

A recent report showed our highway system to be the worst in the country. What do we get? A sidewalk on West Rocks Rd replete with the portable dais and usual photo opportunists for something that should have been maintained and repaired decades ago.

And then there is the 800 pound gorilla. The new NHS that promises to cannibalize other projects across the city for the next decade at least. We have nails sticking out of the gym walls at Naramake. Basketball backboards ready to fall at Tracy. But instead we will be building a monument to Bob Duff for his years of fealty Hartford. No one will discuss the real purpose of it. Norwalk was gladly sacrificed up for the Governor’s bent on regional government.

Duff gladly sacrificed Norwalk for what no surrounding town with plenty of land available would accept. Recall the packed school gyms and town halls with angry parents when they first hatched this? Now the cohort of children who were locked up for most of the Middle School careers get to live in a construction zone for the rest of their public school days.

Meanwhile, we won’t even have money to replace light bulbs in the new building as we squabble amongst ourselves to fund the operating budgets thanks to the 10 cents on the dollar (and shrinking) we get back from Hartford.

To analogize this. This would be like me or you replacing our perfectly fine working refrigerator that we are still paying for with a brand new $10k Sub Zero because it will only cost us $5k after some magical discount, then having no money left to put food in it.

Marjorie Madden February 17, 2023 at 3:11 pm

As I have said before how about cuts to central office. Nancy let’s get a list of positions and salary’s. There is a lot of room in central office.
For anyone to think that programs funded by pandemic dollars would last forever are very out of touch with economic realities

Sarah LeMieux February 18, 2023 at 12:30 pm

Norwalk may feel like a small town sometimes, but it isn’t. Our school system is really big, and that’s why the numbers associated with it are big. We only have interactions with our smaller school communities, so sometimes it can be difficult to remember that, but it’s important to keep in mind when thinking about the budget. Dr. Estrella significantly reduced both positions and money spent on central office relative to her predecessor Dr. Adamowski, who himself restructured to reduce co positions and money. Now we have 8 people supervising the work of 2000. Just think about that for a second.

Cities with similar demographics:

New Rochelle, pop. 70K, kids in public school 10K+, 4 year grad rate 80%, per student 24K

Superintendent base salary, 295K (not including “perks”)

Stamford pop kids in public school 16K, 4 year grad rate 86%, per student 21K

Superintendent base salary, 295K (not including “perks”)

It stinks that those of us who work in the private sector don’t have available to us the same kinds of insurance and paid time off as educators, but that doesn’t mean that educators don’t deserve them — it means that we should work to reform systems so that we all have these safety nets. It’s a problem with our bosses, not with teacher and administrator pay. If we had universal healthcare in this country, municipal school district budgets would be much less expensive, so remember that at the polls.

Also, in the private sector, the CEO of a company with 2,000 employees providing highly specialized services to children would certainly make more. The CEO of the College Board, which only has 300 employees, makes 2.6 million dollars a year. (and it’s a nonprofit)

John O'Neill February 18, 2023 at 6:33 pm

Some in this school discussion have brought up redlining, segregation and now Universal Health Care ..
Regarding Universal Health Care – One needs to look towards Vermont to understand how and why Universal Health Care is economically unfeasible. Although their Socialist Senator may have 3 houses, there’s just not enough money to support such a thing..Think about that..A state that’s elected a Socialist with 3 houses and they can’t afford that program. What’s that all about?

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