NORWALK, Conn. — A Norwalk high school administrator has been “demoted” and “railroaded,” multiple sources said.
P-Tech Curriculum and Instruction Site Director Renita Crawford was transferred to Brien McMahon High School suddenly and without warning last week, the sources said. Two sources described Crawford as outspoken and suspect a cover-up, while Norwalk Branch NAACP President Brenda Penn-Williams spoke of Norwalk Public Schools doing “shady things.”
Norwalk Public Schools Chief of Staff and Communications Brenda Wilcox Williams initially said that a Freedom of Information request should be submitted to learn Crawford’s employment status. NancyOnNorwalk put in a request to Labor Relations Attorney Barbara Namani, asking for Crawford’s current status and her history with NPS. A week passed without a reply. Informed that NancyOnNorwalk was going forward with a story, Wilcox Williams confirmed that Crawford is not at P-Tech.
“Ms. Crawford is assigned to BMHS as a history teacher. We have no further comments on this personnel matter,” she said.
Crawford was reportedly born and raised in Norwalk. A Carver Foundation of Norwalk webpage posted in 2020 describes Crawford as “a Carver alumna since Kindergarten.” She’d been a P-Tech (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) CISD since at least November 2020, when NancyOnNorwalk obtained communications from P-Tech School Governance Council members objecting to elements of the then-developing plans for a new Norwalk High School. She represented P-Tech at an October BoE Curriculum Committee meeting, in which she called herself an assistant instructional leader at P-Tech.
Crawford was reassigned while P-Tech Principal Karen Amaker was out on leave, sources said. Crawford had been performing as acting principal in Amaker’s absence, according to one source. Another said NPS had assigned Marie Allen to serve as acting principal.
Amaker said she could not comment on personnel matters.
Penn-Williams took to Facebook on March 16 to leave a cryptic post about the allegations in a closed group. The rules of that group do not allow the news media to quote posters without their permission.
In an email to NancyOnNorwalk, Penn-Williams alleged that NPS is “doing some shady s–t. They have declared war with me. I am not going to stand for my God daughter to be railroad.”
She declined to say who her goddaughter is.
Separately, Penn-Williams is suing Norwalk Public Schools and the City, alleging that she was discriminated against when her employment as a substitute teacher was terminated in October 2018. She also alleges that she was retaliated against for exercising her right to free speech.
Attorney Ryan Daugherty represents Penn-Williams in her lawsuit. He confirmed Tuesday that Crawford is her goddaughter.
Penn-Williams said Crawford had been “fired after June.” This aligns with what other sources say: Crawford was told that her time in the school district would be over at the end of the school year.
“They have made up lies on her,” Penn-Williams said.
“I don’t know the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Penn-Williams’ goddaughter, but I do know that Mrs. Penn-Williams is understandably dubious of some of the actions taken by NPS, particularly those actions that lack transparency and impact her friends and family,” Daugherty wrote. “Mrs. Penn-Williams is a leader of the Black community and a taxpayer of the City of Norwalk, she deserves answers to her questions.”
Crawford has not commented. An email sent to her Wednesday at an email address provided by Penn-Williams went unanswered.
Norwalk Association of School Administrators (NASA) President Lynne Moore did not reply to an email asking about the situation.
Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Mary Yordon said, “I have spoken in the past about and continue to believe that high turnover of staff has an impact, because it takes time to develop solid working relationships. These relationships are essential to high functioning schools. I can’t comment on this specific situation.”
NPS is facing a lawsuit due to a personnel issue that occurred under Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella, who took her post in July 2020. Donalda Chumney alleges breach of contract and bad faith in her brief tenure here as NPS Chief Academic Officer. The complaint alleges that Chumney, labeled “damaged goods,” was forced to become a school principal in Virginia after departing NPS.
Information added, 3:30 p.m.