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NPS needs 4.6% increase

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As a long-time resident of Norwalk, I’m saddened by the attitude I encounter as a real estate agent:  I can’t tell you how many times I have been showing homes to potential buyers and they make derogatory comments about how the quality of Norwalk’s schools.  Just last weekend, I was working with clients looking for homes in Wilton and Westport.  I asked if they would consider surrounding areas and they responded “Yes, but definitely NOT Norwalk.”

It stung to hear them eliminate Norwalk from their consideration set but I understood why they did.  I have lived here for 20 years and my children all attended Norwalk Public Schools.  My two daughters are graduates of Norwalk High School; however, three years ago I took my son out of Norwalk Public Schools and moved him to a private school. It was a difficult decision, but the writing was on the wall.  Year after year, I watched our schools struggle with being over-crowded, programs being cut, and teachers and support staff burdened with overwhelming caseloads. 

A high-quality school system is what will attract more home buyers to our town.  COVID has had a huge impact on this community from an education standpoint and students and teachers are struggling to adapt.  That’s why, it’s unfathomable to me that the city is poised to receive a 6.1% increase in funding while the Board of Ed would only receive a 2% increase which would result in $5 million in cuts from our schools.  Our district already operates on a shoestring budget – what on earth is there left to cut??

I keep hearing talk about how the school district can access federal funding and while that would be helpful in creating additional programs and hiring more staff, it cannot be used to cover existing costs.

Without the City’s investment in our schools, the perception of Norwalk’s schools as being low quality will continue to persist and result in lowered home values as compared to our neighboring communities. And as we know, lower home values results in lower taxes which results in even less money to fund our schools and other community needs.

No one likes to pay more taxes, but we simply can’t continue to shortchange our schools.  Our school system is in crisis and we need leaders committed to actionable change.  Our students and their families are watching.  Please, Common Council members, don’t turn your back on them.  Please do the right thing and fully fund the BOE by approving a 4.6% increase.

Margaret Kozlark

10 comments

DryAsABone February 20, 2021 at 7:31 am

High quality education does not equate to the amount of money spent. It probably has more to do with how well the money is spent.
Salaries,benefits and pensions are some of the most generous in the nation but the results are questionable.
The folks that you are showing your houses to are typical…the buzz words of yesterday are alive and well in this state. Simply put, racisim is alive and well. Show them Darien, if they are white enough and wealthy enough but advise them that Darien produces as many Alex Kelly’s, per capita,as most other surrounding towns.
Managing Norwalk well and controlling spending will have better long term benefits for the community than throwing money at problems.

Mike Mushak February 20, 2021 at 8:36 am

This is highly inaccurate. Describing an actual budget increase as a budget cut is just strange, especially when the city is actually investing a record amount in our schools!

I can’t help but notice Ms. Kozlark’s real estate website actively promotes properties in other towns and cities, including high-rise luxury condos in Stamford, a city with a higher tax mil rate and lower-performing schools. Strange.

Here’s the truth. After decades of disinvestment, Norwalk is not only investing a record amount in its schools, but is planning a new state-of-the-art high school (Norwalk High) to complement our other existing great high school (Brien McMahon).

We are the top performing urban school district in the entire state, and have done this all while vastly improving our infrastructure including our parks and ball fields, as well as repaving our streets and installing new sidewalks all over town.

And we’ve done all this while keeping taxes stable over the last decade, with a fiscally conservative approach that still includes progressive ideas for improving our community, including more affordable housing and better recreational facilities and more vibrant and walkable downtowns.

Perhaps Ms. Kozlark might want to spend more time here instead of marketing properties in other towns, learning about the many great things happening in Norwalk including its strong fiscal management and record school investments. We are anything but “low-quality” as she states.

And I would be happy to introduce her to many new residents we know who moved here recently including young families, who specifically chose Norwalk over other towns in our area to be part of our growing and vibrant diverse community that is getting better every year, including our schools.

John ONeill February 20, 2021 at 1:28 pm

@Margaret — I hate to break it to you…It’s not a money issue in Norwalk schools..Its a lack of discipline and student accountability problem. I’m sure many would agree with me privately. It’s time our Board of Education admits that. I would guess you moved your son to a private school because of a better structured learning environment above all else..It’s time for us to have an honest conversation about what our teachers have to tolerate in the classroom…It’s not pretty. Where the union on this? #BasicsRbest

John ONeill February 20, 2021 at 1:35 pm

@Mike — If our schools are so terrific why is Bob Duff pushing “Open Choice” lottery for some lucky kids to attend out of district schools? Based on your comments it should be the other way around..
I’m confused but my wife will atest that comes easy to me..

George February 20, 2021 at 4:38 pm

Mike. All good points however getting out and seeing the world might help your view.

I left Norwalk many years ago due to the schools. I did not want my children going to Norwalk Schools. The surrounding towns provide a private school level education without the expense. They actually prepare students for the next level.

Current Home buyers see what I saw years ago and this is what Ms. Kozlark is pointing out.

Home buyers with no children may very well elect to live in Norwalk until they have children at which point they may move out of Norwalk. Parents with school aged children will almost always take a lesser house in order to provide the best education for their children.

I see no reason why you would care why Ms. Kozlark has listings outside of Norwalk. Good for her. She knows her market much like any other business person. Attack as you see fit…it must feel so good but means absolutely nothing.

By the way, my nephew was highlighted by his Kendell School principal for graduating 5th grade as the 4th highest match achiever. He scored a 46…that’s out of 100 not 50. Now ask yourself as a parent would you want that for your kid? Yeah, then try getting into college. That’s why Norwalk Schools have a long way to go. A new regional high school is not going to fix the schools!

Does anyone in Norwalk really believe that Darien or Westport parents will send their kids to Norwalk Schools? Yeah, okay!

No matter how much money you throw at schools it will not fix anything until parents are involved in their children’s education.

Look up Guarding Angel’s school in Palm Harbor,Fl. They graduate 8th graders with a reading level of grade 13.8. That’s higher than 1st year college level reading. All other basic subjects fall close behind. They focus on the basics, not all the “extra” feel good classes. Their budget for each student runs about 10k per year.

Norwalk Dad February 21, 2021 at 1:36 pm

Unfortunately, the perceptions of NPS are driven to a large degree by ignorance and racism. The home buyers dismissing Norwalk without a second thought probably wouldn’t be happy here, so it would be best for all for them to look in surrounding towns. We had neighbors who moved to Wilton “for the schools”, we stayed put and sent our children to Norwalk High. Guess which kids got into better colleges. Ours did, we’re talking Patriot League and Ivy League schools. The truth of the matter is that NPS is a large DIVERSE public school system with all of the challenges and benefits that go with the territory; the top performing students are performing on par and getting into the same colleges as the top performers in surrounding towns. The difference is that they graduate with an understanding the the world is not made up solely by and for the benefit of wealthy white people. So yes, fund the schools, but please do not disparage the entire system based on a lack of ability or will to gather accurate information. Thank you.

JustATaxpayer February 21, 2021 at 2:54 pm

For people who ACTUALLY have children in Norwalk Schools, most would send our kids to a different district if we could. For all the sidewalks and diversity, it’s a no brainer.

Seth Kent February 22, 2021 at 10:51 am

We hated having to leave Norwalk, but the schools compared to the surrounding districts could just not even remotely compete. It also sucked that those who stayed fractured into so many different private schools, which didn’t make sense for us financially compared to buying a house in a surrounding town. And our taxes went down, it was a no brainer.

John Miller February 22, 2021 at 3:44 pm

@Margaret – The Norwalk’s school system isn’t underfunded, it’s mismanaged; not at the classroom level but by the central office which has become an out of control and overstaffed bureaucracy.

George February 22, 2021 at 5:32 pm

Norwalk Dad. The other local schools also have diverse student bodies. Darien has ABC students…A Better Chance. The ABC students are well received and some become Class Presidents.
Weston has students from Bridgeport and I would bet Westport and Wilton has a diverse student body. Granted, not as diverse as Norwalk.

The surrounding towns students do not need to be top performers to get into the top schools. The reputation of the school systems speaks for themselves and shows when you arrive for a college tour. I walked into Belmont University with my son. When they asked where we were from we did not have to finish. The words out of their mouths was “Darien, Ct…we love Darien students”. They also asked if he was an Eagle Scout, which he is. They knew that the scout program in Darien is also top notch. 99 percent of scouts become Eagle. We have 3 Eagle Scouts.

Yes, when all else fails blame it on ignorance and racism.

That leads us to believe that US News and World Reports must be ignorant and racist. Norwalk HS is ranked 88th. Weston, Staples and Darien are in the top 10.

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/connecticut/rankings

Schooldigger has NHS at 77. Clearly they must be ignorant and racist too.

https://www.schooldigger.com/go/CT/schoolrank.aspx?level=3

But please do not let facts get in the way. Most parents, myself included will provide the best possible education they can for their children. Being a product of NHS I knew where not to send my kids.

That is not ignorant or racist.

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