NORWALK, Conn. – Local school districts are combining their adult education programs under one administrative umbrella in a move that Norwalk Public Schools says will provide better services to its adult students.
“It’s horrible, they are trying to get rid of all programs at the Norwalk Board of Ed that are minority-based,” Norwalk Branch NAACP President Brenda Penn-Williams said Tuesday.
Penn-Williams was one of two people who contacted NancyOnNorwalk this week to object to what Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski described last week as a consortium of services.
“This decision was made without regard to its effect on present and future Norwalk adult education students,” wrote a woman who asked to remain anonymous.
Adamowski at last week’s Board of Education meeting announced that staff was working on merging local adult education efforts, with “Stamford and Norwalk as the bookends” in a group effort that would include Westport, New Canaan, Weston and Darien. The district director retired last year at the age of 80, a longtime secretary also retired and the program is being run by two night supervisors who are also retiring, he said.
“We would be faced, if we simply try to replicate or continue what we are doing, be faced with restaffing the entire program. There are also some teachers there, and a counselor, who are in the same situation,” Adamowski explained.
The other reason for consolidating, he said, is that Gov. Ned Lamont has asked school districts and municipalities to share services to reduce overhead, he said.
“I don’t want to hear that mess,” Penn-Williams said, of the Lamont reference. She heard about the changes three months ago but couldn’t get any information from the Board of Education, she said.
“They kept this under the radar,” Penn-Williams said. “Adamowski is the sneakiest man… he needs to go. He is messing up our school system like he messed up the rest of them…. Now they have an excuse. This was in the works before the governor said anything about this.”
The adult education program primarily serves minorities, according to Penn-Williams.
Stamford will “serve as the fiscal agents for the program,” which is required by the State to offer a high school diploma program for adults, English Language Learners and citizenship programs, a General Education Development Test (GED) program and workforce training, Adamowski said last week.
The idea is that once a participant completes a GED or ELL diploma, he or she goes into a workforce training program and earns a certificate from Norwalk Community College. But Norwalk has not been offering the workforce training component, according to Adamowski. “This is not an attempt to save money, this is an attempt to improve service,” he said.
“(If) we do this on a broader level, with the other districts involved as a consortium, we would be able to repurpose some of the money that we are using as administrative costs now to be able to pay for the workforce development program, and have the full spectrum of the adult education program,” Adamowski said.
The BoE did not vote on the item as it’s adult education, which is not under the Board’s jurisdiction. Adamowski said he was keeping them informed as the changes are being “explored now” under Norwalk Public Schools Chief Academic Officer Brenda Myers’ leadership.
The anonymous writer provided NancyOnNorwalk with an undated letter that the writer said was received last week.
“We are excited to announce our new adult and continuing education partnership with Stamford, Darien, New Canaan and Westport,” the letter reads. “… Our new partnership will allow us to expand our offerings to include Family Literacy with Child Care, Workforce Readiness with internships, and Vocational ESL for Healthcare, Eco-cleaning and Culinary, the National External Diploma Program and Computer Training and Development.”
“For the first time we will be able to mail information to all residents in our community and make the Adult and Continuing Education brochure available electronically in 90 languages,” the letter said. “Beginning with Fall, 2019 you will see over 11 different locations and they will be accessible by the CT bus line and MTA transit. We will maintain one central location in Norwalk as part of the collaboration.”
Existing Norwalk teachers will have to reapply to continue the work they’ve been doing for years, the writer said.
“The bottom line is this was a cost-saving measure at the expense of Norwalk adult education students and an idea that Dr. Adamowski implemented in at least one of the prior districts of which he was superintendent,” the writer said. “He is not interested in educating people who need to complete their high school diplomas or the many immigrants in Norwalk who need to learn English to become working, self-supporting citizens who are also able to help their children with their schoolwork. The accomplishments of the adult ed students are not reflected in Norwalk Public Schools test scores or lower high school drop-out rates, both of which the superintendent likes to take credit for, so it was an easy decision to outsource the adult ed program.”
“The insinuation that all we care about is accountability scores and thus have no interest in the progress of adult learners is offensive,” Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Mike Barbis wrote Monday, referring NancyOnNorwalk to both Adamowksi’s comments and a written explanation from Myers.
“Any partnership would require the continuation of all current services including High School Diploma, GED and ESL Services while expanding our adult learning opportunities to include workforce development and enrichment. By partnering with a larger service provider, we substantially increase the number of opportunities available to our families,” Myers wrote.
“Over the past few years, enrollment in our Adult Education program has continued to drop. Our programs are difficult to access because there is no evening bus route to Brien McMahon,” Myers wrote. “We must look at the locations where services are offered in Norwalk, and a new partnership would include new locations to broaden our delivery area. A person working closer to Stamford or New Canaan could also attend classes there.”
Adamowksi said last week that Norwalk High School and the Carver Center are being considered as locations for Norwalk’s adult education program.
The letter from Myers is dated “March 2019” and says the partnership is being considered.
“We value our dedicated teachers and we want to ensure we are providing our teachers with quality curriculum and resources to support their teaching. The curriculum should provide a progression to improved employment skills. Our programs must ensure that we provide certified teachers and meet all state guidelines for certification, training and evaluation,” Myers wrote. “… Often, working in a larger consortium increases the availability and options for the same amount of money.”