By Mike Lyons, chairman
Norwalk Board of Education
NORWALK, Conn. – In September, I provided a status report on on-going matters at the Norwalk Public Schools. Here’s an update and a look forward.
Budgets: As promised, NPS’s first-ever 3-Year Budget Plan will be released at our Finance Committee meeting on Dec. 10. The plan is unique, not just because of its longer time frame but also because it incorporates long-term goals from the Strategic Plan the board is developing with Superintendent Dr. Manny Rivera. We are ending the yearly budget panic and replacing it with solid long-range thinking, with cost-saving measures and affordability an integral focus of our budgeting process.
Strategic Plan: At our board retreat on Nov. 22, we spent hours reviewing a new, high-level Strategic Plan with Dr. Rivera. Although board disagreements over trivia like “who’s swearing in whom” sometimes dominate the news, on the really important things there is a broad consensus on the board’s goals. Our plan is for the board, in cooperation with Dr. Rivera, to adopt an updated mission statement, vision, core values and goals in the January-February time frame. The pan will set forth six major focus areas to guide board policies and budgets over the next three years.
Common Core Curricula: We are actively implementing Common Core math curricula from K-12 and English curricula in grades 6-12. Dr. Rivera expects to make his recommendation on a K-5 English curriculum in December. Next up – Science.
Technology: We will have WiFi operational in all Norwalk schools by March. The WiFi installation will allow us to begin using the Common Core-based Smarter Balance Assessments testing system, replacing the old CMT tests. This will be computer adaptive testing, moving away from paper and using the new Chromebooks we are purchasing for all elementary schools.
Security: We have begun security improvements at our schools, adopting a new detailed safety plan, and our request for $500,000 in additional capital budget funding for more improvements has been approved by the Board of Estimate. Six full-time police officers are now dedicated to protecting our schools. We have also significantly upgraded our emergency communications system in the last two months. We have either email or text addresses for over 90 percent of the parents in our system, so in the event of any security issue, we will be able to notify parents within minutes. The small percentage of parents not on email or text can be reached through our reverse-911 telephone system.
School Management/Community Involvement: We are expanding our network of schools with School Governance Councils, bringing together principals, teachers and parents into close cooperation in the management of their schools, expanding our relationship with Norwalk ACTS (a support network of community leaders and organizations focused on early childhood education), and expanding programs with Norwalk Community College.
Communications: Major upgrades in our communications are nearly complete. We have just gone live with the Genesis system, which gives parents online access to all of their children’s school work and grades. Our web site is being upgraded with the assistance of General Electric, and the new version should be online soon. Board of Education meetings are now being videotaped and will be available on Cablevision Public Access: Also, Dr. Rivera will soon begin sending regular monthly electronic newsletters to all our parents and teachers to keep them updated on new initiatives and developments in our schools. We expect to appoint at our next board meeting a communications director who will manage all of these communications initiatives.
In the next few months, as our first multi-year budget, our new Strategic Plan, our curricula, new technology and improved communications roll out, and with the leadership of Superintendent Rivera, optimism will clearly be justified about the future of our public schools.
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