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Opinion: Mike Barbis should resign

Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Mary Yordon.

The Norwalk Federation of Teachers is engaged in difficult work with families and students every day, and we need an effective focused Board of Education to do this work successfully. We have serious concerns about the impact of Mr. Barbis’ continued presence on the board. He disparaged and dismissed respected leaders of our community. His email is offensive, vulgar, culturally insensitive, and perceived by many as racist.

Our teachers are held accountable to the Connecticut Code of Professional Responsibility for Educators. This professional code notes the responsibility to “create a culture that encourages purposeful collaboration and dialogue among all stakeholders; Promote and maintain ongoing communication among all stakeholders; and Provide effective leadership to ensure continuous focus on student achievement.” Teachers are each required to “Conduct himself or herself as a professional realizing that his or her actions reflect directly upon the status and substance of the profession…” The teacher, administrator code of ethics, and also the one that was recently signed by members of the Norwalk Board all adhere to a fundamental belief that the student is the foremost reason for our professional efforts.

At this time, our school community seeks a new Superintendent, and we seek to attract an increasingly diverse workforce. At this time, our families need to trust in the school system’s innovative and experimental programs, and the taxpayers at large are being asked to divert an increasing portion of city funds to improve our school system. At this particular time, we are confronted by ugly, divisive, emotional responses to challenges by Mr. Barbis, who is supposed to be a standard bearer of our school system as a Board member. We cannot keep our children at the focus of our efforts with the intolerance demonstrated in his words. Our teachers ask for better. Our children deserve better. Norwalk deserves better than this. Mr. Barbis should resign.

13 comments

John ONeill November 12, 2019 at 6:11 am

I may or may not agree, BUT being lectured by a person who lives in an all white town about diversity just doesn’t seem right.

Sue Haynie November 12, 2019 at 6:22 am

@Mary Yordon, you’ve got a lot of nerve.

As the head of the NFT, you endorsed Rilling for Mayor, your husband was his Treasurer. You don’t live in Norwalk.

Your job as the head of the NFT is to advocate for your members. If you didn’t view the opinion in this article as good for your members, you would not have said anything.

Mike Barbis is a democratically elected member of the Board of Education who won more votes in his district of Rowayton this November than any other person running for office there.

Mike Barbis is a relentless advocate for kids. You are an advocate for adults. Why don’t you stay in your lane

Babar S November 12, 2019 at 9:49 am

I don’t think he’s racist but he is too much of a distraction at this point and needs to leave. He might have done some good but it’s not worth the hassles. Some people are definitely overreacting though.

John ONeill November 12, 2019 at 1:45 pm

Am I the only one who thinks being lectured to about Board of Education race issues by a person who lives in an ALL-White town verges on the bizarre? If she’s as sincere as she claims, she should move to Norwalk, and take a seat on the Board. Of course, she might have to give up her union compensation, but if she feels strongly enough, why not? The old saying “Walk the Walk” comes to mind. Connecticut residents are beginning to tire of insincere attitudes of government elites. Move to Norwalk, join the Board, and then we’ll take you seriously.

Anna November 12, 2019 at 2:39 pm

“Mike Barbis is a democratically elected member of the Board of Education who won more votes in his district of Rowayton than any other person running for office there.”

….because he ran unopposed during the last two election cycles.

As a parent and teacher in the NPS, I am “staying in my lane” by agreeing with those who think Barbis needs to go.

David Bayne November 12, 2019 at 6:40 pm

Perhaps we need to stop taking comments out of context and using them to destroy people’s reputations.

Rosanne Fullam November 12, 2019 at 6:47 pm

Mary Yorden is president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers. She polled all teachers and only made her statement after receiving our feedback. As a teacher, if I had every used such language, there would have been very serious repercussions. As a resident, Norwalk teacher, and parent of sons who went through NPS, I expect teachers, administrators, and BOE members to exercise common sense in using emails and practice civility in those communications.

Claire Schoen November 12, 2019 at 7:07 pm

FWIW, I’m pretty sure Mary’s kids all went through the Norwalk Public Schools when she and her husband lived here. Her father in law, Rev. Henry Yordon was a key figure during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and did far more to mend racial fences and help residents of South Norwalk than most.
Mary and her husband have done more than most of us to make Norwalk a better place, so to accuse her of not being sensitive to diversity is a bit disingenuous.

Mike Barbis has also given an amazing amount of time to Norwalk, but as commented above, he has created a situation that is pretty incendiary. Seems in the best interest of everyone for him to – at the very least – give up his seat as board chair.

Scott November 13, 2019 at 8:34 am

@Claire –

Her father-in-law was the civil rights champion, not her, so give it a rest.

We get tired of hearing those living in almost all white bedroom communities talking about diversity, immigration, ELL students and lecturing the citizens of Norwalk how to run our town. Why don’t they practice what they preach and focus on updating their own town’s zoning regulations to allow more affordable housing to the impoverished?

Oh, the hypocrisy!

John ONeill November 13, 2019 at 7:56 pm

@Scott — Right On!! It shocks me that Union leaders are not calling for State Funding for ELL programs. I just can not grasp why this issue is not being pushed from all involved. I’m sure Mary Yordon has been pushing for additional ELL funding. Why wouldn’t she? As long as she’s writing opinions it might make sense for her to publicly take a stance on lack of STATE funding for Norwalk ELLers..Maybe she has and I’ve missed it. Can someone enlighten me?

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