Opinion: Norwalk students deserve excellence

From left, Board of Education member Heidi Keyes. Sarah Lemieux, Barbara Meyer-Mitchell and Common Council member Bruce Kimmel.
The election is Nov. 7.

Heidi Keyes, Bruce Kimmel, Sarah Lemieux, and Barbara Meyer-Mitchell have been endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee as its slate of Board of Education candidates. 

The Norwalk school system is in the midst of an exciting transformation. A variety of academic programs and initiatives, as well as a comprehensive long-term capital plan, could make our system a model for the state. These developments have inspired us to run for the four at large seats on the BOE this fall. We strongly believe in this transformation and would like to help shape its development.

Should we be fortunate enough to be elected in November, we promise to work with Superintendent Steven Adamowski and his senior staff, our colleagues on the BOE, the Mayor, and the Common Council. But most importantly, we promise to work closely with all Norwalk residents, particularly parents with children in our schools.

Each of us has a solid background in education; we are all familiar with the workings of our schools and the issues that pertain to Norwalk. We have all been involved in local school organizations; two of us have served on the Board of Education; two of us have backgrounds in arts education; and one of us is currently serving on the Norwalk Early Childhood Council. We believe we can make positive contributions and help make our schools second to none.

We promise to support and monitor programs designed to ensure that all children in every part of the city have an equal opportunity to reach their personal and academic potential. We will work diligently to narrow the achievement gap by providing academic supports for those students who are below grade level in basic academic subjects.

We strongly back the administration’s efforts to coordinate wrap-around services and to provide effective programs for our English Language Learners. We support the enhancement of the Academically Talented program, ensuring that our brightest students are given every opportunity to shine.

We promise to support, monitor and help implement the BOE’s strategic goals, and will seek extensive stakeholder input as the next Strategic Plan is crafted. We strongly support the Board’s five-year facilities plan and will work to ensure its timely implementation. Our students deserve a first-rate academic education, but they also deserve to learn in 21st Century facilities.

We promise to support and monitor the implementation of the BOE’s Special Education Transformation plan. After years of neglect, we applaud the Superintendent’s decision to devise a detailed and comprehensive plan for our special needs students. Likewise, we applaud the Rilling administration’s decision to support the funding of the plan.

The last few years, the BOE has made major investments to improve communication with parents and the broader community. We applaud these investments and promise to continue to support and enhance them, to make transparency a hallmark of our public schools. Every resident in our city is a stakeholder in our schools; every parent has a right to know what is happening in their schools.

We are strong supporters of the arts, and appreciate the positive role the arts play in the education of young people. We promise to work diligently to find ways to broaden the art offerings in all of our schools. Norwalk schools have long been among the best when it comes to music, but we would like to build on that model and make our school system second to none in all forms of artistic expression.

We cannot, and should not, educate our children on the cheap; nor can we be allowed to trifle, fiscally speaking, with the future of our city. We therefore promise to work with Superintendent Adamowski and the Mayor to craft operating and capital budgets that provide the academic programs and school facilities our youngest residents deserve.

We are aware of the state’s fiscal difficulties and the prospect of diminished state funding for education. And we are sensitive to the property tax burden borne by residents; a burden that is exacerbated by Connecticut’s unfair education cost sharing formula. Mindful of these harsh fiscal realities, we will cooperate with the Superintendent and Mayor to find ways to minimize the property tax burden during each budget cycle, while continuing to advocate at the state level for more equitable funding.

We would appreciate your support in November. Together, we can continue the transformation of our schools, making them among the best in the state.

Heidi Keyes is a BoE member, seeking reelection. Bruce Kimmel is on the Common Council. 


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