Norwalk election notes: Azima, secure elections and voter registrations

Norwalk tabulators aren’t connected to the Internet, Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells said.

The election is Nov. 5.

NORWALK, Conn. — Some Norwalk election information for you:

  • District A BoE candidate Azima shares credentials
  • Wells: Norwalk electoral process secure from hackers
  • Unaffiliated voters outnumber Democrats

Continue reading Norwalk election notes: Azima, secure elections and voter registrations


Opinion: The violence paradox

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)

It is a deeply uncomfortable fact that inside some humans lies the ability to rationalize the decision to walk into a Walmart or a crowded bar and start firing a wildly lethal weapon indiscriminately, with the goal of ending as many lives as possible. The act of premeditated mass murder – of strangers no less – is something that 99.9 percent of Americans cannot even fathom. But as these slaughters – from Newtown to Orlando to Las Vegas to El Paso and Dayton – continue unabated, we need to start asking questions about what within our own makeup explains this mass shooting epidemic, and what control society has over these outlier actions that seem, with each new mind-bending massacre, less like outliers. The answer is that violence is inside us, but so is the ability to end this epic-scale carnage.

First, we must face a foundational fact – humans are uniquely hardwired for violence. From the beginning of our species, we have shown a propensity to hurt each other at rates to exceed almost any other animal. Our rates of violence over the millennia have gone up and down, but long ago, humans figured out that violence was an effective means of social and economic advancement. Inside our brains are built-in circuits of rage and aggression that trigger under certain circumstances. Some people – like many of these mass shooters – have brains with triggers that flip more easily. Continue reading Opinion: The violence paradox


Reading the tea leaves on accreditors’ views of plan to merge community colleges

Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, explains budget details to the Board of Regents at a recent meeting. (Kathleen Megan, CTMirror.org)

A letter issued last month by accreditors about the merger the state’s 12 community college into a single statewide institution has prompted a wide array of interpretations from faculty and others who are divided over the controversial plan.

Longtime critics of the merger such as Lois Aime, director of education technology at Norwalk Community College, said it’s “clear that our accrediting body is expressing serious concerns with nearly everything the system has been doing over the past year.” Continue reading Reading the tea leaves on accreditors’ views of plan to merge community colleges


Norwalk vigil seeks to inspire change at national level

State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) leads the Vigil for Lives Lost, Thursday outside City Hall. There would have been double or triple the number of people during another time of year, Duff said.

Suddenly windy weather prompted organizers to suggest that participants raise lit up cell phones instead of candles.

NORWALK, Conn. — More than 120 people gathered Thursday evening at City Hall to honor lives lost last weekend and inspire energy for change.

“We have had shooting after shooting and we have not had action. We need people to come together to demand that we have action,” said State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25), who worked with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to organize the Vigil for Lives Lost. “…I appreciate all of you coming out here tonight and saying enough is enough, that we don’t have to live like this.” Continue reading Norwalk vigil seeks to inspire change at national level


Norwalk Zoning roundup: Pinnacle, BJs and regulation overhaul

“The Village” site, at 272-280 Main Ave. Equipment and pipes are stored on the property; road work has begun in the area. Eversource is doing utility work which has nothing to do with the planned development, Norwalk Communications Manager Josh Morgan said.

NORWALK, Conn. — Here’s some Zoning Commission news for you:

  • The Village expects to move ahead on ‘BJ’s site’
  • Waypointe Pinnacle may be tweaked
  • West Avenue dirt pile diminished, portions heading for NY
  • Zoning regulation overhaul touched upon

Continue reading Norwalk Zoning roundup: Pinnacle, BJs and regulation overhaul


Norwalk political notes: A Duff forum, no Barbis-NAACP meeting and no primaries

Norwalk Branch NAACP President Brenda Penn-Williams waits for a March Board of Education meeting to begin in City Hall.

Updated, 3:41 p.m.: Forum moved to community room.

NORWALK, Conn. – Some Norwalk political happenings:

  • Duff sets up forum on ‘forever chemicals’ found in Norwalk drinking water
  • Penn-Williams: ‘Haven’t heard anything’ about a meeting with Barbis
  • All clear: No Norwalk primaries this year

Continue reading Norwalk political notes: A Duff forum, no Barbis-NAACP meeting and no primaries


Norwalk Council ruminates over negotiated Gardella/beach plan, looks for alternatives

A sailboat docked off Cove Marina recently.

Scott Ross explains issues around a Calf Pasture Beach easement, Tuesday in Norwalk City Hall.

NORWALK, Conn. – The easements that came with the 1922 creation of Calf Pasture Beach need to be “clarified” to allow the Gardella family to update its neighboring marina and prepare for possible redevelopment, a lawyer told Norwalk Common Council members Tuesday.

This clarified legal arrangement would, under the present proposal, alter the beach driveway to include three access points to neighboring Gardella properties, with three new gates to close beach parking lots while keeping the driveway open. It would include a $175,000 payment from the family to the City; $50,000 of that would pay for a new utility easement.  At some point in the future, the overflow parking along the driveway could be eliminated.

Council members tabled the proposal to October, saying this would allow time for Department of Public Works engineers to consider an alternative plan, and that the public would have more opportunity to weigh in. Continue reading Norwalk Council ruminates over negotiated Gardella/beach plan, looks for alternatives


Norwalk political notes: Moms demand action, Cranbury revenue and District A electoral interest

The Norwalk Board of Education meets in the Cranbury Park bunkhouse on July 26.

NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s some Norwalk political notes for you:

  • Duff to join ‘Moms’ in ‘Vigil for Lives Lost’
  • Cranbury Park rentals detailed
  • Primary in District A?

Continue reading Norwalk political notes: Moms demand action, Cranbury revenue and District A electoral interest


NPS SAT ‘small gains’ touted as being against CT trend

A compilation of statistics provided by CTMirror.org

Updated, 8:30 p.m.: Headline changed.

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Public Schools is one of the few districts in the state that had a gain in its SAT scores this year, according to NPS Communications Director Brenda Wilcox Williams.

The state on Monday released SAT scores, multiple news outlets say. “While the state went down slightly, our students posted small gains,” Wilcox Williams wrote, providing this chart:

                17-18     18-19

ELA         489         493        +4

Math       478         480         +2 Continue reading NPS SAT ‘small gains’ touted as being against CT trend


SAT results: At least one-third of CT juniors unready for college or job


One-third of high school juniors are not reading and writing well enough to begin taking college courses or start a career, statewide SAT results released Monday show. Math results are even more dire – 59 percent failed to meet the college- or career-ready standard.

Here are five things to know about this year’s results. (Including results for Norwalk Public Schools.)

1. Some groups of students thrive – others stumble
Connecticut has long had a reputation for having some of the largest gaps in achievement between minority students and their white peers.

This year’s batch of scores did nothing to narrow those yawning gaps.

White students in Connecticut continue to be twice as likely as black or Hispanic students to have the reading and writing skills needed to be ready for college or career, the results from the 2018-19 SAT show. For math skills, white students are three times more likely to be prepared.

Ajit Gopalakrishnan, Bureau Chief Connecticut State Department of Education Performance Office, said the scores show slight improvements for minority students but there is still work to be done.

“These SAT scores are not painting a new picture about the current state of achievement in our state … [African Americans and Hispanics] are showing a slight increase in mathematics, but they are still lagging their white and Asian student peers,” Gopalakrishnan said.

Gopalakrishnan said a better measure of student progress is the Next Generation Accountability System, which is a broader state assessment of schools and districts that relies on data from a dozen indicators including test scores, academic growth, chronic absenteeism, graduation rates, college readiness, and arts access.
“We just have to continually meet students where they are, continue to engage students, make instruction relevant and interesting, and give them opportunities to excel,” Gopalakrishnan added, “because we believe and we know that all students under the right conditions can excel and that is our job as educators to provide that for all of our students.”

2. Just how far behind?
Many students are on the cusp of being where they should be and have their senior year to catch up. However, many students are multiple years behind. In math, one out of every four Connecticut students is significantly behind. In reading and writing, it’s one-in-five students.

Gopalakrishnan said there is a totality of circumstances that go into a student’s ability to master a subject, and those changes must start with instruction and curriculum.

“The [SAT shows] how students did on a standardized test on a particular day and that is a decent measure, but that is a culmination of students staying in school, coming to class, paying attention, teachers and instructors adhering to standards and not shortcutting them,” he said. There is so much that goes into whether a student has mastered the content, so that when they go into that testing center that one day they can actually demonstrate their knowledge. So changing instruction to make that happen is the long game.”

3. No improvement
Overall, Connecticut’s high school juniors have shown no significant changes in performance since 2015, when state officials decided to require every high school junior to take the exam instead of the controversial Smarter Balanced Assessment.

This year, the average math score was 501 points. This means the average Connecticut junior did not have the math skills necessary to begin a career or begin taking college courses. Students are considered college- and career-ready if they score at least 530 out of 800 points on the math portion of the exam. Students who reached that target have a 75 percent probability of earning at least a “C” in that subject in college.

The threshold for students to be college or career ready for English is 480 points and the average score was 515 points.

This stagnation is present across all groups of students – despite various state funding and reform efforts during this time.

“We always expect more and want our students to achieve more,” said Gopalakrishnan. “We had hoped for it to be better than this.”

Gopalakrishnan said reform efforts and increased funding have paid off in ways that may not be discernable from one day of testing, however, and stressed that the investments must continue despite the lag in improvement.

“We’ve seen improvements in our graduation rates. What used to be in the low eighties is now in the high eighties and we’re exceeding the national average,” Gopalakrishnan said. “I think our schools are fine and are doing a better job at engaging students, retaining them, keeping them involved in school and instruction, exposing them to a more rigorous curriculum. So it might not show up on this one test at this one place in time but I think if you were to look at the totality, I think you do see that investments are paying off.”


4. See how your town did



5. Other measures are important, too
Grading schools based on test scores has dominated much of the debate about school quality in recent years. But there is so much more that contributes to how students may do.

The CT Mirror created a database to provide parents with a broad collection of measures to judge their child’s school — from a breakdown of class sizes, how money is spent to how often students are disciplined. We will periodically update this tool. Check it out by clicking here.

Can’t find what you are looking for? The state also has created a site with more data that you can find by clicking here.




Norwalk budget numbers come up short for Mayoral candidate

Democratic incumbent Mayor Harry Rilling, left; Republican endorsed unaffiliated candidate Lisa Brinton, right.

The election is Nov. 5.

Updated, 11:20 a.m.: Comments from Mayor Harry Rilling added.

NORWALK, Conn. — Republican-endorsed unaffiliated Mayoral candidate Lisa Brinton claims response times by the Norwalk Fire Department have increased by a full minute during Democratic incumbent Harry Rilling’s three terms as mayor. But a review of 12 years’ worth of operating budgets by NancyOnNorwalk does not support Brinton’s claim.

Brinton further claims that the value of narcotics seized by the Norwalk Police Department has skyrocketed, and that the number of outstanding lawsuits against the city has nearly tripled, from 139 in 2012-13, when Richard Moccia was Mayor, to the current total of 400. Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik says the value of narcotics is subjective, and therefore not a reliable indicator. Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola attributes the increase in lawsuits to people challenging their property assessments due to the recent revaluation, and compares the 400 lawsuits to the 212 reported in 2017-18. Continue reading Norwalk budget numbers come up short for Mayoral candidate


Norwalk man hopes to start bar association for formerly incarcerated lawyers

Dieter Tejada, founder of the National Justice Impact Bar Association, speaks at the Justice Impact Roundtable, at New York University in April 2019. (Ricky Owens)

Dieter Tejada was only 19 years old when he was incarcerated at Bridgeport Correctional Center, but it didn’t take him long to decide he wanted to go to law school.

“I realized the people that are implementing the system and that hold the keys to changing it, at best, were ignorant of the issues,” the now-29-year-old Tejada said, about a decade after serving several months in two Connecticut prisons following a guilty plea to an assault charge. “They’ve never been to prison.” Continue reading Norwalk man hopes to start bar association for formerly incarcerated lawyers


Choosing to live in Norwalk

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How many times have we heard someone say, “I have lived here all my life.” “Having grown up here, she understands the needs of this town.” “He knows how things work because he was born and raised here.”

I have heard such things all my life, and used them from time to time as well. Being a virtual transient since I left home for college at 18, it sometimes makes me sad that I did not stay in the town I grew up in, raising a family there and remaining a part of that community. My hometown was in a rural area of northern Illinois. A town of 1,100 fine people. One stop light, (oh, the scandal the day that went in!) and about six churches. Today it is a bit more sprawling. According to latest census data, it is 1,920 people strong. Continue reading Choosing to live in Norwalk