Rivera cites ‘glitches’ in Norwalk school-year launch, immigrant minors

NORWALK, Conn. – The beginning of the school year went well, but there were glitches related to a delay in implementing new software, which hid a “fairly significant” jump in student enrollment and the need for more teachers, Norwalk Superintendent Manny Rivera said Tuesday.

The increase in students includes 43 minors who came over the United States southern border and are here with family members, Deputy Superintendent Tony Daddona said. The number of English Language Learners (ELL) has jumped, Rivera said.

There are 11,350 students enrolled in Norwalk Public Schools, which is 138 more than projected, Rivera said. “That’s a fairly significant number,” he said. The number may drop because the process of eliminating students who haven’t shown up hasn’t been done yet, he said. Accurate information will be available by Oct. 1.

The schools have shifted from the Genesis student information system to the PowerSchool student information system, he said, calling it a “major transition.”

“Typically the system gets shut down for a couple of weeks,” Rivera said. “As a result of that, there were some delays that were created, delays in our ability to get updated information on the number of students that had actually registered. That compounded with the fact that we had a significant increase in students  … created the need for us to make some staffing adjustments. They were not as timely as we would have liked.”

There’s going to be a “major debriefing,” he said, to “make sure that we are taking steps down the road to complete staffing as early as we possibly can – in the ideal world, by the end of school year – and then make some adjustments. But this was almost a – I don’t like to use the term – perfect storm.”

Rivera said there are 58 new staff members, which he said he thought was more additional staff members than were added a year ago. That includes 23 middle and high school teachers and 29 new elementary certified staff, he said. Rivera plans to hire four more teachers for the Norwalk Early College Academy.

There were 140 ELL pre-K children tested since February at the ELL welcome center, Rivera said.

“Since Aug. 18, mid-August, we have tested 66 more students, of which 43 students have come to us as unaccompanied minors,” Rivera said. “A number of them from Texas and elsewhere. Interestingly enough, especially at the secondary level, there are least 28 children who missed one, or even more than one year of schooling. So we have a challenge, not only to make certain they are getting the proper instruction in terms of English Language development but also meeting their academic needs as well.”

There’s going to be a meeting to discuss what needs to be done, he said.

Board of Education member Mike Barbis asked for information about the 43 minors, and was told by Daddona that they are staying with relatives who are not necessarily legal guardians.

“I believe this is impacting cities across the country,” Rivera said.

That didn’t sit well with Jack Chiaramonte.

“The government is not giving us any dollars for this, are they? The tax burden is on us?” Chiaramonte said.

“It’s our responsibility to educate them as we roll them into our schools,” Rivera said.

“That’s great,” Chiaramonte replied.


34 responses to “Rivera cites ‘glitches’ in Norwalk school-year launch, immigrant minors”

  1. Norewalk Lifer

    Whoa, wait a minute, there was a new software program implemented and there were failures in implementation? who decided on this? and how is the developer responsible for the costs associated with the effects of this failure? Is anyone approaching the company that sold this package for reimbursement?
    Why was the system “shut down” for a couple of weeks? didn’t the city demand endurance testing of the software to make sure it was ready to launch? this is called readiness, and is “typical” in the software industry.
    Insofar as the new students are concerned, how does this disrupt those that played by the rules? If we are take on additional students in our school system, who is going to analyze the effect on the rest of the student body? if those students missed a year of education, how do those in charge assess the effect on other students if and when these students are asked to complete grades missed.
    The unilateral decision by the superintendent is a bit off putting to me; while I think all children have the right to a complete and quality education, I would argue that the effect on the other students should be taken into consideration also.
    It’s not about the money folks, it’s about accountability, The NPS struggled with Genesis when it was implemented, and there’s a lesson learned there, I would like to know how the readiness of the software was missed.
    Again, I’ll assume that those who are making these decision do not have the technical gravitas to do so.

    Norwalk Lifer

  2. Norewalk Lifer

    With a simple google search, I was able to find this information on PowerSchool:


    It appears the the state of North Carolina is asking for a reimbursement of Pearson, who owns the software to the tune of 7.1 million.

    This article is from earlier in 2014, so the software failed to produce GPA stats for graduating students? who need this in order to apply to college.

    Who decided this software was the right choice for Norwalk? and how will Norwalk seek restitution from Pearson on the “glitch” again, why aren’t expert opinions consulted on transactions like this?

    Who was contracted, as a software engineer, to vet the decision and advise on the readiness?

    Norwalk Lifer

  3. John Hamlin

    So how are these 43 students different from the student several years ago whose mother was arrested for enrolling a Bridgeport resident in the Norwalk schools? We arrest her but these children we have to enroll — with no reimbursement from the federal government? I hope we keep that in mind this November when we are electing representatives to Congress.

  4. Norewalk Lifer

    And exactly what do you think those representatives will do? create an “out of the box” thinking way to solve this issue? little ole Connecticut is going to solve it on their own?
    Texas enacted labor laws in 1910 that allowed workers from Mexico to work the oil fields, those laws require scrutiny. Do you really think that 28 students is the worth the effort? what about demanding restitution on the software that allowed this to happen in the first place?
    How come people from Norwalk have loftier ideas but don’t address the low hanging fruit at all? Looks like the state education department in North Carolina did, with this software, and by the way, that software in September of 2014, had the “exact same failure mode”, record keeping of new student entries was flawed.
    How come WE didn’t do the mild elbow greasing to find this out BEFORE contracting the new software?

  5. EveT

    How do the necessary “staffing adjustments” fit in with the plans to spend the $2.9 million surplus? If they have to hire more teachers, I hope that is covered in the request they are sending to the BET.

  6. LWitherspoon

    I’m surprised the BoE knows that the 43 minors recently came over the Southern border. The family members registering them readily volunteered this information?
    What will be the cost to accommodate the additional English Language Learners, who I believe are more expensive to educate than the average student?

  7. MarjorieM

    Rivera did not blame any department. The scheduling of RowerSchool implementation so late in the summer appears to be someone’s responsibility. Logically it would fall on the iT department. Who is being protected here for such a terrible decision?

  8. MTP

    All good points…but the REAL problem sits squarely on the Obama administration who failed (intentionally) at securing our borders. This IS going on all over the country and the $$ amount is probably incalculable. Let them keep coming and we’ll keep building more additions to accommodate them, at our expense. Then we will give them free and reduced breakfast, lunch and after school programs. Not to mention health care and food stamps. And the rest of us?…… just pay and pay and pay. I do not blame the people for wanting to come here. I understand why. I blame our fed govt for failing to stop it from happening. I know many immigrants who came here LEGALLY, started businesses and became contributing members of our society. Its not about race at all so please spare me the comments about racism.

  9. Bill

    Thanks Guatemala, give us your uneducated kids and we, the middle class taxpayers with flat property values, are stuck with educating them.

  10. Uncle Nepo

    This is what some of us warned against when we decided to hire a former mayor’s nephew to be the schools IT chief when his resume looked pretty weak. He claimed he was on some Microsoft advisory board which doesn’t even exist and had no real formal education or practical background in IT other than his successive promotions each of which he looked unqualified for along the way.
    The other red flag here is using Pearson for this who also sells us our textbooks at a fantastic markup of what they actually cost to manufacture. Is the goal education or enriching education vendors?
    Let’s hope this isn’t some harbinger of future outcomes of the blind faith we have been throwing behind yet another ambitious program to grow government in the name of our children. It fails us almost every time and here we are trying yet again.

  11. MarjorieM

    Would all of the people here, who feel these innocent children who have crossed the borders to live with relatives, like to ship them back to places like Guatemala where children are being killed? Have we really come to that in our society? Yes, the tax burden is on us, Chiarmonte! Would you rather the killing of innocent children be on us when we send them back?

    By the Way, Uncle Nepo hit the naill on the head. Ralph V. Is not qualified for the job. He is a former employee of Rivera. Enough said? Rochester, NY all over again. When Rivera leaves, his hires will be Norwalk’s problems.

  12. OK, everybody calm down (especially you, Marj). We have two separate issues — PowerSchool, and the sudden influx of Central American children. Let’s start with PowerSchool.
    Lifer, duly noted that some school systems have had problems with PowerSchool (BTW, did you or Marj call for Obama’s resignation because of the far more extensive software problems with the Obamacare launch, since “it’s not about the money folks, it’s about accountability”?). On the other hand, 122 other school districts in Connecticut use PowerSchool, most without any problems. Overall the software has a good track record.
    Also, there was no problem with implementation of the PowerSchool software itself, which was installed and operating properly by the end of July (a month before school started). There were no system failures, and nothing to go back at Pearson for (and I am no fan of Pearson – I led the successful effort to block use of Pearson books for our K-5 Literacy program). The ‘glitch’ actually related to the old Genesis system; getting the data out of Genesis and transferred over took longer than anticipated, and this was the delay that led to some of the new students being undercounted. Definitely an issue, but not with PowerSchool, and an issue that has now been corrected. Note that this undercount did NOT relate to the Central American children, who came in with little warning late in August. Rather, it related to other children who were undercounted in the transition period (the total undercount was 138, of whom 43 were Central American, so the ‘Genesis-glitch count’ would be 95). To put this in perspective, this is less than 1% of the overall student population.
    Lifer, remember last year when Marj and others were saying that Ralph Valenzisi was unqualified and that his choice of Chromebooks for our schools would be a “disaster.” Turns out they work perfectly, sync with the new Wifi system Ralph set up throughout the school system, and performed flawlessly in the test run on the new SBAC tests this year. The critiques of Ralph over PowerSchool will prove to be just as baseless.

  13. Next issue – Central American children. I share the concern of others that the malfeasance of the Obama Administration in refusing to enforce our immigration laws and defend our borders has led to this problem (and porous, unenforced borders are a virtual invitation to attack us to the ISIS and Al Qaedas of the world, too, by the way). However, that is not an issue we can correct here in Norwalk. The 43 newly-arrived children referenced Tuesday night came to us after August 18, when our ELL Welcome Center opened for the school year, and after PowerSchool was fully operational. They arrived with documents issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that verified their release to family members or sponsors who reside here in Norwalk. In accordance with Connecticut state law, we are obligated to educate all children who reside in the City (no matter what their immigration or family status), so our Welcome Center tests them for English and math skills, interviews them and their family or sponsors, and them places them in our schools.
    Regarding these children, Lifer stated “The unilateral decision by the superintendent is a bit off putting to me; while I think all children have the right to a complete and quality education, I would argue that the effect on the other students should be taken into consideration also.” Dr. Rivera made no “unilateral decision” – he simply followed state law. For those concerned about the effect on our other students of such laws, talk to Bob Duff or Chris Perone. Dr. Rivera doesn’t make these laws, he simply follows them.
    John Hamlin, the difference between these students and the child of the Bridgeport woman was that her child didn’t actually live in Norwalk – she lived in Bridgeport and commuted here with her mother when her mother came to Norwalk to sell drugs. THESE children actually live in Norwalk, and per state law, we are therefore required to educate them.

  14. LWitherspoon

    @Mike Lyons
    Is it true that it costs more to educate an English Language Learner than to educate the average student in NPS? Can you give us an idea of the dollar amounts?

  15. Uncle Nepo

    Let’s be fair to the under qualified IT director. At least he isn’t charging parts and gas for his plane to fly here like the last degenerate. He may indeed have saved us moneys on chrome books for the few years they will actually function. Imagine though a day when Norwalk could actually get someone in this 175k plus position that actually knows how to run a system implementation project. That would be progress indeed.

  16. ELL students do require additional services, but I don’t know how that quantifies in dollars. I’ll see if we have that data available.

  17. Norewalk Lifer

    Lifer, duly noted that some school systems have had problems with PowerSchool (BTW, did you or Marj call for Obama’s resignation because of the far more extensive software problems with the Obamacare launch, since “it’s not about the money folks, it’s about accountability”?).
    What does Obamacare have to do with this? don’t overestimate yourself, you had a problem and the issue remains; it’s due to a defect in the software, now, because accountability is key, what is the city doing to get restitution from Pearson, don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth at the same time, and if this is the way you “talk” to people on the board, no wonder why your leadership is failing.
    You seem to have a very high and unimpeachable opinion of every single thing the BOE does; that’s impossible, any intelligent person can tell you that.

    Norwalk Lifer

  18. TG

    Wow- 43 kids with no English background and missed years in education. It’s a big challenge, particularly when you have “sponsors” versus actual parents looking out for them. At the very least there will have to be a couple of ELL hires, I imagine, and probably a few administrative and/or classroom paraprofessionals to help these children. This situation is so unique in that their very entry into the U.S. has been basically designated under some sort of refugee status- they bring with them a very challenging background. Ought there be some sort of transition system to move them into a regular school situation?

  19. Mike Lyons

    Lifer, there was no defect in the PowerSchool software – didn’t you read what I wrote? How can we get “restitution” from Pearson for a problem with the old system (Genesis) that isn’t a Pearson product? I’d think any “intelligent person” could understand that distinction.
    As for my “failing leadership”, I haven’t lost a single vote since becoming Chair, and have assembled a bipartisan Board majority that has pushed through an extensive series of reforms. I’d call that success, not failure.
    And yes, I’m guilty of being proud of the BoE’s accomplishments. I emphasize the positive, unlike posters like yourself who maintain a constant drumbeat of negativity. Someone has to balance that off, and I’m happy to fill that role.

  20. Yankee Clipper

    Norewalk LIfer — get a life and learn to spell. Why don’t you run for office, spend hours working for free in order to improve things? Instead, you spend hours commenting and criticizing hard working volunteers and hide behind an anonymous name…. you need to get a life! Thank you Mike Lyons for your hours and dedication of public service. You are an inspiration to us all!!

  21. Ziggy Stardust

    You’ve got it right Yankee Clipper!
    Don’t sweat it Mr. Lyons. Hey Norwalk Lifer, would you learn how to spell your name already. Your screen name is N O R E W A L K L I F E R, yet you sign it NORWALK LIFER, and you expect people to take you seriously? […] This board, the majority portion of them at least, has done an exemplary fantastic job with Dr. Rivera to make our schools a model for others.
    And then there’s MajorieM! Upset with Mr. Chiaramonte again? What else is new. He has every right to be angry about our city taking ILLEGAL immigrants in our city and charging the Tax payer for it. There are not just children, but all people suffering all over the world. Why font you pay to have them all come here iILLEGALLY so you pay for them. I don’t hear you screaming at Obama to go to war against ISIS for killing innocents and putting children’s heads on poles. We have enough problems and fiscal worries for our own cities children without having to foot the bill for everyone else’s. Before you set out to save the world MarjorieM, get your own house in order first!
    As I said Mr. Lyons, don’t sweat it. Every village has one. In our case, Norwalk (no ‘e’) has at least two with Lifer & Marj.
    Oh yeah, “Regards”

    This comment was edited to comply with our policy.

  22. anon

    Ditto @ Yankee Clipper, job well done Lyons.

    @Lyons, what’s the average cost for 43 students. 43 is quite a few. Did most Connecticut districts get Central American students or just the cities?

  23. anon, our per pupil cost is $14,700 / year.
    I’ve seen news reports that about 320 Central American children have been relocated to Connecticut by HHS; the reports indicate that most of them have gone to the cities because that’s where their relatives or sponsors live.

  24. LWitherspoon

    @Mike Lyons
    Thanks. So the 43 undocumented immigrant children amount to a $630,000 unfunded mandate from Washington DC to Norwalk taxpayers. And it’s probably more than that since English Language Learners cost more to educate.

  25. anon

    @Lyons thank you. Our local legislators need to make it a priority to get us that money back from the State.

  26. MarjorieM

    Mike, I don’t appreciate the manner in which you carry on as the Chair of the Board of Ed. I am trying to tell taxpayers that all is not as it appears. Rivera is getting everything he wants, with your help, as no superintendent has ever been accorded in the past. My understanding is that SchoolPower was not available until the first week in August. A competent Chair of IT would have recognized the transfer was going to be full of glitches and would have prepared for them. In my opinion, time will tell about who is telling the truth and who is covering up. Word has it that either you or Bruce Melion is running the district, not the superintendent. Some of us are puzzled as to which one of you has more clout.

  27. Ziggy Stardust

    Just curious MarjorieM, what colors are the trees in your world? I can’t believe what you just wrote! Did you ever think that the superintendent works with the chairman and the board (the sane ones) and it’s discussed what the vision for our schools is and what has to be done to get there? No, you would never conclude that by using common sence.. Instead, you go by what the word on the street is and relish in rumors. To be honest, after reading your posts for some time now, I am no longer shocked at the absurd theroies you conclude from from your hallucinogenic vision.

  28. Mike Lyons

    Marj, I can tell you don’t like me; that’s fine, I’m shaking things up, and you’re a lover of the status quo. I get that.
    I do have to smile at your “word has it” that Bruce and I are running the district, not Dr. Rivera. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at some other things you had ‘heard’ or predicted (as stated on NON):
    11/3/13 – commenting on the teachers contract arbitration, Marj said “I was right all along about Haynie’s negotiations. She has successfully bankrupted the city or caused devastating cuts to this school system.”
    What actually happened? No cuts to the school system, no bankruptcy.
    11/3/13 – again commenting on the teachers contract, Marj states “After this election, steel yourself for SCHOOL CLOSINGS!” Again on 11/3/13, “As for school closings, ARE YOU READY TO HEAR ME SAY ‘I told you so?’”
    What actually happened? No school closings. In fact, we’re expanding school offerings with after school locations and a P-Tech Academy.
    11/3/13 – Marj says “Oh, and Haynie is still bragging about putting back the intrmural sports, library clerks, intervention aides, etc. knowing full well that they would be cut in one year. How cruel!!!!”
    What actually happened with this year’s budget a year later? No cuts at all, intramurals expanded again, staff positions added throughout the school system.
    11/14/03 – Marj says “Because there was a 0% increase for this year’s budget, we rehired aides, etc. Those poor people will need to be laid off again next year. How else are we going to find 3-4 million dollars. Your argument plays with real people’s lives in an election year. It made for wonderful politics to lie to people by saying negotiations was a win for the AA (Apple Alliance). Now people are angry because really major programs will need to be cut.”
    Actual results? No layoffs of rehired staff. No programs cut. In fact, we added 58 staff positions this year and major new programs (K-5 Literacy, P-Tech Academy), along with rebuilding of the special education and HR departments with teachers getting a raise — and generated a surplus in the just-concluded budget year.
    Time does indeed tell, Marj. Given your record as a prognosticator, however, you may want to try another hobby …

  29. MarjorieM

    Once again, truth is skewed with your argument. Firstly, Rivera has been given everything he has asked for in the budget. There were no budget cuts or even threats of budget cuts as there had been for as long as I can remember ( for other superintendent’s budgets)
    Secondly, the Assistant Principals’ jobs were shifted to a grant paying position. While that saved the costs from the operating budget, eventually the grant will run out.
    I don’t know exactly, but I believe P-Tech isn’t funded by the local budget as well.
    Thirdly, your comment, “I’m shaking things up.” Speaks for itself. Who is running the district? Seems like the person who just wrote “I am shaking things up.”
    Yes you added to Special Education by removing the Cranbury principal and bringing her to central office as Special Ed. Explain that one! You also have a transplant from. Brien McMahon at central office and the assistant principal from Cranbury as a Curriculum expert. Are these incorrect statements, Mike? Please do tell.

  30. Truth is skewed? Honestly, Marj — how many times can you be proven wrong? [I note you’ve completely ignored the litany of your failed predictions listed above …]
    OK, once more into the breach I go …
    You’re right that Rivera got his budget – because it was put together responsibly and affordably. Your statement that his budget was not cut is correct — directly contradicting your predictions 10 months ago that it WOULD be cut, employees would be laid off and programs would be slashed. I was simply pointing out how often your confident predictions have been proved wrong. Your statement about Rivera’s budget confirms the erroneous nature of your predictions.
    SOME of the former Asst. Principals positions (now Curriculum specialists) were shifted to multi-year grants, as I have noted in other postings. Increasing outside grant funding was a major objective of Dr. Rivera, and he has had great success with this. Are we supposed to be upset that we are taking some of the burden off taxpayers by finding grant funding for some of our programs?
    P-Tech is split between the local budget and grants funding.
    I am indeed shaking things up — by supporting a creative, reform-minded superintendent. This is somewhat unusual in Norwalk, where the tradition is for the Board to hire a superintendent, tell him/her to make changes, and then pull the rug out from under him or her as soon as he/she tries to do so. The majority of this board has resisted the supporters of the status quo (like Marj) and actually stuck with the superintendent and supported him. I’m proud of that.
    We’re improving Special Education both with changes at central office and with concrete efforts in the field (see https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2014/06/norwalk-boe-approves-plan-to-restore-decimated-central-office-beef-up-special-ed and https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2014/09/norwalk-boe-sends-2-9-million-shopping-list-to-bet), such as with construction of an $800,000 Pre-K special ed center at Roosevelt School. The personnel changes you cite are correct, and a small part of the plan. You do always focus on such trees, however, and tend to miss the forest.

  31. Ziggy Stardust

    This comment was deleted for violating our policy against personal attacks, name-calling and harassment of other commenters.

  32. MarjorieM

    Mike, time will tell who is right and who is wrong. When Rivera leaves, funding for all these new positions will be on the taxpayers. In the long run, time will tell.

  33. Joe

    These 43 illegal immigrants do not LIVE in Norwalk, as Mr. Lyons said. They just got dropped off a few weeks ago at the end of a smuggling operation.

    This adds about $645,000 a year to our city budget not counting medical and social services for these children.

    Hey Mr. Kimmel, you’re always telling us about using proper procedures to run this town. How did you like this? It’s only $10 million over the next 7 years with no committee meetings, no discussions and no vote.

    I think they call this an Edict or a Decree. You know, like in the days of Henry VIII or Julius Caesar.

    I’m an American. I don’t like edicts. And I don’t like decrees.

    It would be fun to see the written communication trail from the fed to the state to the city to the Norwalk Public School bosses on this multi-million dollar order to Norwalk property taxpayers.

    (Some reporting on this would give Christine Stuart some desperately needed readership).

    I heard the summer weather has cooled off on the smuggling trails now. So more scared kids are probably on their way.

  34. Joe, the problem is that the Feds and the state say that once they’re ‘dropped off’ here, they live here, as far as they’re concerned. The ‘generosity’ our president is showing them is paid for by us, and exactly as you state — by Federal decree. A good reason to vote for better representation in Congress.

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