NORWALK, Conn. – It’s full steam ahead for Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera’s ambitious 10-point plan to improve literacy results in Norwalk Public Schools. Of course, that doesn’t mean instantaneous results. The Board of Education on Tuesday night unanimously approved a resolution supporting Rivera’s “A Pre-K-5 Literacy Comprehensive Plan and Recommendations” in spite of concerns expressed about getting input from minority parents and skepticism that there will be results. This means that Rivera can officially engage in discussions with public libraries and other community partners to enact the ideas expressed in the plan. “He’s still going to have to come back to the Policy Committee and the board with a whole series of policy amendments probably over the next six months to get into the specifics,” Board Chairman Mike Lyons said. “We’re not going to change things over night,” Rivera said. “We’ve got to have a plan that is achievable over time. …. My job now becomes one of working with the appropriate communities and staff and begin advancing some of those changes that we know will make a difference.” The comprehensive plan begins with adopting a literacy policy with the highest of expectations. It goes on, in Rivera’s words, to:
• Plan and deliver high-quality professional development
• Focus and establish district structures, roles and systems around literacy
• Engage and support parents at an unprecedented level
• Engage Norwalk’s public libraries and community partners
• Provide common “assessments” in all schools
• Provide more access to after-school and summer school programs
Board of Education member Rosa Murray told Rivera that these things had been said before. “We have kind of fallen off the path a number of times prior to your tenure,” she said. “… It’s not that we don’t want to move forward, it’s that I want it, in my mind, to be done correctly. Because if it had been done correctly we wouldn’t be sitting here having this conversation. Some of these things that you have been speaking about, we started and then it was lost by the wayside. It became a disservice.”
Rivera said he had been hired to do it correctly and he had laid out a plan.
“The frustration from what I am hearing you saying is you want to make sure it happens,” Rivera replied. “I am telling you: There’s going to be milestones, there’s going to be a plan. There’s going to be assessments. It ain’t going to happen all in one year. But to change a system like this, that has been operating as it has over the last 10-15-20 years, is not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take time. But it’s going to happen.”
Murray said she agreed, but she needed him to know the history.
“We do know some pitfalls,” she said. “That is why we share that with you. We hope we won’t repeat that history.”
Shirley Mosby said she had been on a committee in the prior process as part of that history.
“I am just hoping that throughout that process you will be more open to having different people involved,” she said. “That’s all. That’s what we’re asking for is to make sure you will reach out to more of the community going through that process.”