Secrecy justifiable in Norwalk superintendent search

By Peter Berman

NORWALK, Conn. – The vigorous objections of Norwalk Federation of Teachers union chief Bruce Mellion to the Board of Education’s decision to maintain the confidentiality of its superintendent search finalists is another reminder the NFT’s extraordinary hostility to both the BOE and our superintendents. The NFT’s monthly Vanguard publications are replete with denunciations of both the BOE, our superintendents and target individual BOE members. Why Norwalk’s public school teachers continue to support reportedly the most hostile public school union leadership in the state remains puzzling. No other city is subject to such a hostile teachers union.

By keeping the “short list” of superintendent applicants confidential the BOE is following standard professional job search. No well qualified applicant would apply for another position if their search is publicly advertised.

Objections to this well established protocol must have other fish to fry. The BOE was simply following best standard professional search practice. And merits our appreciation.

The BOE’s performance in the superintendent selection process is yet another reminder that the BOE – far and away our most important elected public body – is both worthy of our respect and admiration. Just last year the BOE secured a historic arbitration award that not only exposed the unprecedented “plums” in the NFT contracts going back 30 years but gave the city a $2.6 million freeze. By noting that our teachers are the 5th highest paid in the state the Arbitration Award Panel highlighted the link between Norwalk’s excessive taxation required to fund excessive teacher salaries and declining home values.

It’s a good bet the NFT will “welcome” the incoming superintendent with the same hostility that befell former Supterintendent Susan Marks. Lets encourage our BOE and the community to support fully our incoming superintendent and let the NFT know in advance that we will not tolerate its highly destructive and demeaning behaviors. Our superintendent is far and away our most important city official and deserves the full support of all us, especially the public  school teachers funded by 70 percent of city’s budget.

For the first time in quite some years an incoming superintendent is reporting to a highly respected and well functioning BOE under admirable leadership. If there was ever a time for the entire Norwalk community to support our public school system to do the best we can for our children and community now is that time. With an incoming superintendent selected by a respected and well supported BOE Norwalk has a good chance of regaining its once vaunted reputation of having admired public schools. An openly hostile teacher’s union – despite the high salaries – remains our primary roadblock.


Peter I Berman


6 responses to “Secrecy justifiable in Norwalk superintendent search”

  1. Bruce Kimmel

    It is important to note that the so-called “plums” mentioned by Mr. Berman were negotiated by previous BOEs over the years. The blame for these “plums” rests with these BOEs, not with the NFT. Nonetheless, I do agree with Mr. Berman’s characterization of the current NFT leader.

  2. M. Murray

    I wouldn’t place the blame on Mellion. He is doing the job he is elected to do, which is protecting his members and getting them the best possible benefits and working conditions.

  3. A_Miller

    Count me among the confused Norwalk parents. Why does anyone care what the teachers union president thinks he’s entitled to? Until we see the teachers up in arms about the superintendent search, who cares what one labor flack thinks?
    Which has me thinking about why a more public search would be so bad (except that some union guy wants it)? Don’t the Board of Ed members want to make sure that the final choice is comfortable before the public?

  4. Bruce Kimmel

    M. Murray: I tend to agree with you regarding Mellion. However, in my opinion, there is a time to bend a little, especially when jobs are at stake. In the period leading up to the arbitration decision, he had a number of opportunities to truly compromise and thus save jobs — he essentially thought the BOE was bluffing, like it had done in the past. But this time the numbers were real and the positions disappeared.

  5. 0ldtimer

    It is fun to read all the non-union experts sound off on how an elected union officer should work. As an elected officer for many years, Bruce keeps getting elected because he never, for a minute, loses sight of who he works for. There is an important lesson there for others holding elected positions.

  6. LWitherspoon

    I think everyone agrees that an elected union officer’s job is to get as much as he or she can for union members. The question Mr. Berman raises is therefore valid. When Mr. Mellion’s sole interest is to maximize the salaries and benefits of his union members, why should anyone think that his advice on how to select a superintendent is driven by anything other than getting more money for his union?

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