NORWALK, Conn. – This week in “Seen and Heard” we have something a little different for you: statements made by Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Bruce Mellion in the February edition of his newsletter to union members, Focus Vanguard.
Targeting the Board of Education’s Sue Haynie
Mellion leads the Vanguard with a “Sue Haynie Watch.”
Mellion was the only member of the public to speak at the Feb. 19 Board of Education meeting, expressing “deep, deep, deep concern” over the inclusion in the drafted minutes of the Feb. 5 meeting a series of questions submitted by BoE member Sue Haynie. He describes his issue thusly:
“Sue Haynie tried to sneak into the minutes a series of comments she wanted incorporated into the official record by handing them directly to the secretary. Remember Sue Haynie never made these comments verbally, but she wanted them inserted into the minutes as if she had. … After considerable discussion the majority of the BOE indicated, with the mayor’s concurrence, that the comments should not be included since these were not part of the spoken record. Sue Haynie’s limp defense was that she made the comments during the Feb. 5 meeting at various times but not in the exact order that she wanted them inserted into the minutes.
“Oh, please, come on. That is just unmitigated bull, and no one on the BOE bought that reasoning for one second, let alone one minute.”
Again, Sue Haynie: She “couldn’t leave well enough alone”
Here, Mellion attacks Haynie over her actions as chairperson of the BOE Negotiations and Personnel Committee:
“For about 10 years, Norwalk teachers were observed and evaluated based on the Danielson model. It was fair, reasonable, provided for due process and was well managed by all parties. The bottom line was it assisted teachers to improve their practice. There were a few non-tenured and tenured teachers who did not make it after due process was exercised. The plan worked well with no problem. And, by the way, 98 percent of Norwalk teachers were evaluated proficient or distinguished!
“Along comes BOE member Sue Haynie, who could not or did not want to believe the data that she requested that showed the 98 percent figure. So she decided to put Norwalk teachers in the pilot teacher evaluation model and see how they look. Well, that decision is not working too well since the entire teacher and administrator evaluation pilot is a complete and total mess in all the districts designated as pilots. So where are we? Nowhere! If she had just left well enough alone, we would have been far better off, but as usual, Sue Haynie messed up.
“Thanks Sue. Keep destroying good things in the name of reform.”
Susan Marks has been “gone six months and not even missed”
Former Superintendent Susan Marks didn’t earn her pay, according to Mellion:
“In mid-August 2012, Dr. (Susan) Marks left Norwalk after 25 months of accomplishing nothing. She collected about $500,000 in salary and over $86,000 in severance. Pause and ask what she accomplished, and the instant answer is nothing that anybody can recall. No, she is not the first Norwalk superintendent to fit this profile but she is the most recent in the string. This is the perfect example of when a process seeking a new superintendent is not followed what the results can look like, and it was and is not pretty. And the frosting is that she returned to her former district in Maryland!”
Mellion on the budget: For the current school year, the operating budget for the Board of Education is about $155 million and of that amount $100 million is salary and $31 million is health insurance, meaning that everything else is the remaining $25 million.
Marks also makes her way into a Mellion budget diatribe
“Why do the superintendent and the Board of Education take all the time and effort to prepare a detailed operating budget request for the city only to have it dead on arrival? Experience shows the city has predetermined what is the increase percentage number the Board of Education is going to receive ahead of time, no matter the number that is requested. For example, the request was 3.4 percent for 2013-2014, a very reasonable number based on the events of last spring, when the reconciliation of then-Superintendent Marks devastated the elementary level and the BOE just rubber stamped it before she sneaked out of town, and yet the number appears to be 2.7 percent. Why not just give the BOE the percentage increase and then the BOE can build the operating budget and be done with it?”
“Thus far this school year, there are about three dozen school teacher retirements confirmed, or about three times the number of last June.”
Mind reading and coming up with “The Great J Word”
Mellion says a “new angle arose publicly for the first time” Feb. 21 during a council finance committee meeting examining the Norwalk Board of Education operating budget request.
“I knew it had been just under the surface for a long time, but on this evening it finally came out in full force,” he said.
As reported here earlier, Councilwoman Michelle Maggio (R-District C) made some pointed remarks about the $160,000 requested to pay for a science curriculum specialist. Mellion said she and others are jealous of the salaries certified school district employees make:
“A few members of the committee mentioned the salary of about $160,000 and they could not believe that was the amount. You see, these people were gauging this against what they earn or what their spouses/partners earn, and they are desirous of this kind of salary. Not for a second were they thinking about all the formal schooling and experience that such a person must have to hold the position of science coordinator. In the stark reality of the moment it is just the number they saw, and then instantly translated it to themselves, saying, ‘Well, I would also like that.’
“If that is the case, then go to school and gain the experience necessary, and just maybe it can be yours someday. In the meantime, stop with the J word; it accomplishes nothing except to distract you from the real issue at hand – and by the way, eat you up inside.”
Is Maggio uninformed?
Mellion never mentions Maggio by name, but makes it clear when he describes a speaker who has four children in the school system. His comments are not kind:
“If I mix an apple, a peach and a banana, do I not get a coconut?” he asks. “No, I just get what the last three letters of the fourth fruit spell out: I get a nut!”
During the Feb. 21 meeting, Maggio questioned the $800,000 budgeted for substitutes, comparing it to the absentee policy her husband abides by as a member of the Norwalk Fire Department.
Mellion said, “She talked about the $800,000 … with no understanding about what, why, or how the money is used, implying something, but am not sure what, and I do not think she knew either.
“As I shook my head in total disbelief she called out my name for what reason I do not know. If you were there, you would have shook your head in total disbelief regarding the comments that were made by various committee members and members of the council who were in attendance. In my mind this is the annual meeting of disbelief. If you have ever attended one of these meetings you surely know what I mean, for it happens every year.”