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Seen and Heard: Norwalk teachers’ union leader hates on Haynie

Norwalk BOE Bruce Mellion 120412 004
Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Bruce Mellion speaks at a recent Board of Education meeting.

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!”

Budget math

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?”

Teacher retirements

“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.”

Comments

11 responses to “Seen and Heard: Norwalk teachers’ union leader hates on Haynie”

  1. Ladybug26567

    This is the person representing Norwalk educators? How unprofessional and embarassing that they keep voting for him!

  2. Bryan Meek

    When we are in the midst of implementing a common core curriculum, why do we continue to hire curriculum specialists? When do we start to leverage some shared services instead of creating all of these little fiefdoms. $160,000 now is actually millions when taken over a lifetime. For someone who doesn’t even teach. Let’s hire some more qualified teachers instead.

  3. oldtimer

    Ladybug
    You are not required to like him or his comments in a publication directed at, and intended soley for, his union members. The obvious reason why a union leader keeps getting re-elected is results. His members apparently believe he does a good job under difficult circumstances. If he is correct about Haynie trying to insert comments she wishes she had made into minutes of a BoE meeting, and thereby changing the record, he is right in criticizing her. A lot of people who are not qualified to teach are jealous of how much teachers are paid. His answer to them is on the mark, do the work to get qualified and compete for the jobs.

  4. Lisa Thomson

    Old timer, I am afraid you are incorrect. The comments Ms. Haynie wanted inserted into the record, were stated and she has the recording and time stamps on Sound Cloud to prove it.

    At issue, is not really Mr. Mellion’s style, which many of us have found offensive, but that Mr. Mellion distorts facts and figures. Due to the general lack of transparency and poor communication in the district ( which I believe has been the point Ms. Haynie has been trying to make since she got on the BoE) Mr. Mellion is allowed to go unchecked. He does a tremendous disservice to the wonderful teachers in the district, who rely on him for accurate information and he attempts rather successfully to drive a wedge into what is a very serious and complicated issue – education reform.

    If the BOE and Norwalk for that matter would move into the 21st century with regard to its use of technology for transparency purposes, we wouldn’t have to read about the ‘he said-she said” back and forth that seems to permeate our municipal politics.

    For less than $750 Norwalk could upload unlimited audio onto the City and BoE websites for a sort of Internet radio for an entire year. For our senior citizens it could remind them of FDRs fireside chats but with 21st century technology and unlimitted accessibility to the public. Important topics could be fast forwarded and time stamped.

    BOE minutes no longer reflect what happens in the meetings. There are no more video recordings and no one is going to go to the 3rd floor IT department and search for a vintage 1970s audio cassette.

    It is time this City joined the 21st century. Maybe that could be an issue for our upcoming elections this year, as the issues in education are not just confined to the BOE.

  5. They say they want the science curriculum specialist because they need him or her for Common Core. They had a specialist but that person retired and was not replaced. I think it’s been a year or two. They are requesting $160,000; I assume this includes the benefits package.

  6. Hobbes the Calvinist

    To the spin-meister who claims Sue Haynie is all about open communication . . . why did she never put money in the budget for full transcription services for meetings? Sorry, that was a trick question. The answer is because she wants her comments set in stone and doesn’t care if anything else is recorded.
    As for the chronic commentator who asked why hire a curriculum specialist at the start of implementing the common core . . . seriously, you have to ask that? I know you’re next question is why Norwalk doesn’t have one teacher per grade and teach all the kids by video link. Or maybe you’ll suggest that Norwalk save paper money by switching over to slateboards and chalk?

  7. Ergo

    As a parent of two children who go to Norwalk Public Schools I really don’t care about the “who said what” bull crap that continues to go on. This has turned personal for each member of the BOE, and no one seems to remember they are there for the children of Norwalk.

    They like to huff and puff and argue over semantics, and the mayor likes to sit back and scratch his head as if he cares. In my honest opinion, our BOE is broken and needs to be completely revamped from the top down. Will that ever happen, probably not. But in a time when we need to pull together for Norwalk and it’s children why are we acting like children?!

    I am ashamed for these so called adults that conduct business this way with OUR money for OUR children. Say what you will about Marks, but if it wasn’t for her, how long would we have without realizing the massive deficit the BOE was operating with?

    If it’s so important to teach children that 1+1=2, why couldn’t any of the BOE members figure that out for YEARS?! You know why? Because they spend their time and their meetings arguing over which one of them is right or wrong and who can yell the loudest. Do your job or step aside members of the BOE!

  8. Bryan Meek

    @Calvin.

    If the curriculum is common and core? Do 169 school districts in the state each have a Science curricula coordinator? Why can’t this be a shared service and use the money to hire teachers instead? I am just trying to understand why would curriculum in Norwalk for science or any other discipline be different from any other district? I never suggested distance learning for our children. Stay focused please.

  9. oldtimer

    Lisa:
    I was not at the meeting, but BoE members and Mellion seem to agree on Ms Haynie’s comments. If they were just written versions of what she said, there should be no problem. Reading Mellion’s comments and Mr Lyons’ comments, it seems that is not the case. The idea of getting those meetings recorded sounds good to me.

  10. Lisa Thomson

    Thanks Old Timer. I think this whole issue would go away if the BOE were to provide a more readily transparent window into their operations, short of a 1970s cassette tape on the 3rd floor if one wants insight into where and how tax dollars are being spent on student achievement 🙂

  11. Mike Barbis

    The BOE pays a flat fee to Telesco Services for the transcription of the meeting minutes. Thus, this minutes issue has nothing to do about money … it is not costing us a penny more to have more detailed minutes.

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