Norwalk Schools Superintendent Manny Rivera has resigned

Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera
Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera.

Update, 5 p.m.: Confirmation from Rivera that he is leaving.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera has resigned, effective Jan. 31.

Rivera, in a letter that was sent to Norwalk teachers and administrators Thursday afternoon, called it the most difficult decision of his personal and professional career.

“The primary reasons for my departure are highly personal and it is with a heavy heart that I have reached this conclusion,” Rivera wrote in the letter.

Rumors that Rivera would leave have been circulating for days. The imminent departure was first reported here on NancyOnNorwalk Thursday afternoon.

Sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Rivera is leaving Norwalk to become the superintendent of New London Public Schools. Rivera has a vacation home in New London, the sources said.

“I have not been told that he is leaving,” Mayor Harry Rilling said. “I have heard the same stories that everybody else is hearing. The last time I spoke with him he shared with me some details that are personal to him, and I’m not at liberty to disclose those, but I have not had any statement from him that his departure is imminent.”

“If it’s true it’s a huge tragedy,” Board of Education member Mike Barbis said. “It’s a huge loss for us. I really hope it’s not true but there has been a good deal of turmoil here.”

Barbis said that at the convocation that began the school year there was a lot of talk about the old Norwalk way vs. the new Norwalk way.

“There are powers behind that old Norwalk way that did not want things to change,” Barbis said.

Rivera’s reasons for leaving were characterized by an anonymous source as being personal, not related to the turmoil involving some BOE members.

Rivera will send the same letter to parents, NPS Communications Director Brenda Williams said. It reads:

Dear Norwalk Public Schools Administrators, Teachers and Staff,

During the past several weeks, I have been wrestling with the most difficult decision of my personal and professional career.  After careful consideration, I am regretfully resigning my position as Superintendent of Norwalk Public Schools effective January 31, 2015.

The primary reasons for my departure are highly personal and it is with a heavy heart that I have reached this conclusion.

I sincerely appreciate the tremendous amount of encouragement and support I received from the talented educators and staff we have in the district, as we worked collectively to advance what is best for our children and youth.  Together, we have accomplished a great deal:

  • We developed a comprehensive and viable strategic plan to make sure Norwalk students are college and career ready.
  • We approved a new K-5 Literacy Strategy that is continuing to roll out.
  • With the addition of a second site focused on early literacy, we nearly doubled the number of students in summer school programs this year.
  • We are developing standards of excellence to guide our schools and the work of our school leaders.
  • We hired full-time curriculum and instruction site directors for each of our elementary schools, partially funded by a major grant, and filled other key positions with highly qualified people.
  • We opened the State’s first P-TECH model school, Norwalk Early College Academy, and have other programs in the design and development phase, including the International Baccalaureate program at Brien McMahon.
  • We reorganized the Special Education department to better serve students and families.
  • We made wireless technology available in all schools, deployed more than 4,500 Chromebooks to all grade levels, and went live with a new ParentPortal and mobile app.
  • We established new ways to communicate with families and the community, including a new website, email blasts, and a reverse phone message system, and we established a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.
  • We have work underway for a Facilities Utilization study that will help NPS plan for the future.

I firmly believe that Norwalk’s established goals for the school district can be achieved with an environment of collaboration, a tolerance for risk taking, and the confidence and full support of the Board of Education.

I genuinely want to thank all the administrators, teachers and staff throughout Norwalk Public Schools for your dedication to our students, and for the support you have given me as Superintendent.  I am fully committed to performing my duties during my remaining tenure here, which includes presenting next month another budget for the 2015-2016 school year, one that will advance the plans and priorities we have collectively put in place.  I also plan to work closely with the Board of Education and district leaders to ensure the smoothest possible transition.

Parent Message from Superintendent Nov 19, 2014

New London had recently lined up Terrence Carter to be its next superintendent, but discrepancies in his resume, application and background became public, according to news reports. Richard Foye, who was passed over for the position in the past and later retired, was named interim superintendent for a term that ended Oct. 31. It was his second term as interim super.

Original story:

Updated, 4:02 p.m, comment from Mayor Harry Rilling and BoE member Mike Barbis.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera is poised to announce that he is leaving Norwalk to become the superintendent of New London Public Schools, multiple sources say.

The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity. Neither Rivera nor Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons have returned a request for comment.

Rivera has a vacation home in New London, the sources said.

“I have not been told that he is leaving,” Mayor Harry Rilling said. “I have heard the same stories that everybody else is hearing. The last time I spoke with him he shared with me some details that are personal to him, and I’m not at liberty to disclose those, but I have not had any statement from him that his departure is imminent.”

“If it’s true it’s a huge tragedy,” Board of Education member Mike Barbis said. “It’s a huge loss for us. I really hope it’s not true but there has been a good deal of turmoil here.”

Barbis said that at the convocation that began the school year there was a lot of talk about the old Norwalk way vs new Norwalk way

“There are powers behind that old Norwalk way that did not want things to change,” Barbis said.

Rivera’s reasons for leaving were characterized by an anonymous source as being personal, not related to the turmoil involving some BOE members.

New London had recently lined up Terrence Carter to be its next superintendent, but discrepancies in his resume, application and background became public, according to news reports. Richard Foye, who was passed over for the position in the past and later retired, was named interim superintendent for a term that ended Oct. 31. It was his second term as interim super.



45 responses to “Norwalk Schools Superintendent Manny Rivera has resigned”

  1. Dawn

    OMG. can we get nothing right?

  2. Stephanie

    The terrible three have ruined the BOE and the terrible two are ruining the Council. Can’t everyone just work together and not make it about race?

  3. Bruce LeVine Mellion

    If this turns out to be true what a terrible loss for the Norwalk Public Schools and the Norwalk community He has shown outstanding skills and leadership in his time in Norwalk and he will be very hard to replace.

  4. Educator

    When you have the likes of the entire Mosby clan and the Angela Harrison’s berating you over every decision you make, I would think it is personal.

    They have just run out a great man. Thanks!

  5. independent voice

    Bad news to say the least. This will sink the low ranked schools further into the drain. For once, Norwalk got it right by hiring Manny and now the city will lose him. I’m sure he saw the writing on the wall and concluded the school system is a lost cause, beyond repair and not worth the squabbles with the useless race baiting BOE members.

  6. Tobias

    You have to understand that Norwalk is a transition community for educators. They either use it as a stepping stone up towards bigger and better communities or as a step down towards retirement. It’s hard to actually find someone in administration to actually stay here longer than a few years, unless they are committed to the community (ie: someone who grew up in Norwalk, can afford to live here and wants to continue to plant roots in Norwalk.)

    It happens with Principals and Superintendents. Gone are the days where educators want to leave a legacy on a shingle on the way into the School. Add to it knuckleheads that have their own agendas (Pharoahs who want to lead their own Egypt) and it only hastens the exit by the personality they once tried to woo to our cute little town.

    I have to say that I think it’s time some of us stop complaining and start running for offices to bring some change to this City! Time to shake up the apple cart. Of course, I am sure that most of you who sit and complain about the same 3 or 4 people who push their own agendas on us will continue to sit there eating your bon-bons instead of sticking your neck out and trying to do something about it. When are the next BOE elections? Who has seats up for grabs? Let’s do something unselfish and try to do something positive for our kids.

    I mean this is about our kids right? As money is spent here and there on frivilous ideas for technology trinkets that will be outdated by the time the purchase order is sent, why not invest in better things than just teaching for a test. I loved school when I went through in Norwalk because there were things to do other than sit in class and learn about what I need to know for a standardized test. But now kids just retreat to their iPhones and Instagrams because virutal life seems much more fun than real life between 7 am and 3 PM. Budgets and Buy this and that because kids can’t get it supplied to them anymore…. If you ask me, positive choices can be made so that everyone meets on an agreeable level. When it’s not about Democrat or Republican or personal issues and wounds, but about the kids…. I think things can actually get done.

    That’s the end of my rant for today. Thank you to all those who listen. And to those who just want to continue to complain, enjoy your bon bons… (edited to remove crass and inappropriate language)

  7. Lisa Thomson

    Given a choice between returning to his hometown or dealing with the nonsense in Norwalk – he must have looked at it as a free get of jail card. His leadership will be hard to replace. Thank goodness Mike Lyons was voted back in as chair. He and the other 5 reformers on the board will have their work cut out for them.

  8. Nora King

    This is a tragedy. Manny is a “rock star” for Norwalk and a true leader. I was truly starting to be proud that my son was part of the Norwalk School system. The blame should be placed on the terrible trio. They are a disgrace to the BOE. If only we could start a petition and have them removed from office. They continue to hold Norwalk back from truly finding success in our school system. How do we keep electing these bad apples to BOE and Common Council is beyond any sort of rational thought. This is a very sad day in Norwalk.

  9. Ziggy Stardust

    @ Tobias
    This wasn’t a “stepping stone” move. And as far as people on the board “shaking it up” for our kids benefit, we already have a bipartisan majority doing just that. Look no further than the three pariahs on this board, Mosby, Rivas & Murray. They did it again! They chased another top quality superintendent away. Congratulations to all those incompetent voters out there for electing this sad group!

  10. Bill Dunne

    Will Mayor Rilling — just this once — find his voice on a critical issue facing our town? On everything from the Al Madany mosque controversy to the crack-up of NEON, from the planned driving range at Oak Hills Part to the recklessly instigated “criminal investigation” of his own Department of Public Works, from the POKO debacle to the groundless and malicious racism charges hurled at the BoE, anyone looking to Mayor Rilling for leadership or at least some calming influence has found him silent as the Sphinx. But the pending loss of such a widely revered schools superintendent after so short a time is something that desperately calls for mayoral intervention. Can we have it this time, Mr. Mayor, please?

  11. David

    This is a great loss for our city – Rivera provided a great mix of “hands on” and visionary leadership.

    Let’s hold off on finger pointing, for a minute. My initial reaction (before reading the comments) was that Rivera has done a LOT in his time here. People who do a lot, provide leadership and transform organizations, are in hot demand. In every industry.

    As for the finger pointing to certain BOE members – while I don’t want to defend them (because I’m not really impressed with their antics either), it’s worth pointing out that Rivera generally enjoyed a good relationship with the BOE and city leaders. He pretty much ran the table on the initiatives he wanted to put in place. Getting pushback from a distinct minority of BOE members, that’s just run-of-the-mill politics! You better believe Mr. Rivera will get more of the same up in New London.

    We need to work on the future – all organizations go through staff turnover, we need to learn from this and make a new hire that will allow us to move forward.

  12. Jeff

    Keep Manny at all costs and do whatever it takes to retain his leadership. Are you listening?

  13. NorwalkVoter

    Manny is the best we have ever seen. A major loss for this city.

  14. piberman

    When an extraordinary “high achiever” Supt. working with a highly regarded BOE leadership in a City renown for its long disfunctional BOE’s and revolving Supts. gives notice after 18 months we can speculate.
    Was it the endless negativity of 3 non-performing BOE members who claimed “discrimination” without evidence, attacks by individuals claiming to represent the “community”, non-attendance at BOE meetings by our Mayor, long standing hostile school and administrator unions agitating for new BOE members at the recent elections, the Mayor’s apparent support for the claims of the 3 disaffected BOE members for starters ? Was it the perception that despite the unusual capabilities of the BOE’s leadership they did not have the positive and active support of the City’s minority community whose students comprise the overwhelming majority of public school students ?
    Was it the perception that the 3 BOE members from the City’s minority communities failed to enlist the support of their communities or were well suited to their tasks ? Or was it a perception that the oft stumbling Common Council was not fully supportive of funding a first rate education effort in Norwalk ? Or was it a perception that despite some truly first class public servants Norwalk has a long term failing governance ?

    We’ll likely not know the “real reasons”. Dr. Rivera is too much the competent professional. But there’s no shortage of plausible ones. And its up to the Democratic leadership that truly governs our City during difficult times to ask whether Dr. Rivera’s pending departure is a clarion call for positive action to change our horrendously negative political governance. In any other well functioning community a Supt. of Dr. Rivera’s stature working with superb BOE leadership would encourage strong community support. But in Norwalk we only know how to tear down those who reach for the skies.

    The silence of the City’s Democratic leadership while 3 Democratic BOE members infamously called out “discrimination” and the support of the NAACP for those charges still casts an appalling shadow upon our City. Will Norwalk Democrats really learn from this sorrowful experience ? Do they really speak for the dreams and aspiration of our minority communiies and their childrens’ futures ?

  15. M Allen

    It’s all over but the finger pointing. Maybe its a better opportunity. Maybe he sees this becoming a bigger mess as time goes on. It’s a pretty harsh blow that Norwalk can’t keep qualified administrators like this, but nobody can say it isn’t par for the course. Not just in Norwalk. Don’t blame Norwalk. The problems associated with public schools go way beyond this little microcosm and try as they might, the inertia is on the wrong side of history.

  16. Lifelong Teacher

    This is awful news for the students and staff in NPS. It’s not often that I agree with Bruce Mellion, but I do on his topic. No longer can we afford the revolving door in thr superintendent’s office. The stakes are just too high.

  17. As reported by The Day of New London: “The Hour, a daily newspaper based in Norwalk, cited Board of Education member Michael Barbis as saying that Rivera plans to leave Norwalk in late January to take the New London job.”

    After a Board member violates his confidence by leaking the news of his leaving, you have to expect that Dr. Rivera will run (not walk) to his next appointment.

  18. Facts Please

    Not sure if it was wise to publish a rumor, with no official confirmation. If it is true, than confirmation by either Lyons or Rivera should be forth coming, immediately, as this effects the entire community. We put our faith and trust in Manny when he came and if I recall correctly he did make a statement before being appointed that he intended on making Norwalk home and not leaving. If it is true, is it really personal, or, does Manny see something, we don’t, yet? If it is true, is Rivera eligible for the bonuses? He has done good but the job isn’t completed.

  19. M murray

    Let’s face it. If we continue to hire people who are from out of town and have minimal historic ties to the community, they will continue to leave after a brief period of time. The grass is always greener for someone who is not personally invested in the community. The best way to predict the future is to look at the past.

  20. Bill

    What a selfish man. We invest so much in him and give him a high salary and he leaves in 18 months. I don’t think he ever really cared about Norwalk’s kids, just the money.

  21. Nora King

    Please M Murray – get real. The problem we have in Norwalk is we have this good old same way of doing stuff with the same group of people who ruin it. We are the sixth largest city in Norwalk. We need to recruit the best talent on a nationwide search. We can’t keep the talent because of a few bad apples we have in this city that threaten, bully and continue to set our education system back. But the city keeps electing these people.

    What we need to do is elect leaders that are not going to put up with the bull*&%! any longer. Enough already. This is one of the worst things that has happened to Norwalk in years. We need more leaders like Manny and more department heads like Manny.

  22. LWitherspoon

    Sad. What was the duration of Dr. Rivera’s original contract and what does it say about early termination by either party?

    I too recall the assurances that Norwalk was where Dr. Rivera intended to retire. We would not be repeating the unfortunate past which featured a string of short-time Superintendents. What happened?

  23. Ziggy Stardust

    Well said Nora!
    Take your heads out of your backsides, especially you Bill. Do you really think he’s leaving for the money? I understand New London pays less than us. It’s not about the money! The 3 self interested members of this board cause Dr. Rivers plenty of heartburn. Everything is about Race with these 3. Every BOE meeting starts with the father of one of these three accusing the BOE of racist motives. The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree with his daughter accusing the other BOE members of being racist with out having any proof. It’s been a toxic environment caused by these three incompetent members. They did it again and chased another superintendent out of Norwalk. They are a disgrace and need to be removed!
    BTW, nice move Bob Duff endorsing Shirley Mosby. Still can see that lovely photo-op of Duff & Shirley Mosby. Now there’s a picture I’d like to see plastered on billboards and at every bus stop! Way to go Bob! Now wonder our State is a laughing Stock too, You sure know how to pick ’em Bob! Please sit down already, you’ve done enough damage standing up for us!
    I think Gruber got it right with “the stupid American Voter”. Keep sending those “Happy Birthday” greetings on FaceBook to these stupid Norwalk voters and keep smiling there Bob. The idiots seem to like it! Afterall they elect people like you and Shirley Mosby.. You got what you deserve stupid Norwalk voters! Enjoy!

  24. M Allen

    @Nora – sorry but that ship sailed away long ago. When you’re in that place where nobody will judge you, and you take an honest look at the city, hell the state, where do you think it is headed? Towards electing leaders and people of consequence? Who do you honestly believe the electorate will vote for when they actually do make the effort to show up? And which of those who are elected will do what truly needs to be done in order to right the ship? Not very many. There is little tangible upside in it for any of them. Talk is cheap but it is the only currency any of them are willing to put on the table. The only thing on the upswing in the 6 largest cities in Connecticut is the taxes.


    Mayor Rilling comment please… It seems you continue not to take a stand on anything.. This seems to be a repeat of your time as chief.
    Some people survive by leading from behind.

  26. EDR

    He certainly is not leaving for the money or prestige. He has a get of of hell card and he is running as fast as he can. He is far too classy a gentleman to say it but why would anyone take the abuse he took from some of the board members. Life it too short for that.

    What is sad is there is a big old Scarlett letter placed on the City of Norwalk now. Three people have caused the carnage with their egos and silliness.

  27. Bruce Kimmel

    This is indeed a tragic day for our city, especially our children. What’s been happening on both the BOE and the Common Council is disgraceful and, unfortunately, is not surprising considering what’s been going on in the local Democratic organization for too many years. It’s time to end the race baiting and power grabs for good.

  28. srb1228

    I hope he didn’t leave because of 3 difficult Board members. It’s hard to believe that any City, much less town, in the United States doesn’t have some Board members or councilpeople who aren’t difficult. Nonetheless its saddening he left. I wish he would reconsider

  29. WOW just WOW

    This is very unfortunate . What is also unfortunate is that some commenters are using this as an opportunity to show their racist ignorant views. I will not mention any names as it is obvious who I am referring to.

  30. MarjorieM

    As usual, place the blame on a superintendent leaving because of “uncontrollable” Board members. Sorry, but that’s why superintendents get the big bucks. They know how to deal with difficult parents, teachers, administrators, etc. The blame here is strictly on the superintendent.
    He did not keep his word. He had no reason to stay in Norwalk. The Board members who didn’t see this coming when he signed his contract are those who are to blame as well. He came, he hired his buddies at extravagant salaries, he copied exactly what he did in Rochester and is leaving us in a mess.

  31. Norewalk Lifer

    Norwalk, you will survive

    Norwalk Lifer

  32. M Allen

    Norwalk taxpayer, you won’t survive. But that really has nothing to do with Dr. Rivera. He’s just a symptom.

  33. piberman

    Well said Democratic Councilman Kimmel. Now its up the City’s Democratic leadership to insist that their candidates for the BOE have the abilities to fully and effectively contribute to the BOE, our Superintendent and public school system. Especially in those areas where Democrats have a clear historic voting majority. The Democrats have a serious problem with 3 of their BOE members and they need to effectively resolve it. Very likely its cost our City a very competent Superintendent. Are Party calls for resignations in order ?

  34. Jane

    And the flight from Norwalk continues….at all levels.

  35. John Hamlin

    Okay, so he’s going, and it’s unfortunate. But all the moaning and whining about three board members or other possible causes for his departure will not bring him back or solve anything. We need to focus on the future — we need to keep things headed in the right direction while we quickly do a national search for another exceptional superintendent. We could structure his or her compensation so that there are retention bonuses at 5 or 10 year intervals if we are tired of the revolving door. But only if we can land a first rate candidate. Indentifying and recruiting a great replacement should be the BOE’s focus. If we can get information from him as to why he’s really leaving, that could be helpful.

  36. Lifelong Teacher

    We may never know he full story. And I’m sure there is one.

  37. Kevin Di Mauro

    Why am I NOT SURPRISED ?

  38. Screwed Taxpayer

    Hopefully the quitter will have to reimburse this city for part of the egregious contract and benefits he was given up front. He is clearly in breach of verbal contract from his prior commitments. Wasn’t he given a raise/bonus based on his first year? I can sympathize and support his personal decision, but if he gets to take his perks out of here, well that is just wrong.

  39. Oldtimer

    It is too bad the School system is losing a very promising superintendent, but very few stick around long. It is troubling how quick some are to blame the Mayor for not speaking out after he has told us he and Supt. Rivera had a very personal conversation recently which the Mayor is too much of a gentleman to reveal. It is even more troubling how quickly some focus on BOE members they don’t like, to blame them for Rivera’s decision. Maybe Mosby sr is on to something when he talks about lingering racism in Norwalk. Rather than taking pot shots, if the critics have better viable candidates to support, why not get them elected without sniping ?

  40. FWIW, we get the leaders we deserve. As much as carping about 3 board members might be fun, it simply gives people who might be great in office…. a real reason not to run.

    I know very little about the issues of the Council and the BOE, but the few times I am read topics on this site and the general media, I am struck by the non stop harassment of the volunteers and elected officials.

    Who would want to be on the zoning board, the council, the BOE….. if regardless of what is done….you are splattered by tomatoes by the “sit back and critic crowd.”

    It is very sad to lose good people…. but even worse are all the GREAT people who would never run for office or volunteer…. because of the lack of civility here and elsewhere.

    Just my unwashed opinion.

  41. New Era

    This is a shame for Norwalk

  42. piberman

    How curious that none of the City’s leaders have any comments to make save Councilman Kimmel who made appropriate comments. Nor from the PTO’s. Not even the Administrator’s Union. But to their credit the NFT Chief did express regrets acknowledging a mutually supportive professional relationship. Over time the real “beans” will emerge. If its really true as some speculate that the move was initiated from frustration with the 3 disaffected BOE members and perhaps the refusal of the City’s Democratic leaders to interfer then any successor will also likely remain a “short timer”. Many had supposed that a rejuvinated BOE would hire a superior Supt. and we’d be on the road to renewing our public school system. Instead it seems that the Democratic “downtown power machine” had the last laugh. On all of us. What would have been helpful if just one public official made a public announcement requesting the Supt. to re-examine his resignation and continue. But maybe every public official knows just why he’s leaving. So this is the much vaulted “New Norwalk” ?
    Maybe a City that can’t retain a schools supt. isn’t quite ready to even consider the complex subject of a proposed downtown mall. Or anything else.

  43. Ergo

    This is disappointing to say the least. I would love to know how the BOE justifies spending the thousands of dollars they did to look for a new super to have him leave a year later. If I remember correctly, they had to get approval for additional money for the search. And then they cry poverty when they have to cut their own central office positions.

  44. Ms Ruby McPherson

    @ Marjorie M, you are so right and then to jump in to destinate satellites schools, when he don’t know the history?
    We have democrats who are working for community, it just seem like if you don’t agree with the body, your’e incompetent. Well just like Rowayton and East Norwalk etc, South Norwalk would like to see changes,because we are human also and hard working people.

  45. GRknight

    The ”big 3” of the majority tried to tell Dr. Rivera what to do.
    Especially with privatization with persons from nowhere.
    All school parents are MAD and they will do the right thing in the next elections.
    B.O.E is a mess, they don’t even talk to each other.
    We lost one good guy to Westport, the one that found money discrepancies in the excess of $5,000,000
    Now, WE lose another good man.
    Something is rotten in the ”country” of B.O.E

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