South Norwalk needs real leaders for real change in school system

By Phaedrel Bowman

A Better South Norwalk team member

NORWALK, Conn. – I’m young, but I’ve lived in South Norwalk for more than 25 years and I care about what happens to our community. I’ve always been concerned about the education of our children; recently a local community librarian has challenged me to go a step further by showing me the data and asking me to understand what the data indicates. I decided to take the challenge.

I can appreciate those who are on the forefront of education reform based on the data I’ve seen.  It has bothered me for a long time that people feel minorities in Norwalk cannot learn academically. Then, for this so-called reason, jobs are created within the school system with huge price tags.  Other times unqualified or uncaring people are hired and nothing improves.  When I see in The Hour the salaries being paid to Norwalk educators I don’t understand why the Norwalk Public School system is not thriving.  

I worked for Achievement First (in Bridgeport and New Haven) and I saw for myself the myths being dispelled about black children.  Therefore, it bothers me when I hear all these stereotypes about them and their inability to learn or hear that the Norwalk Public Schools cannot make it happen with the resources they have (the Achievement First schools received less state funding and had higher percentage of minority and free/reduced students than Norwalk).

Norwalk blames low-income families and find all sorts of excuses as to why black children are failing.  As Achievement First has proved, all any child needs to get a good education is committed educators who believe in the children, are willing to work with the families, and are determined to see them succeed.  This starts with early childhood and continues through high school if we want children who are college ready and the approach should be bottom up; we don’t need any new, expensive administrative positions to make it happen. The community must also be an instrumental part. Norwalk needs to have a solid plan for education which includes a superintendent who puts children first.

Right now, municipal candidates are positioning themselves for political support. We have been promised changes in the education system before but to no avail. South Norwalk residents need to listen to what each candidate has to say and look at their past actions and comments before we decide who will get our votes.  Here in South Norwalk, we need to decide if the candidates have our best interest in mind and if they are willing to include our concerns with all of Norwalk’s concerns so that we can thrive as a city.

What happens often is that people come into our community — we see them only around election time— and ask for our votes. They want to use us to get into office and, once elected, they push our issues aside.  That is not leadership.  That is mere politics and not even good politics.  Although individuals may have reaped benefits, the South Norwalk community as a whole does not see a return on the investments.  This stops now!

Phaedrel Bowman




16 responses to “South Norwalk needs real leaders for real change in school system”

  1. sjur soleng

    Although well written and on the edge of a good point, I fail to see where this is going. Is it a call for responsible voting within the South Norwalk Community? Is this letter a call to local politicians to follow through on promises made before an election? What were those promises? What I see hear is a vague call for the community and especially the parents to start parenting, and unfortunately that can only be fixed internally. No programs or extra funding will fix a dysfunctional family life. Should the taxpayers of Norwalk foot the bill for the inability of the parents to properly get involved with children and encourage success in the classroom.

  2. BARIN

    I think another problem we face locally is the fact that teens have nothing to do. Idle hands. With the YMCA closed, that leaves tne Carver and Sono Field House for children, but some may not have transportation or money for the programs offered. I was raised in several Norwalk Housing Authority properties, we we’re always playing some sort of sport, usually against another NHA property. For instance, basketball, baseball, football, hockey (I could barely stand on skates)but never the less we all joined in. Games every Sat/Sun, Colonial Village v. Roodner Court; Washington Village v. Meadow Gardens etc. All these games we’re battles as many good athletes we’re involved, but if you had a fight it was bare knuckles and you we’re friends five minutes later. No guns, knives or any other weapon, when and most importantly how did this happen. Although I dropped out of high school I received my GED because I finally realized school was important. Many blame single parenting, but I was raised by a single mom, as was Mr. Watts, so what is the excuse for the kids today? I agree that parents need to step up, schools can not take their place and discipline the kid 24/7. Police Officer Chris Holms heads a cadet program that is fantastic and the kids involved are phenomenal, so we do have things to keep them busy, we just have to get together as a community and reel em’ in. This is also where Deacon John Harris will be missed, he was a master at reeling them in and keeping them busy boxing. I also must mention Mr. Doug Peoples who many times takes a personal hand with our youth. I apologize if I left anyone out but you know who you are and there are many more of you in our community.

  3. diane c2

    In recent months (nay years)I’ve questioned the leadership (lack thereof) in South Norwalk area, and wonder why residents have been abandoned.
    I hope for change soon, and would be happy to be a part of it, including exposing the questions and inconsistencies with the redevelopment of Washington Village and the lack of NHA resident responsiveness (especially during the recent flooding). Not to mention crime, poverty, education and health issues.
    Phaedrel – I live in East Norwalk. I want to help – others want to help – we see what is happening and know the truth. We want to teach residents in plain terms how the systems work and how to help themselves. But speaking for me, I will not be used as a political pawn by the phoney poitical so-called “leaders”. They know who they are…

  4. Joanne Romano

    What the writer is asking is that political leaders step up and not just make promises…they must follow through and assure all children have the best education and we need to stop profiling kids. I dare to say that all /most children are born to learn and it is up to the adults to teach them the skills they need. It all starts in the home at a very young age so that children are ready to go to school and adjust/learn as well as the next. I was very much committed to my daughter knowing how to read and add simple numbers by the time she was 3 years old. She attended Neon pre-school and had wonderful teachers who complimented what she was taught at home. This tradition albeit not Neon pre-school has gone to my grandsons as well. This is how children adjust to the world and education around them and all parents need to do is start the ball rolling and hope that their community leaders will stand behind them and help their children have the best education while they themselves are working to put food on the table and roofs over their heads. But to think that profiling is beneficial to any child , I don’t and never have subscribed to that theory. categorizing a child because of race, color or national origin does nothing for their self esteem. If you tell them they can’t learn, what do you expect from them. all kids should start out on an even playing field, if they need extra help, you give it to them but don’t tell any child because of where they come from, they can’t learn as well as the next one. Sorry for my rant but I think we do children a disservice by categorizing them. And our community leaders do a disservice by not assuring these kids that they have the same abilities as others and only need to do/be the best they can and they will succeed.

  5. Tim T

    It’s not only a South Norwalk issue. It’s an issue for Norwalk in general. We have had way too many years of the administration …NORWALK NEEDS CHNAGE and not from the old boys club as they are the problem.

  6. Tim T

    When the YMCA announced its closing I was floored that Moccia seemed to just blow it off as a sign of the times…Odd as surrounding towns have flourishing YMCA’s. I guess this is the attitude on many issues from the administration as it just seem like nothing matters to them. Just look at how many years they denied a gang issue in Norwalk and now it’s out of control..

  7. BARIN

    It was a great place, truly a family place but to be fair the monthly family membership cost at the Y, compared to surrouding towns was pretty cheap. To add to that those towns have newer modern facilities, which of course, cost less to maintain. The Y simply could’nt afford to stay open.
    I took it at the time that Mr. Moccia meant with his comment, they could’nt afford upkeep of the building, its a sign of the times.
    I was more upset with the Y administration, in the way they told loyal long time Y employees of the closing at the last minute, during the holidays. Cold man.

  8. BARIN

    Wait a minute, maybe, just maybe Mr. Seligson would be interested in donating the city some room on the property on West Avenue between Orchard and Merwin streets for a new Y facility? Can’t hurt to ask can it? Send Tad.

  9. Diane C2`

    @BARIN and TIM T:
    The are several “sacred cows” in Norwalk, and one near the top of the list is Norwalk Hospital…..
    that perhaps answers the swift and unprofessional closure of the YMCA. For pete’s sake, the city was apparently so hell bent on getting the property over to the hospital that a committee chair even completely bypassed city staff and his own committee and pushed it through the council in order to ensure the purchase agreement between the YMCA and hospital went through without delay.
    So with that mentality, how concerned do you think this city is with the needs of inner-city youth and the socio-economic climate of South Norwalk?

  10. BARIN

    Wow, if a committee chairman did that they should be held accountable, can you give a name Diane? At the very least they should be asked to step down. Why is everyone involved with governing OUR city so afraid of transparency. Anyone that knew about it and did nothing is just as guilty. Wait, that would be due to cronyism, which is also rampant among some of our local elected officials.

  11. Diane C2`

    BARIN – Land Use and Building Management Committee Chair Fred Bondi.
    See Hour report and the Council video of my public comment and Council response (including Mr. Bondi sarcastic and disrespectful questioning my right to challenge the legitimacy of the agenda item):
    The Hour YMCA/Hospital deal 12-11-12

  12. BARIN

    WOW, thanks Diane, apparently Mr. Bondi was awake long enough to berate you for asking a legitimate question, instead of just being transparent. Is the verbal beat down of a resident, asking for a simple explanation the norm for council members when they get caught making sketchy decisions? Aren’t they working in the best interest of ALL residents?

  13. Diane C2

    Yup, pretty much the norm. Same guy, different meeting: After having spent months co-leading a large group of residents seeking maintenance to fix our flooding woes, I wandered into a meeting of another great interest to me (parks and rec), and then-Chairman Bondi loudly announced “Gee, I didn’t know we had flooding on the recs and parks agenda!”, but not in a funny way, rather in a condescending and intimidating manner, as if my only interaction with my elected officials should be related to one topic.
    I can cite tons of examples of dismissive and disrespectful behavior of some elected officials. Once you dare to ask a question or challenge a decision, woe be to you. Most only want to hear from the choir….
    BTW, though other more assertive taxpayers disagree with my diplomacy, I ALWAYS respect the government process, follow the rules and protocol, and speak within the parameters set forth for public interaction. I try to do my homework and get my facts straight. Guilty as charged, however, on occasionally going over the 3-minute rule (hmmm, perhaps that is why my soft-boiled eggs end up hard-boiled)….

  14. Diane C2

    Back to the subject of the article….after having read some stats regarding education budget vs. cost per student, I agree that a superintendent and Board of Ed who set children and their education first are paramount to solving the education gap. Where ARE the leaders of South Norwalk who were elected to represent their constituents? Parents should be engaged in the process to the point of complete comfort in interacting with the elected Board of Ed, and programs need to be put in place that don’t just pay lip service to early education, but that require measurable results. I personally don’t think one extra cent is needed by the school system to achieve the goals for all Norwalk children – perhaps we simply need to re-think how we allocate the dollars we have now. Big budget, low results: something wrong with that picture.

  15. Tim T

    Diane C2
    Excellent points about the YMCA VS Norwalk hospital.

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