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!