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Thank you Colin Hosten and Sarah LeMieux

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I’ve served on the Board of Education for nearly two years. In that time, I’ve had the pleasure of serving alongside Colin Hosten and Sarah Lemieux, and the privilege of learning from Colin while he served as our Chair over the past year, and from Sarah the year prior.  While the Board of Education is not tasked with the day-to-day operation of schools, the Chair position is a demanding role, and in this particular moment of time, it’s been compounded by new challenges resulting from the pandemic.  There was no playbook for what Colin and Sarah stepped into, but they adapted and have navigated us through extraordinary times. It would have been easy for them to succumb to the pressure of a small (yet loud) group of critics, or lean into the protections of partisan politics.  They did neither. They immersed themselves in both our educational challenges and the opportunities in front of us. When emotions ran high, they prioritized student outcomes, while absorbing relentless personal attacks that are often grounded in misinformation. They’ve extended a calm and clear voice to conversation. They are collaborative and respectful.  

Being on the Board of Education has been the most rewarding work that I’ve done in my lifetime, and I deeply appreciate that with Colin and Sarah at the helm, our discussions and decisions as a Board have remained apolitical.  As their colleague, I’m grateful to Colin and Sarah for both their critical thinking and their compassionate approach to our District’s vision.  As a mother, I’m thankful for their role in NPS’s pandemic response plan, which has been held up as a model throughout the state.

Colin Hosten is up for reelection on November 2nd. Colin has demonstrated the discipline, resilience, and skill of an effective Board of Education member while striving for continuous innovation and improvement.  I’ll proudly be supporting him at the polls.

Erica DePalma

Board of Education member

14 comments

John O'Neill October 21, 2021 at 10:50 pm

If Erica thinks our school system is going in the right direction she should vote for Colin…That’s her preogative…In my opinion if that’s her opinion she should be voted out when she’s up for reelection….Holy Cow, results matter and it’s obvious that’s not happening in our school system. Have we gotten to the point where below average is a good thing? That is very very very sad..

Erica DePalma October 22, 2021 at 7:31 am

I focused this letter on the Chair position, but I also want to recognize two others leaving the BOE…Heidi Keys and Suzanne Koroshetz have been incredible partners in this work and their experience will be greatly missed.

David T McCarthy October 22, 2021 at 10:23 am

One politician endorsing another for the same office from the same party…I am so impressed.

A joke, obviously, but what is concerning is the way these petty politicos throw around their titles. This could be taken as an endorsement being given officially, rather than, as I believe it was intended, by an individual who happens to hold an office. Perhaps it was Nancy’s choice in how she credited the author…I would suggest she rethink that and not inadvertently allow someone to benefit from an office unjustly.

Bob Giolitto October 22, 2021 at 2:07 pm

Once again, Mr. O’Neill considers his opinions and assumptions fact. What results John? What is obvious? What constitutes “below average?” Thank you Erica and good luck Colin and Sarah!

Truthful Norwalker October 22, 2021 at 3:21 pm

Things like this should simply be titled “Democrat/Republican endorses Democrat/Republican”. What is the point of this piece honestly? If you think they are doing such a great job then vote for them. As someone mentioned that is your prerogative. What you shouldn’t do, as any elected official, is write some short article praising people in your party just to simply praise them.

Not one time did you cite anything meaningful that either Colin or Sarah had done. not one time! instead you just wrote a high school level opinion piece gushing about your fellow party members while also trying to defend them from what is clearly more active community members being curious about what is actually going on in schools.

I invite you to publish here 1 thing that either person did that was beneficial to the Norwalk School system. Unfortunately, Colin and Sarah “not succumbing to the pressure of a small (yet loud) group of critics, or lean into the protections of partisan politics” doesnt count. In fact it shows cowardice on their part because by not engaging with those parents who actually have kids in NPS you are doing exactly what you praise them for not doing. They are hiding behind partisan politics so they don’t have to actually do the main part of their job which is advancing NPS.

On a side note, Nancy shame on you for this publishing this piece. There is absolutely nothing in the 3 paragraphs Erica wrote that need to be read by anyone in Norwalk. I am a registered independent and this even makes me cringe.

As a second side note, no one that doesnt have children in NPS should be allowed to serve on the Board of Ed. It is just that simple. You simply dont have any skin in the game and there is no reason for you to attempt to be anything other than a politician. Board of Ed Members should not be politicians.

John O'Neill October 22, 2021 at 11:03 pm

@ Bob – Thanks for asking. How many kids graduating from NPS need remedial help to stay in college? The answer is ALOT. State stats prove that. How many kids in NPS are passed along from grade to grade without learning what they should be? The answer is ALOT. How many Excuses can Liberals come up with for the failures of their thought process on educating our kids? The answer is ALOT..
A coach of mine once told me excuses are for losers, winners always find a way…Maybe that should be posted in Board of Ed offices..
Kids need to be challenged..Same for Adults

BOB GIOLITTO October 23, 2021 at 1:56 pm

John, ALOT is not facts, it’s an unquantifiable term that by its nature is not fact. If the facts support your argument the so be it, but unless you can give us facts the it is merely your opinion.
As for Erica identified as a member of the school board, that’s transparent honesty. I’d want to know who is endorsing a candidate; to not do so would be disingenuous. The more we know, the better our ability to make decisions.

John O'Neill October 25, 2021 at 10:27 am

@ Bob — Again, thank you for asking. According to latest stats Norwalk HS Grads in the Connecticut College State University system does indeed have ALOT of kids in Remedial Courses. 50% of Norwalk Grads are taking remedial classes as of the latest stats. (Who knew they actually keep track of this stuff?) I don’t have specific stats on Norwalk kids being promoted without actually understanding what happened in the prior year academic-wise (I’m sure that number is locked away in a vault at Central Office) However, most logical people will deduce if a kid is not ready for college he or she probably shouldn’t have gotten “moved along” in our school system without succeeding at some point.
But as you wrote, this probably won’t make a difference to many. They blindly pull the lever they’re told to pull on election day.
The world is getting smaller – We’re ALOT closer to Eastern Europe than we used to be. Just my opinion.

Truthful Norwalker October 25, 2021 at 5:01 pm

In the most unsurprising turn of events, Sarah has decided NOT to take me up and post 1 thing either candidate did that moved NPS ahead.

I can stand up and preach/say whatever I want and I can even endorse whichever candidate I want. That is every single American’s right. What I hope for moving forward is that people actual attempt to do some form of due diligence themselves instead of blindly listening to someone like Sarah who just wants to paint a picture of These BoE members without actually citing even 1 fact about them and their time on the BoE. Voting for someone on the basis of a blind recommendation from someone else who supports that candidate is as bad as not voting.

How hard is it to actually look into these people before you vote for them? They do, after all, end up in a position that directly effects each and every one of us.

Sarah October 26, 2021 at 12:47 am

Truthful Norwalker, are you asking me or Erica? I think you might have gotten our names mixed up — understandable, since we’re both such lovely, competent women in leadership.

I can tell you some of my favorite things that I was a part of that moved NPS forward while I was on the board — we built a new Ponus campus, thoroughly reviewed and restructured special education services to both improve service delivery and save money for the district, rolled out the rigorous 26 credit high school program of studies, made the gifted and talented program a legitimate program for not only identifying but developing academic talent in all our kids — and those are just the shiny ones. We also restructured HR, moved to a cost-saving new insurance program with our teachers and staff, and effectively stopped the revolving door of superintendents that had plagued Norwalk for the previous decade.

But I’m sorry if I’m speaking out of turn — did you mean to ask Erica, or me?

John O'Neill October 26, 2021 at 3:55 pm

@Sarah: I wish you didn’t bring up health care savings…Below is the result of Gov’t getting involved in Health Care Insurance…I believe teachers received some of the original savings which really didn’t turn out to be savings…Not the Boards fault, but I wouldn’t bring this up as a win for Norwalk..Below is explanation from last budget…

“Health insurance costs were the most significant driver of this year’s operating budget increase.

To reduce costs for the district and employees, in 2017-18 the district moved to the CT 2.0 Partnership Plan offered by the State of Connecticut. Norwalk Public Schools was previously self-insured, which meant the cost for health care went up when employee medical expenses were high. The CT Partnership Plan offered a fixed cost, eliminating the need to keep millions sitting in a reserve account to cover fluctuations, while still providing employees with high quality health coverage.

At the time of the change, the State used a statewide average to set costs. The State is now phasing in county-by-county rate increases that factor in Fairfield County’s higher healthcare costs.

As a result of increases in rates, the drawdown of the final remaining balance from the insurance fund in FY 2020-21, and changes in the employee census, the cost to provide employee health insurance for 2021-22 is expected to rise (17.9%) 25.9%. Under collective bargaining agreements, NPS employees already contribute 18% to their health insurance, in line with other school districts our size.”

Truthful Norwalker October 27, 2021 at 1:58 pm

@Sarah I am not in the business of sarcasm when it comes to public service so my sincere apologies for citing you in my last post when it should have been Erica. I don’t know you personally, nor do a pretend to, and I am sure you probably are a lovely woman in a position of leadership. However, based on my own experience and what I can see with my own eyes, I most certainly would refrain from ever calling you competent.

Everything you cited sounds wonderful, almost like it was written by a member of your staff or the NPS as a press release. If I may, I would like to play devils advocate on a few of the projects you cited. First lets start with the Ponus campus. How’d that go? did you complete it on time and on budget? and are we really calling it a new campus? That is a bit of an exaggeration don’t you think? Although that characterization makes sense since you have to sell the project to your constituents.

Lets move onto special ed. by “thoroughly reviewed and restructured special education services to both improve service delivery and save money for the district” do you mean that you decided to cut money from these services because you felt it was more important to spend that money elsewhere? if so where did it go? NPS budget certainly wasn’t cut this year. As a life long Norwalk resident I have 3 friends and/or relatives with kids in NPS that depend on these services and its quite humorous to me because if you ask them about your statement they would say all they see is a cut in services offered and that they were better before your “thorough review and restructuring of special education services”. Seems like the real focus here was saving the district money which you didn’t do either since the funding for NPS was flat and not cut. doesn’t take a CPA to recognize that when you cut funding from one program and a lot it to another it amounts to a flat budget and a flat budget is not saving anyone money.

Onto the gifted and talented program which I also have first hand experience in. So by making “the gifted and talented program a legitimate program for not only identifying but developing academic talent in all our kids” do you mean you dumbed it down to a point where your focus is no longer on nurturing kids who make the right decisions and excel in academics and instead on being more inclusive at the expense of those kids? Funny, because to anyone who had any experience with the program that is exactly what you did. All kids from all backgrounds should have the same opportunities in NPS. When kids put in EXTRA effort and can be identified as gifted and talented, regardless of their race or upbringing, those kids deserve to be rewarded. What they don’t deserve is to have their rewards watered down in the name of some diversity check box on your BoE talking point sheet.

@John O’Neill I believe you covered the rest.

Since you took it upon yourself to be snarky in your response, let me end with I’m sorry Sarah, did I speak out of turn?

Sarah October 28, 2021 at 3:33 pm

So, truthful Norwalker, just making sure I have this correct – you have..three friends with kids in the schools?

That doesn’t seem like a tremendously informed place from which to be forming all these opinions. I stand behind the work I was a part of, and I know it moved things in the right direction for our kids – three of whom are mine, who have been in the system here since we moved here 11 years ago. I have experienced everything I mentioned in my comment from the parent side as well as the board side. Armchair quarterbacking can feel satisfying, but it’s energy spent that benefits literally no one.

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