Message from Mike Lyons

A Look Ahead: A Message from Mike Lyons
Posted on 09/01/2017
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In July I reported on “Good News About the Norwalk Public Schools." Our school system has made very substantial progress in the last few years, and I focused on accomplishments in administration, finances, the first year of our Strategic Operating Plan (SOP), the first year of our Special Education rebuilding plan, tiered interventions, middle school redesign, and our Facilities Plan. 


With our Convocation of Teachers completed and school starting this week, today I want to take a look ahead – at year two of our SOP, and the projects we’ll be working on in 2017-2018. 


Spoiler alert – some of this could change if the state legislature doesn’t get a budget adopted soon, or doesn’t maintain our funding level. But I’m being an optimist and assuming that they will.


For this year, the Board of Education has developed 25 draft goals and 10 priority outcomes (of last year’s 25 goals, 23.5 were achieved).  I won’t detail them all here (after the Board votes to formally approve them we’ll put them up on our web site). But here are highlights of what we plan to get done this year:


1.  High Schools. We will start a 3-year process of increasing our high school graduation requirements from 20 credits to 26 credits, by adding teachers and courses, improving the course of study, and reducing study halls.


2.  Enhance our Academically Talented Program. We have contracted with nationally-recognized experts in education of the gifted to help us redesign and strengthen our Academically Talented Program to provide the best possible education for our gifted students.


3.  Middle School Redesign. Year two of middle school redesign will extend block scheduling to grades 7 and 8, enhance curriculum offerings, and move towards providing high school credit for mathematics courses taken in grade 8.


4.  Extension of School Day / Year. A recent agreement with our teachers union will allow us to lengthen the school day at our 12 elementary schools by 30 minutes starting in 2018-2019, increasing instructional time. The agreement also allows the Board to begin planning for possible creation of one or more year-round schools, with a 200-day schedule and four breaks during the year.  Following the example of other countries, such year-long schools have been helpful particularly for children from deprived backgrounds.


5. Special Education. The appointment of Yvette Goorevitch, M.Ed., as our new chief of special education brings us the leadership needed to complete implementation of our three year, $3.6 million SPED rebuilding program, including a major initiative for dyslexic children starting this year. 


6.  Tiered Interventions. To fill the gap between regular and special education, we will continue expanding “Tier II / Tier III” interventions into more grades and our expanding summer programs.


7.  Facilities.  This year will see completion of architectural designs for the first two school projects in our new, $170 million school improvement plan, which over the next 5 years will build Norwalk’s first new school since 1971 (a K-8 school at the Ely site in South Norwalk), expand Ponus to K-8, and completely rebuild Columbus and Jefferson Schools. The plan also includes $35 million of repairs and upgrade work at all of our other schools.


8.  Early Childhood Education. We will develop a comprehensive early childhood (Pre-K) educational plan for the city through the Early Childhood Council.


9.  High School Pathways. Building solid career options into the "college or career" goal for our students, we will continue the progress that started with the partnership with NCC and IBM that created the Early College Academy at Norwalk High School.  This will include implementing the Health Sciences Academy at Brien McMahon (partnering with NCC and Norwalk Hospital) and the Media Pathway at Norwalk High (partnering with CT Public Television). We’ll also strengthen the college option with the International Baccalaureate Diplomate program at BMHS.


10.  School Schedules.  We will fully evaluate delaying high school start times to improve the health and educational achievement of our high school students, aiming at a pilot program for 2018-2019.


This is not even half of what we’re working on this year, but I wanted to communicate some of the more important projects on the list.  his kind of work often doesn’t generate the headlines, but it’s what is turning Norwalk’s school system into the best urban school system in Connecticut. We’ll keep working on it.


Mike Lyons, Chair

Norwalk Board of Education