A Status Report from the Board of Education

A Status Report from the Board of Education
Posted on 06/30/2014
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By Mike Lyons
Chair, Norwalk Board of Education

For links to previous highlights and online articles with additional media coverage of these topics, click here: Nancy on Norwalk Opinion: Status Report from Norwalk BOE

As summer vacation starts, it’s time for one of my periodic updates on the status of the Norwalk Public Schools.  Here are some recent highlights:

1.  Budgets.  For the second year in a row the Board’s previous year budget is ending in a surplus, and for the second year in a row our new budget has the smallest percentage increase of any city department (despite a raise for teachers and other unionized staff).  The budget also includes the first-ever three-year budget projection. 

2.  Strategic Plan.  Our Strategic Plan is no longer just on paper – it is being put into effect with a significant central office reorganization, a major K-5 Literacy Plan (with literacy experts at every school and millions of dollars of new Common Core-based curricular materials and technology enhancements), and other improvements. 

3.  Common Core Curriculum.  Norwalk is one of the first communities to achieve full implementation of the new Common Core State Standards.  We have approved all mathematics and English curriculum upgrades from K through 12 in all 19 schools.  The new Common Core SBAC tests were performed flawlessly this spring with Chromebooks operating on Wifi, which for the first time has been extended through our entire school system. 

4.  School Security and Safety – We are in the process of implementing over $2.6 million in security enhancements throughout our schools.  Additional Police resource officers have been added to increase security at the schools, the Police department has completed security audits, and we implemented a detailed emergency plan for the schools covering everything from storms to shooting incidents.  New communication protocols to get word out quickly regarding any incidents at our schools, through email and text-messaging systems supplementing the Reverse 911 system, are activated.  AEDs (defibrillators) have been purchased and will be installed in all schools before the beginning of the next school year.  

5.  Technology / Communications – We are in the midst of a multi-year technology program (much of it Common Core-driven).  In addition to making all of our schools wireless, we activated our Genesis portal, which allows parents full online access to their children’s assignments and grades.  We have a new web site, Facebook page and Twitter account, and all Board of Ed meetings are now videotaped, shown on Cablevision’s educational access channel, and will be loaded soon onto YouTube.

6.  Briggs Turnaround – Despite repeated claims from a handful of people that we ‘haven’t done anything about Briggs High School’, the truth is just the opposite.  Major progress with this “turnaround school” continues, as testified to by its principal, staff and students.  

7.  Special Education.  After years of neglect, we are finally addressing the problems with special education in Norwalk, both to improve services and to reduce costs. 

8.  Pre-K and Post-12 Education.  We have taken steps to provide both pre-K and after-school programs for our youngest students and a first-in-the-state joint high school / college technology education program for our high schoolers).

9.  Facilities.  We’re managing additions to Naramake and Rowayton schools, are conducting a $100,000 facilities study to improve long-term management of our physical plant and capital budgeting, are working with the city on energy efficiency and environmental initiatives, and have taken steps to upgrade day to day maintenance and custodial services at our schools as well.

10.  Superintendent Rivera.  Our extraordinarily qualified Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Manuel Rivera, has lived up to our expectations and then some.  He is carrying out a fundamental reorganization of the central office and establishing a forward-looking, 21st century management approach for our schools.  He is actively reaching out to our community as he develops and implements his plans.  He received a glowing (and well-deserved) first year review from the Board. 

The trends in Norwalk’s schools are all upward.  It is a pleasure to be able to report on this progress.

Mike Lyons, Chair

Norwalk Board of Education