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An Update from Norwalk BOE Chair Mike Lyons

An Update from Norwalk BOE Chair Mike Lyons
Posted on 07/06/2015
This is the image for the news article titled An Update from Norwalk BOE Chair Mike LyonsIn December and February I published comprehensive lists of achievements and of on-going projects in the Norwalk Public Schools. These included getting our finances and budgets under control, fully adopting the Common Core curricula for English and mathematics, establishing the Norwalk Early College Academy with IBM at Norwalk High School, making $2 million of security enhancements throughout our schools, moving forward with our K-5 Literacy Program, pushing wireless technology into all of our schools, improving use of social media and other forms of parent communication, establishing new systems for evaluating teachers and administrators tied to student achievement, and many others. In this article I’d like to highlight recent developments, many of them parts of the Strategic Plan adopted by the Board with former superintendent Manny Rivera.

1.  New Superintendent. After completing a significant outreach to get community input, we have appointed Dr. Steven Adamowski as our new Superintendent of Schools, effective July 15. Dr. Adamowski has pledged to fully implement the Board’s Strategic Plan.  As The Hour noted in an editorial supporting Dr. Adamowski, “his resume is impressive. A graduate of Trinity College, he holds graduate degrees from Harvard and St. Louis University, where he earned his doctorate.  He has served as superintendent in Hartford and Cincinnati as well as having been a special master for the state Board of Education. His broad experience should stand him in good stead as he takes over the local school system.” We agree.

2. Budget. After adopting our budget earlier this year following five public forums to get community input, we were hit with a large, unexpected increase in special education expenditures and loss of a private grant. Yet we were able to generate $1.6 million in savings and revenue enhancements to cover the bulk of these budget hits. We will maintain eight to ten Curriculum and Instruction Site Directors for ’15-’16 to continue implementation of the K-5 Literacy Plan, and are actually increasing total employment in the school system this year (most new employees being focused on special education), while adopting the lowest budget increase in many years. We preserved funding for both the Literacy 4 Parents reading program and for our plan to expand School Governance Councils to all of our schools. We expect to end the current fiscal year with a budget surplus of over $1 million, which we intend to plow back into the schools to address deferred building maintenance issues.  e continue to look for opportunities to reduce costs; for instance, we signed a new contract for school bus services that will provide us with mostly new busses while saving over $1 million over the life of the contract. 

3.  Facilities. We are nearing completion of our $230,000 facilities utilization analysis, which is taking a comprehensive look at the use and condition of all school facilities. This should be completed in September and will be used to develop our capital budget requests for 2016-2017, and plans for addressing overutilization at some of our schools.  Curriculum. Norwalk remains way ahead of the curve in updating our curriculum materials to the Common Core; having completed English and mathematics, this year we’ve adopted new curricular materials for middle and high schools in World Languages and Social Studies, to be used starting in September.

4.  Early Grades. For our younger children, in addition to the K-5 Literacy Plan, we are moving forward with the Norwalk Early Childcare Center on Allen Road; once looking like it wouldn’t happen, we redesigned it, funded it, and construction will start in January 2016. We opened the After the Bell after-school program at the South Norwalk Community Center in May, overcame some issues with the State on funding, and have assured that the program will be open again this fall (with plans for expansion).

5.  Later Grades.
 For older students, in addition to the IBM / NCC academy at Norwalk High, we received approval to move forward with creating an International Baccalaureate program at Brien McMahon (see http://www.ibo.org), a great complement to its existing Center for Global Studies. We’ve approved a change to “block scheduling” at both high schools for ’16-’17, which will reduce study halls and allow more course offerings.  We’ve also continued to enhance programs at Briggs, which this year initiated a “Mini-Briggs Fire Academy” with the Norwalk Fire Department, and a Career Pathway Academy jointly organized with Norwalk Community College.

This is just a sampling of things going on in our schools.  For a look at our detailed Strategic Plan and budget, see Norwalk PS Strategic Plan.  We have a lot in the hopper, and we remain dedicated to taking our good school system and making it into a great one.

Mike Lyons, Chair
Norwalk Board of Education