Norwalk is a great place to live and work. We know this, we live and work here. Over the past 25 years, we have seen the reputation and vitality of Norwalk improve and grow. Witness the growth of SoNo, the influx and increase of businesses large and small, the thriving of arts, culture and entertainment.
But all of this is about to change due in large part to the lack of collaboration among those responsible for the quality of the Norwalk Public Schools. If Norwalk is to retain a vibrant public and corporate life in the future, it must improve and support our schools. This is especially critical as the economy remains weak and our public schools await a new wave of cuts. The time has come for all groups to stop protecting their own interests and agendas and act for the future of our children and our town.
The superintendent has outlined dramatic cuts while still preserving many critical components of a successful district. The Mayor and Board of Estimate & Taxation have agreed on a plan to help ease the $4 million dollar shortfall, saving even more. But where is the Board of Education consensus and willingness to come together during a crisis? Where is the teachers’ union? Where are the principals’ and administrators’ union?
What’s at stake? A strong and stable school system is vital to the economic well being of the city. A good education ensures our children become productive members of society, reducing costs to taxpayers by keeping social service expenses down, such as welfare, crime fighting, intervention services, etc. It’s a fact that a strong education system drives and keeps property values up. Without robust schools, families will move away, or look elsewhere when searching for a new home in the area. And it goes without saying that a well-trained workforce is critical to maintaining and enhancing Norwalk’s economy and reputation as a great place to do business. The bottom line is that effective schools help to stabilize the city, increase property values, grow the tax base, support development, and improve Norwalk’s reputation overall. Norwalk Public Schools work for the children of our community. Every day 11,000 children stretch their mind, work hard and learn essential skills to help them succeed. This is in no small part due to the valuable efforts of teachers and administrators who, in addition to teaching the fundamentals, instill in Norwalk’s children valuable life lessons and an excitement for learning. We have seen the results in rising test scores and graduation rates.
But it’s time for us to remember that Norwalk Public Schools also work for all residents and business owners in Norwalk, with or without children in the school system. It’s time we come together and work out solutions to provide for the common educational good of our community.
As a voice for the business and philanthropic community, we are encouraged by the leadership shown thus far by Board of Education members, the Superintendent, the Mayor and city officials who worked together to devise a repayment relief plan for the $4 million budget shortfall, sparing extreme cuts to the schools. But this will not be enough to minimize the damage to our schools, and certainly not enough to continue the improvement we’ve seen in recent years. We are asking that all key stakeholders, including all Board of Education members, and unions to pull together, to think creatively, to act boldly and beyond self-interest to support the restoration of proposed cuts to our school system. It’s time for Norwalk Public Schools, a district that is classified as "in need of improvement," to be supported by all who benefit, regardless of specific agendas, and do what is right for the children and our community.
- Harry Carey, Chairman and Ed Musante, President and CEO, Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce