Norwalk teachers 'have silently suffered'

Cary Ashby • Sep 13, 2015 at 8:10 PM

   Current and former teachers have concerns about Norwalk City Schools not settling a contract with the Norwalk Teachers Association.

   “This could not come at a worse time,” said Scott Ford, a retired English teacher and former longtime NTA president.

   Ford told school board members during their monthly meeting Tuesday that teachers deserve a “fair and equitable” package from the district.

   “They deserve no less,” he added.

   Art teacher Rick Brown also spoke up during public participation. He teaches at Main Street and League Elementary schools.

   Brown shared his frustration that it has been four weeks since representatives of the district have had any negotiations with the NTA team. He also said the district doesn’t need a federal mediator to settle the contract.

   “Just sit down and talk to us,” Brown added.

   Brown ended by telling board members if it takes going on strike and getting a loan to make ends meet, then he would do so.

   When asked about a possible teacher’s strike, Superintendent George Fisk said Tuesday’s meeting “was the first time any of that discussion had arisen.” He also said he’s optimistic the district will work out an agreement with the NTA.

   Norwalk resident Lisa Wick said she believes the community would be supportive of a teacher’s strike. She is one of five people running for two school board slots in the Nov. 3 election. Board members John Lendrum and Ralph Ritzenthaler are the incumbents.

   Also during public participation, Main Street science teacher Marcy Burns shared her concern about supplemental pay for the Academic Challenge team, which she advises.

   There is supposed to be one contract each at Main Street and Norwalk Middle schools for Academic Challenge team advisers, as listed in the contract between the district and NTA. But through a mistake, school officials have said there has been two adviser contracts at each school for the last five to six years.

   NTA President Rod Thimke said the district has absorbed 25 teaching positions over the last several years through attrition or retirement and teachers “have silently suffered” as supplemental pay has been taken away.

   Chris Cloud, a Norwalk High School social studies teacher, told the board that the middle school’s success in Academic Challenge is related directly to the subsequent success at NHS. He was the NHS adviser for five years, but said he is taking a break because he is part of the NTA negotiation team.

   “We need to invest in our students. We need to invest in excellence,” Cloud said.

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