A Letter to Norwalk Parents
By Sara Ingrassia
At a January 10 District E caucus, eight of us ran to be members of the Norwalk Democratic Town Committee, representing District E. We won the party’s endorsement, with Jody Sattler receiving the most votes out of all the candidates from both slates. The candidates who lost the vote for the endorsement, some of them incumbents, petitioned for a primary, which will be held on March 1. Since the election, we have been accused of being interlopers, insurgents and Republicans. These criticisms are categorically false. None of the eight endorsed candidates have ever been registered Republicans. The majority of us have been life-long Democrats, with a few being unaffiliated until recently. We are all residents of District E who felt frustrated by a December 1st, 2021, District E committee meeting, which recommended Mary Ellen Ludwig- Flagherty as the replacement for Mike Barbis on the Board of Education. At that meeting, although a large group of registered Democrats who had children in the school system attended, only people who had attended a minimum of three District E meetings throughout the year could vote for Ludwig-Flaherty's recommendation. As a result, a handful of residents, many of whom do not have any children in the public school system, recommended a person who has not been involved in Norwalk public schools for decades. Many of us were hearing about this recommendation process and committee for the first time. We take full responsibility for not understanding the inner workings of the political machine within Norwalk; however, now we understand the process and want to be involved.
As there seems to be a lot of confusion about who we are and our motivation for running, we would like to formally explain why we would like to be part of the NDTC. We are eight individuals who come from various backgrounds and life experiences, but we are all active within the wide umbrella of the Democratic Party. We are: parents, volunteers, a medical doctor, a television producer, a teacher, a parks and recreation employee, a former IBM employee, a former labor relations professional, a substitute teacher, and a high school student. All of us have children who have attended public schools within Norwalk, with the exception of Camille Legnani, who is a high school senior at Brien McMahon and has interned for Congressman Jim Himes. As active community members, we strongly believe in volunteering within our community, which can be witnessed by our participation in NPS School Governance Councils and PTAs, local board memberships, the local fire department, and multiple volunteer organizations. We all love raising our families within our vibrant and diverse city of Norwalk.
During the decades we have lived in Norwalk, our public schools have been under the leadership of various different superintendents, each promising a different vision for our school system. Without consistent leadership, the constant change of curriculum and district directives has created a disjointed academic program. During this time, many of us have sat on various School Governance Councils, SGCs, where our role, as stakeholders in the school, is to advise administrators how to uphold the mission of the school. We have advocated for facility improvements to be made to our students’ schools, including: air filtration systems, renovated bathrooms, asbestos abatement, locker replacements, heating system repairs, replacement of moldy tiles, and re-sanding of auditorium surfaces. We have also emphasized the importance of curriculum continuity and meaningful after-school programs. While principals have been sympathetic and in agreement with our concerns, we have consistently faced roadblocks to achieving these improvements. We are extremely frustrated by this situation. As a group, we decided it was time for us to be involved in the decision-making process of how our schools are funded and led. Since the NDTC is responsible for endorsing municipal candidates, including the BOE and Common Council members, we see this position as essential to having a voice in how our resources are allocated in our city.
Of the eight petitioning candidates, none of them have children enrolled in Norwalk public schools. Some of the petitioned candidates used private schools for their children or moved to Norwalk later in their lives. As parents who have dedicated the last decade to improving the NPS schools, a school district whose student population is majority low income, we find it extremely troubling that this “balanced” slate of candidates does not have any direct experience within our school system. When it was time to send their own children to school, many chose different paths. We will withhold judgment about what drove their decisions, but we would be remiss if we did not point out how “unbalanced” it is that they are responsible for endorsing candidates to local elections that directly impact our students’ educational experiences. With major funding, leadership and infrastructure changes occurring within NPS, including the multi-million dollar renovation of Norwalk High School, all parents have the right to demand representation from individuals who have intimate knowledge of the complex nature of our school system and city. Please vote for us, the original eight, on March 1st to ensure families who utilize public schools have a voice in who represents them.