Thank you Norwalk Public Schools
Teachers and Staff
Chalk Talk – June 13, 2021 Roz McCarthy
A Grateful City Says Thank You
“I want to shout it from the mountaintops that we are so grateful to the Norwalk Public Schools employees for getting us through this crazy year,” said Board of Education Chairman Colin Hosten.
On Tuesday, June 15, the Norwalk Education Foundation (NEF) will do just that. With a blitz of signs and support from businesses both large and small, the Norwalk community will say thank you.
Drivers on I95 will see the SONO Collection LED sign saying thank you to NPS staff. One hundred lawn signs saying, “We love our teachers and staff” will festoon the streets, and NPS employees can get discounts, free ice cream and coffee, even a free plant at businesses that are stepping up to thank the Norwalk Public Schools staff.
“I just wanted to recognize
the people who worked so hard without complaint during these tough two years,” said Jeff Deorio, owner of Reynold’s
Farm Nursery. NPS employees can receive a free 2-gallon Spirea plant by showing their identification badge on Tuesday.
Steve Tyminski, owner of Sweet Ashley’s, is offering a 20% discount for NPS employees. “Teachers are some of the most important people around. They educate the young ones, re- educate the old ones, and re-educate themselves, and I am grateful for it,” he said.
The NEF Board (of which I am a member) and NPS usually host Excellence in Education, a year- end gala dinner honoring individual teachers and paraprofessionals. But this year NEF wanted to recognize the excellence in every employee.
“Norwalk schools stayed open for the entire school year,” said Marge Costa, NEF Executive Director, “and that was hard. It was a phenomenal effort on everyone’s part to keep the schools open, and we don’t want that to go unnoticed, so we’re saying thank you in a small way.”
Some businesses jumped at the chance to show gratitude. On June 15, NPS employees can get discounts and free ice cream or coffee at a number of places in town (see box) by showing their ID badge.
One hundred lawn signs will be posted throughout the community, especially at the schools, and the PTO Council is spearheading an effort for parents at individual schools to show their appreciation.
“I have never been happier to be in Norwalk,” said Jenn McMuerrer, PTA President at Marvin Elementary School. She said Norwalk schools let parents make their own decisions about what was best for their children– full in-person, hybrid, or remote learning. Her two children needed to be in-person full-time. “I learned that I may be an exceptional mother, but I am not an exceptional teacher,” she said.
She was grateful that exceptional teachers were there for her kids. “I always say that the teachers are everything, but this year they had to be so flexible and pivot in so many ways at so many times.”
Flexibility was key. Since Sept 8, there have been 1437 cases of COVID in the schools among students and staff. 10,842 people had to be quarantined over the course of the year, resulting in many classrooms or entire schools going remote on a moment’s notice.
“It was an all-out team effort for schools to stay open,” said Brenda Wilcox Williams, Chief Communications Officer for NPS.
The custodians had completely new protocols to follow, she said, sanitizing the buildings and bathrooms, and moving furniture around to comply with social distancing.
The food service workers made sure that students and families had access to meals at all times – last spring, this year, and through the summer. “Their commitment to making sure students were fed was phenomenal,” she said.
School nurses were on the front lines for contact tracing. “This was a public health crisis and the school nurses went above and beyond,” said Williams.
And secretaries did what they do best – everything.
Board of Education Chair Hosten was especially grateful to the administrators – principals, assistants, and central office staff. “We have folks working in curriculum helping teachers refocus lesson plans for hybrid teaching. Our finance people found their budgets thrown completely out of whack and had to figure out how to pay for everything,” he said.
And Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella had just been hired when COVID closed the schools last spring. “It was a new job, and new district, and then COVID,” Hosten said. “She worked non-stop making tough decisions.”
As this school year ends, hope is high that next year will be normal. But we all carry images of this historic year seared in our memories.
As a reporter covering education during COVID, I can’t forget the image of a long line of cars at Ponus Ridge Middle School as the principal and assistant principal gave out bags of food.
For Williams, it is the image of the first day of school and the children getting off the school buses wearing masks, being greeted by the Superintendent wearing a mask.
And for McMurrer, it’s two different images– the final day of school last year when her son was running around the house because his teacher created a remote scavenger hunt as a celebration, and the image of the children walking into school with their masks on in September.
“What I have learned from this,” she said, “was how resilient everyone was – the teachers and the kids.”
And echoing a phrase I heard over and over during my reporting this year, Hosten said, “At the end of the day, we just did it. We didn’t have a choice, we just did it.”
Sunday September 26, 2021
Start Time: 10:00am
End Time: 12:00pm
Price: $35 Registration:
*Registration ends September 25, 2021 at 11:59pm
**If you registered for race in 2020 your registration is still valid.
September 26, 2021
O’Neill’s Restaurant and Pub
The Norwalk Education Foundation is extremely grateful to be the beneficiary of the 2021 O’Neill’s Annual 5K Run in Memory of Annie Curtin,
Annie Curtin passed away 11 years ago at the tender age of six and a half. To celebrate her life, Annie’s parents, Paul and Kat Curtin, along with O’Neill’s Irish Pub, established an annual fundraising event to help children in the community. The O’Neill’s Annual 5K was created in Annie’s honor.
Since NEF is the beneficiary of this event, we are hoping all schools in Norwalk participate and to help get people pre-registered, NEF is offering the following incentives to schools:
Each school that registers at least 25 parents, students or staff will receive $250
The school that registers the most participants will receive an additional $1000
The school that registers the second most participants will receive an additional $750
The school that registers the third most participants will receive an additional $500
To register for the O’Neill’s 5K Race:
Log on to the NEF website, www.norwalkeducation.org and click on the registration link. You will be prompted to enter the school you will be supported before paying. Only one school can be selected for each registrant.
If you have already registered, please email NEF a copy of your registration confirmation, firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to indicate the school you are supporting. Again, you can only select one school for each registration.
Excellence in Education: TBD
Norwalk Education Foundation
The mission of the Norwalk Education Foundation is to work closely with Norwalk Public Schools to provide programs and services to children in Norwalk so they can achieve academic success and grow socially and emotionally.
- Teacher Resources and Innovation
NEF offers teacher mini-grants to develop and implement instructional projects that motivate and challenge students to learn. Proposals must support unique classroom projects that enliven and enrich the curriculum.
- Enhance Student Learning
The Shark Tank competition requires students to “sell” a proposal to enhance their school. In the past, ideas have addressed academics, extra-curricular activities, social-emotional well being, physical health/nutrition and safety. We awarded several thousand dollars to support 30 student proposals in the past 2 years.
- Community Collaboration
The College Essay Mentor program began in 2015. Teachers, administrators and volunteers from the community, were trained by a college essay consultant to coach high school seniors. After the first year, an admissions officer from UCONN contacted Norwalk High School to say she has never read such great essays from Norwalk.
NEF partners with community organizations to host community outreach workshops. This fall, we are hosting a College Admission Workshop and a Stress Management panel for teens and parents.
- Student Social and Emotional Health
NEF’s newest initiative addresses the high levels of stress that research has identified as a major difficulty for adolescents. In 2015, we piloted a program to teach kids stress-reduction techniques like meditation. Based on the positive data collected through this pilot program, NEF plans to offer such workshops to all middle and high school students in the fall. NEF also partners with Norwalk ACTS working with the Health and Wellness workgroup to bring mindful meditation to the high school students.