Gov. Dannel Malloy's made its 11th stop during its circuit Tuesday night in Norwalk.
Malloy, accompanied by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, addressed a half-full house, with about 350 teachers and parents scattered throughout 's auditorium. As a contigency, the school had planned for 800.
"I think [Malloy] was tyring to make it accessible," said Dr. Lynne Morre, principal of West Rocks, about why the school was chosen to host the town hall. "We're on the beaten path here, we already host a number of events here - including those outside of a school setting - and my guess is he would want to make this kind of presentation about education in a school."
Mayor Richard Moccia was present for the governor's visit and was happy Malloy had chosen to come through Norwalk.
"We're very appreciative of the governor's visit with his busy schedule," said Moccia. "He wants to go out and explain his side, he wants to talk about these issues and try to get his message out and he wanted to do it in a school. West Rocks is one of our bigger schools. It's good the governor's going to be coming through here."
A majority of the evening was spent addressing issues related to education reform stemming from Senate Bill 24, a bill teachers present didn't seem overly satisfied with, in relation to how it handled the reform it wants to achieve.
Many feel the bill focuses too much on laying out rules for teachers instead of offering solutions to close Connecticut's acheivement gap - one of the largest in the nation, with socioeconomic issues spanning outside of urban environments to suburban and rural areas as well.
"My perspective as an educator, something I've been doing for 14 years, is that this bill was put together rather quickly," said principal Moore. "I don't think it was put together - coming from someone working with kids everyday, with educators everyday - with the authors looking at the issues of education itself, and instead focusing on issues like tenure."
The Governor didn't have many fans of SB24 — though, after undergoing some changes, it was gaining traction even among detractors—in attendance, but there were definitely at least a few who backed him. Among them, Jack Bryant, president of the NAACP's Connecticut chapter.
"At the local, state and national level, the NAACP supports this bill with its modifications," said Bryant. "With a bill of this magnitute, in a town like Norwalk with a majority of African American or Hispanic students, [the NAACP] wants to make sure there's someone in the room speaking on behalf of those children."
Many of the teachers - who made up the largest portion of the crowd - were there because they wanted answers. Like Moore, few think the bill's approach to education reform is the best way to see improvements within the classroom. Instead of focusing on teachers and their ability to gain tenure or acheive further levels of their own education, teachers wanted to see more resources become available to teachers who do a good job as it is.
"We are not in support of the entire bill," said a Stamford public school teacher who asked to be identified as S. Stephenson. "We're in support of many of the changes most recently made to the bill. In regards to the bill as a whole, I'd like to see more changes. No one, yet, has offered a legitimate answer to how we will close the acheivement gap in our state."
The governor seemed to agree with many in the audience that the bill had a long way to go before he'd be happy with it. But in what direction he'd like to see the bill go versus the direction the teachers would like to see.
"Is this bill good enough? No," Malloy said during his time in front of the audience answerign questions. "Do we have time to make it good enough? Yes ... Things are happening. More things are going to happen and this bill will allow some of those things to happen. They won't happen overnight, but they'll happen."
Malloy also defended his position that the bill should be looking at teachers just as carefully as it looks at where financial provisions should end up.
"The consensus is we need to do a lot of things," Malloy said during his time in fron of the audience answering questions. "We have to have a bill that addresses the issues around evaluation. But, legislation—it's a process."
MAccording to the Governor's website, he has "Six Principles" he'd like to achieve with his reform, which are as follows:
- Enhance families’ access to high-quality early childhood education opportunities
- Authorize the intensive interventions and enables the supports necessary to turn around Connecticut’s lowest-performing schools and districts
- Expand the availability of high-quality school models, including traditional schools, magnets, charters, and others
- Unleash innovation by removing red tape and other barriers to success, especially in high-performing schools and districts
- Ensure that our schools are home to the very best teachers and principals – working within a fair system that values skill and effectiveness over seniority and tenure
- Deliver more resources, targeted to districts with the greatest need – provided that they embrace key reforms that position our students for success
At the end of the meeting, Malloy was quick to exit the building, but he took the time to share his thoughts on the evening.
"I think tonight was great," he said. "I think it was a great discussion. I think it's been a great discussion everywhere we've been."