NORWALK -- The Norwalk Board of Education approved a contract with the State Education resource Center (SERC) to lead the search for a new special education chief [Chief of Pupil Services].
Once the hire is made, SERC will assist the new chief for one year to help implement recommendations of a special education audit conducted by the Capital Regional Education Council (CREC).
Last month, the school board unanimously approved a contract with CREC to update a 2012 review of special education in the Norwalk school district. The recommendations of the original CREC audit were not implemented, according to Superintendent Steven Adamowski.
"To avoid what happened in 2012, we are involved currently in finding new leadership for the department and providing that new leadership with the technical experience to implement the recommendations of the audit," said Adamowski.
Adamowski told the school board that the CREC review is currently underway and expects the report to be finalized in October.
The role of special education director [Chief of Pupil Services] was recently upgraded to chief special services officer, which will be a cabinet level position that reports directly to Adamowski.
The new chief special services officer [Chief of Pupil Services] will replace former special education director Chrissy Fensore, who resigned in June. Joseph Russo, who served as assistant special education director under Fensore, is currently leading the department in the interim.
Under the contract, SERC will provide a threefold role, which includes conducting a national search for a new chief; interviewing and hiring candidates and on-boarding. The budget of the contract is $119,952.
"SERC, out of all the agencies in our state, is the most connected to the special education community regionally and has the greatest amount of expertise," said Adamowski.
"SERC will do a short term on-boarding of the new person. For the rest of the year, they will provide the new chief with technical assistance to implement the recommendations of the CREC audit."
SERC will also develop an accountability plan with the new chief that covers several years.
Michael Lyons, chairman of the Board of Education, said he was pleased with Adamowski's plans for using SERC.
"Instead of simply using them as a search firm to find the candidate, this is a much more comprehensive process that involves on-boarding the candidate but also working with them for a year as they take office and get on the job to help them implement the CREC recommendations. The comprehensive nature of this is exactly what we need to address some of the long-term problems," said Lyons.