Where Are the Central Office Cuts?

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. –Albert Einstein

A summary of Dr. Richardson's recommendations to the board

I usually do my best to not post angry. I’m not going to succeed this time. Two of my son’s teachers/aides have been wrongly pink-slipped in the last twenty-four hours. This attack on our students and their education has got to stop, and it has got to stop now.

Last night a travesty was inflicted upon all the students of Huntsville City Schools. 280 employees including 154 nontenured teachers began receiving pink slips this afternoon. As horrible as that is, and it is horrible, the travesty is that Dr. Richardson has, as seen in a photo of his slide above, cut $23,089,027 from the school budget (or so he claims . . . as they aren’t publishing clear figures, we’ll just have to take his word for it) without giving any consideration at all to cutting anyone in the central office.

Two weeks ago, Dr. Moore claimed that “every group,” including special education, would have to carry part of the burden of the budget cuts.

It seems that “every group” doesn’t actually include the central office. When Mrs. Morrison asked Dr. Richardson about this “oversight” in his presentation, she was told, “we’re looking into it, and we’ll get back to you.”

Respectfully, Dr. Richardson, that should have been the first place that you looked for cuts and not the classroom.

So while I agree with Board President Birney when he states that the cuts are “earth-shattering,” I don’t believe that he is actually living on the same earth as the rest of us. If he were, he would have insisted that the cuts be fairly distributed across all groups. Not all groups excluding the central office.

Some background and statistics are perhaps in order. These statistics are taken from the Alabama Department of Education website:

  • Madison County Schools has approximately 19,666 students.
  • Huntsville City Schools has approximately 23,140 students.
  • Madison County Schools has approximately 11 central office employees.
  • Huntsville City Schools has approximately 500 central office employees.

Does Huntsville really need fifty times as much administration as our surrounding county?

Are we getting fifty times the service?

In another interesting difference between Madison County and Huntsville: you can review online, at any time, at this location monthly check registers and financial statements from Madison County. Despite hours of searching, nothing comparable is available from Huntsville.

With the difficulty one faces in reviewing the system’s budget, is it any wonder that the Huntsville City Schools system is facing a $20,000,000 shortfall?

One final statistic: Huntsville City Schools system may be the only system where the student population remained flat (at 23,000) for the past ten years while the population of the city has “grown more than any other city in Alabama.”

Perhaps one explanation of this phenomenon is that our new Huntsvillians are simply refusing to put their children in our public school system.

If the board truly wishes to improve our school system, I would recommend the following actions:

  1. It’s time to regain the public trust; therefore, make every decision a transparent one. Stop hindering public involvement in the name of “professionalism.”
  2. Publish our budget and monthly check registers online for public review. This is public information; it’s time it’s made available to the public.
  3. Stop balancing the budget on the backs of our teachers by placing a hold on the pink-slipping that began today. Until you’ve actually looked at every other possibility, LEAVE OUR TEACHERS AND AIDES ALONE.
  4. Determine exactly why our system requires 50 times as much administration as a comparable, neighboring system.
  5. Involve the public in your decisions. Quit approving an outsider’s plans without allowing public review and comment before your vote. (Don’t think we didn’t notice that you moved the Citizen’s Comments section to before the consultant’s presentation last night. If you’re smart enough to play political games like that, you should be smart enough to realize that you’ve lost the public’s confidence and that hiding your actions won’t help you regain it.)

These are five, simple solutions to improve the way we address the issues we’re facing. Mr. Nalley made a few remarkably misguided comments on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce last night. One particularly misguided one was his attack on parents and others for bringing lawsuits against the system. Simply put, Mr. Nalley, when we have people like Mrs. Sledge basically daring us to sue if we disagree with her illegal decisions, what other option do we have?

But Mr. Nalley did say one thing that I agree with. We do need to overcome our differences. Parents are seeking to be involved and to help. Use us. Involve us. Stop limiting our attempts to understand our common problems. You’re supposed to be educators; good educators like questions. They don’t run from them or limit them to three minutes.

The board and the central office must deal honestly with the public. And until they do, overcoming our differences will be far more difficult than putting a man on the moon.


"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. Russell, which two aide were cut??? Our son’s been home this week with a fever (diverticulitis & sinus infection) so we’ve missed any & all news out of the school. I LOVE all the aides dearly, and I’ve been looking forward to making them another nice breakfast for Appreciation week. I’ll definitely want to do something extra nice for the two who got pink-slipped. I don’t doubt that the two 1st grade teachers they added this year have also gotten a pink slip…..

    But I have hopes that they’ll be hired back. As you said, this is all a game. They are “fired” to balance NEXT YEAR’s budget. As soon as they know who all is retiring/quitting/moving (and I do know of one wonderful woman at ASFL we’re losing to Oak Ridge), then they’ll “rehire” to replace some of them, and they don’t necessarily have to replace at the same schools where the vacancies are. This very thing happened to a cousin of mine who’s an aide in Shelby County (& he became one as a part of advocating for his son.) Pink slipped in May with less than a month before earning tenure. Then rehired in June with the new school year budget, which made it more like a furlough and merely changed the date of his tenure. It could happen here. I’ll cross my fingers.

    (If you don’t want to mention the aides’ names in the comments, you can use their initials or e-mail me. Hugs to all of you. Stand strong.)

    1. LizzieV: One is from his classroom last year. She had been pink-slipped last year as well. I’ll send you the name of the one from his classroom this year privately as I don’t know if this person wants it out just yet.

      The truly messed up thing about all of this is that Richardson and the board claimed that these decisions about who would be fired were “yet to be made.” It seems that yet happened sometime after 7:30pm Thursday night and 2:30pm Friday afternoon. In other words, once again, we have evidence that the “board meetings” are nothing but public theater. They are regularly conducting business out of the public eye, and most of what they say publicly seems to be incorrect.

  2. One thing that was not addressed is how many people who are in Central Office are former teachers and principals who were not doing a good job in the classroom and yet they had tenure. For years the school board has moved these teachers and principals from the classroom to the central office to get them away from the children. But because of tenure, they could not be fired. How many of those who are working in Central Office are cronies of Dr. Moore who were moved there to get high paying salaries? I have heard more than a few. I agree that this has to be one of the main places to reduce staff and do not move poorly prepared former teachers back into the classroom. Get rid of them!! Tenure or no tenure.

    1. I agree, Gale. I suspect it has been a dumping ground. The interesting thing about tenure is that if the administration would actually do their job of supervising and accurately reviewing/documenting issues, it is actually possible to get rid of an incompetent, tenured employee. All tenure actually provides is due process for the employee/teacher, so that a teacher cannot be removed for purely personal reasons.

      It’s unconscionable that Dr. Richardson has recommended and the Board has approved $23 million in cuts without, by their own admission, even looking at the central office. This means that students will again bear the brunt of the cuts.

  3. If indeed the Huntsville City School System has 500 employees in the central office, why is it necessary to pay an organization such as Onin Staffing to staff all non-certified personnal? I, myself, worked in the Huntsville City School System in 2009 and 2010 as an instructional assistant, and was told that Onin handled all of the hiring and paperwork for non-certified positions for HCS. The company is based out of an office in Madison (very inconvenient), and I had to apply at that office and be drug-tested through that office and fill out all insurance forms there. They receive a percentage of all salaries and hourly wages for their facilitation (I was told 30%), and I heard that their “cut” for last year was $3.2 million. I cannot back up that last bit of information with documentation, but NO MONIES should have been paid to an outside organization to do work that could have been done by Central Office! They used to do it—what made them decide to spend money they obviously did not have? Somebody’s pockets are obviously being lined…… That $3.2 million could have gone to pay off some of that debt!

    1. Joanne, My understanding is that ONIN provides the Instructional Aides for most of the classroom, particularly the special needs resource rooms. As Gale mentioned, the central office is primarily staffed with tenured teachers (not exclusively of course).

      Most of the cuts so far have been ONIN staff, which has placed an inordinate amount of the cuts on the students who need the most assistance. Dr. Richardson isn’t telling the whole truth when he claims that he hasn’t even considered cuts to Special Ed yet.

Comments are closed.