Wardynski’s Task: Teach Respect for Education

2011 Board
Huntsville City Board of Education

Huntsville City School Board of Education has chosen Dr. Casey Wardynski as superintendent of Huntsville City Schools. After what appeared to be a perfunctory debate, Dr. Robinson leapt to offer her motion in support of Dr. Casey Wardynski for the superintendent position.

(Dr. Robinson showed considerable passion tonight in defending her choice for superintendent. I would appreciate seeing more of that passion directed towards defending special needs students from segregation and unfair/unbalanced cuts.)

With Dr. Robinson leading the charge in favor of Dr. Wardynski, Mr. Blair could hold back as “a voice of reason,” offering support for both Wardynski and Brigman. Both ultimately voted in favor of Wardynski, while McCaulley and Morrison voted in favor of Brigman. Topper Birney cast the deciding vote in favor of Wardynski.

So we now have as the top educator for the city a superintendent who has approximately nine months of experience in education.

Dr. Robinson spoke in favor of Dr. Wardynski by saying, “If we were hiring a teacher or a principal, Casey Wardynski would probably be the last person in the world that I would suggest for that because he hasn’t had that training. But that’s not the job he’s applying for.”

If he isn’t qualified to teach on the classroom level or hire and manage teachers on the school level, why is he qualified to do so on the system level?

While I know it’s popular to mock the profession of teaching as something that someone does when they are not capable of doing anything else, it’s deeply troubling to hear those sentiments expressed by members of the school board. As such I am concerned that Dr. Robinson believes that the leader of our educational system does not need to have experience in education. I am also concerned that Mr. Blair seemed convinced that HEA’s (teachers, in other words) opposition to Wardynski as one of the major benefits for hiring him.

The reason that our school system exists is not a financial one. We aren’t running a business. We aren’t attempting to make a product or, thankfully, win a war. The Huntsville City system exists to educate our children. To teach them to think, to critique, and in the great tradition of Socrates himself, to ask questions as they seek truth.

In other words, education is the primary job of the school system which the superintendent is tasked with leading. While I respect Dr. Wardynski’s service to his country in the Army, Dr. Brigman’s service as a teacher is just as crucial. I sincerely hope that Dr. Wardynski leads our system and our nation (as the top educator in a system that will be “nationally recognized in five years”) to return to an attitude of concern for education and respect for the process of teaching.

If he leads the system in such a direction, he will have my watchful support. One cannot teach children without having respect for those who do the teaching.

Our teachers were not the ones who got our system into this mess. They’re just the ones having to pay for it.

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


  1. Nice article Russell. In order to lift your spirits, allow me to illustrate that a leader doesn’t have to have the same skills as those he/she leads. At GE, our engineering organization is led by higher-level managers who themselves are not engineers. We could say that they really aren’t capable of performing a suitable job as leaders because they can’t relate to engineers and there might be some truth to that. Nevertheless, GE Intelligent Platforms excels in our industry and makes good profit for the business. There are certainly many decisions our leadership makes that are questionable, but the overall direction of the business is positive.

    Leadership requires much more than a background common with those you lead. True leadership requires a vision of a goal, the ability to think out of the box and acquire the resources needed to reach the goal, and the people-skills to motivate others to excel in their roles. That last item gets right to the heart of your statement about an “attitude of concern for education and respect for the process of teaching.” Such an attitude is crucial for our new leader, whether he himself is a teacher or not.

    I suspect that Dr. Wardynski possesses these skills and look forward to him proving that. As you know, I would have been happy with Dr. Brigman as well. Either is certainly more qualified that our current Superintendent and in my opinion can do nothing but improve our schools. Time will tell what level of improvement Wardynski will help our school system obtain.


  2. Well said, David. And I agree with much of what you have to say. You’re right in many respects that leadership requires more than a common background. Ultimately what I was trying to say with this post is that if Dr. Wardynski demonstrates that his primary concern is education of our students, then he will likely be a successful leader of a world-class system. One of my concerns is the lack of respect for education that I’ve heard from many of his more ardent supporters.

    You mention another excellent point: I am certain that he is an improvement over our current leadership as well.

    Thanks for reading the rantings! 🙂

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