Parental Involvement Needed: HCS School Board Meeting 7-7-11, 5:30pm

There will be a school board meeting tomorrow night at 5:30pm in the boardroom at the Merts Center, 200 White Street. The agenda for the meeting has been published, and you may download it from the Board’s Web Site or 7-7-11.AJD.pdf.

I’ve noticed several interesting agenda items that I would like to call to your attention.

  1. Dr. Wardynski will be offering a “Building Report.” Honestly, I’m not sure what this report will contain, but it’s certainly possible that it may have a connection to the demographer’s report concerning school closings. One would hope that it would contain, oh, I don’t know, actual data concerning the condition of our school buildings and hard numbers concerning the costs of renovations and repair. But, I wouldn’t hold my breath. This is not how the board operates.
  2. There will also be a proposal for the hiring of a new CFO that Dr. Wardynski is evidently bringing with him from Colorado. This is an interesting move as it was my understanding that central office positions had to be posted and opened for applications. (At 120k a year, I’m sure that there will be a number of applicants.) I assume that this is an interim position, but we’ll see tonight.
  3. Mr. Birney will be discussing a Special Needs Playground located at the Academy for Academics and Arts. This is an interesting addition as it implies that the board is planning to upgrade the playground area at AAA to accommodate the influx of special needs students who are being transferred without parental input or options to AAA in August. (Parents have been told that they will move their child or their child will not receive services.) It seems that despite numerous assurances that Special Needs students would not be segregated without clear justification and a board vote, the board is now studying the need to update the Special Needs playground to accommodate that segregation. [UPDATE: I’ve been informed that this item is no longer on the agenda for tomorrow night.]
  4. Several System Policy changes will be discussed including Bus Rules, Using devices during testing, and Cell Phone policies.
  5. Dr. Robinson will be discussing “School Consolidations.” I am assuming that she will be offering a recommendation concerning the demographer’s recommendations to close 21% of the schools in Huntsville. Hopefully, her recommendation will be to dismiss the demographer’s report and request a refund of the $75,000+ we have paid to Dr. Salmon of GUDE Management Group, LLC and Dr. Wilson of Education Planners, LLC.  There remain far too many unanswered questions concerning these recommendations to proceed.
  6. Mr. Birney will be discussing the Transportation Plan – Staggered School Start recommendation that Dr. Richardson offered the board on June 16th. To refresh your memory, on June 16th, Dr. Richardson recommended to the board that they consider starting schools on a staggered schedule with Elementary Schools beginning at 7:30am rather than 8:00am in order to allow the system to run their school buses more often. During his recommendations, he repeatedly suggested that the board ignore “any complaints that you hear about my recommendations.” He suggested that the board receive input from the school principals concerning starting the day earlier, but stated that parents “would adjust.” It seems that Mr. Birney is moving ahead with Dr. Richardson’s recommendations. For my family these adjustments will require the following:
    1. An earlier bed time limiting the amount of time my family has in the evenings to interact, do homework, and just talk to each other.
    2. An earlier departure time. Even though we live about five minutes from Mt. Gap and seven from Challenger, in order for both kids to arrive to school on time we typically needed to leave home at 7:20am. With this change, my kids and I will be leaving home at 6:50am.
    3. If schools begin earlier, they will end earlier requiring addition funds for after school care.
  7. Mr. Brooks (the Board’s attorney) will be discussing a reduction of School Nursing Working Days down from 187 to 182.

In other words, this meeting appears to be packed with agenda items that will have a direct impact upon every parent in this system.

In a continuing pattern of limiting public input, the board has not placed Citizens’ Comments on the agenda. I remain hopeful that this is an oversight on their part, but we’ll see tomorrow. At the last meeting on June 16th, Mr. Birney moved the citizen comments that were on the agenda to the end, and then promptly adjourned the meeting without addressing the public. Tomorrow night should be telling in this regard.

Despite this limiting of comments, I implore the public to make the boardroom at 200 White Street standing room only tomorrow night. Even if they refuse to allow the public a voice in the decisions that they are making, they need to at least see our silent faces as they do it.

If you cannot make it, I suggest that you watch it on ETV (17 Comcast, 71 Knology) or streamed live on the Huntsville City Schools website. Assuming that I can get a cell signal inside Merts (often an issue), I’ll be live tweeting @russwinn as well. If you don’t tweet, you can follow it on my GeekPalaver FB page as well.

I hope to see you there. If I’ve learned anything about local politics, it really is all about who shows up.

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