Administer and Supervise Educational Interests

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According to the Alabama State Code Section 16-11-2 the purpose of the Huntsville City Board of Education is to administer and supervise the public schools and educational interests of the city.

The code reads, “The general administration and supervision of the public schools and educational interest of each city shall be vested in a city board of education.” These five residents, who are “chosen solely because of their character and fitness” are charged with looking out for the educational interest of the city.

That’s why we elected them: our representatives.

You see, I really shouldn’t have to go to every board meeting. I shouldn’t have to play the role of watchdog, attempting to uncover the reasons, motivations, and goals of the central office.

I shouldn’t have had to ask the Superintendent if the school system would be prepared to meet IEPs on the first day of school. (And Dr. Wardynski certainly shouldn’t have responded to me, “I don’t know. That’s why I’m listening to you.”)

I shouldn’t have to ask Dr. Wardynski how he can justify having five aides (he has two secretaries, not just one according to the Huntsville Times) at a cost of at least $286,000 a year (and probably closer to $373,000).

I shouldn’t have to stand at the meetings and remind the superintendent and the board that they should put students first.

All of these are questions the Board of Education should be asking.

They should be the ones asking why the Reduction in Force cuts overwhelmingly targeted special education personnel.

They should be the ones asking where are the central office cuts.

They should be the ones asking why classrooms are understaffed, and overcrowded. They should be the ones asking why teachers’ salaries are frozen and new teachers’ salaries are set at the state minimum when administrative salaries are “competitive.”

In short, they should be the ones doing what I and many others like me are doing.

But they aren’t.

The purpose of the board is to administer and supervise the public schools and educational interests of the city. And yet our school board seems completely content with being a rubber stamp for whomever is leading them. Review the minutes of the board meetings for yourself.

Dr. Moore’s Support

When Dr. Moore was the acting superintendent at the beginning of this year from January until about March, the board approved a total of 34 decisions in 9 meetings. All but two of these decisions were unanimous. This includes the initial Reduction in Force plan, the contract for Ed Richardson, the cancellation of the ONIN Temporary Services (53% of which were Special Education Personnel), and the re-writing of the former Superintendent’s contract to ensure that she would be paid until December 31, 2011 for sitting at home.

All of those decisions were unanimously supported by the rubber stamp of Birney, Blair, Robinson, McCaulley, and Morrison.

The only decisions that weren’t unanimous (but which still passed), were the approval of the new Superintendent search firm’s contract (McCaulley voted no), and the Notice of the Superintendent vacancy (McCaulley and Morrison voted no).

Despite being ushered out the door, all but two of Dr. Moore’s recommendations were unanimously approved, and all 34 of them carried. It’s good to be the king.

Dr. Richardson’s Turn

Dr. Ed Richardson took over the primary duties of superintendent as a consultant beginning in March (at a rate of $600.00/day).

During his tenure (from March till June), he brought a total of 65 recommendations to the board including such gems as the Supplemental Reduction In Force (Dr. Moore’s RIF in February didn’t go far enough, evidently), the freezing of teachers’ salaries, and the reduction of new teachers’ salaries to the state minimum.

During this time the board approved the hiring of Dr. Steve Salmon to waste $70,000 on a PowerPoint of borrowed material, and the hiring of his assistant, Dr. James Wilson, to present this borrowed material to the public.

Perhaps most telling of the rubber-stamp nature of the board was that the board approved the firing of Principals Livingston, Waters, and Wyse on March 10th, only to unanimously approve their re-hiring on June 16th.

All 63 of these decisions the board unanimously approved.

The only two that weren’t unanimous (but again, both still passed) were the selection of the new Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski (McCaulley and Morrison voted against his hiring), and the appointment of Mr. Terry as the interim CSFO. For some reason, Mrs. McCaulley voted against this decision.

But again, all 65 recommendations brought to the board were passed by the board.

Now the Old King is Dead; Long Live the King: Dr. Wardynski begins his reign.

Dr. Wardynski came into office in July, and he’s been a busy guy. Half of all the decisions made so far this year have been made in the last two months. He has brought 48 recommendations to the board in two months, and all but one have been unanimously supported. Mrs. McCaulley (she better be careful; she’s going to get a reputation) voted against the new bylaws because she didn’t like that they did away with committees on the school board.

48 recommendations; 47 supported unanimously and all of them carried.

I’m pleased to say that not all of the recommendations have been terrible. I’m quite grateful for the end to the corporal punishment policy. I think that the seven new principals are working out fairly well. (I had an extended conversation with Mr. Chad LaQua, Butler High School, after a board meeting on evening. His passion for education was refreshing.)

However, the board has also rubber-stamped Wardynski’s decisions to hire a new CSFO while the former one is still on the books, the hiring of the director of transition at $60k a year, the hiring of a Director of Community Engagement and Partnership Development, the hiring of an Assistant Superintendent, the reduction of work days for nurses, and the eventual re-hiring of less than half of the Instructional Assistants that the board laid off in February and April.

And this doesn’t count the board approving the closing of Providence Middle School.

So you see the leadership of the system doesn’t matter. Regardless of how often they’ve claimed in private emails and conversations that they are dissatisfied with many of the decisions being made, our school board seems to go out of its way to approve the recommendations of whomever is in charge. Here’s a novel idea: If you disagree with something, don’t vote to approve it.

They seem incapable of actually asking questions of power. They have an unthinking respect for authority. And that’s the enemy of the truth.

Setting McCaulley and Morrison aside, Blair and Robinson (in particular) seem to trip over one another in their rush to say, “so moved,” and “seconded.”

One-hundred and forty-seven recommendations in eight months and all but five are unanimously supported.

The Huntsville City Schools Board of Education is not doing its legally required job of administering and supervising the public schools and educational interests of our city.

___________

On Thursday, September 1st at 4:00pm, the central office will hold the first of two Budget Hearings for the 2011-2012 school year (followed by their regular school board meeting).

Anyone want to take bets that the new budget is rubber-stamped as well?

Anyone?

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

6 Comments

  1. WOW. Great post. Thanks for sharing. Very informative. You know, I never paid attention to any of this before until I started following and reading your blog. I’m glad I found you!

    1. Not to worry, Carol. Honestly, I wasn’t paying attention to the school board until about March when they decided to allow the central office to consolidate special needs kids without talking to parents first.

  2. “Same old thing in brand new drag…”
    “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…we won’t get fooled again.”

    Why don’t the Board members ever respond to your blog posts and mine? Are they so indifferent that they never google “Huntsville City Schools” “Board of Education” or their own names?

    I google “Huntsville City Schools” “Board of Education” news and blogs daily.

    Shall we take their silence as displays of ignorance or arrogance — or as pleas of no contest?

    Why don’t they have blogs?

    Why don’t they have meetings with their constituents?

    The statement that Birney makes each meeting about contacting your Board rep privately to me is a perversion of the purpose of the Board meeting publicly — that it respond publicly to issues regarding public education — and that it won’t respond then and there means that typically no action is taken or response ever made.

    How I long for an equivalence of the British vote of no confidence.

    1. ah The Who! 🙂

      I have had the impression from time to time that there are those on the board who do read my blog. Nothing definitive, but just a hint or two.

      But as far as why they don’t respond: it has to do with plausible deniability, I believe. If you acknowledge that you are aware of a problem, then you can be held responsible for addressing it.

      It seems like I was told once in the past few months that the board members are subject to recall votes.

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