No Bonuses for Administration Before Teachers

HCSBoard Seal

There will be a board meeting tonight (Thursday, September 15th) at 5:30pm at the Merts Building on 200 White Street. If you are able to attend, I encourage you to do so.

The agenda was published last evening, and it includes several interesting items under both the Work Session and the Action Items. At the top of the list is “Board Goals for Superintendent.”

This is a report that was developed over the past two weeks by Dr. Robinson and Mrs. McCaulley. They worked together to develop the goals for the Superintendent to be evaluated upon. This is an excellent idea. So excellent, in fact, that one would have thought these goals would have been developed before the search process for the new superintendent began. (By the way, according to Wardynski’s contract, these goals were to have been established by September 1, 2011. I suppose missing that deadline by a couple of weeks isn’t too bad.) But they are at least moving forward on them now.

Two weeks ago, Dr. Wardynski laid out his suggestions for evaluation. They included:

  1. Raising Student Achievement: The Superintendent should close the gap between students who are succeeding, and those who are not.
  2. Fix the Budget Crisis: The Superintendent should correct the budget crisis, save schools, and do so without further layoffs. Dr. Wardynski stated that, “Staffing is the key to student achievement.”
  3. Address Staffing Issues: Staffing of the district is critical to address the first two goals, and as such the district needs to “get to market earlier” than they did this year. Dr. Wardynski is seeking the ability to provide letters of commitment for teachers as early as the spring so that the mad rush we faced in August (and still in September it appears) to address staffing needs is corrected in the future. If Huntsville City Schools wants to attract the best teachers, they will need to do so early.
  4. Improve Technology: The system needs to do a better job of improving technology, its use and implementation throughout the system. As such, Dr. Wardynski is recommending the hiring of a Chief Technology Officer (Yes, another Central Office Position, and I believe this is a new position. We currently have two “Technology Coordinators” in the system. I would assume that the CTO would supervise those people. Included in this goal is a subgoal of addressing the backlog of maintenance and repairs of the facilities in the system. John Brown stated two weeks ago that there are some issues with the maintenance of the buildings that have been on the books for repair for years.

In addition to these four goals, the board also mentioned that the goals need to be clearly quantifiable and measurable. Obviously this needs to be addressed, and I’m pleased that the board is moving in a direction that will bring transparency and quantifiable evaluation to the job the superintendent is doing. One of the reasons that we are still paying Dr. Moore her salary is that the board did not have an effective evaluation tool (or possibly that they did not effectively use the tools they had) for assessing her performance. This clearly needs to be addressed.

However, the board has repeatedly stated when discussing these goals that they are directly tied to a performance bonus for Dr. Wardynski, and that, rather than the improvement of the system, is the motivation for developing this evaluation tool.

This is a mistake. Simply put, no one in the system, not the Superintendent, the CSFO, the assistant Superintendent (who’s job description will be approved tonight), nor anyone else at any level should be eligible to receive a bonus while our teachers’ STEP raises are still frozen. Doing so sends a clear signal to the system, our teachers, and our community that education and student achievement are secondary issues to this board and administration.

If teachers’ salaries are frozen, this should indicate to the board that the Superintendent is not doing everything in his power to raise student achievement, fix the budget crisis, nor address staffing issues.

In other words, if teachers’ salaries are set at the state minimum and are frozen at their current level, this should automatically disqualify the Superintendent from receiving a bonus as he has not fully met the goals he is required to meet to receive the bonus.

Again, the board and the Superintendent should put students first in this process.


Other points of interest tonight include:

  • An iNow Update. I wonder if we’ll be told how great the system is working again?
  • A report on “Strategic Staffing.” I wonder if this will be a new approach to hiring fewer teachers at lower rates to free up money to hire more administrators at higher rates?
  • A report on “STAR Enterprise Contract.”
  • A report from “PROACT Staffing Search.” (It seems we’re hiring another consultant firm as under action items the board will vote to approve a contract with this company.)
  • John Brown will offer a 5 year State Capital Plan. (Presumably this will be a discussion for taking care of the capital improvements that have been on the list for years.)
  • A report on the “District Staff Organization.” (It will be interesting to hear what this is about. There have been a few rumors of “re-orgs” in the central office. It will be interesting to see what shakes out of this report.)
  • A vote to approve the Deputy Superintendent Contract. (Anybody want to take a bet that the salary will be closer to $135,000 per year rather than $85,000 per year? Anyone?)

The meeting will be broadcast on ETV (Comcast 17, Knology 99-it has recently moved from 71), and at the Huntsville City Schools’ website. I will also be live-tweeting the meeting @russwinn. You can follow on Twitter or on the Geek Palaver Facebook Page.


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


  1. The Superintendent is referred to as Hitler. Teachers, Admnistrators and support personnel fear him.

    Word on the street, the Superintendent made a visit to Johnson High School and made Ann Roy Moore come over in blue jeans and a t shirt to accompany him. During his visit a student fight broke out. The Superintendent is making Johnson wear uniforms and students eat cold lunches in the classroom.

    The new principal of Davis Hills Middle School is from somewhere in Mississippi where he was the principal of an elementary alternative school. He has about as much classroom experience as the Super.

    As former President George Bush said “Is the children learning” in this atmosphere?

    1. While I haven’t heard the “Hitler” comparison (Godwin’s Law pretty much assures that it was going to happen at some point), I agree that many of those (perhaps most) who are working for him are operating in a state of siege. And no, this is not conducive to learning.

      (For the record, I do not consider Dr. Wardynski to be “Hitler”-like, or to actually be “Hitler” at all.)

      1. I agree with Russell’s comments on the “Hitler” issue..

        Although, consider this: What was his reasoning for “Making” Ann Roy Moore come over in Blue Jeans and a T-Shirt? Ever watched the show “Undercover Boss??” Maybe this was his reasoning?

        OK, another scenario: If not, maybe he “forced her” to come over, as she wasn’t prepared, happened to be hanging around the School System Office, was casually dressed, and he said, “Come on, hop in the car, and let’s go check it out…”

        EITHER WAY, Moore is getting PAID for this time period, and needs to be doing SOMETHING to help aid and fix the MESS she created.

        As far as Davis Hills, GOOD LUCK. Chapman Middle has a principal from an Elementary School in Tennessee, and things have been going DOWNHILL since he arrived.

        Your best bet? Do what I did. Fire off a well-written Email to the Board Member responsible for Davis Hills with your concerns. Don’t let up. Don’t back down. Hold them Accountable.

        Good Luck!


  2. We can’t make it tonight, but will be watching for sure. We did attend a few weeks ago, and I was absolutely shocked at the lack of public presence there. I worked for a smaller school system (in the Central Office) for a few years and we were always jam packed full with parents, students, teachers, employees and concerned citizens. The board actually had to move offices to accommodate the interest in the meetings so everyone would fit in the same room!

    I agree 100% with the statement that he should not be getting any bonuses given the current state of affairs. It would almost seem to me like it would be a “conflict of interest” on his behalf to take one, given the system he is supposed to care about and protect is in such dire financial straits.

    Once again, great article.

    1. I think that the lack of public attendance is caused by two things: First, Dr. Wardynski is new. Despite evidence that he’s moving in directions that are going to be harmful to the system, he’s still in his honeymoon period. People are, in my opinion, too willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

      Second, and more troubling, people are unconvinced that attending the meetings makes a difference. With the way the board and Superintendent operate, they have made it nearly impossible to get anything out of them without a court order. (See my attempts to get a written copy of the special needs consolidation plan out of them for the past six months as an example.) It often seems pointless to attempt to reason with them at all. (This may be one of the reasons why the Huntsville system is the most sued system in the state. And related to this is the simple fact that with the way the board discusses things in the board meeting (“See page three, line four? I think that point should be taken out.” No, that’s not a direct quote, but it could be.) is intentionally designed to discourage public participation. If you can’t make sense out of what is being discussed, you see little reason skip your daughter’s dance lesson to attend.

      Having said all that, I agree. Public presence at the meetings is crucial to keeping the schools system operating on behalf of the students rather than the administrators. I would love to see a packed house every other Thursday.

      Thanks for reading, Brittany!

      1. I think the lack of attendance at board meetings is due to the fact board members aren’t required to answer questions, I also believe people are intimidated and afraid of retribution and retaliation.

        Let’s see if the Johnson High School mandatory uniforms is on the agenda tonight.

        For the record, I was just repeating what I heard regarding Hitler.

        1. Redeye, Oh, I knew that. I didn’t mean to imply that you were claiming that.

          You make a good point about not responding. That was in full evidence tonight when a parent was making accusations about a teacher using corporal punishment in her classroom (this is officially against system policy). Neither the board nor the superintendent offered any response.

          The only mention of Johnson was to thank Linda Burruss (the new Johnson Dean of Students) for her work. No mention of uniforms.

          1. So, is it a rule the school board and super don’t have to respond publicly to citizens questions or is a practice? Whatever it is, it needs to stop. Why have public comment if we can’t get a public response? Why come to board meetings if you can’t get answers to your questions?

            1. No, it isn’t a rule. During the spiel that Birney Topper reads each night before citizen’s comments, he states that the public should not ask questions in public but rather by contacting their board member in private. He further says that the board is not obligated to respond, but they may do so if they wish.

              Most of the time the board doesn’t respond, which is strange since they regularly pontificate on just about any topic that they wish.

              I agree, redeye, the board and the superintendent do need to be more responsive to the public in the public sphere. I have found that contacting my board member in private (Dr. Robinson) usually gains me at least a hearing from her, but it’s quite easy to ignore a request that is made in private.

              This is why I continue to go to the meetings even thought they rarely respond to any questions/issues that I raise in public: it lets them know that someone is watching and listening. That’s crucial, I think.

  3. Could not make it tonight. No one to watch my boys. I am watching and hoping

    all goes well. I have also heard talk in the halls at schools and teachers are

    scared of what may happen next. Not a good way to feel at work.

    Thanks For all you are doing.


  4. Russ,
    Why are people not outraged and more vocal about what is going on with Huntsville City Schools? Instruction is not the focus and the new Super is ruining employees lives daily with no regret. He talks constantly about recruiting excellence from other states as though current employees have no talent or value. People should be screaming about what is going on. You can’t rule by making people afraid of you. This is awful!!

    1. You make some excellent points. The simple answer is I don’t really know why people aren’t more upset. I suspect many do not know enough to be upset.

      While my goal is not to upset people, I am trying to inform. Hopefully it is making a little difference.

      I completely agree that his emphasis is on recruiting on a national stage and that in doing so he is ignoring local, invested talent.

      The best thing we can do is to keep talking and standing up for our kids.

  5. The average Joe may not be aware but the media (tv and news) is. Why can’t they report citizens comments and provide balanced info? The other local systems aren’t having these problems. WHY? This guy is driving HCS into the ground and the BOE is allowing him to do so. He is a tyrant and is surrounding himself with like minded (mean) people. I can’t wait for all of it “to hit the fan”. People need to listen to what he says then watch what he does…he needs to be watched VERY closely!

    1. In my experience the media does report citizen comments. (They’ve done so with mine, without discussing it with me first on several occasions. But then, citizen comments are also public comments, aren’t they? :))

      I agree that we need to watch and listen, speak out and organize to follow them closely.

  6. Don’t expect it to hit the fan in the media. Now if it were Ann Roy Moore doing this it there would be wall to wall coverage.

    1. I agree Redeye. There was a different standard with ARM and media. I hope that this is a honeymoon issue and not something deeper. However, several of the articles run in HT and on TV have been quite critical of Wardynski. I don’t think his honeymoon has been nearly as long as he had hoped.

      1. As a member of the media, not as much as I once was, let’s make one thing clear.

        Journalists tend to be lazy.

        No, not all of them, but enough. Too many in a DMA the size of Huntsville. And instead of watching the government, they are in bed with them. They don’t do critical police stories because then the police won’t call when there is a spectacular crime scene. They don’t do critical city council stories because then the city council won’t tell them about some major development coming down the pipe. And they don’t do critical school stories because then they wouldn’t get anyone on camera when they want.

        It’s a pretty sad thing that all the local journalists have turned a blind eye to their jobs as watchdogs and have instead gotten all cozy with the very people they are supposed to be watching. Huntsville journalists have failed the public in some pretty spectacular ways lately.

        A 19 million dollar debt at the City Schools.
        A 75 million dollar overrun at the County Jail.
        The largest increase in police complaints in the past 30 years.

        All three of these issue were reported AFTER the government entities involved announce them publicly… not before. All three of these issues dealt with public funds and public information. Any reporter could have uncovered any of these issues earlier… but they don’t go look anymore. They sit back and let the news come to them.

        I’m as disgusted with newsies as I am with the governmental abuses going on in this town.

        1. Good point, Michael. It’s honestly an issue that I face, too. I often find myself wondering if I should or should not post something. It’s important to be honest about one’s motivations, and the effect that those motivations have on posting decisions. For myself, I ask the following questions.

          1. Is it true? (As a teacher of philosophy, that’s a loaded question!) But, I do my best to post only what I know to be true. Not just what I believe to be true. When I get it wrong, I do what I can to correct it.
          2. Is it worth while? There are some issues that are true, but that I find not really worth sharing. I have several posts that I’ve created that I haven’t posted because I don’t think they’re important enough. Another way of asking this would be, “Is it helpful?”

          Which brings me to my goals:
          1. I want our school system to be the best that it can be for all of our students.
          2. I want our school system to put students first.
          3. I want our school system to take care of our teachers, aides, and support personnel who work directly with our teachers.

          Other than that, I just enjoy writing. 🙂

  7. It is sad that education organizations (HEA, AEA, CLAS) are not speaking out for their members or at least in their publications. He should be about the children and he clearly isn’t. Duplicated every job imaginable, loading the system down with needless lawsuits, hiring an aide every week, and recognizing excellence everywhere but in his own system isn’t about allocating those funds for instruction. No other system has trouble funding special education or using iNOW. Madison and Madison County are leaving ol Casey in the dust.

    1. I wish that HEA and AEA were doing more as well. I suspect that they are focusing their efforts on the legal battles they have in front of them.

  8. It seems like it is important to be careful to avoid the assumption that a “mean” or unpopular boss is necessarily a bad boss. To the extent that a little discomfort encourages HCS employees to raise their level of performance, so much the better. I wouldn’t let the fact that people aren’t enamored of the new superintendent persuade me that he’s acting beyond the best interest of the system. Questionable decisions — the overspending to acquire his own support personnel , for example — reveal much more about the quality of his leadership than anything else.

    I appreciate that Russell’s reports focus on tangible evidence rather than scuttlebutt from employees who have been nudged out of their comfort zone. Many teachers in this system are excellent; some are not. The balance among administrators tips more toward not, based upon my experience, and I suspect it is these individuals who are making the most noise about their dissatisfaction with Wardynski. It’s quite likely that these weaker leaders were allowed to be complacent during ARM’s tenure, and they resent having to respond to new mandates. That, in itself, doesn’t mean that the new mandates are bad.

    As to Wardynski being responsible for “needless lawsuits,” would you have had him retain corrupt, disobedient, inept, or law-breaking educators to avoid that inconvenience? It’s not his actions that have burdened the system with lawsuits, it is department of education policy that extends them this privilege. Perhaps if some of these issues were dealt with at an earlier date (as at least two of them could have been), the lawsuits would have been brought on someone else’s watch; unfortunately, these individuals were allowed to operate in the status quo. It’s high time that nonsense stopped.

    1. I appreciate that you picked up on the fact that I’m focused on Wardynski’s decisions. I’m often criticized for being critical of Wardynski since he’s been here such a short amount of time. I’m glad it’s clear to some that I’m only criticizing him for the decisions he’s made and the recommendations he’s pushing through the board. Not for the situations he’s inherited.

      Thanks for reading!

  9. It is all the same…how he solves situations he has inherited and decisions he pushes through the Board. It is all unhanded, sneaky, full of secrets/lies, and doesn’t include public input. He refuses to give Russ and other parents info they request or even meet with them regarding special education (inherited) likewise he did not allow public input or knowledge when this new deputy comes in making $7000more than the max salary advertised (pushed through the Boatd). His behavior and recommendations are thoughtless and punitive. Teachers can’t even get a raise here! Then he goes out and grants interviews bragging about what he has done and how he wanted to meet a teacher at the airport to fire her!!!!’

  10. Mrs. Robinson needs to step back and recompose herself. The incentive pay of $20-25,000 for the superintendent__the first year!!!!!What will she recommend the next year $50-$75,000 bonus????!!!! How much is she recommending that the teachers receive___those who meet their goals!! Come on and BE REALISTIC and use some of that good old common sense.

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