I like to tell my students that my primary job as a philosophy, religion and English teacher is to irritate them. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.
I get to irritate them by making think about things that they would rather not think about. I get to ask questions, and questions are irritating, aren’t they? They force us to stay awake at night thinking of answers that could work. They force us to think. And, as anyone who has vegged out in front of the TV at the end of a long day can attest, thinking is hard, and we would rather avoid it whenever possible.
That’s why asking questions is important: because we’re mostly lazy and prefer to veg.
It’s easier when we know (or think we know) the answers; it allows us to forget about things and relax. But when we’re relaxed, we don’t learn anything. When we’re relaxed, our elected officials do things like give themselves raises while they ignore their jobs.
And so after a week of relaxing at the beach, I’m irritated again. There are just too many unanswered questions with this board and our new superintendent. (Can he still be considered new with all that he’s managed to get the board to unanimously support? I mean in three months, he’s closed one school, proposed combining four schools into two, and hired his friends from Aurora at exorbitant salaries. In short, no one can criticize him for failing to be active.)
Here’s a short list of a few unanswered questions, in no particular order:
- Why is the superintendent, with 11 months experience, making $55,000 above the minimum posted salary?
- Why is the deputy superintendent making $7,000 above the maximum posted salary?
- Why is the new CSFO making $130,000 a year (or $16,000 more than the previous CSFO)?
- Why have all three of the senior members of the central office all come from Aurora, Colorado?
- Why has the board unanimously approved 142 of 147 recommendations, most without discussion? (Only 5 have received any dissenting votes. All 147 recommendations from January through August have been approved.)
- Why is the board discussing bonuses for the Superintendent and senior staff when they have frozen everyone else’s salaries?
- Why are there different policies for hiring administrative staff and teachers where administrators get to name their own salaries, while teachers cannot be hired for more than the state-minimum?
- Why is the special education budget being cut from FY2011 to FY2012 by $7 million making up 61% of the total savings projected in the budget from FY2011 to FY2012?
- Why have 25 special education coordinators/therapists been moved out of the central office?
- Why is the only standard for success used by the board that, “we’re not being sued?”
- Why was the FY2012 budget approved before responding to public questions?
- Why does the superintendent need so many aides?
So there you go. Twelve questions that the superintendent and the board have still not even attempted to answer in the last three months. Note, I have not asked Dr. Wardynski nor the board any questions about decisions that were made before Dr. Wardynski began in July. (People are often suggesting to me that I should just give him time. After all, he’s only been here a few month.) These are the decisions that Dr. Wardynski is responsible for. I am not holding him accountable for decisions that were made before he began. All of these occurred on his watch.
Dr. Wardynski and the board are responsible for these decisions, but they’re not answering these questions.
So, why do I keep asking them? I keep asking these questions because I care about the future of our school system, and if these decisions are any indication, it would seem that the leadership of our school system does not.
If they cared, they would spend money on students rather than the central office. If they cared, they would share the cuts needed to balance the budget rather than increase their own salaries before they even start. If they cared, they would make students a priority rather than an after thought. If they cared, they would set their standards higher than, “we’re not being sued.”
But they don’t.
And so it’s the responsibility of ever member of this community who cares about education and the quality of our schools to continue to ask these questions (and thousands of others like them) every day.
So I’m asking you to take a stand.
If you believe that these are valid and important questions that should be answered, contact your board member and Dr. Wardynski and ask them. If you think that students should be a higher priority, make your school board and central office respond to your questions. If you know of other important questions that I don’t know about, share them. (I’m not the brightest bulb in this town.) Ask your own questions, and share the answers you receive so the rest of us can learn from your experience.
Never, ever stop asking questions.
maybe will be a board meeting scheduled for tomorrow night (Tuesday, October 11, 2011) at 5:30pm at the Merts Center, 200 White Street, North. This meeting should have has an item on the agenda for public comments at the end of the meeting. ( The meeting was announced several weeks ago, but there is currently nothing on the website about the meeting, so it may or may not be happening. The agenda has not yet been published on the web. The agenda was just published tonight. They are supposed to publish this information 24 hours before the meeting, but they’ve missed that deadline. Once it has been, I’ll share the relevant details here later.)
So what can we do about these unanswered questions?
Come to the meeting and ask questions. Ask them during the meeting. Ask them after the meetings. Ask them via email. Ask them via phone calls. Follow the board and the superintendent around the city, and ask them these questions when they make public appearances. Ask for meetings with your board member and the Superintendent to ask them these questions.
This is the only way that the system will become responsive to and concerned about our students and our community.
I cannot do this alone. They’re used to me, and they’re happy to ignore me and my questions. You and I can hold them accountable if we’re willing to take the time to ask the question every good teacher teaches their kindergartners to ask:
Join me tomorrow night to irritate our school system’s leadership.