Irritating Unanswered Questions


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:

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.

There 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.

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


  1. Great points, Russell! I’m sending an email to Dr. Robinson this morning. We’ve all got to get involved—our watchdog needs help!

  2. “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:”

    I hear you! If everyone reading this blog would forward it to five people and ask them to forward it to five people we will have a movement and they won’t be able to ignore the lone gadfly.

    Is the meeting tonight?

    1. Yes, there is a meeting tonight at 5:30pm at the Merts Center. If you want to speak, you should arrive at least 15 minutes early to get your name on the list.

      (And thanks!)

  3. I’ll add an obvious question to the list for you there… Why isn’t my son’s IEP being met even at this point in the school year? Why are we being offered monetary compensation at this point because there aren’t even enough personnel to fill the positions to fulfill his IEP? If the criteria is that everything must be ok becuase there are no pending lawsuits, then just wait, I have had at least four people that I don’t even know just walk in off the streets randomly within the last two weeks looking for help with Special Education law and advocacy and these aren’t the people I have talked to on the phone and had to send to Birmingham for help. As a lawyer I don’t believe in litigation, believe it or not, but they are not helping themselves here…

  4. They might have a pending lawsuit soon. Very soon. We seem to have fallen into a trap of being denied services. My son doesn’t start school until next year, but his treatment team highly suggested we get on the ball with the school system to get a plan in place before he starts. He was evaluated today and denied services. Oddly enough, the people testing him agreed he needed assistance, but they were not allowed to recommend it because he had an average IQ.

    If we can’t get anything in place before he starts school, it will be interesting (to say the least) to see how the teacher/school reacts to his behavior. He has Asperger’s and ADHD. Even on medication, he is too much for most people to handle (besides myself and my husband, of course).

    I can picture his first day of school now…….He will not be able to sit still in his seat, stop talking/changing the subject, meltdowns, tantrums, complete freakouts over seemingly nothing (such as seeing green beans in the lunch room), flapping his hands when he hears something that is too loud, spinning uncontrollably, screaming fits when he becomes overstimulated and then the depression/sulking from being rejected by his peers. Unfortunately, they don’t teach chemistry in Kindergarten, because he would be fascinated by that and might sit in still attention for a few moments 😉

    This is the beginning of a long road, I can tell. I need to compose some thoughts to share at a board meeting…..as well as try to figure out where to go from here. This whole ordeal is forcing my to overcome my own social anxiety issues in order to speak up for him. It’s sad that parents have to fight so hard for these things.

    1. You’re right, Brittany, it is sad that we have to fight so hard for the board to obey the law (I’ve come close to giving up on them just doing the right thing).

      We shouldn’t have to fight both a disease/disability and the school board. They work for us. They should be helping us.

  5. I saw this today, Russell, and thought of you:

    In the first place God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.
    ~ Mark Twain

  6. Thank you very much Russell, I have a page on FB called CCFHCS ( Concerned Citizens for Huntsville City Schools). I am loving what you are doing with this blog. I have many questions and no one from downtown will answer them so I just show up at the meeting with my paper and pin. We need to stand together and watch these people whom we put in office. Like the board most of them need to go now.

    1. Shon,

      Thanks! I just found your group. Thank you for what you’re doing. I would be happy to stand together with you.


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