Birney Takes Stand for Teachers

20110915 Board

It’s late, and I have miles to go before I can sleep tonight, but this is too important to wait.

Thank you, Topper Birney, for taking a stand for our teachers (our real teachers). It’s about time that someone on the board did.

In case you missed it, tonight the board had yet another discussion about how to evaluate Dr. Wardynski. The board has proposed five goals by which Dr. Wardynski will be evaluated. These are:

  1. Accelerate Learning at All Levels
  2. Increase Flexibility in the General Fund Budget While Preserving Educational Programs
  3. Build Bench Strength Though Strategic Staffing
  4. Improve Capital Infrastructure
  5. Meet Department of Justice Requirements to Deserve Unitary Status

There was extensive discussion about the benchmarks associated with these goals, and the likelihood of being able to evaluate the Superintendent according to these goals by May 31st. But as soon as that was over, the board embarked on a discussion of just how much of a bonus Dr. Wardynski should receive for his work this year.

Mr. Blair opened the bidding with $10,000. He claimed that this was “on-par” with other incentive-based bonuses of the surrounding systems. As usual, he offered no specific evidence of this claim. Robinson supported this opening bid by claiming that Wardynski has “In the three months he’s been here according to all reports, we’ve saved $3,000,000 in personnel costs.” She didn’t offer any evidence supporting these claims.

Yes, Dr. Jennie Robinson believes that Dr. Casey Wardynski deserves a bonus because he’s refusing to hire teachers, aides, and other support personnel.

[Honest to god, I could not make this up.]

Dr. Robinson then suggested that we should be more generous with Dr. Wardynski’s bonus and make it $20,000. She later suggested that $25,000 would be completely reasonable. (Such a bonus would make Wardynski the highest paid superintendent in the state. Didn’t we just fire a superintendent making the highest salary in the state?)

Mrs. Morrison responded that the smaller systems are not in debt the way we are, and that it’s difficult to pay anyone what they’re worth.

Dr. Wardynski stated that a person should be “worth what they pay you.” To this, Dr. Robinson said, “that’s absolutely right. And you are.” (Sounds like at least one member for the board has already made up her mind concerning her evaluation of the Superintendent’s performance. Again in case you couldn’t pick up on that from other comments.)

Dr. Wardynski, to his partial credit, stated that, “I think the first number would be plenty.” He could, if he wished, request that the board put his bonus back into the system, but at least he’s not holding out for the highest number.

Morrison then suggested $5,000 to $10,000 would be a good start, since “we’ve never done this before.” Mrs. McCaulley later stated that these amounts might be a good place to start.

Mrs. McCaulley then asked Mr. Birney for his opinion concerning the bonus situation.

This is what he said:

We’ve got some teachers that have suffered a lot this year. Dr. Wardynski knows I think the world of him, but I don’t know if we should start out with that big a jump.

Mr. Birney was the only board member who even mentioned the fact that teachers are suffering. (Mr. Blair later said that he shared Mr. Birney’s concern.)

And they are suffering.

Our teachers are being asked to do much more work than before by teaching significantly larger classes. Our teachers are all receiving a pay cut in the form of higher insurance/retirement contribution requirements. Our teachers are not getting even a STEP raise this year. Our new teachers are being hired at the state minimum salary.

Our teachers are being ordered to do more work for less money, with no hope for a bonus regardless of how well they perform.

The board decided to complete this discussion about the bonus at a later date.

Here’s a suggestion: No Bonuses for Administrators Before Teachers,

As I have written before, if Dr. Wardynski accepts a bonus, 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, and address staffing issues. In other words, accepting any bonus while our teachers are suffering should disqualify him from receiving that bonus.

Of course that will never happen. The board, after all, must be able to claim that Dr. Wardynski is such a huge success that he deserves a huge bonus. Otherwise, they won’t be able to claim that they’ve fixed the mess that they created.

If you believe that teachers deserve to be rewarded for their hard work, if you believe that being the highest paid person in the system is sufficient reward to Wardynski for just doing his job, then write and call your board member, and let them know that there should be no bonuses for administrators before teachers.

Put our students, and those who work directly with them, first. And thank Mr. Birney for being the only one on the board willing to even think about our teachers.

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


  1. Russell, you are a bonehead. You obviously didn’t catch the part about the 3 million dollars in savings, or the fact that our superintendent is focused on decreasing the achievement gap. Your motivations are transparent. All you care about is draining more taxpayer money toward special education. You are already getting $22,000,000, of which only $5,000,000 is federally funded. Guess you pays the rest? We do, the taxpayers. Every dollar your special education group drains means our children get less to prepare them for college. The people of Huntsville do not share your vendetta against Dr. Wardynski so go away and stop standing in the way of progress!

    1. Mr. Mullendore,

      Thank you for your opinion. Obviously since I mentioned the $3 million in the post, I did “catch” it. His plans to decrease the achievement gap are to hire teachers who aren’t trained to teach.

      I know my motivations are transparent. I’ve been crystal clear about what I’m working for. I’m standing up for all of our students, our teachers, and our school system.

      Your numbers concerning special education funding are not correct (the local funded amount is $14,163,983 the federal funding is $4,927,081), and actually taxpayers pay for everything, including the $175,000 for a superintendent who has now 14 months experience and his friends who make $141k and $130k respectfully.

      I do not have a “vendetta” against anyone, but again you’re free to hold that opinion (and even express it here). I want the best school system possible for all of our kids, including yours, even though you think me a “bonehead.”

      Again, thank you for sharing your opinion and for reading.

      Take care.

    2. I once supported the restoration of funding to Special Ed in an abstract way: because it was morally correct and lawfully required, and in a more cynical way: there never seems to be a shortage of money when it’s for something the Board or the Supe wants — the money is there then.

      Then last month my daughter was assaulted and now is experiencing post-concussive syndrome. Her ability to learn, to attend a full day of school, to deal with the ordinary noise and chaos of school, has been compromised. It may be the case that she is going to need Special Ed, her own IEP.

      So consider your own self-interest if nothing else when you condemn these programs that you say take from your kids. Your kids are just a bad bump on the head, a nasty bike accident, a fall off the bleachers, to being one of those kids.

  2. Adam are your kids in Huntsville schools? Mr. Winn deserves some respect, obviously something you lack. Huntsville needs more people like Russel to call out the truth, even if its uncomfortable for people,who like to look through rose colored glasses like you do.

  3. Thanks for the report Russell. I really am concerned about the future of the Huntsville City School system because as you said only 1 Board member out of 5 expressed a concern for teachers and support personnel. I for one am thankful for Boneheads like you who are trying to make the school system a better place for ALL students. I wish we had Boneheads like you on the school board instead of the Boneheads we have. 🙂

  4. Mr.Mullendore reminds me of how the good citizens of the Roman Empire treated their children. The female infants were considered a drain on the economy and were taken out to the local garbage dump and abandoned. Thankfully the Christians of the day rescued these infants and took them into their homes because they recognized the inherit value of each individual and the responsibility to care for each and every one. Mr. Mullendore, I’m wondering, how’s that Roman Empire fairing these days?

  5. Not a single word in your most recent excellent and informative posting was specifically related to the (unmet) needs of special education students. Rather, you continue to be a voice in support of ALL student, teachers, and support staff.

    Adam must live in the same alternate universe that Topper frequently inhabits, where all students are happy and learning, and morale among staff members is good. Not the world I believe exists in HCS.

    Your children are our children; all are special, all have ” special needs” of one sort or another. I cannot believe the blindness of the general public and the schoolboard in their allegiance to this new superintendent!

    As Merts becomes more top-heavy, as they spend hours spending money and discussing bonuses, teachers have no paper or ink to use in educating any children – yours, mine, or Adams.

    Thank you Geek, for all the time you spend, and efforts you make to educate all of us to what’s happening.

    Unfortunately, “there are none so blind as those who WILL NOT see”.

  6. Mr. Mullendore was so eager to berate and insult Mr. Winn, he got his facts and figures screwed up.

    The lack of any further comment from Mr. Mullendore suggests that he recognized how much of a fool he made of himself and thus forth, refuses to comment any further.

  7. Mr. Mullendore may not know that you and I disagree on whether or not Wardynski’s salary is appropriate, but he should understand that we are in agreement that it is not a good situation to have many administrative positions filled at the top-end of the salary range when teacher salaries are stagnant at the low end. Furthermore, he should understand that when we say “teacher salaries” we mean ALL TEACHERS (or at least the good ones), not just special education teachers. In fact, what you propose would go to benefit far more non-special needs educators.

    In citing the “$3MM” in savings, Mr. Mullendore oversimplifies the issue. Anyone can cut $3MM…just close some schools. But, that might not be the right thing to do, or the thing to do that’s in the best interest of HCS.

    I don’t have a problem paying an administrator a high salary if they can show that the return on the investment is sufficiently high. Perhaps based on that statement, Mr. Mullendore will conclude that I DO NOT have a vendetta against Wardynski. I do have a problem (and I think you’d agree) talking about bonuses when the ink on the contract isn’t even dry. Maybe now Mr. Mullendore will conclude that I DO have a vendetta against Dr. Wardynski. My point is that reasonale people can disagre on how to solve a problem without it necessarily being due to a personal vendetta. Pointing an issue out doesn’t make the pointing a personal vendtta. The bottom line is that what you propose or what I propose has more to do with our desire to improve the quality of our school system, our teachers, and facilities than it does with our personal difference with Dr. Wardynski. Nevertheless, Dr. Wardynski does work for you and me (and Mr. Mullendore) so it behooves us to be vocal when we disagree with policy decisions.

    Much of what we seen out of Wardynski, whether you agree with what he does or not, is part of his normal job responsibilities. To get a bonus, I’d think you’d have to do more than balance a budget, or keep schools open. The list that the board presented is a good start, but I’d rather see the bonus tied more directly to actions. For example, if his efforts to increase grant allocations to HCS results in $10MM additional to the budget, I wouldn’t be opposed to allocating a bonus figure to him or the staff that brought in the grant money. If he is able to drive changes that increase teacher salaries, I’d be for a bonus tied to that. Regardless, in all cases the bonus should be limited to a portion of the return on our investment.


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