Finally a Response of a Sort

1215 Board

At the board meeting on Thursday (December 15th), I stood, again, to ask for an explanation of why the special education funding has been cut by seven million dollars. Here are my comments:

I am here tonight to ask the same questions that I’ve been asking since September.

Why have you cut 7 million dollars from Special Education funding from FY2011 to FY2012?

Why is Special Education responsible for 61% of the 11.6 million of projected savings from 2011 to 2012?

I have contacted each of you privately to ask this, and the only answer was “we’ll talk about it in November.”

I have asked you publicly at three consecutive meetings, and you’ve offered no response.

I’ve jumped through the hoops of filing a formal grievance per your recommendations at the December 1st meeting. And yet because your interpretation of the policy is that there is no grievance policy when a parent has an issue with a decision of the superintendent and the board, you have again refused to offer any answer.

Your decisions are hurting my son’s education. I am not going away and neither are these questions:

Why have you cut the special education budget by 7 million dollars?

Why is 11% of the student population responsible for 61% of your projected cuts?

Why are you refusing to answer questions from the public? I have about a minute and a half of my time left. You’ve had three months to formulate a response. I would appreciate hearing what you have to say now.

And so I waited, silently, for a public answer that didn’t come. Some on the board smiled and motioned for me to sit down. Some glared. Some rolled their eyes. Security even made a point of checking the time that I had remaining to “encourage” me to take my seat. But I stood silently waiting for an answer.

Once again, no one on the board, nor our esteemed superintendent, chose to answer any of these questions publicly.

They believe that they are above responding to questions from the public.

Once the meeting was completed, I approached Mrs. McCaulley to ask her if she had any further suggestions for me on how I might receive an answer, but before I could reach her, Dr. Wardynski looked at me and addressed me for the first time since August 18th. I was, needlessly to say, surprised. While I didn’t record the conversation, here is my recollection of what Dr. Wardynski had to say to me after the meeting was over:

Wardynski: The short and sweet answer is free, appropriate education in the least restrictive environment as I’ve explained to you before. We are not required to meet any specific funding level. We are only required to meet the requirements of the IEPs.

Winn: But you’re not meeting the IEPs.

Wardynski: “Then su . . . then you have recourse.”

The only response that I’ve received from either the superintendent, the central office, or the board is, in my interpretation, “sue us.”

Mrs. Sledge offered that as a solution when she refused to discuss the consolidation plan in detail with parents back in April. Dr. Robinson suggested that this was how she knew that IEPs were being met back on September 29th. And now, rather than offer any justification for his actions or decisions, Dr. Wardynski started to tell me that I should sue him and the district. He did at least have enough wisdom to realize that wasn’t a smart thing to say.

So he backed off and instead said, “Then you have recourse.”

Since the superintendent, central office (following the direction of the superintendent), and the board of education also following his lead have repeatedly and consistently refused to offer any explanation for their decisions and actions, the only recourse that I have remaining to me is a legal one.

Yes, the most sued system in the state has a superintendent who encourages the public to sue rather than simply answer questions that parents raise.

The corporate superintendent has no issue spending money on lawyers but refuses to spend money on SPED kids or to answer questions from those pesky parents.

Oh and for the record, he’s partly right. All that the system is required to do is meet the requirements of the IEPs. The problem with being partly right though is that you’re also partly wrong. In addition to failing to meet IEPs, the cuts have not been made according to state code section 16-39-3 that requires funding cuts to be made on a “per capita basis between exceptional (SPED) and nonexceptional children.” The system’s own numbers show that this did not happen. 61% of the cuts have been made to 11% of the student population. If I was wrong about this, they would have said so rather than encourage me to sue.

So rather than offer an explanation of his actions, Dr. Wardynski prefers that parents simply sue when he violates Federal IDEA law and Alabama State Code.

He prefers that parents sue rather than having to respond to questions. He prefers dealing with lawyers rather than simply talking to parents. Dr. Wardynski on Thursday, December 15, 2011 suggested to me that I should sue the district.

We’re going to follow his suggestion.

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


    1. That is an idea that has been batted around, and it’s a good one. I, however, have begun the process of contacting the Office for Civil Rights over the funding issue. I think that they might have more luck in getting information out of the central office than a simple lowly parent.

    1. Considering that an Aide costs the system about $9,000 a year, that would have added 22 aides to the system. Since teachers cost about $31,000 a year, we’re looking at about 6.5 more classrooms for the year.

      Excellent find, Laurie. Thanks. I’m going to steal it for my next post.

      1. If he had put a fraction of that money toward therapists, I know of at least two of us that would have still been with HCS. Absolutely ridiculous, not to mention sad!

      2. May as well add in August & Sept — roughly $52,000 each, if I’m reading notes correctly. It is a revelation to go into those check registers and do a find in doc for “legal.”

        I can’t get my head around how you can pay $123,525.86 in one month — $98,781.95 of which went to Lanier, Ford, Shaver & Payne. I mean, I know they aren’t hourly workers, but if they were there are what 160 work hours in a month? That would come out to $617 an hour. Say you had 2 attys working every hour of every day — that’s still $308 an hour.

        What of Brooks? Does he also get a salary as a staff atty? Of course, that’s his firm. Isn’t that a conflict of interest? I mean, each time he gives lousy advice, and the HCS is sued, cash flows to LFS &P.

  1. Should read Wardinskyi has no problem spending OUR money on Lawywers to fight us. That’s what they do, whip you with your own switch.

  2. I think you should figure out how to get some action on this issue. I know that my daughters IEP was not being met and I filed a formal complaint with the state board of education and now she has an aide and her IEP is being met. They would rather you fight to get the things they should be giving to our children. I know there are other formal complaints that have been filed. And when this was all going on I had emails and calls to the superintendent and the deputy and have to date never received a call or email back from them. Believe me, my advocate has been very busy since I meet her two years ago. This is just crazy talk. So much for me trying to work with the school to get iPads for the autism unit my daughter is in!!!!!

  3. Just playing devil’s advocate here… Have you approached Spinelli, and asked him for an explanation of the Budget cuts VS. Their Legality. Just wondering if that might produce answers/explanations.

    1. He was included in the email questions at the beginning, but no one chose to respond. He’s also been present at each of the board meetings where I raised the questions. Again, there was no response.

      That’s a good suggestion though.

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