Another Sunday, and another pep talk for our teachers from the Superintendent.
Well, I suppose you might find it motivational if you work for Teach for America.
If, however, you one of the thousands of traditionally trained teachers, fully certified teachers, highly-qualified teachers, who has dedicated your life to the children of our community, there’s not much there for you.
So, Dr. Wardynski has written an op-ed piece for the Huntsville Times this past Sunday singing, yet again, the praises of Teach for America as being far better suited to teach in “our lowest-income and highest-need schools” than “traditional measures” that have failed.
Just what are these “traditional measures?” It would be nice of him to explicate this for his readers, but that would simply take too much time. Just trust him. Traditional measures are failures.
So lets see if we can figure out what he means here by traditional measures. Well, since the non-traditional measure he’s pushing through is to pay Teach for America up to $1.9 million dollars for five years simply to recruit and train people who didn’t want to be teachers enough to receive that training on their own, I suppose that the traditional measures he’s talking about here are traditionally trained teachers.
(Since there often seems to still be confusion about this money, let me attempt to make it clear. New traditionally trained and certified teachers in Alabama and here in HCS will make $36,144 per year with a BS degree. New TFA trained and non-certified TFAers in Alabama and here in HCS will make $36,144 per year with a BS degree. They will both have exactly the same benefits package. The only difference here is that the non-certified TFAer who choose to go to college to get a degree in something other than Education, will cost the system an additional $5,000, per year for at least two years. So after two years a traditionally trained teacher will cost HCS $72,288. A TFAer will cost HCS $82,288. Teach for America “teachers” cost 13% more than traditionally trained teachers.)
Just in case you didn’t catch it: Traditional Measures=Traditionally Trained Teachers who have failed. Our Motivator in Chief has struck again.
He offers exactly no explanation for why traditionally trained teachers have failed, so I thought I would offer a few possibilities. Our nation, our state and our city have spent the last 30 years devaluing teachers, and devaluing education. Since “throwing money at the problem” won’t fix the problem, lets starve it to death instead. And so that’s been the traditional approach we’ve taken with education. Cut all resources for education to the bone, cut salaries and benefits of teachers, increase class sizes, increase the work load, increase the required reporting to district, state and federal officials, and decrease professional development. These are the “traditional measures” that have failed.
So we can’t “just throw money at the problem” that we’ve created for traditionally trained teachers (you know, teachers who actually wanted to be teachers), but we can just throw money–$1.9 million here in Huntsville–at a company to recruit people who didn’t want to teach and who don’t stay in education to come in and fix the problem for us.
And when they have at best exactly the same results as the teachers who didn’t cost us $1.9 million to recruit, well, we just need to spend even more, right? Cause giving public funds to a private organization with $309 million dollars in NET assets just makes us feel better than say spending $500 a year on professional development for our teachers in “our lowest-income and highest need schools.” Making the rich, richer isn’t throwing money at a problem, it’s a “good investment.”
I’m sure that “most” of our “highly effective teachers” will feel the love tomorrow as they drive to work for the start of another day of school.
One thing you can say about Dr. Wardynski: he’s consistent.
I noticed in his comments on Thursday night that he doesn’t like all the negative press that the system has gotten. He said:
Teachers are folks who are key to learning. They’re key to student growth, and there are many who are doing great jobs. And it’s no secret that this superintendent addresses those that we think are not doing great jobs. We continue to do so. But when that becomes the story for our school district, what we miss is the key teachers that are doing great work.
It truly is a terrible thing when one teacher’s actions reflect badly on all the other excellent teachers in our system. He’s right to say that when that happens, we do indeed miss the great work of our key teachers.
But what he’s not owning up to is that the reason that the story for our school district has become focused on teachers who are not doing their job is because that’s what he continually talks about. If he would stop saying that our traditionally trained teachers aren’t capable of teaching low-income students, the story would change. If he would deal with personnel matters without bragging about what he is or isn’t going to do to teachers who don’t meet his expectations, the story would change.
On August 11, 2011, there was a special board meeting at 12:00pm noon with a very brief agenda that included a discussion of the job description for the Director of Community Engagement and Partnership Development. After this meeting, Dr. Wardynski approached me to chat. (It was early. Before he started just shouting orders as he walked by.)
At the conclusion of our discussion, Dr. Wardynski said that he had to leave as he was going to go meet an AWOL teacher as she departed her plane at the airport. With glee in his voice, he was excited to tell me that he was going to catch her and hand deliver her termination. He evidently was saying the same thing to the Huntsville Times before the meeting that day.
It was as if he believed I would cheer him on. In fact, what I said to him was this, “Dr. Wardynski, I don’t believe you should be telling me this.” As he had already started turning away, I don’t believe he heard me.
The teacher whom he met at the airport was Jo Ann Thompson who found out today that she would be getting her job back at Davis Hills Middle School.
I haven’t written about her firing before. Since I’m not privy to her personnel records or even all the details of what actually happened, I thought that the best I could say about her firing would be, “We’ll see what happens.”
As the Times reported today, Dr. Wardynski did not give me the entire story when he claimed that Mrs. Thompson was AWOL, and as Dr. Wardynski now knows, the devil is in the details. It seems that she decided to leave after being told that her punishment for doing so would consist of being “written up” by her principal.
In other words, Judge Sandra H. Storm believed that Mrs. Thompson had been set up.
(For the record, I do not think that a teacher should miss the first week of class except in cases of extreme emergency. But I also am convinced that Mrs. Thompson was set up for the sole purpose of instilling fear in our teaching corps.)
So again we see that this superintendent is actively going out of his way to intimidate, demoralize, and frighten the teachers working in Huntsville.
All of them.
In other words, Dr. Robinson–who has said many times that the only teachers opposed to or afraid of Dr. Wardynski are those who aren’t doing their jobs–is wrong. She is as wrong as the Deputy Governor Danforth from The Crucible who claimed that, “them that fear not the light will surely praise it.”
Dr. Wardynski has regularly and consistently sought to create an environment in Huntsville City Schools of fear, uncertainty and doubt. And board members like Dr. Robinson have gone out of their way to help him.
Today, speaking of the decision, Dr. Wardynski said that the ruling was “entirely unacceptable.” He compared her disobedience to that of a student disobeying a teacher and claimed that the “student would face strict punishment.”
According to Policy Number 106-1: Student Discipline, a student may be punished for “1.10 Unauthorized absence from class (cutting class).” A student may also be punished for “1.14 Failure to follow instructions – examples: failure to carry correspondence home; failure to obey directions in the hallways, assemblies, etc. Both of these are listed as Class I – Minor Offenses. The disciplinary action for a Class I offense is to “Conference with student and reasonable effort to make parental contact.”
Perhaps we should have called Mrs. Thompson’s parents instead? It would have had the benefit of saving the district quite a bit of money.
Rather, Dr. Wardynski, what is actually “entirely unacceptable” is your desire to run off our excellent teachers and replace them with “alternatively certified” (not certified as he stated in his editorial) TFAers. Your approach of intimidation, demoralization and fear, sir, is what is entirely unacceptable.