Wardynski’s Business Practice Comments

Dr. Wardynski.

As has become Dr. Wardynski’s habit at board meetings of late, this past Thursday night during the presentation by Mr. Bryon Headrick of Lean Frog concerning the lack of efficiency in the business practices of the district prior to 2011, the superintendent offered the following comments. Although these comments were made following the assessment of the business practices, his comments were dominated by a discussion of the educational practices of the district.

Exactly how one relates to the other really isn’t clear to anyone other than Dr. Wardynski, yet he certainly made an attempt to taint teachers with as much blame for the state of the district as he directed toward the business end of the district which was actually reviewed by Mr. Headrick.

He never misses an opportunity to blame teachers for things beyond their control. I will be referring to these comments in several coming posts, so I thought it fair to post them here in unedited form. Please read and refer back to them as needed during future posts.

Wardynski: [Speaking to Bryon Headrick of Lean Frog at the conclusion of his “Non-Instructional Operations Work Systems Assessment Results” presentation.] So before you depart the scene, where are we with those four items?

Headrick: I think we’re already seeing the strong leadership. Just the fact that we’re seeing the current administration address items. We still have needs regarding human capital flexibility that have to be addressed. And we still have to train and develop people. And we still have at this point a need to identify operational performance measures so that we can start holding people accountable to them.

Wardynski: And as we do number four, operational accountability, what are we likely to see as within our culture?

Headrick: You’ll drive continuous improvement.

Wardynski: No. I was getting at a different point.

Headrick: Oh.

Wardynski: Apprehension?

Headrick: Oh. Uh, yes. Anytime you create change, you’re going to see apprehension. You’re going to see resistance. You’re going to see people delay and try to hinder or undermine the change. The Huntsville City Schools System will be no different. There will be people who actually try to undermine being held accountable.  I mean this is a new standard. If you roll that out, some people are going to be worried.

Wardynski: So, um, we’ve got business practices and we’ve got educational practices. Uh, it’s amazing the mirror of each other in this district. The educational side, we went from a picture in August in which folks waited until ARMT and graduation came out in August to do an autopsy of the previous year’s education. To the first nine weeks of schools, our first benchmark assessment, which gave us exact information on the reading level and numeracy skills of our students at a national level of competency. So, benchmarked against what would loosely be call the common core standards.

Uh, disparity was startling. We’ve got schools that are by ARMT (Alabama Reading Math Test) are pegged out at 80% proficient, 90% proficient, 70% proficient. When you go to national levels of accountability, and you do it in the process of educating children, you find that we have schools that are 30% proficient, 17% proficient. Um, so first, you have to hold them accountable and then you have to have high expectations.

The accountability in education come in when you begin looking at how fast are we moving students in a classroom. So first benchmark sets the baseline.  Second benchmark, which was completed end of February, end of January, gives us our second data point. We already know that as a school district. We haven’t shared it with the public yet because we want to make sure people took the first benchmark seriously. By the time we got to the second, we had already gone through a round of virtual school date site, uh, site data reviews in this very room. We do a VTC with each of our schools and everybody else in the district can listen in. And see where we are school by school with discipline, with student performance, grade by grade. Uh, after we went through a round of that, it was clear we were serious about monitoring performance in education.

Benchmark two came in, and we saw some pretty good growth. We have classrooms that moved from 19 from kids being at the 19th percentile in the nation up to 30th in nine weeks. When you measure and you hold people accountable, amazing things happen.
So that’s happening on the educational side. We didn’t wait, uh, for an assessment there. We already knew what the issues were and implemented those immediately in September.

Uh, the third benchmark is due, Barbara when?

Cooper: I’m sorry, March.

Wardynski: March? So March will be our third benchmark, and once we have that in, we’ll be publishing that classroom by classroom, school by school. So parents can look and see which classrooms are moving and which ones aren’t. And we have classrooms that are going backwards. That school is being closed. The board voted last time we met to close the Seldon Center. That school is going backwards. Actually the kids are moving in the wrong direction. Uh, so, we were well justified in calling for the closure of that one.
We have other schools that are doing amazing things. Many of our classrooms, amazing things are happening. So on the educational side, accountability and measurement, we’re bringing in writ large.  And I can see us heading in a direction where it will happen monthly.
Now, what is, what’s the word? Apprehension?

Headrick: That’s a soft way of saying it.

Wardynski: In the Army, we call that whining. [Greeted with laughter and smiles by several of the board members.]
And what it looks like is we’re teaching to the test. Why all this testing? Well, for those who don’t understand, the reason for the testing is, you can’t hold people accountable until you finally do test. Which would be August, er March with the findings coming out in August. That’s way too long to find out we had a classroom that was moving backwards instead of forwards. Um, can you teach to the test? So we’re teaching to tests. Uh, the methodology we’re using is a computer adaptive test. Every child is taking it on a computer, and every child is likely to be on a different question at a different level. Because computer-adaptive means, they’re immediately moving to a level of their knowledge and just beyond to find out where we’re exhausted their abilities. And then it zeros in on exactly where are we. And for every child, that’s a different place and a different time on that computer. It takes eight (8) minutes to twelve (12) minutes to do this. So we’re not wasting a lot of time. But we would be wasting a lot of time if we didn’t know where our kids were.  Cause we’d be covering things they’ve already got. Or we’d be moving ahead, and they haven’t gotten the things they have to have as a foundation. So this business of measuring is not unique to the business processes, it’s vital to education. And we began that in September, and we’ll continue to do that.

So where’s there apprehension, I strongly encourage staff to become comfortable with this process. Because we’re going to know where our children are, and we’re going to make sure they’re moving forward.

And in the classrooms where that’s not taking place, we’re going to become very interested in those classrooms. And if there’s classrooms where extraordinary things are happening, we are interested in those. Because those where things are going wrong need to go look at those where things are going right, and there’s plenty of examples of things going right.
So on the business side, the measurement, what does that look like in apprehension?

Mr. Spinelli is charged with the business activities of this district. I brought, I recommended him to this board, and this board selected him on my specific recommendation based on his abilities. Um, on any given day, any number of people with apprehension are claiming any number of things. Um, we haven’t got a lot of time for nonsense. The kids need to be well educated. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Uh, my CFO is doing an excellent job, and he has my full support.

Um, we will be coming to the board subsequent to this presentation in the coming days with recommendations regarding employees who need to be apprehensive, who have not done their job, who needed to do their job and have cost our children vital years of educational opportunity.

But apprehension will not stop us. Claims of harassment, claims of sexual harassment, all sorts of nonsense, will not stop us from giving our children what they need. And I know our board certainly won’t tolerate it.

Uh, but the apprehension takes many, many forms from missing documents, to calls to the media, to complaints about oversized district overhead and GNA, and so forth. So at this point, I just wanted to draw that out and say, strong leadership is critical because with weak leadership, the rest will fall apart. And, I think that’s it for you Bryon, right?

Headrick: Yes.

As I mentioned, I will be commenting on these comments in future posts, including one going live tonight.

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