Wardynski’s Plans for Mt. Gap: Merge or Close

Mt. Gap Elementary

So the long promised meeting to discuss the merger of Mt. Gap Elementary and Middle schools in to one Pre-K through 8th Grade school finally occurred.

Remaining true to form, Dr. Wardynski used the majority of the meeting to talk about his own talking points. (This was quite similar to a meeting that he had with Special Education parents back before the beginning of school. Parents were told that the meeting would be to discuss the planned consolidation of Special Education children, but surprisingly, that topic never came up during that meeting.)

Tonight’s meeting to discuss the board approved merger was similar in tone.

As I stated earlier today, I had planned to video tape the meeting, but I was told before the meeting began that “we’ve been told that we cannot video tape the meeting.”

This came as quite a surprise since my understanding of the Alabama Open Meetings Act is that any public meeting can be recorded via any means, but since I wanted to attend the meeting to hear our superintendent’s explanation for his actions, I did not video record the meeting.

As such, I am relying upon my notes from the meeting instead.

Dr. Wardynski arrived at the meeting at about 6:05pm, and the meeting was called to order. The crowd was significantly smaller than had been planned for with Mt. Gap Elementary parents, faculty and staff making up the majority of the crowd.

He began his prepared presentation at 6:10pm after brief introductions and a discussion about the procedural vote to dissolve the Mt. Gap PTA boards in order to formulate a new board for next year. This presentation consisted of approximately 10 slides describing the current state of the entire district as he sees it. The superintendent led the crowd through a discussion of why he is making the significant number of changes to the district. This speech was quite similar to others that he’s offered at Board meetings as well at other public venues. As the majority of this presentation had little to nothing to do with the merger of Mt. Gap Elementary and Middle schools, I’ll leave it to others to summarize.

His slide show did, however, contain several slides that displayed Mt. Gap Elementary and Middle in relationship to other schools in the district. All of the displayed slides showed Mt. Gap Elementary and Middle as two of the top performing schools in the district. However, Dr. Wardynski’s assessment of the Elementary school in particular was that between the first and second rounds of Star Enterprises assessments, Mt. Gap Elementary students we’re “not advancing as rapidly as other schools in the district.”

He offered no explanation of this and seemed disinterested in any discussion of why this might be. He also offered no supporting documentation to back up the data that was displayed on the slide. (Due to the poor quality of the projection, my photographs of the slides are not clear enough to be useful.)

Dr. Wardynski also refused to allow his slide show to be distributed to the crowd. He said that the presentation would not be shared publicly. Despite claiming to be all about operating in a transparent manner, he didn’t want the presentation videotaped, and he refused to share the presentation with the public. (I’m sure I’m dating myself here, but “Hmm?”)

Frankly, it was as if he were attempting to use one single data point to justify the merger of the two schools. When questions arose about the data that he was “presenting,” when people in the audience attempted to offer some context to the idea that Mt. Gap wasn’t “advancing” as rapidly as other schools, he dismissed these ideas with a wave of his hand claiming that he’d heard those excuses before.

After a fifty minute presentation on his attempts to improve education in the district, Dr. Wardynski posted the first and only slide concerning Mt. Gap of the night. It was a listing of capital improvements that would be made over the next two years with a break down of the total cost which was about $6.2 million dollars in improvements.

This listing should not, however, be considered firm as it is, according to Dr. Wardynski, under review by the two consultant firms the district has hired to review all of the capital improvements in the district. (Yes, we have not one, but two firms who are getting paid simply to provide oversight to building projects. They are in addition to the Johnson Controls contract that the district had before Dr. Wardynski arrived. So, I suppose that means that there are at least three consultants reviewing construction projects to make sure they’re cost efficient.)

The improvements, once begun, would take approximately 18 months to complete.

At 7:00pm, the meeting finally began to discuss the planned merger between the two schools when Dr. Wardynski started reading some of the pre-submitted questions about the merger.

He was asked for a timeline for the planned renovations. He responded that the 18 month project would begin at some point in the future. He had no idea if there would be a common student entrance that both schools would share, but it was likely that visitors would be required to use a single entrance. The Nurse’s office and Library would however be centralized.

(Yes, both 3-4 year olds and 13 year olds will share a library and a nurse’s office, as well as a single principal. What could possibly go wrong?)

He was asked about the impact the changes would have on the administration of the schools. His response was to claim that the district was planning to announce changes of that nature in mid-April, but that everyone in the district should expect for there to be numerous changes in the assignments of Principals. He was quite adamant that he would be moving principals around from school to school on a regular and consistent basis. This is consistent with his statements in the past.

When asked if teachers would be moved, his answers were less clear. While he stated during his presentation that he was “not moving any of your teachers,” when the same question arose during the Q&A, he was much less definitive. Then he made a point of asking an employee of Mt. Gap if she “worked for Mt. Gap, or Huntsville City Schools?”

This approach of answering a question with a question was one that he employed through most of the Q&A. (He also used it when talking to SPED parents back before school started.)

He was asked about staffing changes. He responded that the new school would have the following staff:

  • A Principal
  • An Assistant Principal
  • A “Teacher on Special Assignment” (This will be a new “administrative” teacher who will be in training to potentially become an administrator at some point in the future. He offered no details about how this person would be selected or chosen.)
  • A Librarian (Yes, one librarian for approximately 671 students.)
  • A Nurse
  • Enough PE teachers to support 671 students
  • An indeterminate number of secretaries

I’m sure that there will be other changes in staff as there was no mention of lunchroom changes or custodial staff at all during the meeting, but that’s the list of staffing that the new merged school would have.

He was asked about what steps could be taken to ensure that Weatherly Heights Elementary Students don’t feel like outsiders. He responded again with a question, “Do they feel like outsiders now?” He then followed up by saying that while that could be an issue that he was confident that counselors and other staff could certainly help with the transition.

He then read one of the two questions that I submitted to him. His response to this question was the first and only time that he mentioned any justification for the merger at all.

I asked: What specific evidence can you offer to show that elementary schools with historically high test scores perform better after being merged with a middle school?

His answer, unsurprisingly, offered no specific evidence that any elementary school performed better after merger, but rather ran in a wholly new direction. Dr. Wardynski said that if the schools were not merged, that he would bring a recommendation to the board to close Mt. Gap Elementary School.

I’ll give him credit for not attempting to pass the responsibility off on the State for this claim. (Although, he did mention that the state, had it taken over the district, would have closed Mt. Gap.) He said that he, himself, would recommend closure to the board.

So, that’s it.

Dr. Wardynski’s reason for the merger is that the elementary school is operating below capacity, and as such it must either be merged or closed. There were no other options allowed. At one point a parent attempted to point out to him that the reason that Mt. Gap was operating below capacity had more to do with the zoning for Challenger than anything else. Dr. Wardynski quickly dismissed this suggestion by saying that there would be no discussion of other possible solutions to the enrollment issues at Mt. Gap Elementary.

It was either his way or he’ll close the school. And he’ll do so without concern for the well-being of the students. He’ll do so without receiving input from parents. He’ll do so without considering any other alternatives.

The final impression that I had from the meeting was that Dr. Wardynski, as I have noted before, hates having to respond to questions. He hates getting them from parents and he absolutely refuses to accept them from people who are employed in the system. Tonight, he was rude to parents who had the audacity to question his decisions. And he was threatening to the teachers who were brave enough to raise their hands. The one good thing to come from the meeting was that now more people are aware of the type of man we have running our schools.

By the way, he chose to ignore my other question: Why was this merger approved and finalized before this discussion took place?

Then again, I guess such a question is just redundant at that point. Dr. Wardynski never had any intention of taking parental concerns into consideration before making his decision. He doesn’t see the need to study any issue from the perspective that it might or might not have an impact on student performance.

His only concern is his own personal agenda. Strike that: his only concern is the Broad Virus agenda.

W at mt gap.




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


  1. So, the excuse for merging NCTHS & Lee was that Columbia will be too crowded … in a few years and the excuse for merging Mt Gap is that it is under capacity??? Does he think we are complete idiots?

  2. Under both the Alabama Information Act and Huntsville City School Access to Information Policy, the slides he showed at the meeting last night belong to the taxpayers and not him, and he had no right to refuse giving the public a copy of the slides.

    1. I’ve sent him an email requesting the presentation and pointing out the salient board policy. We’ll see if he responds.

  3. Who ever told you the meeting could not be recorded violated the open meeting law. Was the media there?

    1. I agree, Redeye, and no, the media was not to my knowledge present. (It was, after all, primary election day.)

  4. The media has reporters assigned to specifically cover the education beat. When, where, and how, were you notified of the meeting? Where any HCS board member(s) in attendence?

    1. Yeah, I know, but often on heavy news days beats are left aside.

      The meeting was announced first on the Mt. Gap FB page on February 24th.

      It was also announced via PTA newsletter on March 8th.

      Dr. Robinson was present at the meeting but did not speak at the meeting. Rena Anderson Dir of Community Involvement was also present, but she also has children at both schools. She appeared to be there in an official capacity.

  5. I see a simple solution to the Huntsville City Schools problem. Document everything and report to the Dept. of Education. We all know he doesn’t have an educational background. The board is such a disappointment! I can’t wait until elections role around. I see many lawsuits in the near future. This is also one of the main reasons the school system is broke ( they do not follow protocol).

  6. The future of our (collective) children are at stake, which is why we can’t wait until election time. Filing a lawsuit will not un ring the bell. The school board members work for us, or least they are supposed to work for us.

  7. We need these parents to come to the board meetings and address the board. Leadership can not be allowed to disrespect parents and taxpayers.

  8. Most of the middle school parents were not aware of the PTA meeting. As usual Information is not given to the middle school parents until it is too late to come giving the impression that we don’t care about what happens at the school. Also, Weatherly PTA was having a meeting that same night and time. Parents had to choose which one to go to. Many parents split up with one going to WHES PTA meeting with the younger child and the other going to Mountain Gap’s PTA meeting the older child. Unfortunately the meeting was also held on election night and at 6:00. Most parents do not get home until then or later. The PTA’s from both schools need to coordinate meetings so families who have children at both can participate. I hope the new PTA is better about communicating with parents.

    1. Thanks for that information. I had been informed that all three schools were invited to be present, but it seems that wasn’t communicated as clearly as is should have been.

      1. I have kids in MGE and MGMS. I received an email from the MGE PTA about the meeting as well as the Facebook page. There were at least 2 signs in front of the elementary also. I never pull in to the middle school side so I don’t know if there were signs there or not. I received an email from the counselor at MGMS that originated from the middle school PTA president about the meeting. It was a bad night for the meeting because of the elections and Weatherly having their PTA meeting too. I was very disappointed in the turnout.

  9. As a parent of children who will be attending the next school to be merged, Challenger Elementary and Middle Schools, i have watched this issue with Whitesburg and now Mountain Gap. Here is my bet, he will make the move to consolidate Challenger, the largest of the schools, over the summer when fewer parents and teachers are around or aware of the issue until it is complete. My question is how much documentation has been done with Whitesburg to see what problems and issues they have encountered before proceeding with other schools? My guess is very little and none has been shared to the public. Simply saying that he would “close” a school isn’t quite enough. Wasn’t there a requirement by the Department of Justice to approve the closure of schools in our district?

    1. He’s offered no argument other than “efficiency” and “I’ll close it.”

      I hope you’re wrong about Challenger, but I doubt you are.

  10. Part of the problem with the Alabama Open Meeting or “Sunshine Laws” is that it really has no teeth. It is a $50 fine and a slap on the hand unless it has changed drastically.
    If anyone ask if you are with the media in the future tell them yes, you are a freelance journalist and dare them to ask you to leave or try to keep you from recording it.

    1. Not since 2005. The fine, per member, is a maximum of $1000 or one half of one months salary, whichever is greater. The Alabama Open Meetings Act replaced the “sunshine” laws.

      1. Sorry. It is $1000 or one half one months pay, whichever is less. That’s the maximum. Additionally, the board can be forced to invalidate decisions made at the meeting. It’s still pretty toothless, but not quite as wimpy.

  11. All hail, Czar Wardynski. It’s my way or no way and don’t question me or I will close your school. Hurrah!!!

    1. You know the real problem is not Wardynski although he is a big part of it, the problem is the elected board without the spine to tell him no!

  12. All Hail the Politboro, then. Why can’t we, as voters, seem to get it right and why can’t those that we elect do the job that they have been elected to do? AAARRRGGGHHH!

  13. I just spoke with a Mt. Gap middle school teacher. He was in attendance at this meeting and said he was embarrassed by the superintendent’s behavior. He said (and I quote) “He looked like a colonel briefing subordinates.” His obvious irritation at being questioned was apparent too. Thank you, Board members for your erudite decision to bring on a military leader with no experience in the classroom or as an administrator. I am going to take an active role in the next school board election in regards to volunteering and getting the word out.

  14. At least three emails were sent out to all parents in the middle school about the meeting. It was also posted on the sign in front of the school. There are only so many things they can do to notify parents. If they send home papers they end up left in the kids lockers. No need to blast the PTA. We don’t need to turn against eachother. The elementary PTA president planned the meeting. That was when he said he could come. All three schools were invited. I have three kids at 3 different schools. My husband and I have to split up all the time got meetings and such. It’s a way of life when your kids get to a certain age.

    1. GapperMom,

      I agree that there is only so much that the PTA can do to inform the parents of the meetings. It was not, in anyway, my intention to “blast the PTA.”

      I was asked a question in the comments about how the meeting was announced, and I replied with the methods that I knew about. I could be mistaken, but I don’t think it was the intention of the questioner to “blast the PTA” either.

      I consider the president of the MGES PTA to be a personal friend, and I hope that she feels the same. I think we disagree in our assessments of the merger, but regardless of that, I know that she did everything she could do to schedule and promote the meeting.

      If I am critical of anything or anyone, it is of Dr. Wardynski for waiting until after the board had already approved the merger (waiting 4 months after the board approved the merger) to come to Mt. Gap to talk with parents.

      It was his delaying tactics that caused the turnout to be so low last Tuesday more than anything else. I’m certain that a majority of the parents believed that attending the meeting was pointless since he had already started moving foward with the merger.

      Either way, please understand that I am not attempting to attack the Mt. Gap PTA leadership or organization, and I regret it if I have given anyone that impression.

      Thanks for your comment.

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