This posting has been updated with additional information below.
I don’t really know Chad Laqua, but I have met him on a couple of occasions at the central office. On both occasions I found him to be open, approachable, and genuinely excited about education. In particular, during a time when much of the central office leadership was giving off the impression of simply not giving a damn about special education, he spoke to me of his passionate belief that every child deserved an education and that every child could learn if given the resources and opportunities.
Needless to say, I liked him.
He was a first year principal placed at a school that was, in a polite assessment, was not doing well. Due to questionable decisions in districting by the board that they seemed unwilling to actually question, a great school was in decline.
Wardynski seemed to like him too.
At the Saturday Board meeting where he was hired, Wardynski singled him out as one of the best of the eight new hires. He regularly described him in the press as “a great new principal.”
And as reported yesterday, Mr. Laqua, along with the new principal at Davis Hills, Kurus Jamison, have offered their resignations to Dr. Wardynski.
As The Huntsville Times reported, Mr. Laqua said, “I had a discussion with the superintendent and he thought that it would be best.”
When Mr. Laqua was hired, Dr. Robinson sung the praises of Dr. Wardynski’s new “process” for hiring principals saying, “I’m impressed with the process you used, and I hope that you continue to use this process.”
If this were such a great process, why wasn’t it used again? Why did all subsequent principal hires get moved inside the superintendent’s office?
As I said, I don’t know Mr. Laqua very well, but my experience with him was positive. It seems now that Dr. Wardynski has changed his mind about him for some unknown reason.
And that’s the problem. While I agree that personnel issues should be dealt with by using a bit more discretion than he typically uses (particularly since he usually uses these issues for his own political advantage), the process by which principals have been evaluated has not been open to the public.
How is it possible that a process that the board was praising for selecting principals just a short eight months ago have resulted in 25% of the new hires that Dr. Wardynski recommended and that the board unanimously and excitedly approved are now being asked/forced to resign?
At the very least, this should raise questions about Wardynski’s ability to hire people. It should raise questions about the way that the board votes to approve new hires recommended by Wardynski.
Update: Need more evidence that Wardynski doesn’t know what he’s doing? Take a look at the Time’s article on the hiring of Ray Landers. As is common whenever he’s caught doing something stupid, “Wardynski did not respond to a request for comment.”
Spinelli defends this strong leadership by saying that this convoluted method of paying both a principal and a consultant saves “$4,000 per year” (which assumes we would actually have paid him $209,090 for two years of service).
Laurie McCaulley, the board president–who did at least respond to questions–said, “we assumed he was retired.”
Indeed. Our school board has done far too much assuming of late and far too little verification.
As such, it should raise questions about some of the new principals that Wardynski has been hiring from Fairfax, VA without giving them specific assignments. (Why do Wardynski’s “national” searches always result in hiring multiple people from the same districts like Aurora, Colorado and Fairfax, Virginia?)
For example, who is Dan Meier, and what vetting process was used to hire a person who was “linked” to a “North Carolina land scam?” It seems that Mr. Meier was eventually cleared, but this does raise questions about the board’s refusal to question the superintendent’s recommendations. They should at least learn to use google in the process of supporting the superintendent’s recommendations. It might save them some embarrassment of having to force resignations on people they hire after a mere eight months of service.
But that would require them to actually do their jobs of representing the public, which is something that they seem fundamentally opposed to doing.
They would rather, as they did on Thursday night, praise Dr. Wardynski for his visionary leadership and his commitment to “communicating with the public.”
(Yes, I am the one laughing in the background when that was said. Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself.)
If the board were actually doing their jobs, maybe we could manage to create some sense of continuity in this district among those teachers and administrators who actually give a damn about students and education.
As it is, they will simply continue to support whatever bad idea Wardynski will bring to them. They will continue to play fruit basket turnover with our children’s schools and lives.
Disruption for the sake of disruption is not helpful.
I wish Mr. Laqua well in his future endeavors, and I thank him for his service to our schools and our country. He had eight months to effect change. Eight whole months.