Wardynski Alone Educates Kids

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So the city woke today to not one, but two pieces in the Times telling us just how wonderful the superintendent is.

At least one of them made a clear attempt to support some of the statements with facts and evidence. While I recognize that Mr. McCarter was writing a column and not an article, it would still have been nice to see at least a few of his claims supported by some evidence.

(By what standard, for example, has Dr. Wardynski’s first “season” wrapped up with a 9 and 2 record, Mr. McCarter? Was there a scoreboard hiding in your office that people didn’t know about? Also, where’s the evidence of Dr. Wardynski’s “impressive curriculum vitae of education and military experience?” He has, to date, 23 months of educational experience. By what standard is that “impressive?” Granted, he’s done an impressive job of giving his friends raises before they even start working and plum jobs they’re not qualified for, but I don’t see how that’s an impressive CV. Just wondering.)

Of course, Mr. McCarter has many powerful people in the city who agree with him.

First up was Mayor Battle who told the Times, “I think he has been the catalyst that has moved our entire system forward,” and that Wardynski “knows the progress of every student in the district, at every school, on every test.”

It would be nice if the Mayor could be bothered to ask the opinion of a teacher or two about the progress of students. After all, Dr. Wardynski isn’t in the classroom on a daily basis. He doesn’t see the progress that a test doesn’t evaluate. Only a teacher sees that.

But teachers aren’t important. After all, according to Dr. Wardynski, when he arrived only “26 percent of the district’s leaders were strong.”

That’s right, only a quarter of our principals and teachers in place at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year were “strong” by whatever method of evaluation the superintendent chose to use.

When you consider that, it’s astonishing, absolutely astonishing, that any of our students managed to actually graduate before Dr. Wardynski arrived. And U.S. News and World Report must have been mistaken when it ranked Huntsville High and Grissom High number 7 and 10 in the state. After all, despite Dr. Cooper’s taking credit for those rankings, claiming that it shows “that our commitment to student achievement is working,” these rankings were based on test scores from two years before the “strong leadership” of Dr. Wardynski arrived.

That’s okay, though. A strong leader like the superintendent should take credit for other’s work.

Next to tell us just how lucky we are that Dr. Wardynski sacrificed so much to come save us was David Blair, Vice-President of the Board of Education. He claimed that “he is happy with the decisions Wardynski has made.” I suppose he has decided to “just trust” Dr. Wardynski’s decisions despite any questions he might have about them.

I’m astonished that Dr. Robinson didn’t make herself available to sing his praises, but I suppose she does enough of that at the board meetings.

The article ends with the Alabama Education Association, Rex Cheatham, also praising him.

So clearly, everyone has been heard from. No other opinion could possibly matter, could it?

Principal’s opinions don’t matter. As Mr. McCarter says, Wardynski “doesn’t sit on bad principals. But – here’s the cause for optimism for this system – he stands on good principles.”

Punny, huh? No evidence for those principles Wardynski is standing on. Just take Mr. McCarter’s word for it. Or Wardynski’s word when he claims that three quarters of our principals were weak leaders.

So, I bet that 74% of the city of Huntsville had no idea that their children were suffering under “weak leaders.” It’s so good of Dr. Wardynski to tell us these things without offering any evidence supporting his claims.

Teachers opinions don’t matter. After all Dr. Wardynski knows exactly how your child performed on four standardized tests. So clearly teachers don’t matter.

They are the “problem adults” who made our district so racially divided. Their opinions and desires don’t matter. Dr. Wardynski, and Dr. Wardynski alone is capable of judging what’s best for our students.

Parents opinions don’t matter. Not one parent was interviewed for the articles today.

Parents didn’t matter when Dr. Wardynski decided to close Providence Middle back in July 2011.

Parents didn’t matter when Dr. Wardynski decided to close the Huntsville Center for Technology in December 2011.

Parents didn’t matter when Dr. Wardynski decided to merge Whitesburg Elementary and Middle Schools, Chapman Elementary and Middle Schools, and Mt. Gap Elementary and Middle Schools.

Parents didn’t matter when Dr. Wardynski decided to close the Seldon Center in January 2012.

Parents don’t matter when they ask questions that the Superintendent doesn’t want to answer.

Parents don’t matter when they ask questions about how nearly $30,000 could be spent to hire a consultant without creating any “documents responsive to your request.”

Parents don’t matter when they ask questions about cutting the Special Education expenditures in FY2012 by $7,000,000 from FY2011.

Parents don’t matter when they try and seek an appropriate education for their children.

Parents don’t matter when they ask why their children’s classroom has a never-ending turnover of therapists, instructional assistants and even teachers.

But then all three of those groups, principals, teachers and parents are all “adults.” And Dr. Wardynski believes that, according to a quote in Mr. McCarter’s column, “The city isn’t paying me to work with adults. The city is paying me to educate kids.”

I wonder exactly how one man without involving principals, teachers and parents could possible hope to educate 23,000 kids? Oh, wait, I’m a parent. My question doesn’t matter.

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

18 Comments

    1. Amen!!! I expected a more balanced journalistic piece out of the Times. But I keep forgetting that it’s just a fluff rag now.

      1. I expect the truth from our media. The truth is not “balanced”. It’s either true or it’s a lie. There is no in between. I keep forgetting The Times of today is not the The Times of yesterday. This is what happens when there is no diversity in the mainstream media.

        1. Journalism should be “balanced” in that both sides are presented and the reader can draw his or her own conclusion. The journalist does not insert his or her opinions or slant into it. I was trained in old-style journalism, and I can say confidently that no one at The Times seems to get this.

          1. Journalist should report the FACTS and just the FACTS. Who, What, When, Where and sometimes Why.

            The FACTS are not fair and balanced.

            Any media outlet that dares report the facts, is called liberal, like that’s a bad thing.

  1. I read those articles yesterday. Rather surprising that McCarter’s op/ed piece is on the front page and is not identified as such, but I guess that’s the state of journalism these days.

    The front page also contained an article about the uppity little City of Madison asking for a share of the Huntsville Utilities and TVA in lieu of tax payments. Of course the response from downtown Huntsville is keep your dang hands off our money while we encircle you to cut off your growth. Can’t have you taking our tax money or development, eh? (Disclaimer, I live in Madison.)

    Then I had a blinding flash of the obvious. It’s all about the money. Huntsville has watched in envy as much of the development has flowed to Madison and to Madison County. (Did you know that over 46% of folks in Madison County do not live in Huntsville?) A lot of this is driven by the perceptions of the school systems.

    The Huntsville school board has historically been riven with strife and controversy, superintendents come and go, the system has had huge financial issues (operating half-empty schools), achievement deficiencies exist in many of the schools, and overall the system does not have a good reputation. (Not to overlook the fact that many of the individual schools are doing just fine.)

    This is not conducive to development, especially given the huge bet that Huntsville is making in Limestone County. (Read about the planned roads and infrastructure, this is a huge bet.)

    So the money folks want all of that fixed. “Let’s us go get us a LEADER.” A man who will fix things, a man who will be a man of action, a man that will be reassuring and make folks believe that he is getting it done. And they did, or at least they believe they did.

    Make no mistake. The money folks (developers, land owners, businesses) want the schools fixed. Or at least they want the perception that the schools have been fixed. They think this is the way to do it, and the school board is 100% backing it.

    David

    1. “Make no mistake. The money folks (developers, land owners, businesses) want the schools fixed. Or at least they want the perception that the schools have been fixed. They think this is the way to do it, and the school board is 100% backing it.”

      Perception is not reality. The sooner the school board and the money folks realize there is no right (pun intended) way to do the wrong thing the better off we ALL will be.

      As soon as they realize we ALL in this leaking, raggedy, boat TOGETHER, the better off we ALL will be.

      A city/state/county/country divided will NOT stand.

  2. While I can appreciate the tone of this article, and it seems the writer has a vested interest in our public schools, it leaves a lot of blanks in facts and only seeks to make its one-sided point. The apparent assertion is that Dr. Wardynski is doing a terrible job and the state of our current school system is much worse than when he took over a year ago.

    But when you scratch beneath the surface and actually study the standards directed by the Federal Government, you will find more than emotions and rhetoric based on raw emotion. Before writing articles about one’s job performance, you must know the standards for their position. Other than that you are holding them to a standard that doesn’t exist. This opens the door for hyperbole based on what one thinks they know. Mr. Wardynski does not work for the citizens of Huntsville. Therefore, he will never be accountable to their displeasure. That’s a good place to start.

    He was interviewed, vetted, and hired by the school board of Huntsville. You didn’t vote for his position. You will not be allowed to vote him out. So your articles will never make a difference in how he leads. That’s not the standard through which he leads. Thank goodness for that. Can you imagine? You do, however, get to vote for your school board representative. They do, in essence work for you. If you are unhappy with their leadership, who they hire, and what they allow, you have the right to fire them through the right to vote. You might find your time better spent holding them accountable. They are sympathetic to the concerns of their base. That means they are the avenue for voicing displeasure. A vote is a powerful things.

    But before you cast more uninformed stones at Dr. Wardynski, you might want to take a trip down memory lane to a bankrupt school system with an extremely weak leadership. Oh, those were the days. We could go on with more detail, but anyone with 1% of their brain capacity can recall the mess that was Huntsville City Schools. And the same people who complained then are complaining now. That is one thing Dr. Wardynski hasn’t changed.

    There are/were principles and teachers who absolutely needed to be held to the the standards of their positions. There was a greater need to hold school leaders accountable to the standards outlined in the Federal mandate. There was a desperate need to reign in the millions of dollars in wasted city educational funds. If teachers and principles cannot operate under the standards of their employment, they need to simply find employment where they can. Teaching is a job. It’s not a privilege. Subordinates do not have the right to dictate the terms of their employment to their leadership.

    Instead of parents and disgruntled teachers hiding behind their computer screens, forwarding these angst-ridden articles to their twitter/facebook pages, I suggest they actually contribute to the overall health of the school system. Do your job to the best of your ability. Follow the standards of your leadership. That is your job description. Parents, get involved in the hundreds of volunteer opportunities in our local schools. All national studies indicate that students do best when parents are highly involved. After all, your children are your responsibility. You have a greater impact of their future success than even the best school systems in America could ever produce. Stop blaming others for your failure to be their parent. You produce what you give.

    Other than that you are simply adding to the noise that has always existed in this school system and doing little, or actually nothing to make it better.

    I am a huge fan of solid leadership. I lead hundreds of students in our school system. I am very active in making our schools better by volunteering my time in several local school. Filling the void left by parents and teachers. My wife is a teacher in the school system. She has never been more pleased with the leadership of our education system. I lead with several other teachers in our system. All of them, while wading through the change, believe it was much needed and is heading in the right direction. You do not speak for all teachers or parents. But I have a feeling you serve as a mouthpiece for those who are more likely to complain than to actually get involved.

    Just adding to the noise.

    1. Mr. Jones:

      My name is Russell Winn, and this is my blog. Thank you for taking the time to read and post.

      You have suggested that I need to spend more time studying the issues, standards and situations before commenting further. I appreciate that suggestion. As a person who has spent my entire life studying and teaching, I am constantly looking for new ways to look at a topic and new approaches to understanding.

      So your advice, despite the tone in which you offer it, is excellent advice.

      I would, respectfully, offer you the same.

      Before commenting that I am uninformed, I would suggest that you follow the links that I offer in a posting. If you do so, you will find that I have never posted anything on this blog that I cannot back up with specific, detailed evidence.

      I am also a huge fan of solid leadership. I wish that we had a solid leader leading this system.

      Concerning your assertions that I am not involved as a volunteer at both of my children’s schools, I suggest that you also do your research and ask around. I think you will find that I am actually actively involved in both of their schools and in their lives as a whole. But then, I suppose it’s more fun to cast “uninformed stones” as you suggest I am doing.

      Concerning your suggestion that I am not a good parent, or that those who write and post aren’t good parents; well, you sir are in no position to evaluate that, are you?

      Please thank your wife for her service to our schools. And I thank you for yours.

      You’re absolutely correct that an involved parent helps a student’s success far more than any single other thing.

      Thanks again for your post.

      Sincerely,

      Russell
      russ@geekpalaver.com

    2. You said-“Mr. Wardynski does not work for the citizens of Huntsville. Therefore, he will never be accountable to their displeasure. That’s a good place to start.”

      Not true. The citizens of Huntsville pay Wardynski’s a salary to perform the JOB of instructional leader. Ask Dr. Anne Roy Moore if she was held accountable for the displeasure of the citizens of Huntsville.

      You said- “The apparent assertion is that Dr. Wardynski is doing a terrible job and the state of our current school system is much worse than when he took over a year ago.”

      That’s my “assertion” and I stand by it 100%.

      You said- “But when you scratch beneath the surface and actually study the standards directed by the Federal Government, you will find more than emotions and rhetoric based on raw emotion.”

      You mean the standards that say segregated schools are illegal and immoral? You mean the standards that say public tax dollars shouldn’t be spent on private entities? You mean the standards that students have qualified, certified teachers, principals and support personnel? You mean the standards that say you can’t balance the budget on the backs of the neediest students?
      What standards are you talking about exactly?

      You said-” If you are unhappy with their leadership, who they hire, and what they allow, you have the right to fire them through the right to vote. You might find your time better spent holding them accountable.”

      Uh, that’s kind of hard to do when they ignore your questions and questions. Hence the purpose of this blog. 🙂 Still trying to figure out what give you the right to tell us how our time might be better spent. Is that code for support Wardynski and STFU?

      You said-“But before you cast more uninformed stones at Dr. Wardynski, you might want to take a trip down memory lane to a bankrupt school system with an extremely weak leadership.”

      You might want to take a trip down memory lane and remember the same people who made the leadership weak and bankrupted the school system are still serving on the board of education with the present leadership.

      You said-“There are/were principles and teachers who absolutely needed to be held to the the standards of their positions. There was a greater need to hold school leaders accountable to the standards outlined in the Federal mandate. There was a desperate need to reign in the millions of dollars in wasted city educational funds. If teachers and principles cannot operate under the standards of their employment, they need to simply find employment where they can. Teaching is a job. It’s not a privilege. Subordinates do not have the right to dictate the terms of their employment to their leadership.”

      You must have teaching confused with the United States Military. Sir.

      You said-“Parents, get involved in the hundreds of volunteer opportunities in our local schools. ”

      Uh, how are parents going to volunteer in our local schools and work so they can pay taxes to fund the schools, and support their families at the same time?

      You said-” I lead hundreds of students in our school system.

      Where are you leading them…off a cliff?

      You said-“You do not speak for all teachers or parents. But I have a feeling you serve as a mouthpiece for those who are more likely to complain than to actually get involved.

      Translation-Support Wardynski and STFU. It’s all about “Command and Control”.

      Please excuse any typos and grammatical errors.

  3. Chris,
    A few comments on your post:

    1) Who does Dr. W. work for?? You state:

    “Mr. Wardynski does not work for the citizens of Huntsville.”

    I’m not sure how you draw this conclusion simply because the board of education was the hiring agency. In reality, the superintendent operates somewhat like an island unto itself. I was quite surprised when dealing with certain board members during the reign of Ann Roy Moore that they were powerless to “direct” Dr. Moore in any particular regard. There is a very odd and complicated relationship between the board and the superintendent which makes no sense to those with common sense. Nevertheless, this is the relationship we’re stuck with, described in a very simple way as follows: the board approves or rejects proposals brought by the superintendent but doesn’t direct the superintendent. This doesn’t sound to me like the superintendent is an employee of the board as you suggest.

    Most people describe those who work on the public’s dime as “public servants”, meaning they work for the public. When I consider that the “customer” of the services of the Huntsville City Schools is me, I 100% believe that Dr. Wardynski works for ME. It is MY opinion that matters regarding the quality of his work.

    2) Uninformed stones? I challenge you to identify a stone cast by Russell that is uninformed. Are they biased? Absolutely, they are. Russell has an agenda and he has a history with this administration that skews his perspective. However, were you and I to walk in his shoes, we’d quite possibly wind up with the same perspective. His agenda and perspective are not invalid simply because they differ from yours or mine. It has been my experience that Russell sticks quite solidly to facts and I doubt you’ll find a more informed person. Facts of course, must be interpreted and many times my interpretations are different from his. If you read his responses to those who post to his blog, you’ll find that more so than any other person I’ve encountered, he goes out of his way to make others feel comfortable in sharing their opposing views (I’ve offered a few of my own). But, a common thread throughout is an insistence on sticking to facts. It’s kinda hard to stick to facts without being informed.

    3) Fixing the budget: You compared the job Dr. W. has done to the job done by Dr. Moore. I’m in complete agreement with you that the previous administration was inept. A $20MM deficit is testimony to that. I applaud Dr. W. for regaining fiscal control over the school system. However, this administrator has been asked repeatedly to show how the budgetary concerns have been met without sacrificing a minority group of children in the process. This is an answer that is easily provided if one were to choose to do so, but it has of yet not been addressed. Questions about the validity of hiring outside consultants to provide teachers when supposedly good teachers were already available also deserve a plain answer. In these cases, the administration chooses to act as though the questions should be asked.

    4) Standards for teachers/principles: I’m in 100% agreement with you on this…we should hold them all to high standards and if they don’t measure up, they should be removed from their positions. I am a big advocate of removing tenure privileges from the equation to the point that I wouldn’t support one dime of extra taxes for schools until this is eradicated. I understand that good teachers would be hurt by this action, and I do desire to more properly compensate good teachers. But, tenure does not foster a commitment to excellence, and I’m convinced that the only way to fix the problem of bad teachers if for teachers in general to stop voting as a bloc and instead police themselves. Despite the fact that I agree with you in general, I don’t see how the current practice of removing and relocating teachers is helping to weed out good vs. bad teachers.

    5) Involved parents: I believe you’re making a BIG assumption that your audience is not involved. To the extent possible, many of us are very involved in the education of our children. What you apparently are not realizing is that the superintendent and his school leaders are resistant to involvement unless you limit “involvement” to “give me your money” and “get out of the way”. The thwarting of our efforts to be involved is described from an excerpt from another blog post of mine:

    Initially, Russell joined myself and other concerned parents to form a group with the goal of working with the board/administration to address concerns and issues specific to the treatment of special needs children. We were assured by the board members that we’d have a voice in the new administration and that they desired to work with us to facilitate an appropriate education and environment for our children. We were given the opportunity to participate in the selection of our next leader and were again assured at various stages that the new administration desired to work with us to address these concerns. Unfortunately, these assurances now appear to be nothing more than smoke screens to buy time until the new administration could assemble its power base. No genuine attempt has been made to proactively engage the parent groups and in fact in some instances, as documented on Russell’s blog, this administration as acted with disregard of parental concerns. After experiencing zero progress in this regard, parents banded together to form a PTA for special needs children, with the hope that a more official organization would garner better attention from our superintendent. Alas, we are still waiting for real dialog with this administration.

    The “boots on the ground” teacher is in general extremely appreciative of parental involvement, but those higher up, including apparently the superintendent, prefer a “parents hands-off” approach.

  4. Well, our Huntsville Times coverage will take a turn for the worse or at least for a lot less coverage with half of the staff being laid off:

    1. No worries. Thanks for the link. It’s about to become much easier for our public officials to do whatever they want to do without oversight.

  5. We already suspected W was omnipotent.

    Now Mayor Battle has clued us in that W is omniscient: “Wardynski ‘knows the progress of every student in the district, at every school, on every test.’”

    All that is left is omnipresence.

    Idiocy: what would possess a mayor to say such a stupid thing? Could it be it’s a coded message, like when a hostage forced to read a statement deliberately mispronounces words to show he is speaking under duress? If only.

  6. A few more points left out of the times article.

    The system is three million in the black thanks not to Wardynski but because of the seven million in forgiven state debt. That got lost in the fluff.

    Also lost is any criticle look at Pinnicle or at the various weird contracts that ignored bid law.

    And the violation of The Alabama Open Meetings Act.

    I can’t help but think, after watching several board meetings, that discussions have already taken place before the meeting. This board has already gotten called to the carpet for violating the open meetings act during the termination of ARM. After what happened to Russ, I suspect the violations continue.

    1. I’d take it further. I think the Board had been so incompetent for so long that when Ed Richardson came up last spring he told them three things were going to happen, or else they’d be hung out to dry:
      1. They would contract out a demographic survey with preset results. These findings would be announced and town meetings held as distractions from the decision on superintendent. Only the move of New Century to Lee, slipped in at the end of recommendations, would actually occur. Public’s attention would be diverted from real threats.
      2. Wardynski would be their choice.
      3. They would rubberstamp each and every Wardynski proposal and make themselves as scarce as possible to their constituents.

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