A Word From Our Teachers

HCSBoard Seal

Tonight, after listening to 84 minutes of propaganda from the superintendent’s phalanx of troops, I stood to offer three minutes of rebuttal to the digital-initiative-is-amazing storyline being proffered.

I have no delusions concerning my effectiveness; I was ignored as always. But at least the message was put out there. Someone had to stand up to Dr. Robinson’s assertion that teachers “had the flexibility to do what they needed to educate the kids.” According to Dr. Robinson, and agreed to by Dr. Wardynski, this includes the use of textbooks in the classrooms.

This is not accurate.

Teachers are regularly being threatened if their classroom usage isn’t what the Superintendent thinks it should be.

Every Breath You Take

The troops were bragging about being able to generate a “heat map” tonight that shows exactly where, in the buildings, people are logged on and working and where there might be interference to the network.

Here’s a picture of the “heat map” for Jones Valley:

Network Heat Map

Yes, they are clearly monitoring usage down to the student level in our schools.

Every Move You Make

They are even monitoring how often students log onto the Pearson websites over the weekends from home. On Labor Day, for example, 2,237 students logged onto the system.

Pearson is tracking your kids on the Weekends and Holidays.

Yes, a national company, with zero oversight from you, knows when your minor student is using their material. They know how long they’re logged on. They know what they’re looking at. They know who your children are. (How else would they know and be able to claim that 100% of Teachers and Students logged in by 8/24? By the way, that 100% number is not accurate. My son, for example, was not “logged in” by 8/24. His classroom hadn’t received the iPads by that date. But we’ve long since established that there’s little concern for children like my son in this district. Maybe he just doesn’t count.)

In short, the district and Pearson are watching everything down to even when the microwaves are in use.

They’re watching when your children are at home.

And they spent 84 minutes at tonight’s board meeting bragging about it.

Let’s Get The Media To Handle Our PR

Their propaganda was picked up and distributed by WAFF 48 tonight without raising a single question about it’s accuracy.

The only word from our teachers came in the form of pre-approved, edited public relations propaganda. Tautology aside, our district has certainly gotten better at telling parents just how much better our district is.

HEA Is Silent

The only voice for teachers tonight came from one parent, your truly, standing up to read comments from teachers about the conditions of their classrooms.

HEA was strangely silent on the matter. Which may be a blessing. During the Second Budget Hearing this afternoon at 4:00pm, Topper Birney asked the superintendent about the possibility of offering our teachers a cost of living raise next year in FY 2014. After the superintendent summarily dismissed the idea, Uniserv Director Rex Cheatham stood and had this to say about a cost of living raise:

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Topper Birney and thank Laurie McCaulley for speaking up for our employees. We do understand the financial crisis. We understand the tough decisions that Dr. Wardynski and you have had to make.”

With three sentences, Mr. Cheatham has told the Superintendent and the public that teachers don’t need a cost of living raise. With friends like these . . .

After a 84 minutes sales pitch from Dr. Cooper, Dr. Wardynski, consultant Ms. Nelson, consultant Dr. Jamison of Pearson, and Ms. Anderson, the district effective convinced their cheerleaders who were present, at least, concerning the digital transition, “It’s working. It’s great.”

And so I stood to read comments from our voiceless teachers concerning their thoughts about the transition.

A Voice For The Voiceless

In no way should this be considered a representative sampling (but then neither should the 84 minutes of propaganda produced by the district be seen that way either). I didn’t conduct a survey. What I did do was listen to them. What I did do was be a person who could be trusted in the hostile working environment that they’re working in. What I did do was ask them for their honest assessment: is the transition helping our children?

These words were some of their responses.

“It has been a nightmare in the classroom. Teachers have been working until 6 or 7 at night trying to fix problems because all of the tech staff were cut. The e-text won’t even load into the iPads for K-2 because it requires adobe flash player. So, the kids will have to use textbooks after all.”

“It took an entire class period and five, yes 5 Pearson representatives in my classroom to log on 25 students onto their textbooks. They were already enrolled in the class – I had done that earlier. I probably would have gotten the students logged in faster if the Pearson reps hadn’t barged into my classroom and had been able to get the attention of my entire class at once.”

“Many high school students are also confused because there are four different platforms for the textbooks, depending on which book a class uses: SuccessNet, SuccessNetPlus, Mastering/MyLab, and CourseSmart. Also, the students also are using Edmodo and Moodle, and are unsure which website to go to when.”

“So, as a result of this technology “improving” our teaching, I am four days behind where I usually am in my lessons this time of year.”

“At my school, we are still short laptops and iPads. Plus the ratio is changing, they say the iPads will be 1:3 for kindergarten and 1:5 for Pre-K. I had a hard time testing kids because they kids were bumped off line: not enough bandwidth.”

“What you wrote sounds like what is happening in my room only with i-Pads. I don’t have the time to trouble shoot them when I should be teaching. There are still not enough i-Pads and I can’t access the e-books so the students have to use the textbooks, plus I haven’t seen a Pearson consultant to help me. Don’t get me wrong I like the new technology, but it should have been phased in, not thrown at us.”

“Technology when working properly is an incredible tool that can be used to teach our children. However, a program created for profit is absolutely NOT the only way in which our children should be instructed. We are not educating the whole child when our focus is monitoring the amount of time students spend logged into the program/internet while in class. No school district should ever have a “war room” tracking the number of pings from classrooms.”

“My wife is a teacher and one of the central office staff recently came to her room and informed her that she should be proud that she and her student were using the system more minutes per class than any other teacher of her subject.”

I spoke because our teachers are voiceless in this system. Their opinions don’t matter. Any questions raised about the wisdom of the actions the Superintendent is forcing through are challenged, disregarded, and labeled, as Dr. Wardynski referred to them tonight as “ankle-bitters.”

In short, you must not question the propaganda being distributed at public expense. You must not voice any dissenting opinions.

The Superintendent, our board, and even HEA are seemingly willing to only accept your full-throated support of whatever reckless idea the Superintendent can come up with next.

Treating Teachers The Way You Wish To Be Treated

Near the end of the long meeting, the board was approving the Human Resources report. When they saw that the report contained the resignation of three teachers during the past week and a total of six resignations since the August 16th meeting, board member responded that they were frustrated with hearing of the resignation of these teachers at this point in the school year.

Rather than ask why these resignations might be happening, they looked to Strong Leader for an answer.

His solution was simple. Rather than treating our teachers as the professionals they are, rather than treating our teachers the way he expects to be treated, he’s convinced it would just be simpler to buy them off. And so, at some point in the near future, the Strong Leader will bring a proposal to the board concerning offering retiring/resigning teachers a financial incentive to give the district a “heads up.”

Since the only thing that seems to motivate our Superintendent is money (how much you have, how much you offer him), he’s convinced that the only way to correct the situation of having teachers resign two weeks into a new school year would be to buy them off.

While I’m aware that the Superintendent disregards solutions that don’t involve money, here’s one for free that the board should consider: If you treat your employes the way you wish to be treated, they will freely tell you when they’re planning to leave. If you don’t, they won’t.

As we like to say around here, this isn’t rocket science. Just simple human decency.

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


  1. “. . .board members responded that they were frustrated with hearing of the resignation of these teachers at this point in the school year.” Pity there weren’t enough independent thinkers in the room to loudly guffaw at this complaint.

    Question: To be issued laptops, were parents required to sign permission slips allowing their children to be tracked 24/7 by a private company? Are there not Protection of Minors guidelines prohibiting how much info can be collected on kids?

    Shame on Rex Cheat’em.

    I haven’t a clue why HCS teachers continue to pay Union dues and his salary. A bought Union is worse than none at all. Unions can’t be monopolies, can they? The only hope here may be for teachers en masse to leave AEA and start a true teachers’ union.

    Parents have no power. The only thing I can think of that they could do collectively that wouldn’t result in damaging their own children would be to keep them home on standarized test days. If every school in the system failed to make their goals because not enough kids were present to test, that — a total fail — would send a message worthy of national press (go viral!), and national humiliation of the present occupants may be your best and only hope.

    1. Parents do have the power. How do you think Dr. Wardynksi got here in the first place?

      Teachers also have the power. How are you going to have school without teachers?

      1. If you don’t recognize you have the power, you don’t. And I don’t see what individual parents can do immediately to reclaim schools. The public elects the Board; the Board brought W. The Board has chosen to be irrelevant.

        Those parents with resources can protest by removing their kids, but that won’t change what is happening in the classrooms. Organized parents could revolt by keeping their kids home, but these would be unexcused absences.

        Where are PTAs in this?

        Teachers should have power through their union, but their union isn’t supporting them, and individually they fear retaliation — with good reason.

        Both groups need a critical mass to work effectively — that is, to strike –walk out/sick out –, start teaching w/o logging in, get hold of books off ebay or Amazon, or leave the laptops home and bring in paper and pen.

        Right now, sadly, all the power is concentrated in one man’s hands.

  2. We’re supposed to have the power, but this administration is not concerned with the usual checks and balances that you find in other school systems. They don’t care if you sue them. They don’t care about bad publicity–they’ll just ignore it until it goes away. The Superintendent is supremely arrogant, and he can’t even fathom why so many teachers resigned. Really?? I don’t think it’s that hard to see why. This was absolutely thrown at us, and I’m not buying their assertion that there have been only minor glitches. Not being able to use the iPad for textbooks is not a minor glitch. My daughter not being able to log in repeatedly during the day and evening hours to do her homework is a glitch. And then the Pearson rep had the audacity to blame all of this on teachers in order to cover up the fact that the problem lies with their website and lack of traffic capacity. I agree with the writer’s assertion above: keep the students home on testing day. It does feel like that’s all we have left to make ourselves heard. Our elected officials’ communication skills are horrendous, and their attitude is even worse. It’s a bad, bad time to be a teacher and a student in the Huntsville City Schools.

  3. Bravo!!! I was just saying last night that I could see teachers quitting over all these technology issues!
    It’s driving me crazy, already, because it’s all over the place. Homework took twice as long because I had to check two online schedules just to get all the instructions for what was needed.
    Technology is a great thing but this should have been phased in a little slower and I really don’t see the benefits of the younger grades getting computers.
    I applaud you for speaking up and I want all the teachers to know that I appreciate all your extra work with these albatross computers and pity you for having to do it. What a nightmare!
    I hope all the tech parents who can help, will.
    I also was not aware of the tracking and find it dishonest and a little creepy.
    Teachers, nor parents have the power unless they unite. I can say from experience as the parent of a special-needs child that parents are woefully ill-equipped to deal with the bureaucracies of the school system. I can sympathize with anyone who tries or tried to speak up to these people…..they do not respect parents or teachers.
    Thanks for speaking up and thanks for your post.
    Christina South

  4. There’s nobody capable of questioning Wardynski and his cheerleaders, including Crystol Bonvillian at the Times. There’s certainly nobody on the Board smart enough Rex Cheatham is either not interested orisn’t smart enough to can’t keep up with the likes of Colonel Wardynski and his toy soldiers. Cheatham would like to leave altogether if he could find another job. In other words, there’s nobody looking out for the teachers.

    If the system survives until Robinson’s term ends, I would like to see Russell Winn to run in her place.

    It is interesting that we now have Mike Culbreath on the board who has two kids in private schools and the Times said “one thing he doesn’t plan to do is send his children to the public schools he will be representing.” He lives in Lake Forest west of Redstone Arsenal – a neighborhood that was built by Breland Companies, a land developer he worked for until he decided to run for the school board. He now works for Five Star Development, a commercial development company, a chain retail that builds stores in Kentucky, Mississippi and Texas. He denied that he resigned because of potential conflict of interest between Breland and contractors who will be doing major building/renovation at Grissom, Butler, Johnson, Whitesburg, Martin Luther and University Place – all properties that could affec residential property values.

    “It’s a good opportunity that I’m coming in when the board is looking at rebuilding and redevelopment,” Culbreadth said. “I think I can bring a lof of strength to those conversations.” Huntsville Times Sept. 2, 2012)

    Maybe, but what does he know about education? Like Wardynski and the others, the answer is ZERO. We have no educators on the board, not even a good solid engineer, the calibre of those we used to have: They are just about all land developers or have close ties to land developers.

    It is for sure there is a lot of money connected with education. However it goes to business interests/profits, not for classroom teachers or the students.

    We need an appointed school board, not an elected one.

  5. We no idea that HCS were tracking each child—at home no less! Thank you for telling us. And we are very disturbed at this disclosure—and even worse WAFF didn’t question it! We don’t think its ethical, and it is a violation of privacy. We didn’t give HCS permission to do so. Surely this is against some law. As a matter of fact, this weekend I was the one logged in investigating the middle school math program & printing out homework.—not my child. Are we living in an Orwell novel?

    Frankly, it appeared to us that few parents in our children’s classes at PTA open house cared about problems with digital conversion. We hope we are wrong–maybe they were afraid to speak about it. We were the ONLY parents in our children’s classes who were asking questions about it.

    One teacher expected 12 & 13 year olds to be proficient in Word. Most kids don’t know how to type correctly, much less be proficient in a word processing program. The teacher complained that students were saving work in Word, and were not able to find it again. Imagine that.

    In the most troubling development of the night, we found that middle school math teachers control all practice problems & exercises, homework problems that students receive through the “DIGITS”: software. Only teachers have the power to allow access to math extra exercises! Students/parents cannot access anything other than what the teacher assigns on “Digits”. In order to get access to extra problems, or exercises parents have to email the teacher and request them. I had suspected this because I could not find any during my research.

    We came home depressed and unhappy about the entire situation.

  6. My daughter, who is in first grade, came home yesterday and said her IPad quit working in class. She was given a textbook. She then told me that “Books are cool”. She didn’t get excited when she got the IPad. But she did when she got a book!!! Kids know…..

  7. I attended my first Huntsville City Schools Board Meeting last night.

    I was unable to attend the whole meeting but I did find the 70 minutes or so that I did attend to be little more than back-slapping and self congratulatory. The commercial that was filmed showed no dissenting views, difficulties or inadequacies. I did wonder about the portion of the video showing Kindergarteners or First Graders learning to write with their fingers on the iPads. How can this replace holding a writing device (pen, pencil) and learning, really learning, how to write through practice and more practice?

    I was continually left wondering if no mention would be made of any difficulties during this transition. They did let slip that there are problems with the iPads and the Pearson texts since the iPads do not provide flash support. Of course, I have known this ever since there was an iPad for commercial sale but somehow the iPads and the texts were never tested together by Huntsville City Schools or Pearson. Amazing!

    I noticed that it was specifically stated that iPad classrooms are free to use all other available learning resources while they (Pearson?) port the texts to HTML5. I wonder how that would go over with the focus on how long each device is on the network.

    Keep up the good work. It looks like I need to start going to more of these meetings myself.

  8. I am so disappointed with the teachers, support staff, and administration in the HCS systems. Why can they just stand up and vote the board and the Dr. Casey out of there? I know about 15 teachers who had quit during the summer time. What happen to HEA standing up for the teachers ? What happen to the board standing up for the schools and teachers? If I am not mistaken isn’t the Board the boss over Dr. Casey. Why this man act like he is the boss over the BOE? The teachers has not gotten a cost of living raise in 6 years. But he can bring his Army Buddies in making over 80k -150k a year. All the teacher are working their butts off and do not get raise nor praise. WOW………

  9. Heh, heh, don’t tell anyone, but I have my students log on, set the computers aside, and then we go get the hard copies of the books and use them. It’s so much easier than trying to deal with slow internet and not everyone having a computer yet. We only get 1 or 2 bars in my room because the router is in the empty room next door. Some students still can’t log on because either their user name comes up invalid or the access code doesn’t work. Small, random problems like that prevent everyone from getting on to the e-texts anyway. We can’t do online homework because we’re still waiting for Pearson to come through with their promise of getting internet to those who don’t have it. So paper copies of homework. The kids like doing things the old-fashioned way!

    1. You stole my idea! But I am keeping a journal of times when I try to get the class to log in and fail. Its too much stress to keep trying and not get any teaching done. Plus I still do not have enough i-pads for my kids. What bothers me is all the lies that are presented at the board meeting and the media does nothing.

  10. My question is when will the complaints move to action? For all the teachers, keep a daily journal on all the problems you are having with the internet and ebooks. Maybe we can take the journals and publish them weekly. Documents don’t lie.

    1. My journals are for me so when “Big Brother” comes knocking and asking why am I not using the technology I will have something to show them. Raising a big stink about this could cost me my job and I would be replaced by one of those TFA teachers. I have to be very careful about what I say and what I do. This form gives me an opportunity to vent to people who are able to speak for me. And as for action, my principal and others who are in charge already know about these things. Its up to them to get this resolved.

      1. Bandet,

        I appreciate your position on this. You need to look after your own job and family.

        The problem is parents cannot be in the classroom during the entire school day, and so it is extremely difficult for us to respond to a board member or the superintendent when they say, “everything is fine” without something approaching evidence.

        Even though I used anonymous posts on the blog in my comments, it’s not really convincing. Neither are reports from our kids that reliable.

        While I agree that your journals are yours, can you think of something else that parents could do to respond to the district’s claims that everything is great?

        Thank you for your service and your willingness to post here.

  11. Russell- can you provide some information on W’s background concerning the comment he made at the board meeting a couple of weeks ago- “Frankly, I’m an engineer, too.”. This comment has really bothered me on many different levels. While his resume is impressive, I don’t remember seeing engineer anywhere. If so, perhaps he could gain employment in that field here in our fair city!

  12. Yes- I watched. But, my question is why did he claim to be an engineer? Has he ever worked as an engineer or does he have a degree in engineering? Did he mean it metaphorically, as in “I’m an education engineer or a reform engineer or a digital curriculum engineer?”. I know he has designed computer software so maybe he does have a degree in computer engineering, but I believe his extensive education is in finance.

    1. Sorry about that. I misunderstood what you were asking for. Here’s a link to his application for the superintendent position.

      I’m not an expert on evaluating engineers, but at first glance, I don’t see anything that could be considered an engineering background.

      I suppose that he might be referring to his work on the America’s Army game, but it would seem his role was one of supervisor for that project rather than one that might be considered a software engineer.

      I suspect you have a stronger background in this than I do. (Nearly anyone would.) What do you think?

  13. I’m especially disappointed in HEA. I plan to get more involved this year and I just hope it’s not too late. Thank you, sir, for your diligence. Maybe we need to reorganize.I’m game.

  14. W over saw the project. He did not in any form perform any engineering on the project. The way the military works the project was in process and was completed while he was there so he was able to TAKE credit. I did not mean to take the journal but it would help if information was provided in some form. I too have to be very careful because there are jobs and children’s education on the line. We must stand up to the BULLY if we don’t the bully wins.

  15. I think W meant he was an engineer as in “engineering all the changes in HCS”.

    I’m still having trouble reconciling the idea that Jennie thought our votes for the tax reauthorization was somehow a statement in support of her and W. I voted for the tax IN SPITE OF my disappointment with the HCS powers that be.

    I guess it’s hard for Jennie to imagine that some of us put the education of children first, and also want to protect our property values by financially supporting the idea of a good school system.

    I can’t believe the egomania that is rampant at HCS. I had a headache long before they finished patting themselves on the back at the last school board meeting! In their minds, everything is about Jennie, W, and the rest of them (the incompetents) on the school board.

    Thank-you for your efforts Russ.

  16. Okay- I just read the application. It’s very interesting. I truly enjoyed the portion about his fourth grade teacher igniting his passion for learning and succeeding. It’s what we all desire as teachers. That’s why we chose this career and that us why we are so frustrated and disheartened over the technology craze and the valuable time we have lost, are losing, and will lose this year in the classroom.
    And, I carefully looked for that elusive “engineer” degree in the application and it was nowhere to be found- maybe I missed it.?
    It was a dangerous remark to make in a city full of real engineers. I think his feet should be held to the fire and he should clarify what he meant when he stated that “I am an engineer, too.”

  17. I believe that in Huntsville, AL we are no different than Wisconsin or Michigan, …. there’s alot of union busting going on.

    I have concerns about joining the PTSA at Grissom High for this very reason…. “PTA and PTSAs both exist for one purpose, child advocacy. At Grissom High School this is realized in many different ways. We attend school board meetings and advocate with our board and superintendent.”

    I have been a member of PTAs, PTLs, and PTSAs for over 12 years. This is the first year I will not lend my support to their cause.

    I do not wish to be associated with that which the school superintendent and board are advocating at this point in time…their own self promotion.

  18. I attended a meeting at Chaffee that was supposed to be an opportunity for PTA officers to ask questions and voice concerns. In actuality, it was the same ol’, same ol’. The guy from Pearson gave a 30-minute sales pitch, followed by a Q-&-A session. But rather than simply answering the questions, he filibustered, taking 10 minutes to “answer” each question, except that he usually spent most of that time on sales-pitch talk regarding tangential issues.

    Afterward, several of us stayed to talk to Cathy Vasile. She “listened” (yes, those are scare quotes), she took notes, and said our concerns were interesting. And of course, she rejected the idea that teachers are being bullied. Heavens no! There’s just a “communications problem” whereby teachers aren’t getting the right message from Central Office (maybe should be renamed “Central Central,” for those familiar with “A Wrinkle in Time”).

    I will admit that there is some misinformation out there and that things will almost certainly run smoother as time goes on. But maybe there wouldn’t be so much misinformation if this situation weren’t so poorly planned and if it weren’t being rammed down everyone’s throat. And even if things do get better, that will not change the fact that the current administration is arrogant, dictatorial, and seems to have no clue what it is doing outside of the financial realm.

    1. Cathy Vasile is a political beast. You will get NOWHERE whatsoever with her if it means she’s got to buck the system in a manner that might disrupt her professional trajectory. If that’s where you’re pinning your hopes for change, you may as well stop holding your breath right now. Sorry for the bad news, but she’s demonstrated time and time again that she will set aside student welfare and actual education (hard to quantify) in favor of data and metrics (easy to quote) because it makes a persuasive bullet point on her curriculum vitae.

      1. Oh, I’m under no delusions about where she’s coming from or how helpful she will be. But it was either tell her or keep silent. At least she can’t say she wasn’t told.

  19. We had a run in with her last year. She does not like to follow state policies and seems to answer only to those with more power. To admit the teachers are being bullied, would be to admit she is a bully.

  20. I learned last week that while our 4th and 5th grade students are out of the room for P.E. or other activities, the children in grades 1-3 are coming into their classrooms and logging into their laptops to take Pearson tests, because the tests are not all available on the ipads or netbooks. The younger children cannot use the computer lab as a class anymore because there is not enough bandwidth in the school to accommodate both the wired and wireless computers. Neither the 4th and 5th grade students nor their parents were told that other children were using the computers that they have signed a form to accept complete responsibility for. When I expressed concern to the principal, she agreed that it wasn’t ideal, but that this is the only way we can do things right now. I don’t understand how they can do this without letting parents know, and I am curious to know if this is happening at other schools.

      1. Tomorrow and Thursday our 3rd-5th graders will be taking the STAR reading and math tests. We have been told at that time we cannot be on the computers at all, we have to shut them down so they can take the test. Scarlett is right about the band width. But we have been able to take the Pearson test on the i-Pads- you first go to safari and look up the Pearson website and login from there. It took an hour for 2 of my students to take the test last week because they kept getting bumped off. Pearson “claims” to have solved the problem. I’ve been told we have enough band width. And as for the computer lab, it is only available for K-2 for STAR testing only. The computer lab will go away after they figure out how to do STAR tests on the i-Pad. And I am still short i-Pads.

        1. At the HHS open house last night, one teacher told us they wanted to take away the teacher’s desktop computers. “They” said it would help with band width. Its all B.S.

          1. We are hearing this too. Only they will leave us with one desk top. And the rumor mill says we will have a central printer, no printers in the classroom. How are we expected to run off reports and other documents for teacher use? I can’t leave the classroom to access a printer when I need one. And don’t tell me I can use my planning time. Its non-existent. I only have time to check my mail and go to the bathroom. Period!

  21. I was trying to give a test today, online. Two thirds of my students kept getting the “connection was reset” message, meaning they could not connect to the internet. I had them switch from firefox to IE, I had them restart their computer, check the radio button, and even go into the network settings and try and repair the connection, but nothing worked. I ended up giving out paper tests (which I had made “just in case”.

    I think next time I’m just going to give them all paper tests and say the heck with using the technology to give tests. So much for the convenience of the technology grading the tests for me like I was promised. This da%&ed technology is making more work for me, not less. I am so frustrated and stressed and so far behind in my lessons I feel like I don’t know how to teach any more.

    One more thing – I’ve already caught kids looking at pictures of naked boobs and on you tube and facebook. I thought this kind of stuff was supposed to be blocked. What gives?

  22. We did our STAR reading testing today. We were told we had to begin at 8:30 and that the students shouldn’t need more than about 20 minutes. It took until 9:40 to get all my 25 students logged in. It ran so incredibly slow, when it wasn’t kicking them off, that students had to wait up to 5 minutes for the test to move to the next question. I was unable to teach anything in Reading today. An entire Reading block was wasted due to technical problems, but we aren’t allowed to voice concerns over it because that would just be complaining.

    1. My 5th grader reported this exact situation when they tried to take their STAR tests yesterday. A 15 minute test that took well over an hour to complete. Our principal is constantly telling parents that we cannot do anything in the classroom that might interrupt instructional time. Even parents reading to 1st graders has been moved from after lunch to the last 15 minutes of school so that we don’t disturb the students’ instruction. Yet I don’t hear any problem with the students losing hour upon hour of instructional time trying (and failing) to log onto computers. It just makes no sense.

  23. I too attended a school board meeting (in August)and addressed Dr. Wardynski. I stated my concern that I felt (with substantial support) that both the teachers and the parents were not part of this transition process and asked if there could be an effort to host a few “town hall meetings” for a face to face Q&A. After my 3 minutes were up, I was hoping that the good doctor would address my comments. Instead, I was given a lecture about technology, moving the school district into the future, blah, blah, blah. I found the response to be both disrespectful and condescending. And of course, I was not allowed to reply. I intend on attending the next meeting and asking one question: “can we see a survey distributed to parents and teachers to provide feedback on the first 3 months into the transition?” If this is shot down, I recommend that we contact ALL of the Huntsville school PTAs and foster this through them.

    1. Jim,

      Thank you for speaking out. Yes, Dr. Wardynski is astonishingly rude when you ask a question. Or silent, which will likely be his next response to you.

      Your plan to contact the PTAs is a good one. Perhaps they are in more of a listening mood now.

      I look forward to shaking your hand at the next meeting.


      Russell Winn

  24. I was that parent he was talking to (or rather, lecturing to). I plan on attending every board meeting from here on out (schedule permitting).

  25. I meant to post at least ten times last week what some of the other teachers have recently posted. I started keeping a log book on Day 2 of any and every computer problem that went wrong. Good minds think alike! I don’t know what good it will do us, but at least we are trying.

    My rumor mill has reported the following: They are coming to take away any desktop computers in the computer labs that are still working. They might take the desktops out of the library. They will take all the desktop computers out of the teachers’ classrooms. One rumor says that we may be able to keep ONE teacher computer, but the TEACHER’S usage of the computer will be monitored from Central Office. If you are using a LAN line, you’ll probably get a memo. Some of these computers have specific static IP addresses. So, YES, in theory they can track you down to the exact room/computer. They have always been able to do this.

    Go back to STAR Math and Reading Testing this week. We now have a number of computers that are now missing, stolen, broken, won’t charge, or suffer from some other horrible operating failure. Guess where we sent them to STAR Test? We sent them to the computer labs that still work, the library, or HEAVEN forbid let them use our own teacher computer on a LAN line. What happens when that is no longer a possibility? Should we have them test on a another student’s laptop? No. That is unacceptable.
    Don’t even get me started on how many times my students were kicked off the system and had to restart the test. I could write a book.

    Should we have the DESIRE to print, we will be instructed to use one of the various wi-fi ready printers. Here’s the problem: None of the HP laptops are picking up the printers on the wi-fi. The printers are located out of the room. We are not allowed to leave the students unattended for liability purposes. That’s assuming that THE PRINTER in question has paper and ink – which in my case it doesn’t. It hasn’t been used in two YEARS. So, they got us new ones. The new ones still won’t pick up the wi-fi and came with ONE ink/toner cartridge. We have no money to replace it. How’s that going to work?
    How can I go into a Parent Teacher Conference with no reports to disseminate their child’s academic or behavior progress? No STAR reading or math reports? No iNow gradebook reports? No behavior reports? That being said, the printer I have hooked up to my desktop teacher computer works just FINE.

    My students are upset, because there is no book for the subject I teach. Even if there was, it would still be sitting in a closet on a pallet somewhere. The parents are angry and I spend my time before school, after school, my planning period, and ANY other second I can get to return their phone calls to explain the situation. They have been very supportive of me and the actions I have taken to help their children. I am very fortunate to have a great group of students whose parents have my back (in theory), but I don’t know what good that will do in the end.

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