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Let Teachers Teach

Wardynski

During an interview last night on WHNT, the Superintendent finally let teachers teach, temporarily at least. Yep, WHNT, the first mainstream news outlet to address the issues with computer usage in the district, got Dr. Wardynski on the record saying that teachers were allowed to use the resources available to them to meet the needs of their students. I’d be excited if we weren’t a month into the school year already.

Here’s the story if you haven’t seen it already.

Paper Allowed In Classrooms Again

When asked about teachers being told that they cannot use paper in the classroom, Dr. Wardynski responded:

First of all, I’m telling you that never happened. But even if it did, they’re not obeying cause I see plenty of worksheets. And I see plenty of printing and when I see it, I don’t say a word, so wouldn’t you think if I’d given an order like that and I see it going out I’d say something about it? My main comment is, do what it takes to navigate the distance from where we were to where we need to be. Use the resources you need to do and if that involves using something from last year, do it.

Before we move on, lets pause and consider the superintendent’s terminology here for a moment. “They’re not obeying . . . .” That’s an interesting choice of words, isn’t it? Sounds an awful lot like a parent whining about a disobedient child, doesn’t it. (And this from the man who made a point of calling out teachers for whining back in February.)

I’m sorry, sir, but we’re not in the Army, and neither are you, anymore. Please learn how to speak and address adults. When you do, then we can talk.

Setting that aside for a moment, this interview was broadcast at 10:00pm last night (2200 for the Superintendent). If you look closely at the window in Dr. Wardynski’s office, you can see that it appears to still be daylight outside when the interview was being recorded.

Betcha can’t guess what happened around 1200 yesterday afternoon?

Teachers Get Permission To Use Books Hours Before Interview Airs

If you guessed, “Teachers were told for the first time that they could use actual, real textbooks in their classrooms to teach their students and meet their educational needs,” well, congrats. You’ve won the prize.

For the first time since the start of school three and a half weeks earlier, the district is officially allowing teachers to distribute and use textbooks (which have only recently arrived in many schools) in their classrooms to meet the needs of our students.

So much for making every day count and making sure that students progress at their own pace. It’s kinda difficult to do that when the network goes down every 15 minutes and there are no books allowed in the classroom. And it doesn’t help that the superintendent is still watching which classrooms are logged on and which aren’t.

Is Big Brother Watching?

20120904Heatmap

In reference to the “heat mapping” of classrooms Jerry Hayes ask with a I-know-this-is-a-stupid-question-but-I’ve-got-to-ask-anyway smile if this was “Big Brother watching?” Dr. Wardynski had this to say:

Well, this a world of technology. In order to manage a system like that, you’ve got to be able to respond to who needs help and this is our work place, and if you’re in the work place and you’re trying to use the technology, it would be pretty hard for us to help you what antennae, what classroom and that sort of information so this is part of your work place. This is part of the work place at the Arsenal. This is part of the workplace at Cisco, any big firm that’s got a wireless system, this is the way it’s managed.

So the answer to the question that he was asked is yes. Despite the jocular approach Mr. Hayes chose to take in asking, the answer is yes, Big Brother is watching. Big Brother was watching before. Big Brother is watching still.

But teachers should feel free to use those old-fashioned, ineffective, irrelevant, absurd, ludicrous, stone-aged textbooks if they want. Of course there will be no repercussions from the superintendent whose orders are always followed . . .

Risking It All To Teach

He’s right about being “disobeyed.” Thankfully many of our adaptable teachers had gone ahead and found ways to make the first month of school productive.

They were willing to risk reprimand (which many received during the first few weeks for not being “on-line” enough). They were willing to risk their jobs and their families’ well-being to ensure that the first month of school wasn’t lost.

If you want to see a true hero today, go visit your child’s classroom. The people you see in there are underpaid, over worked, stressed, worried, fearful, beaten down, disappointed, and discouraged. Many of their peers and friends have quit. Many more are looking for ways that they can. And yet despite that, despite being called “ankle-biters” by their boss, they teach on.

And do you know why they teach? It isn’t for the money: they haven’t had a raise in years, and the Superintendent definitively stated on September 4th that he would not support reinstating the cost of living raise (despite the fact that he received a bonus of $9,220.00 last year and is eligible for another $10,000 bonus this year). It isn’t for the time off: their summer vacations were constantly interrupted this year so that they could improve their teaching skills and for the Pearson “training” fiasco.

They teach because they love kids. They teach because they believe that education improves everyone’s lives. They teach because they can.

For this, every parent in the district should stand up and cheer for our teachers. It’s past time we did that for them anyway. We should let teachers teach.

Persistent Questions: Why Are Teachers Afraid?

I am, by the way, grateful to WHNT for being the first of our local media to pick up on the story that everything might not be perfect in the “New Frontier” as the district’s cheerleaders like to call this shift. However, one central question kept flashing in my mind’s eye during the interview with the superintendent in which Mr. Hayes had to hold up a single, anonymous letter from one teacher brave enough to raise issues and questions.

Why is it okay that the superintendent has created an environment in our schools where teachers are afraid to raise questions about the pedagogical methods being forced upon their classrooms?

Why, in other words, were teachers scared to speak on the record about the educational environment of our schools? Could it be that Dr. Wardynski doesn’t actually care that much about technology in the classrooms? Could it be that the primary goal of all the inept changes being forced on our teachers this year is actually intended to simply get teachers to quit?

When you consider that a plan that even the superintendent claims should take twice as long, “We’re doing the work of six months in three,” it’s difficult to come up a good justification for making such a shift in such a hurry, isn’t it?

That story, frankly, is far more worrisome than nearly anything else discussed in this news story.

But that question wasn’t asked.

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

24 Comments

  1. Why you ask? Because Casey Wardynski is doing the job he was hired to do, stand up to democrats, the teachers union (AEA/HEA), ACLU types, and end majority to minority transfers. He is privatizing the public school system.

    1. Seriously? Russell, you damage your own credibility by agreeing with crazy talk like that. Very disappointed in you.

      First of all, Wardynski doesn’t seem to much care about the AEA/HEA one way or another. Goodness knows they NEED standing up to, but he doesn’t seem that concerned with them.

      As for ending majority-to-minority transfers, that’s absurd. That program is part of Huntsville’s deseg order. If anything, Wardynski has been more aggressive in this area than ARM was, vowing to attain “unitary” status for the school district and sending numerous black principals to majority-white schools.

      1. Ben,

        I agreed with Redeye’s comment because I believe that the main goal of Wardynski and our Board is to privatize as much of the public school system as is possible. This is the goal of the Broad Foundation and all those who support it, like Obama, as you pointed out in another posting.

        I’m quite sad to say that there simply isn’t any light of day between our President and the Republican opposition on the question of education goals. They both see benefits to privatizing public education, and they are both actively working to do just that.

        The reason that Wardynski doesn’t care about HEA/AEA is simple: their leadership is not opposing anything that he’s attempting to do. Rex Cheatham at the second budget hearing last week said, We completely understand not giving teachers a cost of living raise.

        Wardynski doesn’t fight HEA beacuse HEA is going along with everything that he wants.

        I do however agree with you that the transfers are part of the desgregation order.

        If my ideas are less credible when I agree with things I agree with, so be it. I’d rather be true to myself, and therefore credible in my own eyes, than dishonest.

        Thanks for posting ideas that challenge, however. Without that, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make my meaning clearer.

        Russell

        1. Russell and Ben,
          Majority to minority transfers are the part of the desegregation order the status quo hates because they feel students should be forced to attend schools in their neighborhoods because the quality of the public school affects property values. There are some who believe black students from north Huntsville drag test scores down, therefore dragging their property values down.

          This is why the board set one of Wardynski’s goals as getting rid of that pesky desegregation order. Privatizing the public education system will enable the status quo to go around the desegregation order because as the Pinnacle debacle proves, there is no accountability to to the public. That’s why it’s called private.

  2. Let’s get one thing straight. WE pay his salary. WE parents and teachers are the stakeholders in this school system. WE should have an active say in what goes on here. There exists a horribly disturbing undercurrent of unrest in the school system right now and it is NOT because of the computers, it is becasue of the dictator running the show.

  3. Russell, I must say that the photo you repeatedly use of Dr. Wardynski is appropriate. He looks like a big RAT he is.

  4. Russell, unfortunately, we’ve got what we’ve got. He successfully pushed his agenda, spent the money, installed the infrastructure, and bought and distributed the laptops. And he has a staff of teachers throughout the city working in fear and under a great deal of stress. And who exactly is benefitting from all of this? We need to organize and take action! ALL of the PTAs need to get active. I am going to recommend that a plan be put in place to smooth out this bumpy transition we are in. Understanding that it was too huge a challenge to implement this for all 12 grades in every school, we need to “work with…or should I say, have the administration work with us” on pulling back the reins of computer usage in the classroom. Go paperless? Sorry, not in this decade! This doesn’t mean that the laptop still can’t be used, it just shouldn’t be the primary teaching tool in the classroom. To make the analogy that businesses and governments already thrive in the digital age and “we need to get there” is absurd. These are kids, not grown and educated adults! Expose them to the computer age, don’t drown them in it. And there isn’t one business or government agency I know of that still doesn’t rely heavily on paper documents to some degree. I woulld like to remind Dr. Wardynski that anyone with any engineering sense at all should know the one golden rule of designing, developing, and implementing a new system. And that is, collaborating with the stakeholders. And the stakeholders in this digital transition in our schools are the teachers, the parents, and the students. The train has already left the station, but it’s not too late to slow it down before it reaches top speed!

  5. On the subject of school board members…. This is what I asked David Blair in email on 9/10/12 @ 1:03 PM

    “How many schools have you visited in the last 3 weeks?
    What did you see?
    What did you learn?
    What is working?
    What needs improvement?
    Was your visit announced or unannounced?
    Do you respond to your emails through this website?
    How many individuals track and view this email?”

    DAVID BLAIR’s response 9/10/12 @ 9:19PM

    “Is there a particular concern we can help you with?”
    Thanks,
    David

      1. Mr. Blair’s response to this parent’s letter is unacceptable. HE was voted to the Board of Education and if he can’t fight for the students, parents, and teachers, he needs to be voted OFF of the Board of Education in my opinion. Why not have a town hall meeting for the district you represent to address the concerns of the parents? What’s the matter Mr. Blair? Can you NOT answer the question or are you just as AFRAID as every other HCS employee to ANSWER the question? Be a MAN. Grow a BACK BONE. Stand up and DO YOUR JOB!

  6. He’s obviously been given instructions on how to reply to questions from the ankle-biting general public.

    1. By way of comparison, I’ve noticed that many from Broad follow the same playbook. I’m convinced that they spend much of their “training” on this very thing.

      He’s reading from a script.

      1. You mean the David Blair who moved from the district he was elected to represent and didn’t bother to tell anyone then lied about moving during his first tenure on the board?

        You mean the David Blair who along with Jeannie Robinson and Topper Birney violated the open meetings law after he was re-elected to the board?

        It’s the School Board, they think we are stupid.

  7. After reflecting much on the character of Wardynski, I have come to the conclusion that if WE are LUCKY, he will be gone in another year and a half. He’s half way through his contract. I realize that at some point and time in the past he was a current resident of Huntsville in the 1980’s. Due to the nature of his military career, he is a transient. We should not hold that against him. We should thank him for his service to our country. However, he is no longer in the military to my knowledge and does not seem to have a vested interest in this city or the school system. I do not mean to insult any member of this community due to their military obligations that are currently working and living within the HCS community. We welcome you and could not be the city we are without your service.

    However, I don’t think Wardynski came here with the intentions of staying. I feel like he is using his time as a superintendent for HCS and all the changes he has brought to HCS as just another notch on his belt so he can rise higher in the food chain. Whatever food chain that may be.

    After all, his kids never attended HCS. He has NO experience in a K-12 classroom, and his doctorate is not even in EDUCATION. There is a huge difference in teaching at West Point vs some of the schools in the HCS system.

    Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

  8. This is my theory: Wardynski’s next stop — he hopes — will be a lucrative position with Pearson. His big military accomplishment was developing a computer game to recruit kids into the Army (no wonder PTSD and suicides of troops are skyrocketing: they are seduced into thinking going to war will be like playing a computer game…). Hardly “Greatest Generation” caliber.

    1. I’m sorry, but that’s an absurd and offensive over-simplification of the military suicide crisis. Whatever legitimate points you might make about education or Huntsville politics, please refrain from opining on what is behind the psychological breakdown occurring among our over-extended military servicemembers. You don’t know.

  9. How long did W hold a job in Aurora? Why was he ready to get out of that place in less than a 9 month period?

  10. Remember though…he said he was an engineer at one of the Board meetings! Anybody who knows ANYTHING about engineering a new product or program should know the one sacred rule of life cycle engineering…and that is….ALWAYS involve your stakeholders early on to define requirements and the needs of the customer. This board did not getr the teachers, parents, or students involved one bit before he rammed this laptop fiasco down our throats. This was a purely military move. Bark the order and expect everyone to fall in line. This guy and his cheerleaders have got to go!

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