Calling All Ankle Biters!


So it’s been a busy weekend for the Superintendent and his cheerleaders. Having that many phone calls to ignore from the “ankle biters” must have made the weekend difficult for the poor guy.

It seems that he didn’t actually ignore the Huntsville Times, but his emailed response were not received by the Times “possibly due to a technical problem.

God does love irony. Bet Wardynski doesn’t.

So after a busy weekend, you’d think their response might be something like that of Dr. David Copeland, Madison County Superintendent who is holding a series of meetings “seeking parental feedback” on their school system, its finances and plans. He’s so interested in hearing from parents that he’s actually scheduling multiple meetings from September 2012 through April 2013. The county’s superintendent actually wants to hear from parents.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a superintendent that actually gives a damn what parents think? Nah, Dr. Wardynski just doesn’t operate that way.

Instead, he schedules meetings at schools, like one that had been scheduled at Blossomwood Elementary for tomorrow night, and then with barely 24 hours notice, he cancels them and moves them to Huntsville High instead.

We’re Going To Meet, eh, Sometime

The district has been talking about having meetings with parents since they voted to start the digital conversion on June 21st, but for whatever reason, they just couldn’t manage to get them scheduled until tonight.

So here’s the schedule. All meetings will begin at 6:30pm.:

  • Tuesday, September 18th — Huntsville High School (and feeders)
  • Wednesday, September 19th — Grissom High School (and feeders)
  • Monday, September 24th — Columbia High School (and feeders)
  • Tuesday, September 25th — Lee/New Century High Schools (and feeders)
  • Wednesday, September 26th — Butler High School (and feeders)
  • Wednesday, October 3rd — Johnson High School (and feeders)

That’s right. Six meetings and out. And they finally managed to schedule them on Monday, September 17th.

The superintendent really understands planning, doesn’t he?

I suppose that all depends on what you think his actual goal for these meetings really is.

If you think that the superintendent wishes to help parents understand this digital transition, well then, you’d be right to assume that this lack of planning on the part of the district was unfortunate.

But if you believe that our superintendent actually cares what parents think, well honestly, you’re just not paying attention.

If the district actually wanted parents to attend, they would have planned these meetings long ago.

But they didn’t.

They failed to plan. They failed to organize. They changed the meeting times and locations at the last minute. The superintendent insulted parents who actually do bother to show up with questions and concerns, and then Mr. Ward and the district cheerleaders had the temerity to actually act surprised when the meetings “had scant attendance?”

Unmitigated gail.

Parental Input Into The Process? Nope. But Groups Making $30 Million Off Transition? You Betcha.

I read somewhere today from someone not directly associated with the district believes that parents should please stop saying that they “did not have any input.” He suggested that parents should contact the district by email, phone and at board meetings.

Here’s the thing: I have emailed, phoned, met with and spoken at nearly every public meeting of the district officials since June 21st, and I know for a fact that neither parents nor teachers had any input into this digital transition at all. So, respectfully, no I won’t stop saying that parents did not have any input. They didn’t. And they still haven’t.

The only people who had any input into this decision are people who directly benefit from the transition happening:

The rest of the list includes Dr. Wardynski, about five people in the inner circle, and the board by proxy.

That’s it.

So, three paid groups making nearly $30,000,000 and the Superintendent’s inner circle.

There were no active classroom teachers involved in the decision.

There were no parents who were not employees of the district involved in the decision.

This decision was forced upon us all.

Real Purpose of the Parents’ Workshops

The purpose of these Parents’ Workshops isn’t to actually involve and help parents. The purpose is to tell them, once again, how great this is going to be for their kids. As Keith Ward said, “There are really two components to it, first to show a bit about what the curriculum and resources are like. They’re also to help with problems the parents might have.”

So the meetings will begin with more propaganda from the district, more district produced films of a teacher and a student working together from a tightly controlled script, showing how wonderful the change is.

If there are any parents who can’t figure out the computers, well, we’ll help them out a bit on the side. If they ask nicely.

Oh, and if past public meetings with the Superintendent are any indication, be ready for the superintendent to openly mock and/or insult any parent who dares to ask a substantive question. Don’t believe me? Just as Carol Claflin whose daughter attends Hampton Cove Elementary. She had this to say in the Times on Sunday:

Carol Claflin, parent of a third-grader at Hampton Cove Elementary, said she found Wardynski argumentative at the meeting held at that school on Aug. 12 and that few of her questions were answered effectively. She added that a “false dilemma” is being created by the district.

“Parents are either supportive of this initiative or we are anti-technology, anti-progress, anti-anything good for our kids,” Claflin said. “This is ridiculous and I am tired of being vilified so that the district office and Wardynski can distract everyone from the fact this digital initiative has been a negligent disaster at best.”

These meetings aren’t designed to help parents. They’re designed to put us (along with teachers) in our places. They’re designed to shut us up.

Calling All Ankle Biters

So don’t let the superintendent succeed in silencing your voice.

Despite his best efforts to keep attendance low by scheduling the meetings with the two largest high schools with less than 24 hours notice, despite his attempts to bore parents into silent acquiescence by showing propaganda after propaganda, despite his rude dismissal of any idea, suggestion or question raised by a parent about how this is supposed to be helping our children learn, don’t let him win.

Show up at the meetings. Ask questions. Get your neighbors to do so, too. Yes, you’ll likely be insulted by the superintendent. So what? HE WORKS FOR YOU.

It’s time for the ankle biters, as Wardynski calls those of us who dare to care more about children and education than his inept plans, to stand and let the superintendent know that he doesn’t control us. He doesn’t rule over us. And he won’t silence us with his insults.

We care about our schools, our teachers, and our children even if he doesn’t. And it’s past time he understood this.

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


  1. Well said Russ. We need to be Ankle Biters and immediately become Body Snatchers. Show up at every meeting in full force.

  2. Too little to late. I wonder if we teachers are going to be called to these meetings? I am lower elementary so my kids do not have net books or lap tops. (I still do not have enough i-Pads but that’s a different story. ) I have already met with several parents to help them navigate through the web sites for use at home. I know I am not the only one who has done this. The system should have done this on day one. What a mess. I will say that it has gotten better as far as being able to log in on Pearson for tests. Thanks for getting the word out.

  3. Cannot locate ankle biting meeting dates & times anywhere on the school website. Haven’t checked ETV announcements.

    He may figure if he deals with Huntsville, Grissom, and feeder schools early in the week he won’t see them at the board meeting and it will minimize publicity. I wonder if the media knows about these ankle biting meetings.

    If any one (Huntsville, Grissom & Feeder Schools) dare address their 1:1 issues at the board meeting (citizen comment time) he can DISMISS them easily.

    1. Good point. As far as the media knowing, The Huntsville Times knows about the meetings, but they were just announced by the superintendent yesterday afternoon. I haven’t seen them announced on other media outlets.

  4. I wonder if there will be metal detectors and a heavy police presence at the meetings to intimidate tax payers ? 🙂

  5. Be prepared. I was at that meeting at HCES and they had no answers to your real questions. It was meant to be a pep rally for the district with a show all about how great this plan is. Parents of older kids really need to press them for hard copies of the books that are being used now for the new curriculum, the books that don’t even exist due to the new technology. By law, they are required to provide books if requested, and when requested the other night, they really didn’t have an answer, except to state that Pearson was working on downloading copies of the texts onto laptops, which is not the same. Who knows how long it will take Pearson to even get this task accomplished. At the same time Pearson is working on a “work around” for test taking on the iPad because Flash doesn’t work on the iPad and some of the tests that the second graders have to take require Flash, how stupid is that. Didn’t they even look into the system requirements before they purchased the hardware to support it? Of course not becuase that would require actual thought and preparation.

  6. Russ, thanks for opening the blog today….got a nice chuckle from your comments. We received a robocall from Huntsville City Schools last night informing us about the meeting tonight at HHS. Yeah, great planning indeed. Then I read in the paper that Hampton Cove Middle school already had one of these and the attendance was scant. My kid goes there and I never heard about it!!! I am in no mood for a dog and pony show tonight, I think I know how to navigate a laptop and the web, thank you very much. Parents need to attend tonight and voice their concerns. Not only state your issue, but demand a reply as to how it will be addressed. And let’s not tolerate an answer like “well, there’s several websites out there to assist you as well as one that lists the FAQs!” And since the good doctor would not answer all of my concerns in his diatribe at the board meeting in August, I went out and did a little research myself about “lessons learned” for other school districts implementing laptops. Not surprisingly, I found out that a school district in Florida stated that it is essential to get the teachers involved one semester, if not one year before the implementation of the digital classroom. This common sense approach obviously eluded those running the circus.

  7. So you thnk 1 hour is ample time to address all the concerns the public has regarding 1:1?

    Military planning and school planning are worlds apart.

  8. “So you thnk 1 hour is ample time to address all the concerns the public has regarding 1:1?”

    Of course not. 500 hours wouldn’t be enough. But that’s kind of the point, right?

  9. I have been mulling over just “how would I have implemented this system any better than how it has been done?” It’s alwasy easy to armchair quarterback a situation, but I have a very logical, common sense approach that would have been infinitely better. I would have rolled out the laptops to the middle schools only. Why? Frist of all, the kids in K through 5th grade need to learn the basics of being educated in school. That includes interaction with teachers and other students, as well as understanding process of classroom training, homework, following directions, discipline, etc. The high school students are in the upper tier of their grade school education. They are rooted in their methods of studying, learning, and interacting. They are also beginning the years where their GPA counts. They are preparing for SATs and ACTs, as well as dealing with the pressures of the demands of high school. Certainly this is no time to pull a new method of teaching out of left field and force them into it. Let them continue with what they are used to. So, the first year, only the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders experence the transition. We learn where the kinks are in the system and the students get a handle on using laptops. The following year, laptops follow the previous year’s 8th graders into 9th grade. So now you have 6,7,8, and 9th grade using laptops. Each year that lead class takes the laptop technology into the following year until they graduate. Now you have successfully implemented the technology in the middle and high schools. No need for elementary schools to jump into the technology. They will have 7 years of grade school (6 through 12) to experience it. Everybody benefits; students, teachers, parents. I’m sure if the school board would have gotten wind of this approach, they too would have been onboard.

  10. Ok I want to know how HCS got around the State Textbook Committee in contracting with Pearson for “texts” and a non text based math program. I was under the impression that the STC had to approve all “texts” before they could be used locally.

    And what the heck happened to the HCS Local Textbook Committee? Who is on this committee?– states below the names are to be kept on file by each superintendent? Did they approve the Pearson curriculum? If so when? If not, why?

    Section 16-36-62 – Local textbook committee.
    (a) A local textbook committee or committees shall be appointed by each separate local board of education. The number, size, and composition, which shall include parents, of the committee or committees shall be determined by each local board of education. A copy of local school board policies in regard to local textbook committees shall be kept on file by each local superintendent. Names of each person serving on a local textbook committee shall also be kept on file by each local superintendent.

    1. Thanks for this, Pixie. There was a mention of the district having done a curriculum evaluation during the spring, but no details were offered. It’s a good point and a good question that needs to be asked at the school board meeting on Thursday at 5:30pm. (Hint, hint, y’all.)

      1. Apparently a few teachers were invited to go “select” books one day during the late summer. The process was held at the central office. E-mails were sent out late, so not many teachers were able to attend. In fact, I’m not sure more than 2-3 teachers actually attended. I got my email a little more than an hour before the event was over, and certainly not early enough to attend. Pearson books are on the state adoption list, although they may not be on the locally adopted list. My (high school) subject adopted Holt books for most classes at the last adoption in 2007 (teachers from all the schools voted for Holt books), and I want to know how the central office can all of a sudden decide to switch to Pearson books without our input. They definitely didn’t get a majority of the teachers to vote on them! The Pearson books that were selected are poor replacements for the books we were using. Some books that are for lower-level classes are actually upper-level college textbooks. The students can barely read them. Why were those books chosen and who chose them? What were they thinking?

        1. No Choice,

          As a parent I like the Holt middle school science series. Can you tell us what lower level classes are using Pearson upper level college texts?

  11. Pixie — Yes, I have asked this question, too. One of the “features” of this curriculum is that it is “constantly updated.” Who in Montgomery or at HCS approves these changes?

    That was another one of my questions that was termed “interesting” and swept under the rug.

  12. The Pearson Tech in my school this week told me originally there were 43 meetings scheduled, but at some point recently they were scaled back to only 6 – the high schools. He told me the feeder schools were to report to their high schools. I guess it’s more financially sound to pay for only 6 meetings than 43, but is it the right choice at this particular time? That Pearson 1:1 must not apply to real life situations.

  13. RE: Pixie’s comment

    Section 16-36-62 – Local textbook committee.
    (a) A local textbook committee or committees shall be appointed by each separate local board of education. The number, size, and composition, which shall include parents, of the committee or committees shall be determined by each local board of education. A copy of local school board policies in regard to local textbook committees shall be kept on file by each local superintendent. Names of each person serving on a local textbook committee shall also be kept on file by each local superintendent

    Check out ALSDE DocumentSTATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION Montgomery, Alabama 36130Form TB-1B





    (Must Be Filed Within 30 Days of Local Adoption)



    SUBJECT(S): ______________________

    The attached list of textbook(s) outside the state-adopted list for the subject(s) indicated above has been recommended by the local textbook committee and, upon the recommendation of the local superintendent, adopted by the local board of education.

    Attached is a statement from the publisher(s) explaining the reason(s) that the listed textbook(s) was not submitted for state adoption.

    I hereby certify that the above report has been prepared in accordance with regulations set forth by the State Textbook Law. I also certify that the attached list does not include any textbook rejected by the State Board of Education.

    Signature of Local Textbook Committee Chairperson Date

    Signature of Local Superintendent of Education Date


    1. This would be an excellent question to put to our board members. Most of them have long sense quit responding to my questions about SPED and such. Anyone want to take the lead on asking this one?

      I’ll give you a prize? 🙂


    The question is WAS this form signed off on.

    Another question is who is on the textbook committee?

  15. So everyone has all the information cited in this thread:

    Alabama State Department of Education State Textbook Program:

    Alabama State Department of Education LEA Compliance Review Self-assessment Manual 2012-2013.

    Procedures for adoption of textbooks outside the approved list:

    Alabama Textbook Law:

    1. Questions I’d like to see answered are below. If these are not addressed during tomorrow’s BOE meeting, I will see if I can get responses from my local school board member or from Dr. Wardynski. I’m not holding my breath.

      1) Alabama Law, title 16, chapter 36 states that the local school board policies in regard to local textbook committees shall be kept on file by the superintendent. Please provide this policy.

      2) Alabama Law, title 16, chapter 36 states that the superintendent is to keep a list of each person serving on the local textbook committee. Please provide this list.

      3) Alabama Law, title 16, chapter 36 states that each local textbook committee member shall provide an affidavit to the local board of education stating that they meet certain criteria spelled out in the law to be eligible to serve as a committee member. Please provide copies of these affidavits.

      4) Alabama Law, title 16, chapter 36 states that superintendent shall file a report with the State Superintendent of Education listing the title, the name of the author, the publisher, and the date of adoption of the textbook. Please provide a copy of this report.

      5) Alabama Law, title 16, chapter 36 states that local board of education shall adopt textbooks recommended by the superintendent and local textbook committee via a majority vote. Please provide the meeting minutes where this vote was held and the results of this vote.

      6) Please provide the Alabama State Department of Education LEA Compliance Review Self-assessment completed by Huntsville City Schools for the 2012-2013 school year.

      7) Please provide copies of all “Report of Local Adoption of Textbooks Outside State-Adopted List” forms (form TB-1B) submitted by HSC for the 2012-2013 school year.

      8) The “Procedures for Adoption of Textbooks Outside The State-Approved List” states that in cases where textbooks adopted by the local board are not on the state approved list the company providing the textbooks should provide the local school system with a letter explaining why the textbooks/materials were not submitted to the state for adoption. Please provide a copy of all such letters.

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