So the Citizens’ Comments tonight were dominated by two dads from Goldsmith Schiffman, a retired Huntsville High Principal from the 70s, and an executive from Cisco who claimed not to know that the district was using Cisco products. Parents wanting to stand up for our teachers were sent up first while the Superintendent’s supporters were saved till the end allowing the meeting to end on a glorified note.
There was a teacher, along with a few parents and grandparents who came to ask questions tonight, but Mr. Blair, who is in charge of calling citizens up, made sure that all of the potentially negative comments were dealt with first, saving the glowing praise for the end. (I was, when I signed in at 5:12pm, the last person on the list of people wishing to speak; however, I was the fourth out of twelve people called to speak tonight.)
First up was Pam Hill a teacher in the district who passionately told the disinterested board and superintendent that teachers are losing hope.
Next came two grandparents of a special education child who is new to the district and is having, from what I could gather from their comments, difficulties obtaining services. Their pain and suffering was palatable, and the board’s refusal to show any human decency and compassion was, sadly, typical. I wish them well with their journey. It doesn’t sound as if it is beginning well for them.
Then I was called up to speak.
A Call for the Superintendent to Resign
If you’re interested, here were my comments. They were, atypically, brief, but to the point:
There has been a lot said tonight and over the past month about the digital transition, but I’ve noticed one thing that hasn’t really been pointed out.
Because of the actions of this superintendent and this board of education, our teachers are afraid to speak up, both privately and publicly, when something is interfering with the educational environment of their classrooms.
They are afraid to ask questions. They are afraid to point out deficiencies. They are afraid to say anything other than “Everything is great in Huntsville City Schools.”
Those who are both parents of school aged children and teachers are afraid to even ask questions of their board members for fear of being harassed for not being a team player.
In other words, the climate of fear and intimidation that the superintendent has created over the past 14 months has succeeded in silencing legitimate questions and concerns about the quality of education occurring in our schools. Education is a process of asking questions and seeking answers. If teachers are afraid to do those things, education is no longer possible.
In light of this, Dr. Wardynski, I am here tonight to respectfully ask you to tender your resignation as superintendent of Huntsville City Schools. It is time for you to move on. We wish you well.
A Smirking Response
When I finished my comments, Dr. Wardynski smirked at me, knowingly. I should have known that he had an ace up his sleeve at that point.
I was followed by Laura Lively who also passionately spoke on behalf of our teachers reminding the board that technology cannot teach kids. While they were slightly more sympathetic to her than they were to the grandparents, Wardynski made a point of discounting her main point in his concluding comments when he claimed that artificial intelligence would free teachers up from evaluating student’s work.
The Glorification of Wardynski
Next up were two dads from Goldsmith Schiffman who pointedly shared with the board and superintendent just how much they love the computers. One of them, Mr. Ron Jones, made a point to share with the board that his child’s teacher was doing amazing work with the computers, and perhaps some of the other teachers who weren’t doing as well merely needed more training.
They were followed by Reggie Hill, one of the candidates for the district 1 school board seat this past month. He wanted the district to promote human interaction rather than working through computers.
Then in fairly quick succession, all covering the same basic territory were Bill Smith praising the Kahn Academy, technology, and flipping classrooms; Joe Anglin former principal of Huntsville High School who said that the district is “on the way back” as he praised Wardynski and the board claiming that students will have an “edge” when they leave school; another dad who read from his daughter’s Facebook page where she complained about being given a textbook, and finally, Mr. Scott Kirby of Cisco.
Mr. Kirby claimed that he didn’t actually know until tonight that the district was using Cisco equipment, and he sung the praises of the Kahn Academy and Bill Gates. He says that the schools “are always going to have problems” and that it would be better if the press didn’t always try to make such a big deal about them.
By the way, if Mr. Kirby would use some of his technology occasionally, he would see that the press has been praising the digital conversion basically nonstop since it was announced in June. There has been, in the Huntsville Times, exactly two articles asking questions about problems that the district was having.
Problems that, according to Wardynski, have now been resolved and improved up to “105%.”
Which is, of course, impossible.
Command and Control of Citizens’ Comments
So my thought that citizens’ comments might be our one chance to ask un-vetted questions was wildly optimistic on my part it seems.
Dr. Wardynski has gotten better at controlling the school board meetings to suit his own purposes. With a little help from Mr. Blair in shuffling the speakers around, he’s even attempting to control the message coming out of the citizens’ comments section of the board meeting. I suppose having on average two hours to say and push any message that he wants isn’t enough. He needs those few three minute blocks at the end as well.
So it was easy to smirk at my suggestion that it was time for him to resign for what he’s done to our teachers. First, he doesn’t care about them or about parents. This isn’t about education; it’s about control.
And second, he knew he had stacked the deck tonight. And it’s a lot easier to win when you’re playing footsie with the dealer.
Perhaps I didn’t go far enough tonight in my call for his resignation. I should have called for all six of them to step down.