Stacking the Citizens’ Comments Deck

Stacking the Deck

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 sang 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 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.

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

100 Comments

  1. FYI, Joe Anglin was principal of Huntsville High through the late 80s, possibly into the early 90s. Sort of irrelevant to the discussion at hand, certainly, but not quite as irrelevant as the description “a retired…principal from the 70s” makes him sound. Just in the interest of historical accuracy…

    1. @witsend: Mr. Anglin is the one who said in his comments that he was at HHS in the late 70’s. If he got it wrong, ……

      1. Well that’s on him, I guess! All I know is I’ve got a diploma with his signature, and it’s not even close to the 70s.

  2. Yes Russ, the deck was stacked but that is alright. He expected complaints this week but there are more to come that he can not plan for control. The best is yet to come and that was demonstrated by the grandparents frustrated with the Special Education services. First, you have to say W out witted himself during the Pearson system demo conducted by the teacher and student. When they went to the test and the system would not load the test, how can you say “I don’t want to see but now I see it”. You can’t take away the emotion that Laura Lively brought with her frustration with the so great Digital Divide. I just believe a party always have to end and this party will end too.

  3. 105% of zero is still zero.

    Suggestion: Be very vague on the sign-up sheet in the column asking for subject of your remarks: “computers” rather than “problems with computers,” for example. Or write down one vague thing and discuss something else. Once you get going, they are unlikely to stop you. If so, “I changed my mind.” There is no reason for that column, anyway. Like the “group representing” it is to make newcomers hesitant. It also precludes discussing any new business or preposterous claims making their debut appearance at that night’s meeting. Give their little sign-up sheet the respect the Board has earned: None.

    1. Citizens Comments should be held at the beginning of the meeting not at the end since the board has decided they are not required to answer any questions or address any concerns in public. Why make parents sit through unlimited presentations, resolutions, and reports they can’t ask questions about, letting the board drag out the meeting hoping they will get discouraged and go leave?

      The whole citizens comments is a big farce. They don’t want to hear from citizens. Especially citizens who are critical, or, who have a complaint.

      Remember the time they adjourned the meeting during a thunder storm just before citizens comments begin?

      http://redeyesfrontpage.blogspot.com/2012/03/huntsville-city-schools-boards-crony.html

      Remember how they go into executive session during work sessions, when the public can ask questions, then come out and vote on what they discussed in executive session, leaving the public wondering what the heck just happened?

      http://redeyesfrontpage.blogspot.com/2012/04/huntsville-city-school-board-of.html

        1. The public can comment on something the board has said during a work session. Or at least the public is supposed to be able to comment on something the board has said during a work session…unless they go into executive session….then come out and vote on what they discussed in executive session. 🙂

  4. I just read this 2011 article about the Broad superintendent in Charlotte N.C. Some of what is covered we already know, but I found the comments to be interesting. I expect it to get much worse for teachers, parents & students before we see a unified effort to rid HCS of the Broad Virus. One or two people speaking at school board meetings is not going to make an impact.

    Were any of you as disturbed as I was by the fawning comments made by board members about the Teach for America “teachers”? As our teachers leave the system, I expect to see TFA teachers take their place in every school in Huntsville. I also expect parents to begin removing their children from HCS and flock to private schools in greater numbers. As in Charlotte, the other school systems in our County will also benefit from the chaos marking HCS.

    http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/05/08/2281054/whos-the-power-behind-cms.html

    1. Peter Gorman the Charlotte’s Broad super. resigned a few months after this article to take a job with Rupert Murdoch’s News. Corp.

    2. Yes, I was offended. I’ll be writing about it today.

      And you’re right. It’s going to take far more than just a few parents to make a difference.

    3. Pixie said~ “As our teachers leave the system, I expect to see TFA teachers take their place in every school in Huntsville.”

      You can expect to see them at every Title One school in north Huntsville.

        1. There is no way this crow is going to let non certified, professionally trained educators educate “their” children. The parents wouldn’t stand for it, as well they shouldn’t.

          1. The praise heaped on TFAers by people who know better last night at the board meeting implies that might not be the case, Redeye.

            Many across the district are buying everything W is selling.

            1. Praise heaped on TFAers NOT teaching THEIR children Russ. It’s easy to heap praise on something that doesn’t affect you directly. If you think Blossomwood, Hampton Cove, Huntsville Middle, Goldsmith, Whitesburg and Monte Sano and other feeder schools for Huntsville High and Grissom will be over run with TFAers I have some swamp land in Alaska to sell you. 🙂

              1. Redeye, I wouldn’t have believed parents on the south end would have worked to help the superintendent merge their schools either.

                But they did.

                I wouldn’t have thought it a struggle to get parents to turn out, or ask questions about the computer usage when it is clearly interfering with their kids’ education.

                But it is.

          2. Typo, should read-There is no way this crowd is going to let non certified, professionally trained educators educate “their” children. The parents wouldn’t stand for it, as well they shouldn’t.

  5. Hunstville High and Grissom High school have excellent academic reputations, which are tied to property values, they didn’t earn their academic reputations by having TFAer’s in the classroom, , they earned it because they had highly trained, certified, experienced, professional educators in the classroom.

    1. I agree, Redeye. I’m not defending TFAers; I do not want a TFAer teaching my kids or any of our kids.

      But I haven’t seen a mass uprising from any group in town on any issue yet.

  6. That’s because the TFA teachers are not labeled as such. There are 5 where I work. The parents are not that informed about what kind of teachers their kids have. Each of these people have a “degree” in something, for most of them it is not in education. Title I schools are NOT the schools to put these people in.

    1. Good point. It is extremely difficult if not impossible for a parent to know if his or her child’s new teacher is a TFAer.

      Strange.

      If they’re as amazing as they are proclaimed to be, why can’t we know whom they are?

      1. A big red flag might be the legally-required notice that parents receive stating that the instructor in one of your child’s classes does not meet the definition of Highly Qualified. Those are the teachers to check first.

        1. That’s a good point, Ms B. However, the form that they are required to complete upon request requires that they produce such a minimal amount of information that the difference between a TFAer and a first year teacher is extremely difficult if not impossible to spot.

          1. The TFA’s at my school do fall under the definition of highly qualified. All anyone one has to do is have 4 college classes in English, Math, Science and Social Studies.They are label as having an alternative certificate. All of them do have a college degree and one of them is a certified teacher. Most people who receive the form inquiring about their child’s teacher’s credentials don’t read the form carefully. It tells them to mail it or drop it off at the central office. The parents are sending the forms back to the school and they are not completely filled out. I turn them into the office. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

            1. The Parents-Right-To-Know request I filed once took two months for the central office to complete (with me pestering them regularly). It had a total of five words and three checkmark answers to the following questions:

              Has the teacher met state qualifications and licensing criteria for the grade levels and subject areas in which he/she teaches? (Yes/No)
              Is the teacher teaching under emergency or other provisional status? (Yes/No)
              Does a paraprofessional provide instructional services to the student (Yes/No)

              The five words detail the level of degree and the Major/Discipline.

              One indicator might be if the teacher’s major isn’t in Education, but even this isn’t a sure thing since Wardynski has stated that many of their TFAers do in fact have an Education degree.

              For those who wonder why you should be concerned about a TFAer who has an education degree keep this in mind:

              TFAers cost the district $10,000 more for two years of service than a non-TFAer costs the district. We are paying TFA Alabama $10,000 for each of those teachers.

              80% of TFAers leave the teaching profession after 3 years. The constant turnover means a lack of stability for our kids and higher costs to employ more teachers. It also means that our teachers have no experience to rely upon when they face issues in the classroom. This is why many of the TFAers are regularly “leaving in tears.”

              I have also heard that at least two have already resigned, but that’s unconfirmed as I do not know who they are.

            2. Don’t forget that HCS is not hiring teachers who have not passed a Praxis exam to meet the HQ standard. So Class C certifiactes and 1st year teacher claims aren’t really an issue this year.

  7. The digital conversion has been horrible. The kids play games when they should be doing assignments. I feel like the internet police. Then, parents come to school upset because the student does not have a good grade. Judy Rushton stated on the news today that referrals were down because of the technology. The referrals are down because the principals will not discipline anyone because they have been told to bring down referrals or else. So, the classrooms are chaos. A boy cussed another student and nothing happened. The principals Wardynsky hires are hateful and don’t care what teachers have to put up with. TFA teachers leave the building everyday crying because they do not know how to handle the discipline problems. People in Huntsville need to wake up.

    1. “The referrals are down because the principals will not discipline anyone because they have been told to bring down referrals or else. So, the classrooms are chaos.”

      This is not a safe, orderly, environment conducive to student learning.

  8. Russell, Thank you immensely for speaking up like you did. The “Warden” may think he’s won, but the year is young. Btw, the number of the expelled students were grossly inflated to put it mildly. I worked with these expelled students last year and there is absolutely NO WAY that we had 500+ the entire school year, much less the first month of school. The “Warden’s” cheerleaders have stooped so low that they are falsifying the facts in order to make him look good. Yes, let’s hope he will be back in Colorado next year!

    1. Thanks Long time educator, especially for being a long time educator. I thought the numbers for last year were silly high, and as I said, I’ve heard from all over town that teachers are being told to handle discipline issues in the classroom rather than via the office.

      I’ll be contacting Mrs. Rushton on Monday for a copy of her presentation to the board on Thursday night. For some reason, it hasn’t been published on the website.

      Strange . . .

  9. This is has nothing to do with this post, but it has EVERYTHING to do with this post.

    I get so many emails, handwritten notes, and phone calls from parents each week, I can barely keep up with them. I don’t mean to gloat, but I am usually pretty good at keeping up with such things (as MOST teachers are). I believe the key to student success is constant communication with the parents. I could write an hour on the legitimate questions that these parents have. Why doesn’t the computer work, what’s wrong with website, why are my child’s grades so low, why is this program so easy and the other one so hard, why doesn’t anyone answer the help desk number, why don’t they return my phone call, why wasn’t this addressed before school started? It just goes on and on and on…

    In the first month of school, almost ALL of the teachers I know of in several schools were stressed. They cried, they wanted to quit, they wanted to strike, they wanted to walk out, etc. But, they didn’t. Trust me, it wasn’t for the money. It’s because we love what we do.

    I love my students. I love my job. I love the parents that I have that have been so supportive of me during this transition, but I will NO LONGER COVER FOR CENTRAL OFFICE.

    Because the central office couldn’t get their act together prior to the start of school, I am now inundated with constant emails and phone calls regarding IT issues that HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ME!

    There’s an old saying, “Lack of planning and preparation upon your part, does not necessarily constitute and emergency upon my part.”

    As I like to put it, “Lack of planning and preparation upon the superintendent’s part, does not necessarily constitute and emergency upon my part. You need to contact the superintendents’ office, read the newspaper, read the blogs, and attend board meetings.”

    After all, he gets a BONUS for my STAR reports, and I don’t.

    He doesn’t have the answer parental questions and I DO!

  10. “First up was Pam Hill a teacher in the district who passionately told the disinterested board and superintendent that teachers are losing hope.”

    The problem here is that Hill has zero credibility. She has been playing the part of the shrieking harpie for so long, her the-sky-is-falling routine has become as predictable as the sunrise. If anything, hearing Hill barking about something is likely to convince many people that Wardynski is on the right track.

    I understand, Russell, that you are going to do what you think you should do to “be true to yourself,” but calling for Wardynski to resign is an empty gesture that accomplishes nothing. Let’s be honest here — Other than getting busted for some major unethical/illegal conduct, there are only three things that are going to get Wardynski out of town:

    – Taking another job

    – Parents turning against him en masse and influencing the board

    – Huntsville’s political, media, and business elites (think Tommy Battle, Joe Ritch, & the school board) turning against him

    Other than possibly the first item on this list, these things are going to take time. For one thing, the board and the elites are going to be highly resistant to dumping a superintendent they just hired. And in all honesty, it would put HCS in a very difficult position PR-wise. So until the power-elites around here see evidence that Wardynski or his policies are hurting Huntsville’s reputation (since that’s all they seem to care about), he’s their man.

    The parents may be frustrated, but most of them either don’t know what the answers are or they just can’t be roused to action at this point. That means there is little pressure on the board to do anything. Jennie Robinson is not running for reelection and so doesn’t have to worry about the voters, and in the two board elections that just occurred this summer, the candidates basically argued over who supported Wardynski the most.

    So at this point, Wardynski has at least one year and probably two to do whatever he wants with little real resistance. Anyone who wants to see him gone is going to have to be strategically and tactically smart and build resistance to his policies one brick at a time. Acting in the Pam Hill mold is not going to get you very far. Just my opinion — take it or leave it.

    1. “The problem here is that Hill has zero credibility. She has been playing the part of the shrieking harpie for so long, her the-sky-is-falling routine has become as predictable as the sunrise. If anything, hearing Hill barking about something is likely to convince many people that Wardynski is on the right track.”

      Typical attack the messenger (Pam Hill) because you can’t attack the message.

    2. ” For one thing, the board and the elites are going to be highly resistant to dumping a superintendent they just hired. And in all honesty, it would put HCS in a very difficult position PR-wise. So until the power-elites around here see evidence that Wardynski or his policies are hurting Huntsville’s reputation (since that’s all they seem to care about), he’s their man.”

      So now we know the “power-elites” care more about public relations than they care about the education of our most precious resources and the hope of our republic.

    3. “So at this point, Wardynski has at least one year and probably two to do whatever he wants with little real resistance. Anyone who wants to see him gone is going to have to be strategically and tactically smart and build resistance to his policies one brick at a time. Acting in the Pam Hill mold is not going to get you very far. Just my opinion — take it or leave it.”

      Translation-Shut Up.

        1. “It’s not about Pam Hill. It’s about what Pam Hill is saying.”

          And about how she is saying it. How makes all the difference.

          1. Nope. The “how” doesn’t matter. It’s the “what” that makes all the difference. I’ve followed every “how” they suggested. Typically the only response I received (if I got one at all) was “wait.” And so I did. When I pointed out to them that I waited their requested time, they said, “wait some more.” When I did, and asked again, they said, Dr. Wardynski will address it. When I met with him, he said, “I’m here to listen not change things.” And so the SPED consolidation was enacted without ANYONE in the central office every having to respond to even simple questions of “Why?”

            What matters is what you’re asking. Not how.

      1. Russell,

        First, Pam Hill — You can only sound the five-alarm fire so many times before people tune you out. When you say that any and everything is a sign of the end of the world as we know it, you eventually lose the ability to influence the debate. After all, if things are always at DefCon 5, where do you have left to go with your tone and rhetoric when things get REALLY bad?

        To answer your question, no, I do not suggest that we do nothing. I just think a more productive plan is to acknowledge certain realities.

        Dr. Wardynski was not elected to his position, but he might as well have been because there is almost zero chance of his being removed from his position before he’s been here at least 3-4 years. When a president is elected, half the population is disappointed, and half or so of those people are livid. But the extremists who called for Bush/Obama to be impeached after a year in office not only didn’t get anywhere, but they looked rather unhinged to most people. Even hardline partisan commentators ignored them.

        So calling for Wardynski to resign does not really pose a threat to him, and he knows it. It’s no wonder he smirked — I probably would’ve, too, in his position. So I think the better course is to accept the fact that he is the superintendent and probably will be for a few more years. Pick your battles and work to make improvements in the areas that are most important to you, recognizing that you aren’t going to get everything you want.

        For instance, you are obviously concerned (as am I) about Wardynski’s treatment of teachers. What if you contacted the teachers that recently retired or left the system, polled them for their reasons for leaving, and then publicized the results on your blog, at a board meeting, and in the HT (if they will publish it)? Anonymously polling current teachers could also be a possibility, maybe through the HEA. From my discussions with board members, they are well aware that teacher morale is low, but they’ve told me that Wardynski doesn’t care (shocker, that). But the more this issue is pushed and brought to the public’s attention in a non-hysterical manner, the more pressure there will be on the board to so something about it.

        None of us here seem to be wild about the new digital curriculum. But getting rid of it is just not going to happen this school year. Of greater immediate concern to me was the lack of decent internet filtering, so that is an angle I have been working especially hard every time I got the chance. I’m not the only voice on this issue, of course, but I do feel that I can claim at least some of the credit for the recent HCS decision to purchase its own filtering product, currently being rolled out to the schools. (It remains to be seen how much of an improvement it will be, but it almost has to be somewhat better.) I had more than one school official tell me that they appreciated the fact that I was not one of the screamers they often hear from.

        One thing that will be key in the fight against Wardynski is to undermine his credibility when he cites bogus information. One of the things that drew me to this blog was the way you used facts to call out Wardynski on some of his BS. Continuing to do that and finding ways to publicize your findings more widely will help plant seeds of doubt in the minds of the public. For instance, you have already highlighted one possible problem with Wardynski’s claim that discipline referrals are down from last year. Another thing that occurs to me is that kids are less likely to get into trouble if they are “engaged” (to use Wardynski’s word) in playing online games and downloading porn. There’s also the novelty factor to consider. Left unchallenged, Wardynski’s discipline claim probably sounds pretty good to a lot of people. But challenged with reasonable counter-arguments, maybe some people start to take what he says with a bigger grain of salt.

        As I said, you’re going to do what you’re going to do, as is your prerogative. I am simply saying that if you really want to make headway, a more strategic approach would likely be more productive.

        1. “First, Pam Hill — You can only sound the five-alarm fire so many times before people tune you out.”

          Why would people “tune out” just because Pam Hill is the one sounding the 5 alarm fire Ben? Just because Pam is the one sounding the alarm doesn’t mean there isn’t a fire.

          “So calling for Wardynski to resign does not really pose a threat to him, and he knows it. It’s no wonder he smirked — I probably would’ve, too, in his position.”

          Ben, look in the mirror and repeat what you wrote so you can see how you sound. What you are describing is a dictator. The board is elected and they’ve never had a problem firing Superintendents before. What makes Wardynski special?

          ” But the more this issue is pushed and brought to the public’s attention in a non-hysterical manner, the more pressure there will be on the board to so something about it.”

          On one hand you say shut up, there is nothing that we can do, attack the message, then you say bring it to the public’s attention in a non-hysterical manner? What non-hysterical manner? Be specific.

          ” I am simply saying that if you really want to make headway, a more strategic approach would likely be more productive.”

          Russ is making headway. If he weren’t you wouldn’t be on here telling him he’s not. 🙂

        2. Ben,

          Thank you for your response and suggestions. I do appreciate them.

          I asked Dr. Wardynski to resign for two reasons:

          1. I thought it past time that someone should given that he is moving our district rapidly towards a precipice of teacher morale from which it will likely take decades to return, if we ever do.

          2. I wanted those listening to know that we are at a breaking point. This was, in my opinion, an effective way of telling the city that they need to get involved.

          Of course, I did not expect him to agree to my request. You’re absolutely right that he has the board, the business community, the arsenal, the mayor, the city council and a selection of some of the richest people in the world supporting everything that he does.

          I have my voice.

          I am working to respond to his claim that discipline issue have improved. It takes time to gather the appropriate data from the district to make an informed counter-claim. If you’d like to help with that, please contact your board member and/or Judy Rushton and request the reports that she submits to the state concerning discipline issues (as I have done). If she receives multiple requests for this information, she will likely respond quicker. If not, well that tells us something, too.

          Not that you’ve asked for it and not that I feel compelled to offer it, but please know that I am always working behind the scenes to gather information and make that information public. The three minutes that I’m allowed to speak before the board is but the tip of the iceberg.

          So, did I go too far in my comments? I do not think so, but I respect you for expressing a differing opinion. I picked that battle quite intentionally; even though I knew it would not accomplish my publicly stated goal. I think it will accomplish the two reasons I’ve mentioned above over time.

          I like the suggestions you’re offering concerning polling the public. If you have ideas about the best way to accomplish this, I will be happy to work with you on it. You may reach me at russ@geekpalaver.com if you’d like to discuss it in more detail.

          Thanks,
          Russell

        3. Oh, and things are “really bad.” They have been for the past two years for a wide variety of reasons. Of course they can get worse, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be shouting about the conditions now.

            1. How about this, Redeye. Apparently, Ben is getting responses. I have contacted my board memberoften and gotten responses EVERY time that I did. The responses were timely, specific, and dealt effectively with my concerns. I have even had responses from the Superintendent to resolve a specific issue with amazing speed. I have approached both with the respect I wish to receive from them and have limited each contact to a specific manageable item. It works..

              1. I have approached the board and the superintendent with the respect I wish to receive also Ms. B, unfortunately I didn’t get a response respectful or other wise. I’m glad to know they respond to you and Ben which proves they don’t respond to all tax payers equally.

              2. I’ve approached them privately, individually and respectfully as well. Typically the answers I received, if I got one at all, were “wait.” (Look back at some of the posts from last fall.)

                Respectfully, Ms. B, it’s all a matter of what questions you are asking whether or not you receive an answer or not.

  11. I think Ben has a clear picture of what’s going on here. He is looking at this from a tactical approach- which us essential since W is also evidently viewing HCS as a battlefield.
    Unfortunately, Pam has list credibility- just ask the teacher population. She is respected for publicly speaking her views( unlike those of us who are too afraid). But, look what happened to her – a sudden transfer from HC to MLK.
    She is too close and too passionate for the business community of Huntsville which is now in charge of HCS.
    Russell, would an online petition stating all the concerns that citizens have be effective? Could it be presented to the state supt.? Or other local representatives? I think parents and citizens who have concerns would come closer to signing a position than appearing and speaking at a board meeting. You’re still going to have a tough time getting teachers to do anything
    publicly.
    On another note, STAR math and reading scores are now in. And…. No surprise here- they are beautiful! Don’t they have ti be for all that beautiful data that’s presented at each board meeting?
    Discipline? Of course it’s better! Those principal bonuses are tied to it. Besides, laptops and iPads have become the ultimate babysitters
    for a subgroup of children who do not wish to participate in the class lesson. A teacher can’t possibly teach AND monitor what 28 high schoolers are doing.
    I don’t know how much the public knows about the $700 each teacher will be receiving on the Sept. check. It’s very attractive “hush money”. Who doesn’t need an extra $700? Especially when you haven’t seen a raise in three years! Now, in full disclosure, W has encouraged teachers to use it for professional development. However, he also made it clear that
    no receipts are necessary. What reacher has time for PD when they are leaving at 5:00 (or later) everyday, dragging home defeated by Pearson, the board and the super, trying to muster enough energy to make a decent dinner for their family, before finally sitting down to grade papers, prepare lessons, and help their own HCS student wrestle with Pearson homework!
    That’s all for now! Thanks for providing this venue for us frustrated teachers, Russell! I’m off to clean this neglected, messy house now!

    1. Actually Pam Hill was moved to Dawson, and she moved there by her own admission of her own free will. I know that turning down a request from the superintendent is dangerous, but according to one of her public statements, she chose this move on her own.

      Yes, the $700 is hush money. If I were a teacher, I would absolutely keep my receipts for how and where I spent that money (if I spent it at all). At some point, he’s going to ask for a receipt even though he has repeatedly stated that he isn’t going to.

      Thanks for posting here. I appreciate it.

      1. “At some point, he’s going to ask for a receipt even though he has repeatedly stated that he isn’t going to.’

        Why aren’t teachers being asked to be accountable for tax dollars?

          1. It’s also back door merit pay and proof why it’s a bad idea to have teachers, principals and even superintendents “performance” tied to bonuses, i.e. hush money.

            1. I am a teacher still waiting to have some hard facts about the $700. I have yet to receive ANY official documentation about this. I have not been told it is for professional development. Like I have time in my day for that. Last year we could turn in purchase order and receipts. I would rather do that or have it on a card. I do not want it placed in my paycheck. I do not want to pay taxes on it. I do want them to know what I spend it on.

              1. Bandet, let me see if I have this right, all Huntsville City School teachers are going to receive an additional $700.00 in their paycheck for professional development but they don’t have to provide documentation they spent the funds for professional development, classroom supplies, teaching aides, etc.?

                1. Redeye- that’s the rumor. Like I said I have no concrete information on it just hearsay. I do keep receipts for money I have spent out of my pocket for supplies- for tax purposes. I can claim up to $250 on my income tax forms. Frankly I am getting tired of that too. I don’t know of any other profession where employees have to pay for their own supplies to use for work. I am scared that the $700 will be taxed. At that point it becomes income, not supply or professional development money. I tried to talk to HEA when last years money was gong to be put in our paychecks. I got the biggest run around from them. They are useless. Fortunately I spent all of my money and didn’t have to deal with that. I used purchase orders through the school so they have the records of what I spent.

                  I would like to have money for supplies. But I do not want it in my paycheck. I am happy with purchase orders or a credit/debit card. I guess they don’t want the additional work or expense it takes to do that.

    2. ‘Unfortunately, Pam has list credibility- just ask the teacher population. She is respected for publicly speaking her views( unlike those of us who are too afraid). But, look what happened to her – a sudden transfer from HC to MLK.

      All the more reason to stand with her. This is what they do to isolate, minimize and marginalize legitimate concerns and those brave enough to express them.

      “She is too close and too passionate for the business community of Huntsville which is now in charge of HCS.”

      Again, all the more reason to stand with her and others who are speaking out. It’s the old divide and conquer strategy.

      “Russell, would an online petition stating all the concerns that citizens have be effective? Could it be presented to the state supt.? Or other local representatives? I think parents and citizens who have concerns would come closer to signing a position than appearing and speaking at a board meeting”

      If parents, teachers and concerned citizens are afraid to speak out for the welfare of our children this battle is lost and we might as well shut up and sit down like good little Sheeple.

      1. Teachers getting $700.00 public funds and being told they don’t have to produce receipts.

        Principals telling teachers not to report discipline problems.

        Staking the citizens comment deck.

        Teachers afraid to speak out.

        Parents afraid to speak out.

        If this were going on in the Birmingham Public School system what do you want to bet you wouldn’t be reading about it on a blog?

        http://redeyesfrontpage.blogspot.com/2012/09/paging-jd-crow-joey-kennedy-and-john.html

  12. Is it possible to poll (relying on solely on assigned # or letter …..no names at this point in time):

    1. How many Huntsville residents who have a vested interest in student(s) attending HCS have written letters to the HT in the last four weeks concerning issues they have with HCS 1:1 initiative?

    2. Of those answering #1 who have, how many had their letters published?

    3. How many Huntsville residents with a vested interest in student(s) attending HCS have corresponded with their HCS Board member(s) during the last three to four weeks have been told “I have been staying in contact with Principals in the district as well as the Superintendent. As a Board member, my role is to not be involved in day-to-day operations…that is the job of the Superintendent and his staff (which includes all employees of the system). Because I want to stay abreast of what is going on, I do talk with the leaders in the various areas to be aware of any brewing issues?”

    4. How many who have corresponded with their HCS School Board member(s) and received a similar response to that in question #3 are satisfied with Board member(s) response?

    5. How many Huntsville City residents with a vested interest in a student attending HCS have communicated same concerns to their State School Board representative in the last 4 weeks?

    6. Of those who have expressed their concerns to their State School Board representative, how many have received a response to date?

    7. How many of those who have received a response from their State School Board representative are satisfied with response?

    8. How many Huntsville City residents with a vested interest in student(s) are willing to privately gather and devise a strategy (vetting process TBD)?

    JUST ASKING….

    1. Concerned Parent, before I answer your questions, would you explain this direct quote from item #3 in your post? :

      “As a Board member, my role is to not be involved in day-to-day operations…that is the job of the Superintendent and his staff (which includes all employees of the system). Because I want to stay abreast of what is going on, I do talk with the leaders in the various areas to be aware of any brewing issues?”

      Are you a board member?

      Just asking…

    2. Concerned Parent:

      I like your questions. Unless you object, I’m going to turn them into a post of their own that will allow for people to post their responses in the comments section of the blog. (And yes, those responses can be anonymous if they wish.)

      Thanks,

      Russell

  13. Aha! I have figured out why teachers have been told to handle their own discipline problems and not to send students who break the rules to the principal….Pinnacle cannot handle all the students that Seldon handled! The “Warden” does not want his golden child to look bad. He dissed Seldon so much last year, threw us (yes, I was there) under the bus, did not give us ANY credit for the work we did with those challenged students that now if Pinnacle fails, he will have egg on his face. It is curious nothing was stated about the numbers going to Pinnacle at the board meeting. Russell, do you have any facts on this?

    1. There was no mention at all about Pinnacle at the board meeting.

      I’ve requested a copy of the report that Judy Rushton gave the board. For some reason, they haven’t published these amazing, incredible numbers.

  14. In response to Redeye…..would you explain this direct quote from item #3 in your post?

    “As a Board member, my role is to not be involved in day-to-day operations…that is the job of the Superintendent and his staff (which includes all employees of the system). Because I want to stay abreast of what is going on, I do talk with the leaders in the various areas to be aware of any brewing issues?”

    “Are you a board member?”

    I am more than happy to respond to your concerns.

    This quote is “another” response I received from David Blair in followup communication (originally posted) with him. He began his email follow-up
    “You will have to indulge me a little since your original e-mail sounds like you are angry about something (I asked specific questions), so I am trying to determine what is your specific concern.

    No,….I am not a Board Member.

    1. Thanks for the clarification Concerned Parent, it wan’t in quotes so I thought it was part of your comments.

      To answer your questions yes I have communicated my concerns in person and in writing to the Superintendent, the board as a whole and my representative in relation to Teach for America, the Pinnacle Program and other concerns. An NO, I didn’t get a response from either.

      1. Typo should read- Thanks for the clarification Concerned Parent, I didn’t see the quotation marks at the beginning of the thought it was part of your comments.

  15. My original original correspondence to David Blair….

    Concerned Parent September 14, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink 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

  16. Perhaps concerned individuals could be organized/coordinated not with the PTA (which has Dr. Jennie and Laura McCaulley ties) but with the Special Education PTA (the one that actually gives a care about “all” students).

    It cannot be denied…. all HCS students are receiving a “special education” this year. The HCS Supt in a HT quote 9/19/12 Parents Go Digital “The richness of the curriculum is online, but not everyone has access to the Internet all the time.”

    1. You can find out more about the Huntsville Special Education PTA at http://www.hsepta.net/.

      They do care about students, but they are still a PTA. As such they are a part of the Huntsville Council of PTAs which nominated Dr. Wardynski for superintendent of the year last year.

      1. Thanks for the HSEPTA plug. Although HSEPTA is a PTA and as you correctly pointed out is a part of the Huntsville Council, I don’t recall HSEPTA being asked about who WE would nominate for superintendent of the year. I doubt he’d get a strong recommendation from the Special Education community at the moment.

        1. None of the PTAs did. Sorry that I wasn’t clear about that. My criticism of is of the Huntsville Council of PTAs in general in this town as taking an approach of, “He’s the leader, so we think he’s amazing” with Dr. Wardynski. No, I don’t know many in the SPED community that would support him at the moment.

          Again, I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer about that.

          I appreciate the work of the HSEPTA.

  17. Bandet:
    W actually put it in print. It was in the weekly Digital Curriculum 1:1 e-mail he sent out last week. It also had some “myths” he had been hearing which “couldn’t be further from the truth”. The strongest rumor, according to him, was that he was removing all Promethean Boards from the classrooms. My faculty was told this “rumor” is indeed in W’s plan and then, the next week, he denies it. Also, does the public know about all the desktops being removed from the labs and classrooms. Most days, those old “dinosaurs ” are our only means of testing. Since iPads still don’t support Adobe (week 6 of school now), they are also the only source of AR testing. Also, an email came forward this week that Pearson did not gain copyrights fir some of the stories in the K-5 reading books. So, teachers were given “approval” to send those blasted textbooks home for those stories since parents/students won’t be able to access them at home online. Anybody doubt that we’re not flying by the seat of our
    pants?

    1. Anonymous- I am holding on to the seat of my pants! Now we might have the computers updated in our classrooms for testing. I did hear about the boards too. I have not been able to issue textbooks to my students to take home, but they have them in their desks. In my grade level the story is not tested but the concepts. But I would love for them to have the story to read at home. Many still do not have internet access. I do my testing on the computers that I have and some of the i-Pads which I still do not have a class set. I am to the point I do not believe anything that Wardnyski says anymore.

  18. RE: Hsv Council of PTAs …. when they nominated Wardynski for Supt of the Year, that told me exactly which political corner they stood in. How much effort did the Council put forth with respect to strategic planning of the 1:1? If they did put forth any effort, why wasn’t it communicated to all card carrying PTA members?

    1. Concerned Parent, have you seen the Hsv Council of PTA’s fb page? They are avidly, unabashedly, and blindly promoting Wardynski and his actions. I guess they should change their name, b/c they certainly aren’t representing parents or teachers.

  19. Teachers’ certification information can be found at http://t.cert.alsde.edu/Portal/Public/Pages/SearchCerts.aspx
    “Student Incident Reports” from 2010-2011 are also online ns.1hsv.k12.al.us/dept/merts/pupilservices/SIR_Data.pdf

    For ’10-’11, 49 students were expelled, 64 sent to alternative setting, and 183 sent to alternative school. I could not find SIR’s for last year.
    Parents should also be aware that colleges and universities are advising students in their education departments NOT to apply to HCS. I hope more parents, and the general community, speak up. All of our current certified teachers have a degree, most have a masters in education. They KNOW how to teach, they should not be asked to read from a script.
    Wardynski has been spouting about “differentiation”. How can this happen if you aren’t allowed to modify your script?

    1. teachingmom- I looked up the names of two of the TFA’s I work with. They are listed as having an alternative certificate that has expired. There is nothing that will tell a parent that this person is a TFA teacher.

        1. Indeed it is. FYI: TFA is regularly lobbying Congress to have TFAers classified as “highly-qualified” by virtue of being a TFAer. No other qualification required.

    2. Regarding the Star Reading Test—high school level. My son told me tonight that the reading test was the same he has taken more that once. He said the math test was familar but couldn’t be certain it was the same.

      Someone else commenting on a HT article said their child reported take the same test as before. I guess if you give the same test over and over, scores go up!

        1. Repeating the same test within a 2-year period invalidates most real achievement tests (refer specifically to WIAT and Woodcock-Johnson). Just saying…

  20. I am so glad to hear colleges and universities’ education departments are encouraging their seniors NOT to apply to HCS. The word needs to travel near and FAR. Knowing what I know I knew for the discipline data to be manipulated it had to be through non-reporting. If that is done it will explode in one manner or another Columbine in the making….too close to Aurora. I am available to help.

  21. Sorry about that Bandet. I looked up my and some other teachers’ information. I don’t have the name of a TFA teacher, so was unsure how it would come up. “an alternative certification that has expired” would be a red flag.

    1. My approach is just to ask the teacher and trust that they will tell you the truth.

      The problem is that getting your child moved from a classroom is EXTREMELY difficult once school has begun, and much of this information (like the state database) isn’t updated until after school has begun.

      But I do appreciate the information. Parents should be informed of whom their teachers are and what their background is.

      Again, if TFAers are so amazing, why is the district hiding who they are?

  22. I am a parent of 3 that go to Huntsville High School and have been noticing a number of problems with the digital transition and decided to volunteer to help solve these problems. The school district has been more than willing to accept my help. I just started reading this blog after google search turned it up with my name in it. At first I was thinking that it was a “witch hunt” but after reading all the comments it is clearly a great collection of all the issues that are currently present in the school system. So I am going to try and collect all these issues in one document and offer my help to try and resolve any of them that have not been addressed. They have created a help desk and a trouble ticketing system that is supposed to be aimed at addressing these issues. Is it working?

    1. Mr. Kirby:

      Thank you for your assistance in the district. I appreciate your willingness to volunteer your services. You certainly have more expertise than I on matters related to computer networking. I too volunteer at both of my kids schools.

      Thank you for consolidating all of the information contained here. There are many unresolved issues contained here. If you have influence with the district, perhaps you could ask them why they thought it necessary to consolidate all the special education students, particularly those with autism, into basically three schools in the district. This was the original reason that I began going to the board meetings, speaking with district officials, and eventually writing about it here.

      I’ve been asking that question since March of 2011 in many various forums. I have yet to receive an answer.

      Thank you again for your willingness to serve and for taking the time to read my writings. I wish you well with your search for answers.

      Russell

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