Sixteen months ago, I wrote an open letter to Mr. David Blair explaining to him in great detail that he and the board of education had placed too heavy of a burden on Special Education in their efforts to cut our system’s budget. I told him, “We are placing at a minimum 41% of the budget cuts on just over 12% of the student population. These cuts have not been applied fairly and equitably.”
On July 16th, two weeks after Dr. Wardynski had been hired, I wrote him and the board of education to inform them that the RIF cuts had been unfairly applied to Special Education personnel. I again explained how SPED was responsible for 41% of the cuts.
Neither Dr. Wardynski, nor the board chose to respond to the data I shared with them.
SPED Unfairly Cut
But it seems now that the state is forcing the board to face up to the decisions that they approved without consideration. The state is also forcing Dr. Wardynski to face up to the decisions that he continued from the moment he arrived in July 2011 of balancing the budget on the backs of the neediest children in our district.
I made these facts clear to Dr. Wardynski and the board repeatedly. The only response he ever offered, aside from having district security threaten me, was to say, “The short and sweet answer is free, appropriate education in the least restrictive environment as I’ve explained to you before. We are not required to meet any specific funding level. We are only required to meet the requirements of the IEPs.”
When I pointed out to him that IEPs were not being met, Dr. Wardynski responded:
“Then su . . . then you have recourse.”
This callous approach toward Special Education children continued and worsened during his tenure.
Wardynski Deepens The Cuts
The first budget for 2012 called for a seven million dollar cut in the special education budget. In other words, SPED was being asked to shoulder 61% of the projected savings for the year.
Only after extensive complaints from me and others did Dr. Wardynski return the seven million that he cut from special education back to the budget. But not until the end of the fourth quarter of the 2012 fiscal year, did he actually attempt to spend those funds. Up until that point he was on a pace to spend just $20 million of the $27 million budgeted.
Then, miraculously, at the close of the second budget hearing in September he announced that the district would spend the total special education budget. At the end of the third quarter, the district had spent $16,135,493.12 of a budgeted $27,376,209.04. In other words, they had $11,240,715.92 left to spend in the fourth quarter of 2012. Here is the Special Education expenditures for three quarters of 2012. It shows that they had 41% of their budget left unspent at the conclusion of the third quarter.
This was why on Saturday, September 29, 2012, (or two days before the end of FY2012) my son’s special education resource room looked like this:
It was filled with all brand new furniture, teaching tools and supplies. While I certainly appreciate this material, it should have been purchased before school started so that its arrival wouldn’t interfere with instruction time (as it did on Friday, September 28th).
This was why on September 20th, the board voted to give Mrs. Amy Sledge, the Director of Special Education a substantial raise from Grade 3/Step 14 to Grade 2/Step 12.
The district had an extra $6 million that it was holding back until they had been forced–at the last minute, and upon threat from the state and the federal government–to meet the needs of our kids.
Breaking the Law is Neither “Efficient” Nor “Effective”
In response to the Times‘ report today, Dr. Wardynski typically stated:
“This is why the United States is going bankrupt. There is no room for being efficient and effective.”
It is neither efficient nor effective to balance your budget on the backs of the most needy children in our schools. The board’s decisions before Dr. Wardynski arrived led us to this place. Dr. Wardynski’s decisions since arriving will lead to the state applying additional penalties for the FY2012 SPED budget cuts. Stephens’ report hints at exactly this when he writes, “Huntsville may also owe about $1 million for reduced spending in 2012.”
This is not an oversight. This is not the result of being “efficient and effective.” This is the intentional result, despite a year and a half of warning from me and others, of a superintendent and a board that are more concerned about their own aides, their own salaries, and their own well being, than they are about the well-being of our children.
This has been evident since nearly the day Dr. Wardynski was hired. This is evident in his name-calling of parents who ask questions. This is evident in his disregard of wrong-doing at The Pinnacle Schools. This is evident in his disregard of student safety so that he can brag about how awesome his decisions are. This is evident in his blaming of the victim, the family of the victim, and even the entire community for problems and issues that his decisions and un-written policies have created.
Board Ignores Wake-Up Calls
This $2.6 million dollars wake-up call to the board should draw their attention to the fundamentally unfair and illegal approach that the superintendent has taken in the leadership of our schools. But I’m sure it won’t.
The Huntsville City Schools Board of Education will, I am certain, continue to claim that they didn’t know they were breaking the law. They will pretend that they don’t hear the disdain with which he speaks to them, to our teachers, to our parents, and most importantly to our students.
TECHNOLOGY CANNOT REPLACE TEACHERS AND AIDES
They will, I am sure, go right on believing his ridiculous claims that it’s far better for our students to receive “new technology and equipment” rather than personnel.
My son is autistic. He’s one of the reasons that I’ve been fighting so hard for the past two years to shed light on the actions of this superintendent and board. He LOVES his iPad.
But here’s the thing: My son doesn’t need another iPad. What he needs are teachers and aides who love him, who are fairly paid for their work, and who pound away at the fog of autism despite the total lack of concern and support they receive from Dr. Wardynski and the board of education.
Despite the joy his technology brings him, nothing but great teachers have ever brought out the joy and happiness seen below:
Dr. Wardynski wants to continue to run off great teachers and aides and replace them with computers because he believes them to be cheaper.
His destruction of our school system must be brought to an end, immediately.