43 Resignations and Retirements and Counting

I took this photo with Pro HDR for the iPhone!

Since the beginning of school on August 20th, 43 people have retired or resigned, and excluding a single comment by Mr. Blair at the September 4th board meeting, the board has been silent about these numbers. Of the 43 who have resigned or retired, 19 were teachers and an additional 4 worked directly with students.

This is just the beginning.

A year ago when the Montgomery was making dramatic changes to the teachers’ insurance and retirement system, it was news when a total of 19 people (including 9 teachers and 2 instructional assistants) retired in order to get out before the legislature significantly raised the cost of participating in PEEHIP (the insurance and retirement plan).

This was troublesome news because the Alabama legislature, in their infinite wisdom, decided to implement these changes at the end of a calendar year right in the middle of the school year. In other words, these retirements were taking place during the most disruptive time possible for the classrooms and the lives of the students.

These teachers did not want to do this, but the legislature left them little to no choice. And the board was quick to criticize the legislature for this decision.

In the end, the mid-year retirements were nowhere near as bad as the district had anticipated. There were a total of 49 employees who retired before the December 1, 2011 deadline according to Belinda Williams as reported in the Huntsville Times. Of those 49, 21 were teachers.

So over a four month period last year, the district lost 49 employees.

In half that time this year, the district has lost 43 employees, 19 of whom are teachers.

If we include the retirements or resignations that occurred immediately before school began on August 20th, that number climbs to 75. And the board, having no one to blame but themselves, is silent.

Except of course when they blame the teachers (blaming the victim in other words–they’ve learned well) for doing this terrible thing to these kids.

Has this board ever taken responsibility for anything?

When Dr. Wardynski, or the board of education, or the Huntsville Council of PTAs, or even our Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tries to make the claim that everything is wonderful in Huntsville City Schools, that all is going well with the digital transition, 43 needs to be flashing in your mind.

And before someone tries to make the claim that these are all just “old” teachers who didn’t want to learn new ways, keep this in mind: 18 of the 43 were not old enough to retire. They simply chose to resign rather than face the hostile working environment that Dr. Wardynski has created here in Huntsville.

No matter what Michael Robbins from the Department of Education heard from prompted students, the number 43 clearly demonstrates that the digital initiative has not made the lives of at least 475 of our students better (19 classrooms of approximately 25 students each). I wonder if he met with any of those students? He certainly didn’t meet with those 19 teachers or their student’s parents.

And Robbins claimed that he received a lot of unvarnished assessments of the impact that Dr. Wardynski’s rushed implementation of this digital initiative has had. I’m sure that’s one number that wasn’t shared with him.

If you’d like to share with Mr. Robbins your assessment of the impact that this plan has had, email him via the Department of Education at michael.robbins@ed.gov. Since the Huntsville Council of PTAs decided to keep the public meeting with a public official in a public school about public education closed to the public, you might want to email Mr. Robbins to let him know of your experiences with the digital transition.

You might also want to speak for our teachers. (Funny how the PTA supposedly includes teachers, and yet they have little to no voice in this association, isn’t it?)

Let me say, once again, that I am not opposed to using technology in a classroom. I’m willing to bet that the 19 teachers who have resigned or retired are not opposed to it either. What we’re opposed to is simply the way that this is being implemented in our district. It has been rushed. It has forced upon our teachers and our students without sufficient planning or preparation. And the question of what’s best for our students has had no impact on the decision-makers.

Is the digital transition the only reason teachers are leaving? Of course not. But the hostile working environment Dr. Wardynski has intentionally created and implemented with the digital transition is.

Ultimately the digital transition, which is being spoken of as inevitable, has served just two purposes for Dr. Wardynski: First, he is using it to pad his resumé, which hopefully he will put to use soon. Second, it is being used to force good, dedicated, highly-qualifed teachers out of the classroom, the district, and sometimes the profession.

The district was intentionally unprepared for this transition. The reason that no one on the board is bemoaning the resignations and retirements of our teachers and the rest of our staff is because this is exactly what they were hoping would happen. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you wish, but the numbers in this case are directly from the district and they, as Dr. Wardynski likes to claim, don’t lie.

The exit of 43 district personnel in just eight weeks of school is the most significant impact of the digital transition thus far.

That number is going to jump significantly over the next few months.

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


  1. How long before Dr Dubya claims that losing one person a day is helping keep the school district financially healthy? And healthy is certainly better than unhealthy.

    And when test scores begin to drop, that is because two teachers a week are ABANDONING our children.

    Remember, when Dr Dubya was hired, 26% of our leaders were strong. That number is closer to 65% now. Things are getting better.

    1. Given that the school board recently approved incentives for teachers to provide more notice of their intent to leave (rather than offer increased support to keep them in the classroom), I’d say that that argument has already been made. If the district can afford to pay people — at least up to the first 100– to leave, obviously teacher departures are part of a “financially healthy” environment. Right?

      1. Be accurate. The incentives are not paying people to retire, they are paying people who plan to retire for giving advanced notice. I, for one, like the idea that my children might have a better chance of getting a quality teacher instead of getting stuck with whoever happens to be available at the last minute (TFA or other warm body). But I am sure it has pushed some who were considering retirement to consider it more strongly.

        1. In the first sentence of what I wrote, I indicated that the incentives were for “more notice of…intent to leave.” That is essentially the same description that you used, isn’t it?

          I don’t think that TFA placements can be made on a last minute basis because of the logistics of the program, and it is my guess that the advanced notice actually increases the chances that a classroom will get a TFA instructor rather than “a quality teacher.” Note that I am not offering this last as fact.

  2. Robbin’s didn’t come here to “learn” about Digitial 1.1, he came here to promote it and speak to a round table at the Chamber of Commerce. He is not interested in the truth, Who we need to write to is President Obama.

  3. If you look on the ASDE website Wardynski has still not passed the Alabama certification test. Why hasn’t he been fired?

  4. On June 1, I retired from the career that I had enthusiastically planned to continue for at least twenty more years. Not only was teaching my vocation, teaching was and still is my avocation. Since I retired, I am continuing to enjoy my hobby of teaching–but without the traumatic environment created by the administrators.
    Increased technology brought delightful challenges and increased success in my classrooms. I have always embraced individualized, continuous progress education; and Renaissance Learning, Inc., provided accurate and easily applied strategies with enormous data management capabilities. The school systems are using the testing part of the Renaissance programs, but not connecting with the instructional aspect; so the results for the teachers and students are deplorable.
    After several excellent colleagues suffered strokes and other debilitating illnesses, and after I experienced mini-strokes and a mild heart attack, all because of the way the administrators controlled (or lacked control of) the school environment, I knew that I needed to leave the job that I loved and teach outside the system.
    After leaving public education, my blood pressure has dropped from 200/160 to 100/60, I am taking half as much medication, and my health has improved tremendously.
    I am thankful that I was wise enough to escape from that environment so that I shall be able to provide true education and to inspire learning in children and their families for many years to come.
    My regret is that there are so many other teachers who are still caught in the web of bureaucracy with its unsatisfactory leaders. There are, thankfully, a few good men and women in leadership positions in the system. I wish they had the courage and the ability to rectify the sad state of our school system.
    Our children need better, the families need better, and, most certainly, the teachers who are giving their time, energy, resources, and lives for the community need a better system.

      1. Thank you Ms. Williams! You sound like a lot of us at my school. Too many of my colleagues are looking real hard at the possibility of getting out. We are now expected to work 24/7. New paperwork is handed to us daily, sometimes with no turn around time. We are expected to look at emails and Edmodo outside of school hours. I have no life because I spend my nights and weekends doing school work. And if I do attempt to enjoy my family and friends I get further behind in school work. With no breaks, no pay increases, and more work loads its no wonder that more teachers are not leaving.

        1. And who wins if teachers like Ms. Williams and Bandet leave? Not the children who are the HOPE of our republic that’s for sure.

  5. Many that left in 2011 retired. They either had the time in or did not want to fool with the 1;1 digital. If a person wants to leave or retire don’t blame that on the board. Its a choice that individual has made not the board or the super. This one is a stretch. If you don’t want to teach then step aside because I assure you that plenty of others will be glad to take your place.

    1. As I stated in the post, yes the 49 who left in 2011 before December did so because the state was changing the retirement package. So yes, those 49 retired.

      They left because they didn’t wish to suffer from the increase in costs that the state was placing on them.

      That was, in other words, one of the worst years for middle of the year retirement.

      This year is going to be worse.

      The digital 1:1 imitative was not announced until June of 2012, it would not have had any affect on retirements that happened in 2011.

      Since the superintendent and the board have created a hostile working environment that is leading to a dramatic increase in mid-year resignations and retirements, then I will hold them accountable for these changes.

      If we’re all just conspiracy theorists anyway (as you stated on an earlier post), then aren’t all the posts “a stretch” to you?

      The real question then becomes why you’re bothering to read this blog at all, Redline?

      Thanks for sharing your opinion. It’s a shame it’s not more informed.

  6. Redline, the problem with your statement is that you have no clue how much work a teacher does inside and outside the classroom. It is not the 1:1 digital; that is driving away veteran teachers. Its the amount of work being dumped on them. And now we are expected to work 24/7. I seriously doubt that new teachers will put up with that.

    1. “the problem with your statement is that you have no clue how much work a teacher does inside and outside the classroom. It is not the 1:1 digital; that is driving away veteran teachers. Its the amount of work being dumped on them. And now we are expected to work 24/7. I seriously doubt that new teachers will put up with that.”

      This is the mentality of those in charge of the public school system. This is the environment in which teachers/principals/support personnel are working in.How are the children expected to lear, and what are they learning as a result?

  7. Regarding the laptop vs. textbook war, I read this morning in my child’s school paper (Huntsville High) that the school is in the process of getting textbooks for EVERY student. Finally, a positive response to the onslaught of complaints of having to use a laptop in place of a text. Not to say that laptops are great “tools” that can be effectively used in the classroom, but they should not be forced on students who clearly do not want them as their primary source of textual material. Wardynski is simply a bonehead to continue to think that everyone embraces digital learning and that it is a more effective way to learn. It is not. Laptops do not empathize, do not tailor their explanations to individual students, do not listen to a student’s approach to problem solving, do not appreciate the creativity brought forth by a student, etc. etc. What I said, or at least tried to convey to the Board a few months ago is that we (the Huntsville community) did not have a chance to vet this process, to weigh in on where and how the process was to proceed, or to be provided options. It was “here it is, I know what’s good for you, and you’ll learn to like it or else.” I know many technologially advanced people in this community who still prefer a document to read and review, both for the comfort and the convenience. Don’t get me wrong, laptops have their benefits and can be a useful “tool.” But its usage should be corrobated with the trained and experienced educators in our schools for how best to use them. We don’t need an administrator with zero teaching experience dictating how our students should be taught.

    1. So now we have text books for every child AND laptops/iPads for every child. So where is the savings?

  8. HCS must be saving a lot of $$$. Four positions posted on Job Board — Procurement Director, Senior Buyer, Software Specialist, and Systems Specialist.

  9. Did you see the report on WAFF that there have been 81 arrests in HCS? This shows that the truth is being hidden concerning the discipline problems in HCS; furthermore, the “engagement” of the 1:1 initiative is not accurate either! Btw does anyone know how many students are at Pinnacle? 81 students have been arrested. The procedure in the past has been to cycle the students through Seldon after a few days at Neaves. I wonder what the procedure is now?

    1. When I taught at a local middle school, I acquired the habit of reading the newspaper police reports of violence in schools. The current newspaper is substandard on reporting any kind of crimes, other than theft of laptops.
      Eighty-one arrests is an improvement, if the arrests are fairly made.
      In the past, putting poison into a teacher’s beverage earned one or two days suspension. The same consequences were given for physical assault resulting in bodily harm to a teacher.
      Even when a student was taken to court, found guilty, and ordered by the judge to pay restitution and medical costs, to attend anger management training, and to stay away from the teacher, the child flouted the orders and continued to threaten the teacher during school hours, and even injured another teacher who also filed a police report.
      Discipline must include specific rules with indisputable consequences that are applied equally and consistently to any child who breaks those rules.
      If a child cannot, for some reason, obey the system’s rules, then the child needs to be in a specialized class that will attend to that child’s handicaps.
      If we do not enforce rules from early childhood throughout adolescence, it is unlikely these children will mature into law-abiding citizens.
      In addition, the health and well-being of every adult and child in the school is at risk; and the effectiveness of teaching is notably diminished.

    2. Yes, I did see it. I also saw that Huntsville’s numbers are twice as high as Birmingham’s.

      There will be much more written about this tonight.

  10. Education Week Online has a well-written article by Elementary school Principal Peter DeWitt. He lists specific reasons why some of the best teachers leave public education. The reasons can be summarized, in my opinion, on the obstructionism to authentic teaching, denial of the teachers’ selection of strategies that will best meet each student’s specific needs, and increasing demand that educators contribute from their own income and far beyond school hours to provide the necessities for teaching.


    For me, the obstruction to individualized, continuous-progress teaching and the violent tyranny of the administration were the reasons that I left public education. I had planned to teach in Title I schools for twenty more years, but now I have other pathways that have opened for me.

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