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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.