Tuesday I spent my lunch hour being honored at the American Education Week Luncheon which was sponsored by the NEA and a local organizing committee under the direction of Dr. Roy E. Malcolm of Oakwood University. It was a nice luncheon, and being recognized as a Chancellor’s Award nominee from Drake State was quite nice. Frankly being in the room with a few of the Teachers of the Year in the Madison County area was the true honor. It was clear that I was among a group of educators who have committed their lives to improving our nation through education.
Honestly, I’m not at that level yet. I appreciated the nod, but I’m still learning this craft of education. Maybe when I’m 90, and I’ve been teaching for fifty or sixty years, I might be worthy of having my name called out with those teachers I had lunch with yesterday.
But I wasn’t the only one recognized at the luncheon.
You see, all of the area Superintendents were there and present to honor their teachers of the year. But unlike Dr. Copeland and Dr. Fowler, Dr. Wardynski was honored at the luncheon as well. The introduction and justification for his Special Award was long, and I didn’t capture it all between bites of carrot cake, but the gist of the award was for bringing technology into the district and “being an agent of change.”
An Agent of Change
Education is about change. When I was much younger and deciding where to attend seminary after college, I had a bunch of friends from church warn me about going off to Southern Seminary in Louisville. Their constant refrain was, “Don’t let it change you.”
I never understood that sentiment.
If education doesn’t change you, what good does it accomplish?
I sincerely hope that I am an agent of change in the lives of my students. God knows, they are an agent of change for me. That’s what education is: exposure to the new and unknown and allowing that to change your outlook on life.
And so, being known as an agent of change can be high praise. But in order for to evaluate this, we have to have some context to the changes he has brought to the district. Otherwise being an agent of change is just as nebulous as Atticus telling Mrs. Debose that she looks like a picture. He don’t say a picture of what.
Unless we place Dr. Wardynski’s change within context, there’s little way to know if his agency is good or bad.
Running Good Teachers Off
One contextual clue that we can use to evaluate Dr. Wardynski’s agency of change is the number of mid year retirement and resignations. As of November 1, 2012, or the 53rd day of school, we have seen a total of 52 district employees either resign or retire.
This number doesn’t include the 46 who stood in line on November 1st to sign up for the district’s new retirement incentive.
He has certainly been an agent of change in the makeup of our schools this year.
Some of you may be like a few of our board members when you read this number and think, great, lazy teachers who don’t want to teach are getting out. It’s about time.
Perhaps your opinion is similar to Mrs. Morrison’s and Mr. Blair’s opinions on September 20th when they claimed that the young TFAers were better able to “relate” to their students because they are so young themselves? Perhaps you agree with Mrs. Morrison at the last board meeting on the 1st when she proclaimed, “Teachers are children grown tall” to supposedly defend them against Dr. Robinson’s feigned outrage that we have to incentivize teachers to not take time off. (Yes, Dr. Robinson, even in the “real” world, people get time off.)
With friends like these on the board, is it any wonder that our teachers and staff are leaving in droves?
Honestly, the real question should be why more haven’t left.
The answer to that is simple, but sometimes the simple answers are the hardest to grasp: Our teachers stay and teach, BECAUSE THEY LOVE OUR KIDS.
What We Are Losing
TFAers get praised (usually by other TFAers) for being “involved in their students’ lives.” Mr. Blair certainly took up that argument when they invited him to attend a reception for the new TFAers we’ve hired here in Huntsville. His claim that their youth helps them relate to their students is regularly touted as one of the strengths of having a young teacher.
My experience is significantly different.
One of the 46 who stood in line on November 1st to retire was Mrs. Jerilyn Pang, a second grade teacher at Mt. Gap Elementary (oh, excuse me, just Mt. Gap now thanks to some other of the “change” Wardynski has enacted).
Mrs. Pang has been teaching for nearly 30+ years. She has raised a daughter who has followed in her footsteps as a teacher. She has sponsored the Math Club at Mt. Gap for years and is one of the primary reasons that Grissom has regularly produced a world class math team for so long. Mrs. Pang could have, and probably would have, retired years ago. Honestly, it would have made good financial sense for her to do so.
But she didn’t.
And do you know why?
Because she loves her students. She loves seeing them excel. She loves helping them fall in love with education.
Mrs. Pang is retiring at the end of the year.
She will be joined in retirement by one of the best second grade teachers I have ever known, Mrs. Gayle Dodson.
This is the change that the AEW Committee “honored” on Tuesday. A change that drives the best of our teachers out the door. A change that drives our teachers who give their own time, energy and love to their students out of the classroom. A change that replaces a teacher with the experience to be able to look at a child and know exactly the right thing to say to heal a broken heart because they’ve done it a thousand times.
That’s the change that the American Educator’s Week and the NEA were honoring on Tuesday when they honored Dr. Wardynski.
As I said, with “friends” like these, it’s a wonder that any of our teachers survive long enough to reach retirement age.
But that’s the goal of this change. To make sure that our schools are staffed with cheap, inexperienced test proctors. Teachers just aren’t worth it to Dr. Wardynski and his corporate backers any more.
And every day we lose another lifetime of experience and expertise to this man’s inept handling of our district.
The More Things Change . . .
At the board meeting tonight, the school board will be discussing some “modifications” to the superintendent’s contract. If I had to bet, I would put my money on an extension. After all, none of the three board members who voted to hire him will want to deal with his contract during an election year.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
There will be a board meeting tonight at 5:30. If you can’t come in person, please follow me on twitter @russwinn or on the GeekPalaver Facebook Page. You can also watch the meeting live on channels 17 (Comcast) or 99 (Knology) beginning at 5:30pm. The district also streams the meeting on the web on the district web site.