Remember last year when the Alabama State Legislature decided that giving a gift to a teacher was just the worst possible thing that any one could ever do?
Suddenly giving a teacher a small Christmas gift was on par with lobbyists attempting to purchase influence with our legislature. It was suddenly a Class B Felony for teachers to accept a gift that could possibly be resold from a five-year old. Any gift must have a “de minimis” value.
It was, just one more way for legislators to abuse our teachers.
De Minimis Undefined
And of course the legislature refused to define what “de minimis” might mean. The Ethics Commission stepped in and told us that de minimis meant that the gift could have no value at resell. So gift cards were out.
In response, Dr. Wardynski release a memo on December 7, 2011 that stated clearly that “gift cards with a specific monetary value are NOT permissible.”
So the district followed along, having no choice, and complaining about it loudly. Finally our board and superintendent had some bad news that they could blame on someone else.
The board and superintendent encouraged everyone to contact their representative and let them know that this law over reached and should be changed.
Guess what? The district (and it seems all the others across the state) listened, and did just that.
Legislature Response With A Clear Definition
In August 2012, the legislature passed an amendment (Act No. 2012-433) to the Ethics and Campaign Finance Law that finally offered a definition of de minims:
(11) DE MINIMIS: A value twenty-five dollars ($25) or less per occasion and an aggregate of fifty dollars ($50) or less in a calendar year from any single provider, or such other amounts as may be prescribed by the Ethics Commission from time to time by rule pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act or adjusted each four years from the date of the enactment of this amendatory act to reflect any increase in the cost of living as indicated by the United States Department of Labor Consumer Price Index or any succeeding equivalent index.
So it is finally crystal clear from the legislature what the meaning of “de minims” is: a single gift of $25 or less and a total of $50 or less in a calendar year. AL.com reported on this story back on December 5th.
It would seem that the legislature finally realized that giving a teacher a small gift card of $25 or less would not result in pandemonium.
Wardynski and the Board Ignore State Law: Bah Humbug
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Christmas Tree.
Suddenly our district leadership decided that the memo they released eight months before the passage of this Act took precedence over the legislature.
When the holiday season rolled around again this year, the district begin redistributing the superintendent’s memo from last year proclaiming that “gift cards with a specific monetary value are NOT permissible.”
Calls to the central office from parents, PTA members, and principals (in response to parental questions) have received verification that the memo stands.
Appeals to the board members have not been responded to (big surprise).
And so despite their complaints about the actions of the legislature a year ago, despite their encouragement of the public to have the law changed, despite the fact that the law was changed, Dr. Wardynski has not updated his memo from a year earlier.
Perhaps he prefers it this way? Perhaps taking away one of the few ways that a family can say thank you to a teacher serves his purposes of running off ever more teachers during his tenure as superintendent.
Or maybe he’s just being lazy. (I wouldn’t want to be accused of being a conspiracy theorist or anything.)
Either way, this year it is his turn to play the role of Scrooge in our ongoing game of abuse the teacher. He, along with the full support of the board of education, are the ones telling teachers that they cannot be trusted if they receive a small gift from a child wishing to say thanks this holiday.
Dr. Wardynski and the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education are the ones to blame for this abusive policy. And we need to hold them accountable.
Voting To Extend Wardynski’s Abuse of Teachers
The last board meeting of the year will be held Thursday, December 20th, at 5:30pm. The issue of gifts to teachers is not currently on the agenda, but guess what is?
Yep, the board will be voting on extending Dr. Wardynski three-year contract (which is half up) for another three years. They’ve offered no reasonable justification for this even being voted on at this time, but they will be voting on it anyway. If you, like I, think this is a bad idea given the fact that our district cannot afford to lose yet another 984 teachers over the next four and a half years (we’ve lost 246 in the first 18 months of Wardynski’s administration), then call or write your board member before Thursday night and ask them to vote against this ridiculous request for a 6 year contract from Dr. Wardynski.
Our schools will not survive if you don’t.