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Wardynski’s Zero Sum Game of Abusing Teachers

Classroom

Here in Huntsville, the teachers and staff of our district, most of whom have given their time, their money, their very lives for our schools, are being systematically insulted, embarrassed, bullied, and abused on a daily basis.

They are being told that they are not dedicated. They are being told that anyone can do their jobs. They are being labeled as rude, inconsiderate, hostile, and insubordinate.

They are being treated like children who are incapable of thinking for themselves.

They are being hit, spat upon, bitten, and threatened by both students and their supervisors. They are being hit, spat upon, bitten and threatened by students, and their supervisors are ignoring the issues of safety and are, in fact, threatening the teachers jobs if they report it.

And they feel like they are completely and totally alone in this.

They have difficulty knowing whom they can trust.

They have a tough time trusting each other because of the district’s policy to pit teacher against teacher in test scores. Star Test results have become a zero sum game to the superintendent. He’s convinced that there can only be one winner. If you’re not number one in your grade, you’re a loser.

They can’t trust their principals because they tend to be the one carrying out the abuse. People who are themselves being abused by their supervisors often become abusers in turn. This is regularly happening in Huntsville. Principals who are looking to complete just one or two more years before they can retire, are doing whatever they can to let the shit flow down hill. (I’m please to say that this isn’t the case with every principal, but it is the case with many of them.)

This zero sum game has hit them, too. They’re being told that if their test scores in reading and math aren’t “the best in the district” then their successes are irrelevant.

They can’t trust their professional organizations because the representatives of that organization are regularly taking a go-along, get-along approach with the district leadership on issues such as reinstating scale raises, and school turn-around models.

They certainly can’t trust the feckless board of education that rubber stamps every abusive action the bully of a superintendent wishes to enact.

Some of them even celebrate the our educators leaving.

A zero sum game hurts everyone. But that’s what Wardynski wants: he wants everyone to hurt and to quit. So far 165 teacher and staff have decided, enough is enough, and have either announced their retirement or just walked away.

One-hundred and sixty-five since September 4, 2012.

If we don’t do something now, that number will increase by a factor of five at the end of this year.

And you and I as parents are the only ones who can do anything at all to make this better.

If you think this isn’t happening at your child’s school, you are deluding yourself. This abuse is happening everywhere in this district because abusing others is all that our insecure, immature superintendent seems to be good at.

If you care about your child’s education, if you care about living in a town that values education, please consider doing at least one of the follow:

  1. Talk to your child’s teachers, support staff, and aides in person. Tell them that you can’t believe the pressure that they must be working under and that you’re sorry they’re facing it. If this is the first time you’ve spoken to them this year, don’t expect them to open up to you first. They can’t. But don’t let that drive you away.
  2. Tell them how much you appreciate what they have done for your child this year. Be genuine and specific. You won’t believe how long it has been since they’ve heard a simple thank you.
  3. Take them a small snack, or if you see them out in town, take an opportunity to pay it forward. Celebrate the gifts that they have given your children publicly and loudly.
  4. Call and write their principal, and tell the him or her how much you appreciate the work that your child’s teachers have done for your child. Be specific. If you know that they have gone beyond their jobs descriptions (believe me, they have), let the principal know.
  5. Call and write your school board member. Tell them about how hard your teachers, support staff, and aides are working. Ask them to please do more to support them and to end the hostile working environment they have allowed to grow.
  6. I would suggest you write Dr. Wardynski, but honestly, he doesn’t care. Communicating with parents is nothing but a hassle to him. You would be wasting your time.
  7. Call and write your State School Board member about the abuse that you see for yourself here in our district. You may contact Mary Scott Hunter at hunter@maryscotthunter.com or (888) 531-1312.
  8. Talk to your child. Ask him or her about school and what’s happening. Trust me, as much as we adults sometimes think we are shielding our kids from harsh realities of life, we aren’t. Children always know. Always.

It’s time to stand up for the people who are willing to lay down their lives for our kids.

Do It Now. Please. Otherwise you’ll likely soon find your child in an empty classroom on the losing end of this zero sum game.

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

25 Comments

  1. Thank you for giving a voice to the abused teachers. My husband is a teacher and I know that if it weren’t for the fact that he supports our family then he would have left long ago. It’s horrible. W has come into his school and literally cussed out the teachers. Can you imagine?? These are the people who give their lives to educate our children. My husband is a great teacher, but he is made to feel like he’s terrible. It’s just awful and I can’t wait for the day when W is gone. I pray for that to happen every day.

  2. Make that 166. My 90 year old grandmother has been with the school system as a cafeteria worker for 48 years and had no intention of leaving anytime soon because she loved her job, has turned in her resignation.. She had to be out for an extended leave from November to January for back problems. Just last week, her boss put her on a new job that involved heavy lifting. When questioned she said “you will do it because Im the boss”. She has bullied her long enough. On Friday she called her supervisor to say she wasnt coming back, to which she simply said “Ok, good luck”. My grandmother who gave 48 years of her life to a job she loved, both on and off the clock has walked away without so much as a thank you from anyone with Huntsville City Schools. She goes next week to make her retirement official and I guess they are glad to get rid of her. Its a crying shame.

  3. We don’t need no stinking teachers, we have I-Pads and Laptops. Snark. Russell, I agree parents need to stand up and do something, but let’s get real…half of the parents don’t know what the heck is going on, and the other half doesn’t give a damn. Teachers are going to have to find the courage to stand up for themselves and most importantly stand up for public education. Education is the hope of the republic and children are our future.
    http://dianeravitch.net/2013/03/14/why-did-the-teachers-strike-in-chicago/

  4. I think there is a combination of problems here. First off, the support staff that is being run off to replace them with temporary workers who they pay less and don’t get benefits, I think is completely wrong and does no one any good in the long run. If there is profanity being used towards any employee it is completely inappropriate.
    However, with regards to teachers, I as a parent can tell you first hand that there are several teachers who have left, that I am relieved to see gone and not negatively impacting children’s lives anymore. Let’s not put our blinders on and pretend that every teacher out there is in it for the love of the children and education. There are still many who should be gone. They have treated children like dogs years before Dr. Wardynski was there so I don’t blame him for the trickle down of their nasty behaviour.
    Competition for test scores….not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t think people should be berated over it, but I certainly think it’s a good thing to know where you stand. Top peformers are rewarded??? Welcome to the real world it works that way for students as well, valedictorian, honor society, college scholarhips etc.
    I believe the system was in a total state of disrepair and things had to change…..two extremes never find a balance easily. I feel sure it will improve with time, but a major overhaul is never painless!

    1. Monica,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this with me. There are several points that you’ve raised that are, in my opinion, completely off base.

      First, I’m glad that we agree that replacing positions with temporary workers is problematic. I agree. I also agree that using profanity toward an employee is inappropriate.

      Second, are there teachers who shouldn’t be teaching? Of course there are. Just as there are doctors, lawyers, priests, wait staff, custodians, and superintendents who shouldn’t be doing their jobs. However, I completely disagree with your assertion that “there are still many who should be gone.” What exactly are you basing this assessment on? Your personal experience? What if my personal experience of those same teachers is positive? Does this mean that it’s a good idea to create a hostile working environment that demoralizes everyone to get rid of these horrible “still many who should be gone?” Isn’t that similar to saying there are a few who abuse guns so we should ban all guns? Or since there are some who speed on the parkway, we should ban cars?

      Your solution is far worse than the problem that it purports to correct.

      Third, should there be evaluation and assessment of teachers? Of course. Every teacher I know agrees that people should evaluate their performance and help them improve in their teaching ability. All that they ask is that the method of evaluation be fair. When you’re evaluated at work, do you find it helpful to be criticized for things completely beyond your control? Should you be evaluated on the success or failure of a program that you had nothing to do with?

      You might then wish to argue that, “no it isn’t fair, but it still happens.” You would be right. People are evaluated unfairly in the real world, but how exactly does that justify treating others unfairly?

      Your argument that competition for test scores is “not necessarily a bad thing” demonstrates that you believe that Wardynski’s zero sum game is the correct one. You believe that if a student isn’t the best, that their education is a complete failure. You believe that only the strongest one should survive.

      I disagree. I think a student who is second has still received an excellent education. In other words, there can be, there is, more than one winner.

      Basing everything on a standardized test score is a foolish approach to education. What if that second place student is a wonderful artist? Should that student be labeled a failure simply because the standardized test doesn’t test art ability?

      The basis of your argument is that schools should operate exactly like “the real world.” On this, we disagree. School isn’t “the real world.” It should instead be a safe place to help people prepare for “the real world.”

      You claim that “the system was in a total state of disrepair.” What are you basing this on? The budget? If so, what teacher was responsible for that budget? Those who were responsible for those budget decisions were not teachers. They were board members who approved every recommendation that Dr. Moore brought to them.

      And guess what, everyone of those board members, excluding one who retired, are still on the board. They are still making decisions, bad ones, that are still keeping our system in a total state of disrepair.

      The teachers, as a whole, were not responsible for the trouble that Huntsville City Schools found itself in. They were simply trying to make the best of the bad situation.

      And yet they are the ones being blamed by the superintendent. They are the ones being blamed by the board. They are the ones being blamed by the community. They are the ones evidently being blamed by you.

      If you don’t want to support your children’s teachers, that’s fine. That’s your choice. But don’t criticize others for thinking it’s a good idea to say thank you.

      On second thought, that’s fine, go ahead and criticize me. I’m going to continue to say thank you regardless if you wish to join in or not.

      Either way, as I said, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I do appreciate that. It helps me to understand this mess we’re in and why people are so loath to stand up and fight against it.

      Education is a good thing.

      Sincerely,
      Russell

  5. Redeye, you’re not entirely correct. There are many parents pulling their hair out because of the frustration. We have elected Board members to represent us. I write to mine (and the others) often, sometimes citing quotes from this blog, and certainly giving them the URL to get a look for themselves. Tell me…what are our options? W and his board are in their own world. They will tolerate listening to our “3 minutes of rant” at a Board Meeting but nothing comes of it. They extend W’s contract against our wishes. And on and on. I have spoken out often about the laptop issue and the general manner in which the new reich has moved in and redirected our course. What we need is a bigger forum. Why not more media coverage? Why not a dedicated column in the Huntsville Times whose sole purpose is to address these school issues and call out those responsible? Where is the teacher’s union in all this? Where is the State Board of Ed in all this? Please don’t say that half don’t know and the other half doesn’t give a damn.

  6. Russell,

    As is often the case, you take a very good point (our teachers are under stress and we should show them our appreciation) and ruin it by going all drama queen on us.

    “They are being hit, spat upon, bitten, and threatened by both students and their supervisors.”

    Teachers are being hit, spat upon, and bitten by their supervisors? I somehow find that hard to believe, but if true, they should be filing assault charges and the supervisors should be named and shamed. As for the students, that’s been going on for years. Under the ARM administration, I was told such incidents were routinely swept under the rug. No excuse for it, but it’s not new.

    “The teachers and staff of our district, most of whom have given their time, their money, their very lives for our schools…. It’s time to stand up for the people who are willing to lay down their lives for our kids.”

    Typically when you talk about someone giving “their very lives” and “laying down their lives,” it involves someone (literally) dying. If there are teachers being killed in Huntsville City Schools, the media has completely missed a huge story.

    “They’re being told that if their test scores in reading and math aren’t ‘the best in the district’ then their successes are irrelevant…. You believe that if a student isn’t the best, that their education is a complete failure. You believe that only the strongest one should survive. I disagree. I think a student who is second has still received an excellent education. In other words, there can be, there is, more than one winner.”

    As critical as I have been of Wardynski, I know of no one in the HCS administration who says a school or student who finishes second is a loser. That claim is a real eye-roller.

    You’re a smart guy, Russell, but you do yourself, your credibility, and the issues you care about no favors when you go on one of these unhinged rants full of overly-emotive assertions and shameless exaggerations. If half of this stuff you say is **literally** true, you need to start reporting specifics and help drum up some media interest. I’m not holding my breath.

    The Huntsville school system is absolutely hurting and in major trouble, and our teachers are getting a raw deal. No argument there. But if I were Wardynski, I would see posts like this one as a great tool for discrediting my legitimate opponents by association. Get a grip on yourself.

    1. Ben,

      Thank you for pointing out that my writing wasn’t clear. I do appreciate it. You are right. That sentence implied that supervisors are spitting on teachers, and that isn’t correct. I have altered that sentence so that my point is clearer. Thanks for the peer review.

      Concerning your questions of the other statements that I have made, I find your criticism interesting, but mistaken.

      First you write, “Under the ARM administration, I was told such incidents were routinely swept under the rug. No excuse for it, but it’s not new.” Your “no excuse” is in fact an excuse.

      Second, you criticize my use of the idea that teachers are “giving their very lives for our schools.”

      Have you spoken to teachers lately? I know of dozens who are facing severe health issues right now. They are operating under insane levels of stress that is impacting their health, their relationships, and their lives. That to me is giving your life for something. It’s fine if you disagree.

      In addition, I know that my kids’ teachers love my kids and that they would indeed lay down their lives for them. I know that they are staying in hostile working environments because of their love for these kids. I know this because I see it in their eyes when I’m in the schools. I hear it in their voices when I talk to them. I write what I know. If you choose not to believe me, that’s fine with me. I’m not in this so that I can win a popularity contest.

      Third, concerning the zero sum game: If you speak to teachers and administrators, you will find that they are told that if they aren’t in first place in the district, that they are indeed failing. I have two children at two different schools who have excellent test scores, but they are not the best in the district. They are, as a result of not being the best, being told that their successes do not matter. I have received similar reports from all across the district, including from

      My referencing the student’s performance was a response to Monica’s statement students are rated the “best” so teachers should be as well. That’s the context for that statement.

      You claim that my emotionalism is hurting my credibility and cause. Perhaps you’re right, but I’m not apologizing for it. I’m speaking with as much emotion as I can muster because I’m sick of the abuse that is being heaped on my kids teachers. I’m sick of my kids’ education suffering because some in this district either believe that abuse is an effective management style, or because their actual intention is to run off as many people as they possibly can.

      You claim that you won’t believe what I’ve written without specific, detailed examples. That’s a valid criticism. Unfortunately, I cannot be more specific at this time for fear of hurting people more. If that means that my credibility suffers right now, I don’t care. I’m not running for office. I’m simply seeking to encourage people to stop, look and listen to their teachers, and to support them. The stories are true, and the truth will eventually be supported by specific evidence (as I think it has been on every major claim that I have ever made on this blog). I believe that you will see specific evidence, as I have, if you go and talk to your child’s teachers and earn their trust.

      You state that you believe that the district is “absolutely hurting and in major trouble,” but that I should “get a grip on [myself].” Thanks for the advice.

      If you believe that the district is hurting and in major trouble, Ben, what are you doing to correct it?

      Thanks again for the suggestion about that initial sentence. I apologize for not proofreading more closely last night before I posted it. I will try and do better in that regard.

  7. Redeye, I must disagree with you. There are many parents who have an idea of what’s going on AND give a damn. The issue is how frustrated parents are to do anything. WE elected representatives on the Board who have fallen in lock-step with Wardynski. What exactly are our options? Sure, we can show up and speak our minds for our allotted 3 minutes at Board Meetings. What happens then is we get a very dispassionate gaze from board members while we speak, followed occasionally (when W feels like getting on his soap box) by a condescending speech countering our point. Been there, done that. Where is the teacher’s union? Where is the high profile media? Can we not perhaps get a dedicated column in the Huntsville Times to solely address school issues and call out those responsible? How about a representative from the State Board of Ed? When this lame Board of Ed awarded Wardynski an extension “just because he asked for one,” the writing was clearly on the wall. Perhaps civil disobedience is the answer. Perhaps there are some lessons we can learn from MLK and Ghandi that can be applied here. But please, don’t say that half of us don’t know what’s going on while the other half doesn’t give a damn. We’re all just mighty frustrated.

    1. “Perhaps civil disobedience is the answer. Perhaps there are some lessons we can learn from MLK and Ghandi that can be applied here. But please, don’t say that half of us don’t know what’s going on while the other half doesn’t give a damn. We’re all just mighty frustrated”

      I hope this is true, because you are going to get your chance to prove just that. We aren’t going to get a column in the Huntsville Times because that’s bad press, and this is all about money. No city or school official wants anything negative printed, and I know first hand they have a lot of pull over our media outlets. The High Profile Media are not here because NO ONE IS DOING ANYTHING! Look at what happened in Seattle….people took a stand, they spoke out, and they have moved a nation. We CAN do that here in Huntsville too. It will be more difficult because of the atmosphere of fear that has been created, but it CAN be done. I stood outside of four different schools for three months before every board meeting to encourage people to come and voice their concerns….I have organized rally’s in support of our students who are being bullied….I have organized an incentive dance for the kids of Butler who are, sadly, overlooked much of the time…..with very little support (It seemed it was always the same five people stepping up to help me) and I became very frustrated.

      Well I’m back, and I’m on fire. I don’t care anymore if it’s just me and the same group of 5. I have read, seen and heard things that have sickened me. The complacency must end and if it takes rally’s like mine, and Blog’s like Russell’s and others then that’s what we’ll do. Please…don’t be a slacktivist and just post your concerns and complaints….get active and involved. Join S.O.S. – Support Our Students on fb, and spread the word that there is a new movement and everyone that has concerns with our system needs to get involved. Change can happen, just ask the Garfield High School staff.

  8. Just this morning a teacher at Westlawn Elementary was struck SEVERAL times in the head by a student. Security was no where to be found….no one came to her aid.

  9. Russell – I’ve been following your blog for months but have been afraid to speak up. I am a special education teacher in Huntsville City Schools. I became a special ed. teacher for personal reasons and still remember my first day on the job. I loved it! I remember telling a co-worker that I can’t believe I get paid to do this. Teaching is, and will always be, my calling. Unfortunately, teaching is no longer my job. My job is to make sure the city isn’t sued. I’m told what to write in IEPs, what can and can’t be said at IEP meetings, and how to document that I’m “helping” students, even when I know that I’m not. I am threatened to be written up if I violate these rules or don’t get my paperwork completed on time. I’m lucky to spend 45 minutes a day with a large group of my students and can’t possibly give them the time and attention they need. Eight years ago there were three people doing the same job that I’m doing alone. I’m expected to work 10 to 12 hours a day and spend my spring break completing paperwork. I’m used to working long hours, but in the past, I worked for the kids. I’m not willing to work for free for Wardynski. (Just for the record, I take home less than $2,500.00 a month. I remember reading an article about “highly paid special ed. teachers” when Wardynski was defending the excessive cuts in special education.) I cannot meet the needs of my students and have voiced my complaints on numerous occasions. The stress has taken such a toll on my health that I’ve decided to leave Huntsville. I wish you the best of luck and will continue to follow your blog in my new location.

    1. LeavingHuntsville,

      Thank you for your service to our kids, especially those like my son who often cannot speak for themselves.

      I’m sorry that I can’t say I’m surprised by the news that the central office is directing the IEP process without being present in the meeting. This is something that I’ve suspected for quite some time. If you’d like to share with me some details that might be helpful to parents entering the IEP process, I’ll be happy to share them. Perhaps together we can subvert their illegal and immoral plans.

      I’m truly sorry to see you go, but I don’t blame you.

      I wish you all the best.

      Russell
      russ@geekpalaver.com
      256-457-2887

    2. Leaving Huntsville, everything you wrote has already been said by me. I could have written the same thing word for word, you are not alone in your frustration. I guess the director got a raise for doubling and tripling our work loads. Children first, not hardly, they are the one’s suffering the most. It is only humanly possible to do so much in one day.

  10. Russell,

    My wife and I are friends with many of our kids’ teachers and former teachers, so we have a very good idea of the kinds of things that are going on. Even so, your post was overwrought.

    Second, I was not making excuses for the fact that discipline issues are being swept under the rug — I was simply pointing out that implying this is a new thing that only came along under Wardynski is wrong.

    Lastly, you seem to have a difficult time grasping the difference between venting and effectiveness. If you truly care about bringing about change in the Huntsville school system, you would do well to think strategically and try to place effectiveness ahead of what feels good at the time (venting your spleen). When you concentrate on facts and manage your emotions, you are very effective. When you go on tirades, you come across as a bit unhinged. While your rants may feel good to you, they undermine (and likely erase) the effectiveness of the good things you write.

    Frankly, HCS needs you to be effective, and I want you to be effective. It’s your blog, obviously, so you can write what you want. But I just don’t think you realize how bizarre you sometimes sound. Just think how much damage Elois Zeanah did to the anti-Common Core bill with her overzealous support for it. Do you really want to be HCS’ version of her? Your choice.

    1. Ben,

      Thank you as always for sharing your opinion. I appreciate your taking the time and effort.

      As I said, I write what I know. I disagree that the post was “overwrought,” but I thank you for your concern about our teachers, schools and district.

      Honestly, I have no interest in being “the” voice that you seem to imply the district needs. I would much prefer there to be a thousand voices speaking. The district would be in far better shape. Anytime there is a single voice in a democracy, something is seriously wrong.

      My goal with the post was to urge people to say thank you, and speak up. As I have privately heard from people who have never spoken out in opposition to Wardynski and his actions, I consider the post a success.

      Thank you for adding your voice and opinion to the chorus.

      By the way, did you notice the post from LeavingHuntsville? I receive dozens of letters just like that every week. If I were “overwrought,” in light of the crisis we’re facing, my question to you would be, why aren’t you overwrought as well?

      Thanks, sincerely, for sharing your thoughts.

      Russell

      1. “Honestly, I have no interest in being “the” voice that you seem to imply the district needs. I would much prefer there to be a thousand voices speaking. The district would be in far better shape. Anytime there is a single voice in a democracy, something is seriously wrong. ”

        The reason the district doesn’t have a thousand voices speaking is because they are afraid some people will bash and criticize them, which they do to marginalize and minimize effective voices.

        Keep up the good work Russell. The Cheese stands alone.

      2. Russell,

        I knew Dr. Wardynski from grad school and he is formidable given his tremendous personal productivity, raw intellect and data driven approach. He is likewise genuinely committed to bettering the lives of children and young adults. His approach and personal commitment may complicate assimilating legitimate criticism and lead to some “less than warm” comments and actions, but he’s an intimidating force and I assume you must begrudgingly admit that several of his actions were needed and benefit students. If there weren’t problems beforehand I am confident Huntsville would have selected someone else over Dr. Wardynski. Am I big fan of his? No, not really. But at the same time I have tremendous respect for him as a person and offer that anyone who thinks Casey Wardynski’s career is driven by personal gain or power seeking is doomed by their gross underestimation of how genuinely committed and hard working he is to what he believes in.

        So two things. First, your back-handed dismissal of Ben’s thoughtful offering is a disservice to Ben, your readers and your credibility. Ben probably spent a couple hours trying to put into words what most think but won’t spend the time to articulate. Your ‘over the top’ spleen venting really undermines the legitimate points you make. Clever ways to articulate issues require real thought and time to pen, but that’s what resonates and will advance the issue. I don’t think the banal diatribe would of been posted had you set it aside overnight and given it a fresh look in the morning when the passion of the moment had receded. You are obviously very intelligent and engaged, just seemingly as blind to legitimate criticism as the person your criticize: Casey Wardynski. I think you owe Ben a second look and a self-effacing reply.

        Second, What I found trying with Dr. Wardynski was his proclivity to dismiss/disregard information of bearing that doesn’t fit his data-driven construct. Data on the future doesn’t exist and the process of turning social information into “data” for “data-driven” analysis/decisionmaking requires simplifying what’s available into categories and weighting. The process inevitably leaves out relevant information that doesn’t “fit” the modeling process that Dr. Wardynski is conditioned to apply throughout his self-selected education and career path.
        A brief read through your blog shows a number of issues that you and others think should be weighed by School Leadership but are not being addressed to the unrealized benefit or detriment of students (both directly and indirectly). If one only communicates in an effort to get another to understand, than engaging Dr. Wardynski and the board on their analysis as to how these issues were considered and weighted would have far greater impact than passionate pleas or rants. Put forward studies that support your position. Get others in to study the effect and affect of the Board’s decisions to determine if the results match the claims made when instituting the change. Even take it at step farther and articulate how much these factors you care about should weigh in the analytical or decisionmaking process and sources of information not considered. Something positive might come of it for the students. That’s Civil Society in action and would probably take no more time than currently spent yelling into the wind.

        1. Mike,

          Thank you for reading, especially older posts, and for taking the time to comment and offer your thoughts, opinions and evaluation. I appreciate it.

          I am happy to acknowledge that I did not know Dr. Wardynski in graduate school, but I do not share your opinion that he is genuinely committed to bettering the lives of children and young adults. Perhaps this is something he is committed to privately, but his actions as superintendent do no support this claim, in my opinion.

          I could not care less about his being perceived as “less than warm.” I live with a child who is on the autism spectrum. Most people would probably think him “less than warm” as well. Being genuinely “warm” towards people does help one’s personal standing, but if you read carefully through the posts that I’ve written that touch on him and his policies for the past (nearly) two years, I don’t believe you’ll find a single instance of me criticizing him on a personal level. He has been personally and publicly critical of me on a personal level, but I don’t believe you’ll find a single instance where I have responded in kind.

          I agree that there were issues in this district before Dr. Wardynski arrived. And yes, there are a few things that I believe he’s done correctly. He’s pushed for a program to feed low-income students for free during the summer for example. He’s pushed to rid the system of long since closed schools that are a blight on the community and a drain of system resources. However, the majority of his actions and decisions are not made with the student’s best interest in mind.

          In response to your criticism of this post and my responses to Ben, even one month later, I am convinced that what I wrote in the post is accurate, and I don’t believe that I would change a single word of it. To be frank, the situation that our teachers are facing today is just as bad or worse than it was in March. I don’t not view this post as a “banal diatribe,” but I respect your having taken the time to tell me that you do view it that way.

          Just because I disagree with criticism does not mean that I do not listen to it and consider it. I believe that is one primary difference between Dr. Wardynski and myself. You seem to believe that a parent taking his personal time to research, write, attend meetings, and work everyday to support our teachers (not to mention supporting his family as well) should be held to the same standard of public engagement as a public employee, who’s job it is to interact with the public. If so, fine. I would still assert that I am far more engaged with my public than Dr. Wardynski has ever been. Setting aside your personal relationship with him, if you publicly referred to anything he said as a “banal diatribe,” I can assure you that would be the final time he would speak with you. When parents (other than myself) bring issues to his attention, they are regularly told that they should not tell him how to do his job.

          You state that he is intimidating. I would modify that description a bit. He is intimidating to people who are under his control, but I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone who was more intimidated by interaction with people who do not depend on him for their careers than Dr. Wardynski.

          I do not believe that my comments in defense of our teachers were “overwrought” last month as Ben claimed. I do not believe that they are overwrought now.

          As of March 13th, 165 teachers and staff have resigned or retired since the beginning of the school year. Over the past month, 26 more people have joined them. The total now sits at 191 for the year. Those numbers, in my opinion, support my claim that our teachers are being abused by this superintendent. This includes, by the way, even people that Dr. Wardynski specifically brought into the district from Fairfax, VA. http://blog.al.com/breaking/2013/04/johnson_high_principal_leaving.html

          Even his friends are leaving the district he brought them to.

          I stand behind everything I wrote in this post.

          You next suggest that I owe Ben a second look and a “self-effacing reply.”

          I have done as you asked and have re-read both of the responses that I offered Ben here and elsewhere on the blog. To be direct, I’m not sure what you found in my response to be so offensive? I would appreciate it if you could be a bit more specific about what you view as so dismissive.

          As Ben is a regular commenter on this site, his last post was a little over a week ago, it would seem perhaps that you have taken greater offensive at what I have written to him than he did.

          You further suggest that I should spend more time speaking with the board and offering them data to support my claims. You suggest to me that that is the direction that a “civil society” would take, which indirectly implies that I am behaving in an uncivil manner. You call what I am doing as “yelling into the wind.”

          Again, I appreciate the critique. A person simply “yelling into the wind” is indeed wasting time.

          In response, I would suggest to you that while I write what I know, I do not write everything that I know or am doing. I have, in fact, taken exactly the approach that you’re suggesting of sending the board information in the hope that they are simply uninformed of the reality of the situation. I am a teacher, after all.

          I’ll set aside the disturbing notion that a member of the board isn’t more informed than a member of the public for a moment and simply say to you that I’ve been doing this for a long time now. I have attended nearly every public board meeting in the past 2.5 years. (In fact, my attendance record is actually better than some of the board members who are paid to be there.)

          I have diligently attempted to engage them privately in issues that I’m concerned about, and I still do so. I have, in fact, had numerous occasions where individual board members have thanked me for bringing something to their attention.

          I wrote this post about the abuse of our teachers not attempting to inform them of the situation. I wrote it because they were completely aware of the situation they have placed our teachers in, and they just do not care. They know that 191 people have left the district since the beginning of the school year, and again, they just don’t care (at best) or they in fact celebrate this fact (at worst).

          If you would like evidence of some private conversations that I’ve had with the board that have resulted in making the schools better for our students, I would direct you to http://www.geekpalaver.com/2012/10/11/wardynski-and-board-knew-sped-was-unfairly-targeted-in-rif-cuts/ as one example.

          Finally, (thank goodness, right?) I am sincere when I say that I appreciate it when people take the time to offer their opinions, critiques, and suggestions. So thank you. I believe you’ll find that my responses to those who disagree with me are far more detailed–or at least wordy–than the responses I offer to those who agree with me. If you examine Dr. Wardynski’s responses, I believe you’ll find the exact opposite is true of him. He is dismissive of anyone who even suggests to him that his approach isn’t the greatest possible one.

          I have the impression that you are speaking out on behalf of your friend, our superintendent. That is honorable, and I would do the same. I do not wish Dr. Wardynski any ill will, but I am convinced that he is leading this district down a path from which we may never recover.

          Sincerely,

          Russell

  11. Ben,
    Exactly what are YOU doing about all these issues besides being a self- appointed critic of Russell’s posts?

  12. Mike,
    I too admire your endearing admiration for a fellow grad student, and yes, he does come across as someone wanting so desperately to be intimidating. However, as a parent who is involved with my kids and their education, I laugh at the notion that, as I speak at a Board meeting, that I am in any way intimidated by a public employee. Russell very profoundly and accurately described how Casey Wardynski is regarded in this community with respect to how he does his job and his less than warm interaction with the people who pay his salary. You cited in your post that “we” should put forth studies that support our issues, etc. on the policy changes implemented, no, forced on us? No, the due diligence should have been done by those instituting the change they have inflicted. It is obvious that you do not live in this area, or at least do not have children in this school district. I would say then, that it is YOU who has not done the due diligence in understanding the issues we face, Instead, you merely standby and endorse the character of a person you once knew.

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