Tonight that the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education, the board presented a resolution to honor those individuals who are retiring from Huntsville City Schools this year. The resolution was read at the beginning of the “Celebrations” part of the meeting that they have at the beginning of most of their meetings. The resolution presented tonight to the board for its approval by Dr. Cooper was read as follows:
Whereas the Huntsville City BOE Huntsville Alabama wishes to honor all personnel retiring from the HCS, and
Whereas these retirees have diligently served the boys and girls of this community for a significant number of years, and
Whereas, their services have been rendered in an unselfish manner, not only to the students and the school system, but to many areas of community life, and
Whereas, their loyalty and dedication to providing quality public education have exerted a tremendous and positive influence upon their associates, and
Whereas they are held in high esteem by their friends, and colleagues.
Now, therefore, Be It Resolved that the Huntsville City Board of Education, the superintendent and staff, as well as administrative, teaching and support staff do hereby express appreciation to retiring personnel, and
Be It Further Resolved that be extended best wishes for good health and happiness throughout the retirement years, with a sense of personal achievement that come with knowledge of a job well done.
Adopted this twenty-first day of March 2013
Join me in celebrating our retirees.
This resolution was followed by what could best be described as seven seconds of polite applause from the board and those in attendance. Once that “uproar” died down, Dr. Cooper moved on to about 20 minutes of honoring our sports stars from around the city.
Interestingly enough, all of the sports stars that were honored tonight actually received an invitation to attend the board meeting so that they could receive copies of their resolution and be honored in person. Some were even given the opportunity to share a few words with the community about their achievement.
Interestingly enough, none of our retirees who have “diligently served” this community for a “significant number of years;” none of our retirees who have rendered their services “in an unselfish manner;” none of the retirees who have “exerted a tremendous and positive influence” were actually invited to attend this meeting.
Now granted, if they had been invited to attend, the Fire Marshall would likely have needed to cite Dr. Wardynski for code violation, as I don’t believe the board room at Merts is certified to hold more than about 50 people at a time, but surely something could have been worked out. Perhaps we could have had them line up on the steps of Merts for a photo shoot?
177 Volunteer to Leave
You see as of the reading of the HR report tonight, a total of one hundred and seventy-seven teachers, administrators and support staff have decided to either retire or resign since September of last year.
And 177 would have clearly never fit in that tiny board room with its uncomfortable chairs.
And there’s no way that the superintendent would have wanted a photo of the 177 standing on the steps of Merts all together at one time.
I mean honestly, what kind of message would that send to our community? It’s much better that those steps simply remain empty, and that our “resolutions” be free from showing the faces of the 177 who have decided to leave this district in the past seven months.
Who knows, after all, what they might end up saying if given a mic? They might let us know that if they had their choice that they would have preferred to continue teaching a few more years. They might have let us know that they really didn’t want to leave this year, but the move away from teaching towards endless testing made the decision easy. They might have let us know that they simply couldn’t take the hostile working environment that the superintendent has created here for the simple purpose of driving away some of our best and brightest teachers and most dedicated support staff that had made this system one of the best.
What Huntsville Used to Be
I write what I know, and nine years ago my wife and I moved here to Huntsville (not to Madison, Huntsville) because of a simple reason, our first child was about to be born. And so we moved here because we knew that Huntsville, despite being in a state that isn’t exactly known as an educational powerhouse even in the south (thank goodness for Mississippi), Huntsville was an exception to that stereotype. Huntsville bucked that trend.
We knew that our children would receive and excellent and competitive public education.
But because of the rubber-stamp attitude of the board before (and after) Wardynski, this is no longer true. And with the total disregard that our board offers to our teachers, I’m afraid that Huntsville will not be the exception in the state any longer. We now tend to fit right in.
I know that there are some of my readers who, like certain members of our board, believe that a younger teacher is absolutely a better teacher. I know that there are some readers who believe, like certain administrators, that older teachers tend to turn a school into a “wax museum.” I know that some in this town believe just as one of the now retired board members said last year that it’s great to have young, inexperienced TFAers in the classroom.
I do not agree.
Teacher of the Year Among the 177
It seems that for once the Huntsville Council of PTAs and I actually agree on something. You see this year, the Elementary Teacher of the Year for the city of Huntsville is one of those teachers that the board of education was “resolved” to honor tonight. She has taught multiple generations of families and is still going strong. She stays after school nearly every day to help her students (and even those who were never in her classroom) understand difficult concepts. She’s constantly offering new books about new approaches to teaching to her peers and to her parents to help to find a way through the perilous path of elementary school.
She lives and breathes elementary education and has more knowledge about meeting students’ needs in her little pinky finger than Wardynski and our board of “education” will ever know.
She is an amazing teacher and leader, and we’re losing her and all of her knowledge and wisdom because, as David Blair once said, Wardynski is doing exactly what this board of education hired Wardynski to do. His primary job, his primary goal is to run off our best teachers.
But you know what the amazing thing is? I know a ton of our teachers and support staff in this district, and I know many of the 177 who have quit or retired. Of those that I know who have quit or are retiring at the end of the year, all of the wonderful things I had to say about the Huntsville Elementary Teacher of the Year (not to take anything alway from her, but I know she wouldn’t mind) apply to those other teachers, librarians, and staff as well.
Let me say it again: every teacher, librarian and staff member that I personally know who is planning to retire are among the most dedicated, committed people in our district. And we’ve lost them.
And the board continues to unanimously approve HR report after HR report without asking a single damn question about why our teachers are rushing to get out the door.
In May 2011, the board approved a reduction in force of 259 people. That was one of the darkest periods of our district.
So far in seven months 177 have left on their own. I’m horrified to write this, but by the end of May 2013 the 259 we RIFed in 2011 will seem small by comparison.
The absolute least that Wardynski and this Board could do is have the decency to look these 177 in the face. But then bullies do tend to also be cowards.
To any teacher, administrator or support staff person who is leaving Huntsville City Schools: I invite you to share your story in the comments below. You may do so with the assurance of anonymity; honestly, I don’t even know who you are most of the time. I ask you to share your story with us for just one reason: we need you to help educate us one more time before you leave.
I hope that in the telling you may find closure and peace knowing that you have indeed given your all to help this city’s schools survive the wasteland that Wardynski and the Board are creating.
And sincerely, I thank you for your service to my children and to all our children across this community.
You will be missed.