177 (And Counting) Volunteer to Leave

Merts

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:

Resolution

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.

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

20 Comments

  1. “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 an competitive public education.”

    As a product of the HCS system I moved back to Huntsville for the same reason. Remind me to tell you about what we experienced trying to make sure my children received an excellent and competitive public education.

  2. I am both saddened and disgusted at what is happeneing in our school district. I spoke with a teacher yesterday for 20 minutes. She repeated the mantra that there is fear in speaking up. She also mentioned that Wardynski has walked into classes and outright intimidated teachers. She said that it is extremely difficult to teach to a class whose heads are buried in laptops that she must monitor (at least one of which was watching the NCAA basketball tournament games!). And of course, if the class does not produce high grades, it will be a reflection on her and put her job in jeopardy. She also relayed an interesting tidbit. When Pearson was training the teachers back in August 2012, the trainer said that only ONE other school district had attempted such a wholesale transition as Huntsville was attempting. It was a school district in South Carolina (I will research to find out which one). It she continued to say that the school district promptly terminated the program 3 years later and reverted back to its old system. Perhaps this is why metric and lessons learned are hard to come by when requested. I have two questions. First, where is the teachers union in all of this? Are grievances being submitted and shouldn’t the union be standing up for its teachers? Second, is any of this being discussed at PTA meetings? WHere are the parents in all of this?

    1. “First, where is the teachers union in all of this? Are grievances being submitted and shouldn’t the union be standing up for its teachers? Second, is any of this being discussed at PTA meetings? WHere are the parents in all of this?/s

      HEA (Huntsville Education Association) is MIA (missing in actions, as is the Huntsville Council of PTA’s. I wouldn’t give either entity another penny.

  3. How do these numbers of staff leaving measure up to previous years? I’m curious to see how the numbers compare.

    1. I have the same question. It would be interesting to chart the percentage of the HCS teacher population retiring or leaving over, say, the last ten years to see how out of whack the current rate is.

      1. Ben, that’s a fine question. If you want 10 years of data, you’ll need to contact Micah S. Fisher at the HR department. 256.428.6839. They’re really sick of hearing from me. 🙂

        If you get the report you want, let me know. I’ll be happy to publish that data here, and if necessary, I will retract all of my posts about the number of people leaving the district.

        I am, completely convinced that people are leaving in significant numbers, and that that’s one of the main goals that the superintendent has.

        It’s telling that despite presenting these numbers to the board and to the district on a regular basis that no one has claimed, not once, that these numbers are typical. They know that it’s unusual.

        But should you discover differently, please let me know.

        1. Like you, I know for a fact that we are losing good teachers. Mountain Gap Middle (yes, I insist on continuing to call it that — sue me, Casey) lost two of its best 7th grade teachers and its excellent band director last year. But at the same time, I would hate to join the chorus using the current teacher losses as evidence of a mass exodus only to find out that it is pretty typical for a given school year.

          As for asking Central Office, do you really think they will be forthcoming with such information? And if they are, do you think we can believe what they tell us? Yeah, me neither.

          1. I personally asked Belinda Williams, director of Human Resources, in May of last year(2012) how many teachers had resigned or retired thus far…her response was “about 100”. That number was not typical of past years either. Teachers are tired, discouraged and demoralized. Their physical, mental and emotional health is suffering. If it is at all possible for one to jump ship, they’re jumping and rightfully so. So, so sad!

    2. That’s a good question. The quick answer is, I don’t have all of the HR data from 2011. I have some of it, but not all. But I can say this, I have no memory of this number of people leaving during the year. The number of resignations (people leaving immediately) is up significantly. The number of people retiring is also up significantly.

      As I wrote in the “43 Resignations and Retirements” post (which it’s rather telling that the number has quadrupled since October, don’t you think?) in 2011 when Montgomery offered a massive retirement incentive for people to retire in December of that year, it was news that 19 people resigned during the middle of the year. http://blog.al.com/breaking/2011/09/huntsville_feeling_effect_of_c.html

      This year we’ve had 177 so far resign or retire.

      It was news in the 2011 RIF that 259 were fired. So far this year we’ve had 68% of that number leave on their own.

      And the numbers haven’t even begun to climb yet. Most teachers won’t make a decision about quitting or retiring until the end of the year.

      I’ll see what I can do to get you additional comparative data, but it might be easier if you contact the HR department on your own and ask for the comparative data. Their web site is http://www.hsv-k12.org/?DivisionID=11142&DepartmentID=11323

      You can also call them at 256.428.6839. Frankly, they’re tired of hearing from me. 🙂

  4. I remember when the school board was concerned about the number of teachers leaving the system. I remember Mr. Birney asking Belinda Williams if Human Resources could do some sort of survey to see why teachers were leaving. Guess that information is not needed now. We know why a lot of them are leaving. 🙁

    By the way, does anyone know if HCS is planning the annual retirement dinner for the retiring teachers this year. I just contacted a teacher retiring this year and she had not heard anything about it. Surely HCS will not stop the one nice thing they do for retiring teachers.

  5. Librarian are likely to be canned soon. They were given a survey to fill out this week by Lean Frog. They had to give a description of what their job involved. Some were insulted but knew better than to ask questions…

  6. After the next round of STAR testing, there will be more canned. The pressure is on for the students to show growth. If the students don’t show growth, the teachers may lose their jobs REGARDLESS of tenure. Its sad that my job depends on how a child does on a test. There are just somethings I can’t control.

    1. Teachers can’t be fired “regardless of tenure” due to protections afforded by state tenure law. Certainly HCS can make things uncomfortable for ones it wishes would quit or retire, but even that can’t be pushed too far without risking a lawsuit.

  7. I’ve got a suggestion. How about we administer these tests to the parents and rate THEM? Perhaps if THEY were doing a better job, the kids would benefit as would the teachers.

    1. Now that’s just crazy talk. Everyone knows that parents have absolutely nothing to do with the educational outcomes of their children. If the kids don’t measure up, it’s completely the teacher’s fault.

  8. Ben, I won’t take the bait on that one, but unfortunately, ther are scores of parents who think that what you posted is true!!

  9. Sorry, but I absolutely MUST opine once again on teh subject of laptops and the frustration it is bearing upon teachers in the classroom. I hear time and again that teachers cannot continualy walk around the classroom monitoring students to ensure their laptops are being used for classwork. I had a discussion with my son and his friend who are in middle school. They laughed as they told me how easy and prevalent it is for students to play games and visit unauthorized websites during class. They see it every day and they noted that the teachers can do absolutely nothing about it. At least with a book in front of them, it is far more difficult to wander off away from the lesson. When is this idiot Wardynski (and yes, I strongly call him an idiot) going to realize that laptops in the classroom are detrimental to learning and not the answer to better education? If we cannot get laptops out of the classroom, and believe me, I will continue to fight this fight, then we need to address the monitoring of these laptops. First of all, cut off the internet access in schools. The material can be downloaded from a local server. Second, every computer should be signed onto a school network when in class that allows the teacher or an administrator to get on the network and view that child’s laptop at any time. It is sickening to see the ignorance and arrogance of this school administration. There’s a reason that this year the math scores are the lowest they have been in 13 years. Wake up people!!

  10. Riled, I’m in the lower grades. I still do not have enough i-Pads for all my students. I have one i-Pad for every two students. We are experiencing the same things as the upper grades- students going to inappropriate web sites. I can’t watch all of them. And as for the math scores, my students don’t even try to use paper and pencil to figure out the answers. They just make a guess and tap on an answer. Its like a game to them. I will never have them take another math test on-line.

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