The State of the Schools: 191 Volunteer to Leave


Tonight the Superintendent had an hour on stage all to himself to describe for us what he believes the state of the schools is. He, of course, took no questions from the few dozen citizens who bothered to attend.

In his never-ending “transformation” drumbeat, he continued to claim that our students, as the Times reports, “have to be prepared to deal with questions we can’t even imagine today.”

Like all sales people who are trying to push off on the public a product they know to be substandard, Wardynski’s words sound good until you actually take a minute to think about what he’s saying.

Let me ask you, what exactly is the purpose of education if not to prepare students to deal with questions we can’t even imagine today? He truly does seem to be of the opinion that he is the first person to ever think of this.

Astonishing isn’t it?


And again, like a sales person hawking a lemon, he used statistics from the first nine weeks of school to again push his agenda that computers in the classroom have eliminated every discipline across the district.

In-school suspensions were down 42 percent in the first nine weeks of school, Wardynski said. Out-of-school suspensions were down 49 percent and total suspensions were down 45 percent.

I wonder, does he think that we don’t know that we’re actually in the fourth and final nine weeks of the school year? Hey, Dr. Wardynski, these statistics weren’t believable the first time you were pushing them. There even less believable now.

If you actually care about the state of the schools, here’s a suggestion: quit listening to the superintendent’s snake oil pitch, and try visiting any one of the schools in the district.

Look in the eyes of the teachers, and you’ll know the state of the schools.

Look in the eyes of the support staff, and you’ll know the state of the schools

Look in the eyes of the students, you know the entire reason the schools exist, and you’ll know the state of the schools.

Teachers Flee

Or if you are just a numbers guy, as the superintendent likes to call himself, try these on for size.

Since September 2012, 191 people have voluntarily left their positions with this district.

That number, by the way, includes the Elementary Teacher of the Year.

And the time when most people make a decision to leave a school system is still in front of us. That number will easily double by the time August rolls around because of one simple fact: everyone who can get out is getting out.

There isn’t a single week when I don’t hear from another teacher who tells me that they’re looking for a job, any job, outside of Huntsville City Schools. And the teachers I’m hearing this from are among the best in the district.

Students Flee

If you want another number: in 2011 the district had an Average Daily Membership (ADM) of 23,155.80.

In 2012 that number fell to 23,140.35 despite a growing population. That’s a loss of a mere 15.45 ADM.

In 2013, however, that number fell to 22,811.10.

That’s a loss of 344.7 students since Wardynski started.

Anyone care to look at the enrollment figures of the private schools in this town?

  • Randolph School in 2007: 825
  • Randolph School in 2010: 937
  • Randolph School in 2011: 997

Notice a trend? Heck, even the one school board member with school aged children has his kids in a private setting.

Wardynski flight, indeed.

The state of our schools is frightening, but no one at the Wardynski love fest talked about that.


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


  1. I did attend the meeting last night. Meeting? More like a commercial for Wardynskism, complete with actual commercials (highlighting line-toeing teachers at GSE, Blossomwood and Hampton Cove in most of the videos).

    I caught the same “first 9 weeks” behavior information chart that you did. Surely school-year-to-date figures are not presented because they do not agree with the story being peddled. I was aghast at the continuing use of finger-point iPad writing as a basis for good handwriting/penmanship skills. Other than us, who does this? One must learn handwriting/penmanship by writing, with your hand and a pencil/pen. I caught the “neglected areas of town need to have new buildings”, but I noted that they only come after Huntsville High, GSElementary and the new Blossomwood.

    I do like the push for more IB, probably lots of others would disagree. The elementary school STEM sounds intriguing, I wonder why the Academy for **Science** and Foreign Language (ASFL) was not one of the two schools hosting that program.

    I was not impressed by the continued flouting of the TFA teachers and the student survey of teachers (discussed elsewhere on your site). As with any large group of individuals, I am sure some tenured teachers should be reviewed, but do we really want a school system of all new teachers (plus recurring turnover) with no wisdom from experience?

    Right-sizing schools buildings sounds correct, but really, schools built right sized today may be underutilized in 10-15 years simply due to age demographics. The Westlawn reboot, that might actually be having a good impact. I don’t know enough to make an informed analysis.

  2. “There isn’t a single week when I don’t hear from another teacher who tells me that they’re looking for a job, any job, outside of Huntsville City Schools. And the teachers I’m hearing this from are among the best in the district.”

    Yep. I spoke to a teacher the other night who is supposed to teach one of my kids next year. She is young, energetic, and just a great teacher. But she didn’t seem like her usual upbeat self as she discussed the upcoming year. So I pulled her aside as asked her point-blank: “Are you really going to be here next year?” She shrugged, and said, “With all the changes, who knows…?” So I tried again: “O.K., but if you have a choice, will you be here next year?” She paused, sighed, and then flatly said, “No.” She went on to explain (like I haven’t heard it before from other teachers) that the only reason she would still be in HCS next year would be if she can’t find another job.

    But don’t tell Wardynski or the BoE that: They are blind, deaf, and most definitely dumb.

  3. Different subject, but I just had to laugh out loud when my Mountain Gap 8th-grader came home and said that the ACT Aspire test that was being piloted at MG had to be canceled because… wait for it… the computers wouldn’t work. Now seriously, who could’ve possibly seen THAT coming?

    1. Yep, I heard the same thing tonight when my girl got home.

      Even our feckless board of education saw it coming, but of course, did nothing about it.

      1. It’s possible that the ACT Aspire didn’t work at Mountain Gap because the window to take the test doesn’t open till next week. If they tried to take it this week, it wouldn’t work.

        1. I believe they had multiple windows. Some in the district (Grissom for example) tried taking it last week. It was complicated, but the were eventually able to take it.

          At Mt. Gap, some of the students were able to take it Tuesday, but not everyone.

          Supposedly they are going to retry after ARMT+ next week.

          If it was entirely closed, no one would have been successful. But some were able to take it. After about 3 hours of trying. Just not all.

          There are reports of ACT Aspire having issues in Indiana as well.

        2. “It’s possible that the ACT Aspire didn’t work at Mountain Gap because the window to take the test doesn’t open till next week.”

          A point: Let’s assume that this really is the reason and not the poorly managed computer systems. Wouldn’t this still be an indication of poor planning on the part of the administration? I mean, a teacher at Mt. Gap didn’t just wake up one day and declare “my students will take Aspire today”. The administration knows well in advanced what their testing plans are (or should) and scheduling them during a week that they are not offered is inexcusable.

  4. Does anyone know how many students have left HCS? Russ, you alluded to the increased enrollment at Randolph. I am still relatively new to the community and I personally know of SEVEN families that have pulled their kids this year and are home-schooling. Most of the reasons are stressed out teachers, computers, and TESTING. There may well be two more that leave the district…..

    1. Actual enrollment numbers are a bit hard to come by. However, they have to report the ADM (Average Daily Membership) numbers at least annually to the state in the budget. The ADM numbers in the 2013 budget are based on 2012 enrollment. I currently have three years of numbers. Here they are:

      2010 (based on 2009 numbers): 22,971.95
      2011 (based on 2010 numbers): 23,155.80 (183.85 increase)
      2012 (based on 2011 numbers Moore’s last year. Wardynski arrived in 7/2011): 23,140.35 (-15.45 decrease)
      2013 (based on 2012 numbers W’s first real year.): 22,811.10 (-329.25 decrease) Or 160.85 students less than in 2009.

      In other words, despite all the issues with the budget in 2010 and 2011 during Moore’s final year, enrollment actually increased. After one year of Wardynski, our enrollment is below 2009 numbers.

      With the exodus of students and families we’re seeing this year and with the dramatic increase in enrollment we’re seeing in private schools (nearly everyone is looking to expand) I suspect that our 2013 numbers (in the 2014 budget due in September) will be even lower.

      Wardynski’s emphasis on “right-sizing” schools (making sure that a building designed to hold 1,000 isn’t holding merely 500 is a coded way of saying that people are indeed leaving the district.

  5. Yes, suspensions were down! Never mine a brutal sexual assault at Butler and the torture of several students at the privately run public school prison Pinnical. And did we forget that during the first nine weeks we also had 81 arrests at our schools? Discipline indeed.

  6. Remember when Wardynski claimed the longtime Mountain Gap Middle School principal John Timlin was excited and “reenergized” by his forced move to Williams Middle School? Um, yeah. Mr. Timlin was so excited and reenergized that he is now retiring after only one year at Williams.

    Heckuva job, Casey.

    1. Same thing happening at ASFL. Dr. Garrett will be retiring, one year removed from being forced from Columbia to ASFL. I am sure other forced moves will result in departures. I wonder if we have access to the statistics to show the true numbers of one-year-removed-retirements.

      1. Timlin, Garrett, and Costello (from Whitesburg) were all moved a year ago and have all announced their retirements/resignations this year. I am certain that there will be others moved again.

        Additionally, Michael Campbell, the principal that Wardynski specifically recruited to the district is leaving for the greener pastures of Madison Co.

        Here’s a list of all of the transfers from a year ago:

        Dawn Ashley, from Ridgecrest Elementary to Dawson Elementary
        Lathan Strong, from Montview Elementary to Farley Elementary
        John Humphrey, from Dawson Elementary to Highlands Elementary
        Michael Livingston, from Highlands Elementary to McDonnell Elementary
        Towana Davis, from University Place Elementary to Montview Elementary
        Peggy Harris, from Chapman Elementary to Ridgecrest Elementary
        Allen Malone, from McDonnell Elementary to Rolling Hills Elementary
        Lee McAllister, from Williams Elementary to University Place Elementary
        Donna Henry White, from Farley Elementary to Williams Elementary
        Jennifer Garrett, from Columbia High to the Academy for Science and Foreign Language
        Glenn Bryant, from assistant principal of Challenger Middle to principal of Chapman P-8. Bryant is temporarily serving as Wardynski’s transition director.
        Tammy Summerville, from the Academy for Science and Foreign Language to Mountain Gap P-8
        Carol Costello, from Challenger Elementary to Whitesburg P-8
        Jill Burwell, from assistant principal of Lee High to principal of Davis Hills Middle
        Jo Stafford, from assistant principal of Whitesburg Middle to principal of Ed White Middle
        Aaron King, from director of support operations to principal of Huntsville Middle
        Lynette Alexander, from Ed White Middle to Westlawn Middle
        John Timlin, from Mountain Gap Middle to Williams Middle
        Greg Hicks, from Whitesburg P-8 to Columbia High
        Deborah Hargett, from Huntsville Middle to Huntsville High

  7. This is a comedy of errors. I heard that the system will now do all of the hiring and placing of teachers at the central office. This indicates to me that a new teacher may not know what school he/she is going to be teaching at perhaps until right before the year starts. Failing schools like Butler or Johnson should never have non-tenured teachers there unless they choose to be there. Forcing a promising first or second teacher to go teach at Johnson against their will is a sure way of making sure they will be gone soon. On the other hand, I know many teachers who seek out schools like Johnson because they want to make a difference. Let the principal choose their own staffs. Anything else is self-defeating. This will make it even more difficult to hire good teachers in the Huntsville system, especially since they will essentially be hired by politicians instead of educators. On that note, why hire education professionals at all if you never give them a say in the way we educate our kids? Hopefully, the decent systems around here (Madison county and City) can use Wardinski’s policies as a model of what not to do if you want free, quality public education.

  8. The transfers are beginning. Yes, the central office handles it. They call you into your principal’s office, along with someone from the central office, to offer you a transfer to wherever they want you to go, regardless of what school you put on the transfer form. Then they ask you to decide and sign the form right then and there, even if the school they’re offering you wasn’t one you had thought about transferring to. It’s a high pressure situation, with your principal staring at you silently, as if you are a traitor, asking to leave. If you say no, the chances of being offered another placement are nil. I imagine that if you say no, that you will always have to live with your principal knowing that you requested a transfer, too, so you pretty much have to say yes and sign the form. Yeah, fun.

    1. Five teachers in my school were given transfer papers last week. None of them asked to be transferred. Rumor has it that the principal asked for them to be moved. The move came as a surprise to each of them and they were not given a choice. They were simply told they would not be at the current school next year and what school they would be going to. They were not even told what grade level they would be transferred to next year. One teacher said she wanted to discuss the situation with her husband and with HEA and was told that discussion was not an option.

      1. That’s our thought, too, that the principal was asked who they wanted to get rid of, and those people were given transfers.

  9. Any chance of getting the names of those five teachers? I forwarded the above post to Dr. Tommy Bice (State School Superintendent) and he responded almost immediately with:
    “If you could please share with me the names of the individuals so I can inquire as to the reasoning for the transfer.”

    If this is information we want to share at his level, then here is the chance.

  10. OK, I understand not wanting to give names. Can you at least give me the name of the school regarding these 5 teachers? I will pass that info on to Dr. Bice. Not sure what will happen, but at least he took the initiative to get right back to me after I described the situation. Or…we can just keep venting our complaints to this blog and it goes nowhere.

    1. I know one of the schools where teachers have been transferred out of is Ed White Middle School.

  11. Thanks. Just a status. I mentioned Ed White Middle School to Dr. Bice in an email this morning. Within 5 minutes he responded and said he will take it from there. Notsure what that means but at least he is responsive to my emails and does so immediately. I whole heartedly recommend that anyone (teachers and parents) who have an issue or want to vent about our school administration, to do so to Dr. Bice at: tbice@ALSDE.edu

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