Is Wardynski Consulting for Pearson?

Wardynski

Ever stop to wonder exactly why Huntsville City Schools made a transition to the digital 1:1 initiative in just under two months time? I mean, seriously, even Pearson’s consultants were frustrated by the speed with which the district was moving. They knew that we weren’t ready. And they knew that our rush would reflect badly on them.

And it did.

(You can read about Wardynski’s name calling, abuse of teachers, and broken promises if you don’t remember.)

So why the rush?

Could it be that Dr. Casey Wardynski, Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, who makes $175,000 a year and was willing to give up his $10,000 a year bonus in exchange for a two-year extension on his contract felt that he wasn’t making enough?

Could it be that Dr. Casey Wardynski was thinking ahead of all of the potential “consulting” jobs he could take to promote Pearson’s Digital 1:1 Initiatives across the nation?

Could it be that screwing over our kids, and ruining a year’s worthof their irreplaceable education, was all about the opportunity to consult for Pearson?

Wardynski and Pearson

A quick search of “Casey Wardynski” and “Pearson Education” returns 16,700 results. This is by no means a comprehensive listing. After all, as useful as Google is, it doesn’t find everything. But inside those 16,700 are a bunch of articles announcing our transition back in June 2012 (less than two months before the start of school). The first of which is a press release from Pearson.

(Interestingly, this press release claims that Pearson 1:1 Learning works with an iPad. As the iPad doesn’t support Flash, it doesn’t. Kinda makes one wonder what else isn’t true in this press release?)

Another link is from a Real Estate agent trying to sell homes in Huntsville. So naturally the articles are also of a Press Release nature.

What you won’t see on Pearson’s site or on the Real Estate site are reports like this from WHNTdetailing just a few of the problems that the system faced from transitioning to digital over the summer.

Wardynski’s Consulting Gigs?

But when you make it to page two, you begin to see some links of a different nature. Starting at the beginning of the calendar year, you begin to see references to things that Dr. Wardynski is doing for Pearson:

First is a Pearson link to their Archived Webinars. One of these webinars is dated June 12, 2013 and entitled: Preparing Students to Succeed in the Conceptual Age. This webinar is used by Pearson to encourage other districts to go digital.

Then there’s this: “Countdown to Digital Schools: Florida School Leaders Invited to Meet with Digital Learning Pioneers as State Prepares for Shift Away from Paper-based Textbooks.”

This Pearson press release states:

The Florida school district leaders will work with Dr. Casey Wardynski, superintendent of the Huntsville, AL school system, the largest school district in America to have moved to digital learning materials all in one school year, starting last August. . . . Huntsville’s Superintendent Wardynski last month was named national Tech Leader of the Year by Tech & Learning magazine for his efforts in the district’s conversion to digital learning this school year.

This meeting took place on Monday, January 28, 2013 at the Westin Orlando Imagine in conduction with the Florida Educational Technology Conference.

So instead of talking and listening to the community over his broken promises concerning the location of Grissom High School, Dr. Wardynski was helping Pearson to sell this digital fiasco to even more districts while hanging out in Orlando.

I wonder if and how much he was paid for his sales pitch?

Then you’ll remember the next day, Dr. Wardynski was speaking to a group of educators brought in from across the nation to hear this same sales pitch here in Huntsville.

What they didn’t hear about was the plan to dramatically increase the fees that the district was planning to charge students if they violated the new computer use policy that they made students sign without parental consent.

If you keep looking, you’ll find this link from The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) promoting: Teaming for Transformation II, which will give attendees a “unique opportunity” to

hear Superintendent Casey Wardynski from Huntsville City School District (AL) and other national thought leaders’ recommendations for transforming the culture of teaching and learning [sic]

Teaming for Transformation II is made possible “with support from Follett Library Resources, Pearson Education, and Presidio.”

On Friday, July 26th, Dr. Wardynski is scheduled to participate as a presenter at EDVentures 2013 in Dallas, a conference sponsored by the Education Industry Association.

The positive feedback loop continues with Pearson issuing a press release congratulating Wardynski for receiving the “prestigious award for tech leadership.” This “prestigious award” was offered by eSchoolNews which regularly receives advertising dollars from . . . Pearson.

But why would Pearson spend time congratulating Wardynski? Maybe because they were just about to start using that award in their promotion of conferences where Wardynski would soon be speaking?

In short, Pearson sees Dr. Casey Wardynski as crucial to their future sales of their Digital 1:1 Initiative to other school systems across the nation.

In just over a year, Huntsville City Schools has spent or committed to spend $30 million dollars on the Digital 1:1 Initiative. Imagine what a larger system might rake in for Pearson? I guess this is what Wardynski meant when he told parents who asked questions about the digital transformation that Pearson:

is the largest educational solution provider in the world. They are not a fly-by outfit.

Well they had best not be, eh, Dr. Wardynski? If they were, the potential for raking in “consulting fees” from them wouldn’t be nearly as great.

Wardynski’s Consulting Clause

On December 20, 2012, the Huntsville City Board of Education approved a contract extension for Dr. Wardynski of two additional years ending June 30, 2016. This was approved after one and only one evaluation of the superintendent by the board.

The new contract contains the following clause concerning consulting work by the superintendent. Paragraph 2.C: Commitment to the System, states:

The Superintendent shall devote his full time and attention to the job and to use his skill, intellect, training, and experience to the utmost for the successful operation of the public school system of Huntsville, Alabama.

Paragraph 3.D. Outside Activities, states:

The Superintendent may lecture and engage in writing, speaking engagements and other activities, with or without honorariums, which do not interfere with and are consistent with the duties of his employment.  The Superintendent may engage in consulting activities with the approval of the Board.  In no case will the Board be responsible for any expense attendant to the performance of such outside activities.

The key phrase in this clause of his contract is highlighted above. The superintendent may engage in consulting activities with the approval of the Board.

I’ve attended or recorded and watched every board meeting this year. In order for the board to offer it’s approval for anything, they must do it in a formal, public meeting.

The Huntsville City Board of Education has not publicly approved any consulting activities by the Superintendent since he was hired in July 2011.

It would seem that Dr. Wardynski might be in breach of contract. I’m sure that the Board will wish to investigate this matter. I’m sure that they’ll find that none of these activities are legally deemed “consulting” on their part.

What Did Wardynski Receive for His Activities on Pearson’s Behalf?

Honestly, I don’t know. It is at least possible that he received nothing in the way of monetary reimbursement for these activities.

He could have easily traveled to Orlando on his own dime. (Certainly a man being paid $175,000 a year can afford a trip to Disney.)

He could have made the webinar after-hours and without district resources (but having watched it, I doubt it).

He could have given access to himself to CoSN as part of their “unique opportunity.” It’s a shame that the public and his teachers don’t have such access.

All of that may be evidence of his selflessness devotion to the cause.

But at the very least, it would seem that the Superintendent’s time, during typical work days, is being freed up for him to participate in these events. Either way, the Superintendent and the Board owe the people of Huntsville an explanation. Because it certainly seems as though Dr. Wardynski is actively working on Pearson’s behalf.

And that is a clear conflict of interest.

The Real Story of the Digital 1:1 Initiative

During the 2013 Grissom High School graduation, Principal Thomas Drake stood and listed many of the accomplishments that his graduating class had seen. The list was a long one and resulted in substantial applause from the 2,000 or so graduates and families in attendance.

One of the items on the list was that this graduating class was the first to operate under the Pearson Digital 1:1 Initiative.

When Mr. Drake reached this accomplishment, there was silence in the Von Braun Center.

It would seem that despite all the money that Pearson has spent promoting its amazing system that they failed to convince the people and students who actually participated in their “digital revolution.”

Most of us here at ground zero know the truth–The Digital 1:1 Initiative was a waste of time and money.

And Wardynski is to be blamed for this, not praised.

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

7 Comments

  1. First of all, “national thought leaders” — now there’s a phrase that gives me a shiver.

    Secondly, I expect that Wardynski interprets the “with approval from the Board” language in his outside activities clause to mean that unless and until the Board tells him he may NOT do something, it’s fair game. And why would he think differently? That group of compensated head-bobbers appears content to give approval to every.single.thing that the Superintendent does. I can’t recall a single proposal that has earned more than one dissenting vote from a board member. I think the recommendation to hire him only received two “nays” and one of those has retired.

    The phrase “of one mind” seems appropriate to describe our BOE — although it is more literal than figurative in that they appear to share a single brain, rather than merely the same viewpoint.

    And David Blair wants to run for the legislature? Bwahahahahahahaha! Actually, let’s let him think he’ll succeed there, if it means he’ll actually vacate his seat on the board.

  2. I have detested this digital transition from day one, and tried to make my case at a board meeting in the summer before it was implemented. It was obvious, as I pointed out, that this transition was not well planned, not fully vetted, and certainly not communicated to the public. There were no metrics to discuss, no lessons learned from other communities implementing this program, and absolutely no collaboration with the real educators in this city. Based on all the thorough research you’ve done in the past 18 months and the obvious pains we have experienced, it indeed all points to a collaborative arrangement between Wardynski and Pearson. Sad too that we have a Board of Bobble-heads that cower in fear and get in line behind their leader. Board members are not there to be in a popularity contest or to further their own agendas. We need representatives on that Board that will be the voice of the parents in their districts, and will not heistate one bit, to offer a voice of dissent to anyone and everyone regardless of their position, if what they believe is right and the will of the people they represent.

  3. Thanks again for another thought-provoking article regarding HCS. It makes perfect sense that there must be personal gain for the superintendent to destroy our school system, while proudly receiving awards for his accomplishments at the expense of our children’s education.

    I saw the direction in which this initiative was heading early in the 2012-13 school year. We struggled through the first semester, and decided to pull our three children out of HCS in January. It was the best decision we’ve ever made, but it hasn’t been without major sacrifice. Private school is very expensive. We would homeschool before sending them back to public school right now, if that were our only option. We know a family that hired a retired teacher to cover four subjects with their child. The cost is shared by other families, so it really isn’t that much, considering the gain.

    If our leaders seemed capable of making decisions to solve problems and not create them, we would not have been so quick to react. We would have muddled through like everyone else. However, we noticed a complete systemic failure happening, one that cannot be corrected or resolved by the current board and superintendent, since they created the mess in the first place. Since our oldest child only has five years of school left at home, we do not have time to wait this problem out in hopes of things magically getting better.

    I predict the problems will worsen this year for HCS. Sure, some of the computer kinks will be worked out, and everyone will know what to expect this year, but the behavior problems in the classroom are not going to disappear, and the good teachers who have left are not coming back. Huntsville will still have nine failing schools unless some hocus pocus is involved. Most parents I’ve talked to in our district are complacent as long as their children are passing. Many parents are concerned or dissatisfied, but don’t know what to do about the problems they’ve noticed. It is extremely frustrating to notice problems without having a solution. I hope this year brings positive to changes to HCS students, one way or another.

      1. Dr. Wardynski’s application for superintendent of HCS states that he was employed by the U. S. Army from May 1980 – September 1995.

        From October 1995 – May of 2010 he was employed by West Point as “Director of U.S. Army Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis.”

        From July 2010-April 2011 (or 10-11 months) he was the CFO of Aurora Public Schools.

        There is no mention at all on his application that he was an associate professor at all.

        Furthermore on his application he clearly states that he does not hold “the appropriate certifications for this position,” that he is not eligible for certification/licensure, and that he has not applied for the appropriate certificate.

        The Director of U.S. Army Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis is not the same as Associate Professor of Economics.

  4. HsvParent, tell the frustrated parents to join us. The BOE thinks everyone is satisfied with the 1:1 Digital Initiative. I am hoping he fines consulting more beneficial than being a superintendent of a small school system;-)

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