On Thursday, September 26th, Dr. Casey Wardynski, Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, took to the Huntsville Times to make his case for changing the name (or as we just heard for the first time today from board member Laurie McCaulley, closing) J. O. Johnson High School upon the opening of a new school in 2016.
(You may find Wardynski’s opinion here: “New, Inspirational Names in Order for Johnson High, Other New Huntsville City Schools”, and McCaulley’s opinion here: “J.O. Johnson High School is Closing, Not Being Renamed.”)
The Superintendent and the President of the school board are going all out to defend their decision (and yes, I’m convinced that the decision has long since been made) to alter the name of the high school on the North end of town.
On Thursday, Wardynski wrote, “the names we select must . . . speak to the aspirations that we know will drive our students forward to high levels of achievement . . . .”
Today, McCaulley wrote that the board approved on May 16th, not only to build a new school in the North, but also, “J. O. Johnson High School is closing.”
Making It Up As They Go
This was, by the way, the first time that the building of the new schools would mean the closing of a school. It’s interesting how she is now choosing to change her argument, isn’t it?
There was no mention whatsoever on May 16th that the recommendation that the board approved meant the “closing” of Johnson. Interestingly, that same proposal called for the moving of the existing Grissom High School (which is also a violation of trust) from its current location to:
Lot 1 of National Subdivision, Third Addition, Huntsville, Alabama to replace existing Grissom High School facility. . . . Upon completion of this construction, the existing Grissom High School building will no longer be used as a school.
This is, in other words, exactly the same wording that was used in that recommendation to discuss Johnson High School:
Upon completion of this new school, the existing J. O. Johnson High School will no longer be used as a school and students in grades 9-12 who would have attended J. O. Johnson High School will attend the newly constructed school.
I haven’t heard any discussion yet that the board and the superintendent are planning on closing Grissom High School, have you?
In short, McCaulley, as is common to the board, the superintendent, and the district, is making this up as they go.
You know, I don’t actually have a dog in the fight concerning the name of Johnson High School. Assuming that my children remain in the district long enough to attend high school, they will both attend Grissom High. (In fact, we moved here a decade ago because of the reputation of Grissom and the district’s schools. Sad isn’t it?)
However, I do have an issue with the superintendent’s consistent attempts to use the power of his office for his own political gain, and once again, that’s obvious if one simply reads what he wrote.
Just as he did when he decided to release the name of the school that a bullying victim would be transferred to last October, it seems that now he is using private student transfer records as political leverage in his battle to rename (or close) Johnson High School.
He wrote last Thursday:
Indeed, I will be mindful that even while some public persons who now speak to retain the name of a school which will retire in 2016, their progeny have long since sought and obtained transfers to schools outside their attendance area.
Once again, Wardynski is abusing the power of his position and the access to private records that his position affords him.
He is violating our trust.
Transfer records are a private matter and a private decision made by parents seeking the best interests of their children. For Wardynski, such information is simply a political weapon.
Just as when he decided to attack all special needs kids as being too expensive and a drain on our schools back in September 2011, just as when he decided to out where he was sending a bullying victim in October 2012, just as when he decided to put a contract with Pinnacle Schools above the safety of our students, just as when he decided to balance the system’s budget on the backs of the neediest children of our community, now he is willing to use private records of school transfers to attempt to discredit his political opponents.
This is an abuse of trust. It is an abuse that began before he arrived with the majority of the current board members, and it is an abuse that he has continued and, frankly, ratcheted up during his two years of employment.
Being Supportive in the Face of Untrustworthiness
A few weeks ago, I led a meeting concerning opting out of the insane amount of testing that the district is requiring our students to complete. While Dr. Wardynski didn’t choose to attend this meeting himself, he did order one of his staff members to attend the meeting. During our discussion after the meeting concluded, this staff member shared with me that he does, in fact, read this blog. He had a bit of advice to offer me: namely, that I should spend more time acknowledging that the district doesn’t get everything wrong. He claimed that if I would do this that the district leadership would be more willing to take me seriously.
(I didn’t have the heart to point out to him that the fact that he was being ordered to attend my meeting proved that the district does indeed take me seriously, but maybe he picked up on that on his own. He seems like an intelligent person.)
I told him that he was correct. The district doesn’t get everything wrong, and believe it or not, I actually think that the move toward unitary status is one of the things that the district is generally getting right.
I told him this, and he seemed surprised.
But, as I also told him, I don’t trust Dr. Wardynski.
(And while I’m sure that information was relayed back to Dr. Wardynski at least by the next morning, if you, Dr. Wardynski, were wondering if I actually said that–assuming that you don’t have a recording of me saying it–I did. I don’t trust you.)
I don’t trust him. He has done much to betray my trust, and astonishing little to earn it. (In fact, the last time I complimented the man publicly, he had me escorted out of the board meeting for obeying the law. I, however, don’t mind being recorded.)
I have not found anything in his approaches to dealing with students, parents, teachers, administrators, or the general public to be trustworthy.
This is just one more example in a really long list.
So, if you are among the increasingly tiny group of people in this town that Wardynski hasn’t yet disabused of your trust, rest assured that he just hasn’t quite gotten to you yet.
Dr. Wardynski, Mrs. McCaulley, if you actually do wish to “reason together” with the public, the best way to show that would be to deal honestly and fairly with the public. It’s astonishing how hard you seem to find that to be.