I realize that it’s hard to care sometimes about the actions and comments of our Superintendent and the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education. If you’ve listened to any of them for any period of time, you’re going to quickly come to the conclusion that they will tell you whatever they think will make you go away and stop bothering them by asking questions.
I’ve been watching and asking questions for about three years now. Trust me, I know how frustrating it can be. I know how often Dr. Robinson put me off when I was asking for information concerning the district’s plan to consolidate all the Special Education resource rooms into just one (and later two) schools.
I know how often the district breaks promises. And more. And more.
It happens so often, and with such regularity, it really is hard not to become discouraged by this board and superintendent and just wash your hands of it all.
They rarely seem to be held accountable for their broken promises, delays, and refusal to respond to the public, so one thinks, really, why bother fighting them at all.
It would be much easier to just leave. Pull your kids out of this nightmare of a district and home school or private school them.
But doing so leaves tens of thousands behind in the mess.
And so, it’s important to continue to document their attempts to deceive and hide the truth from the public.
One more instance came up Wednesday night.
The DOJ Didn’t Require The Board to Keep Quiet about Rezoning
Remember all the times that the public has asked about the rezoning plans that the district claimed to be developing? Back as far as April 15th, when The Huntsville Times published an opinion piece masquerading as news entitled, “Get Ready for the Rezoning of Huntsville City Schools” in which Mr. Stephens claimed that none of us should be surprised by these changes that would supposedly come to light “within weeks, not months” according to J. R. Brooks the board’s attorney.
In that article McCaulley, Blair, Brooks, and Robinson were all quoted in the article concerning the coming changes (which had been specifically denied before that article was published, despite Mr. Stephen’s claimed). All of them fell back on the claim that the DoJ was keeping them from sharing these plans with the public, but they would certainly do so “within weeks, not months.”
April 15, 2013 was 9 months ago, Mr. Brooks.
Then again back when the board decided to rename the New Johnson High School being built on the north side, they, led by McCaulley, Blair, Brooks, and again, Robinson claimed that they couldn’t really talk about the renaming of schools and the plans to rezone the district, because, as David Blair stated, “The feds are not letting us have those conversations right now.”
According to a letter sent to Mr. Brooks from Sarah Hinger, Trial Attorney for the United States, this is not and never has been true.
As it would seem that Mr. Stephens of The Huntsville Times has taken the board of education’s opinion as gospel in that he clearly defends the board’s opinion that the letter is not clear when he says, “it’s easy to see why” the board claims that the letter isn’t clear.
Thankfully, Mr. Stephen’s published the entire letter from Ms. Hinger after I requested him to do so. Please read the letter for yourself below.
The most relevant portion of the letter is the second paragraph which reads:
The United States has never raised an objection, and has no objecting, to the District distributing or discussing its proposals for school construction, closures, redistricting, or any other District policies, with the community. As you know, the District’s final plan must be approved by the Court pursuant to the desegregation orders governing the Huntsville City Schools District. In recent months, the District, Private Plaintiffs, and the United States have engaged in negotiations, which all parties understood would remain confidential, regarding possible plans to be submitted to the Court. The United States observes the confidential nature of these negotiations and does not make public any conversations or materials provided by the District to the United States in the course of discussions. However, this does not prevent the district from sharing information regarding its own initial proposals with the community or from communicating with the public in the course of developing its proposals.
In fact, if you continue reading to the third paragraph, you’ll see that Ms. Hinger goes so far as to inform Mr. Brooks that the board’s decision to leave the public out of the process will likely damage the process as a whole.
BOE Continues To “Spin” the Truth
Despite the clarity of the sentence highlighted above, McCaulley and Brooks, and one supposes Blair and Robinson, continue to hide behind the claim that the DoJ “are sending mixed messages” or that the DoJ’s letter “appears to [Brooks] to be a little inconsistent.”
In other words, at no time has the DoJ required or even suggested that the public should be kept in the dark by the superintendent and the Board of Education following his lead. In fact, the DoJ views keeping the public in the dark about these changes are detrimental to the process of achieving unitary status. Let’s be clear: the only thing the board and the DoJ have agreed to keep confidential are the negotiations. They were not required, advised or encouraged to keep the plans presented in the negotiations confidential in any way.
So, this presents us with a dilemma.
Either our board of education and superintendent have been lying to us all along (and continue to do so even after receiving this letter on December 17, 2013, or they are simply incapable of comprehending what has been clearly stated to them in writing.
You know we just finished yet another round of SchoolNet and STAR reading tests in our schools to determine whether or not our teachers are teaching our kids to read.
Perhaps we’ve been testing the wrong people.
I wonder at what level Wardynski, Blair, Robinson, McCaulley, and even Mr. Brooks are capable of reading, if they truly cannot understand a letter as clear as this one.
Wardynski Finally Discusses the Rezoning Plan
On Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 3:30pm in the Board Meeting room at the Merts Center, Dr. Wardynski will finally unveil his ultra-secret, “we’ve got to keep this confidential” re-zoning plan to the city.
Funny, I thought they were still confused by the DoJ’s “mixed messages.” Again, they are either lying, or they are incapable of understanding even their own statements. Either way, it’s about time that they allowed the public to at least see what they’ve been changing in our names for the past year.
When Wardynski makes his presentation on Thursday afternoon, keep the following statement in mind.
On January 14th when meeting with parents and interested citizens to discuss moving Grissom to the west side of the parkway (something else he promised he wouldn’t do), he made the following response to a question about rezoning Grissom High after the move:
Q. Are you considering rezoning with the new Grissom?
A. No. If there is [any rezoning], it will be for currently zoned students, not transferring students.
Dr. Wardynski went on to say that he, “will not have students transferring across town – students will go to new schools at Johnson or Butler in their home school zones.”
We’ll see on Wednesday how quickly he breaks this promise. It shouldn’t take long.
The Only Question That Matters Anymore
I began this blog noting how hard it is to still care about the actions and comments of the superintendent and the Board when they are so willing to re-write history whenever it suits their purposes. But the real question isn’t why people still care; we are, after all, talking about our children and our home.
The real question is how could anyone in this town trust anything that Wardynski, McCaulley, Blair, or Robinson say to us in the future?
Keep this in mind when you’re asked to vote for them again.
In case anyone wants to revisit Wardynski’s own words about the gag order check out this video from the May 16th 2013 BOE meeting https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10202936115149651&set=vb.1406431507&type=2&theater
I think this school board thinks that if they run people around in circles long enough, we will get tired, frustrated, and stop asking questions. I am sure some of their plans are good for the school system and good for the city, but they are not plans that are fair or equal. Transparency is less important to this administration than achieving their agenda. Ignorance is no excuse for obvious lying. Time to consider how you will vote in the next election and removal of a superintendent and legal advisor who cannot read and comprehend a communication as basic as the one sent by Ms. Hinger. If this is an example of their comprehension skills, perhaps they need to have DEER time every day and take the STAR test. Any one of them can certainly have my child’s place at the computer.
The next election is two years away, long enough for this board to do plenty of damage.
Actually there will be an election for three of the seats (Robinson, Blair, and Birney) this year. All three of the seats will be open as none are running again.
I agree with the gist of what you are saying, but there are some subtleties at work in this story. The DoJ did make it clear in communication predating the letter you posted that the school system was expected to keep all aspects of the negotiations secret, and closing Butler and rezoning were part of the negotiations.
Here’s where I fault the board: If it was legitimately concerned that revealing the rezoning plans to the public would violate the DoJ’s insistence on confidentiality, HCS could have (and should have) asked the DoJ directly whether this information could be disclosed to the public. The fact of the matter is that the board didn’t want to disclose anything, so it hid behind the DoJ’s language and used it as an excuse.
Do you have a copy of the communication from the DoJ that predates this letter that makes it clear what should or should not be made public? I’ve never seen any communication that makes that clear.
I agree that the board and Wardynski do not want to discuss this, nor anything, with the public.
They prefer to operate behind closed doors.
Yeah, I’ll retract what I said about the earlier communications from the DoJ. I was basing that on my memory of the articles in the dead-tree version of al.com (i.e., the now-in-name-only Huntsville Times). In the article you linked to, that amazing wonder-reporter Challen Stephens states that the DoJ “warned” HCS not to disclose anything about the negotiations. In fact, the letter actually states that all parties “understood” the negotiations would be confidential and that: “The United States observes the confidential nature of these negotiations and does not make public any conversations or materials provided by the District to the United States in the course of discussions.” I then noticed this line from the article, referring to HCS attorney J.R. Brooks: “Brooks on Monday said both sides agreed to keep confidential all negotiations. ‘It wasn’t imposed by one side or the other,’ said Brooks.”
So in truth, in seems the board was even more devious and duplicitous than you gave it credit for. What apparently happened is that HCS asked the DoJ to keep everything hush-hush so as to avoid political problems that might endanger the backroom deal-making. The DoJ officials were happy to oblige because it’s no skin off their nose, and they want a deal. But as soon as board members went public by pointing the fingers at Washington, the DoJ wasn’t going to sit there and just take it, thus the Dec. 17 letter. It looks like the DoJ is figuring out what incompetent bozos it’s dealing with here.
By the way, I have been told by someone who should know that the push to keep quiet about closing Butler and replacing, not rebuilding, Johnson was all from Laurie McCaulley. She wanted to delay as long as possible any political backlash in her district, and since the rest of the board needed her vote and support (as the only black member) to get the deseg order lifted, everybody fell in line and went along. Not saying that’s the complete story, but it certainly has the ring of truth.
That’s an interesting interpretation of the events. I think you’re right. They asked the DoJ to keep silent.
And I’m sure your source on McCaulley is correct.
While we are quoting “sources” mine tell me McCaulley gave the BOE the heads up the Huntsville Ministerial Alliance was about to send out a mass email in support of keeping J.O. Johnson’s name and that’s why they violated their own rules and moved the vote up.
Maybe so, but it was at her behest. I was told she drove that issue because, she argued, it was her district, her voters, and her head on the block.
Yeah, meant to post that last comment under “Ben,” as usual. Autofill did its thing, and I didn’t catch it.
No worries! 🙂
Full transparency is finally here in Huntsville. If you like your school and your school’s location, “you can keep it. Period.” Why would anyone doubt their credibility?
They were lying from the get-go. What the School District lawyer claimed was never plausible. And the School Board has a long history of violating the spirit of the open meeting law, to actively scheming to circumvent it – on the advice of the District’s lawyer.
–Changing subjects, the failing school’s list is out today and HSV has the usual suspects on it. 1/3 of the data is Wardynski’s. I guess they’ll still blame Ann Roy Moore. Seems to me that at least the Board ought to get some blame – after all, they hire the super and rubber stamp his/her proposals.
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