Wardynski Says DoJ Rezoning Bad: Much Ado About Nothing

Bored By Citizens' Comments

This past Thursday night the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education voted unanimously (thanks for standing up for your beliefs there, Mr. Birney) to adopt Wardynski’s rezoning plan that he developed and implemented entirely without public input.

And Robinson was right there to cheerlead that the public couldn’t be involved. She’s going to make a “great” representative on the city council, isn’t she? I’m sure she’ll listen to the public much more once she’s over there. As she said before the meeting:

“This is a lawsuit we’re trying to settle,” said board member Jennie Robinson today, comparing the ongoing federal negotiations with a divorce settlement. “You don’t go around asking for opinions on that.”

Board Privately Discusses Wardynski’s Interpretation of DoJ Plan

After an executive session where the board discussed how they were going to sell the community on the importance of their plan, they came out to do just that.

They began by sharing the Wardynski proposal again and then miraculously they had a presentation that had the DoJ plan’s feeder patterns in a nice diagram as well. (Someone either worked really fast to produce this, or the board wasn’t waiting with the public to find out what the DoJ plan was as Blair claimed.)

Here’s Wardynski’s proposed feeder pattern:

Wardynski Rezoning Plan

Here’s what Wardynski claimed the DoJ was recommending:

DoJ Rezoning Plan (according to W)

He, of course, offered no evidence that this is the DoJ’s actual plan.

Make note of that. He offered no evidence that this was the DoJ’s actual plan.

Even if we assume that Wardynski is telling the truth as he knows it, they’ve been involved in negotiations for a long time. During negotiations, plans, positions and proposals change dramatically over time. Perhaps Wardynski simply got it wrong. It’s happened before.

Lets Go To Court!

After his presentation, the Board of Education authorized Wardynski to file the Motion for Approval of his plan. The City of Huntsville is therefore fighting the Department of Justice in court over which plan should be adopted. This motion will be decided by the US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Northeastern Division. You may download the motion here.

There was no discussion of how much this litigation might cost during the board meeting. And they answered no questions from the members of the public attending Thursday’s meeting.

Our litigation happy superintendent and board are taking us into more legal action.

So where does that leave us?

Let’s assume for a moment that the plans above are completely accurate representations of the two positions of Wardynski and the Department of Justice. Where do we stand?

A federal judge will now decide which of the two plans is best for the district. Or, potentially, the judge could order a third plan of his or her own. I suppose it is possible (but unlikely) that the judge would rule that nothing be done leaving the current zone lines in place sending the parties back to the negotiation table.

In other words, everything is completely up in the air.

What If?

But let’s play out one possible scenario for a moment:

What if the judge decides that the Wardynski plan, which was developed entirely without public input, is indeed to best plan for unifying the district into a single system. (That is the goal, after all.)

So, let’s assume that Wardynski wins.

What happens next?

Well, as Mr. Brooks stated Thursday night, rezoning is a part of the process to move towards a unified district and to therefore lift the desegregation order.

It does not end the desegregation order on its own.

Even If We Win, We Lose

So after months and possibly years of litigation over the rezoning plan, what have we won?

The district will still be under the control of the DoJ except now the plan that the DoJ believed would best bring us unification has been rejected.

The DoJ still controls our destiny. Does fighting their plan (even assuming we’ve seen their plan) bring us closer to unification?

Nope. It doesn’t.

The Wardynski Plan is a fool’s errand. We did not have to file it. And the public has had zero input into the plan.

So, after potentially years of litigation and expense, we will have accomplished absolutely nothing, even if we win.

Nothing except the following:

  1. Wardynski has shored up support for himself in this town because he’s willing to fight the “evil” federal government.
  2. Wardynski has improved his name recognition on a national level.
  3. Wardynski has spent a ton of the district’s money that he should be spending on improving education at all of our schools. And of course,
  4. We’re still a segregated system.

This is, in the Bard’s wise words, much ado about nothing.

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

37 Comments

  1. Wardynski plan= Close predominately black/brown/poor schools and bus black/brown/poor students to another predominately black/brown/poor school located .06 miles from an active rock quarry. It’s a win win for Wardynski and the BOE. Everybody else, not so much.

    1. I say a waste of money. This is a hot mess. You need to read the motion that was filed Friday. That does provide some answers while it could cause some other underlying issues to reveal themselves. Sometime you can be too smart for your own good. In this case it would be wise to hire an experienced driver, it makes a world of difference.

  2. You forgot one other thing that it accomplishes: It protects Huntsville High School and its feeders — proudly serving the neighborhoods of the people who run this town — from any negative impacts caused by the Butler closing. It’s very important to keep the elites happy, since that is who Wardynski and the board really work for.

    1. True, but even if Wardynski’s plan wins, there’s no guarantee that 35801 is protected. The DoJ will still be calling the shots.

      Besides, most of the people I know from that area don’t like Wardynski’s plan either.

      So I count it pretty much a wash.

    2. I agree with Ben’s comment. The Wardynski plan appears to be developed to protect the Huntsville High/Huntsville Middle/Blossomwood district. I may not be reading this correctly but it seems to me that if we really wanted to make our schools more racially diverse, moving the predominantly black Butler into the same building with the predominantly Johnson is backward. Splitting the Butler students between Grissom and Huntsville High would be more productive to accomplish this. Then there is the merging of Ed White and Davis Hills. Once again merging two predominantly black schools, with little possibility of bring this merged school to some sort of racial balance. I have heard teachers in many of the south schools complaining about the problems they are having in their previously easy to manage classrooms, due to transfer students from the north district.

    3. Ben- with all due respect, Blossomwood, HSV middle and HHS are pretty much the worst hit either plan. We instantly become over capacity with Wardynski’s plan or we drive to Westlawn and Lee for feeder schools. I understand most of the city thinks we are somehow protected but trust me, Blair has sold us down the river as we’ll since he will be running for state rep. This is Wardynski’s show and the board members are rolling over to his bully tactics.

      1. Anna — I appreciate your perspective, but you have to understand our view, as well. The city’s power brokers are in your part of town, and they are able to use their money and influence to control whom gets elected in other districts (Olshefski being Exhibit A). When Blossomwood and HHS were rebuilt, the folks in those school zones got more or less what they wanted, even down to the more classic architecture style of the HHS building. Those schools were pretty much built so that they were at capacity when opened. While I can’t produce any evidence to prove it, the widespread belief is that this was done intentionally to limit the number of transfer students that could come in. So if the schools would be over capacity under the new plan, that’s not really surprising.

        Contrast this with what happened when it was time to replace Grissom. Wardynski and the board decided on their own where the school would be built, and the people down here got no input. The decision was made to encourage development of the Hays family property and to accommodate the Butler closing (which hadn’t been announced yet), and nothing else mattered.

        Even worse, look at what the new plan does to Whitesburg P-8. What is happening to Blossomwood, etc. is nothing compared to the crazy way Whitesburg’s zone lines are being drawn. Even if your schools have a few too many kids, at least your property values won’t take a hit.

  3. Russell – I have to object to your statement “The DOJ still controls our destiny.” The former Confederate states have a long history of discrimination. And with the Supreme Court’s recent decision on the Voting Rights Act they are rushing to return to their bad discriminatory habits wrt voting. Until the state & local governments of the former Confederate States can be trusted to abide by the US Constitution the DOJ has a role to play in school districting. I will also point out that the DOJ’s influence is not limited to the former Confederate States. For example, Boston is a famous school bussing case.

    2ndly, I don’t for one minute believe that Wardynski’s plan is about ending discrimination. IMHO it reflects 2 goals: 1, keep Southeast Huntsville happy to consolidate his support with this power base. Which he is doing at the expense of the rest of Huntsville, with the possible exception of the schools for the Providence subdivision. 2, play a shell game with closing old schools and opening new schools so it will be 3 years before Huntsville will have schools on the failing school list. NOTHING that he is doing is about actually improving the education Huntsville’s children receive.

    Finally, I am very disturbed by the process wrt to the rezoning plan. I do not understand* how the rezoning plan could be submitted to the DOJ before it was approved by the school board. This process has cut out the public, who will be the most affected by the plan; ignores the chain of command; and is a massive coordination failure.

    *Other than the usual that the school board consists of a bunch of sheep who rubber stamp everything Wardynski proposes.

    1. All that I meant by the comment, “the DoJ controls our destiny” is that the desegregation order will still be in place.

      I completely agree that segregation exists in this town and that Wardynski’s Plan doesn’t address it.

      I’m sorry if that wasn’t as clear as it could have been.

      1. The district did not, nor did it ever have to, “submit its plan to the DOJ.” The Justice Department does not decide what the district plan should look like. That is up to the court. The Justice Department can agree with the district’s plan, disagree, or submit a plan of its own, which is what it ultimately did.
        The school district did, however, repeatedly SHOW its plan to the DOJ, in repeated and lengthy negotiations in an attempt to reach an amicable arrangement whereby the district and the DOJ would be on the same page in asking the court to approve a single district plan. That didn’t happen, so the school board THEN approved the district’s plan because it was better than the mess the DOJ was proposing. Pretty simple really.
        Meanwhile Huntsville’s schools are NOT segregated and have not been segregated in just over 50 years. Any school that has a racial composition of less than 100% of one ethnicity is not segregated. A white student in the Butler zone will end up going to Butler. A black student in the Grissom zone will end up going to Grissom. It’s not up to the district to tell people where to live. And the Supreme Court has long ago said that forcibly dragging students out of their own neighborhoods and away from their neighborhood schools to some school across town in some effort to achieve an artificial racial student body quota is gravely unconstitutional and illegal.
        The only students kept out of any schools based on their race are white students who might want to transfer from Butler to Grissom or from Johnson to Grissom. Ah! Then we do have racial discrimination, don’t we?

        1. You’re correct that the court will decide what re-zoning plan to implement, but the DoJ will still be in charge of the desegregation order, which was my point. Even J. R. Brooks has specifically stated on the record that the re-zoning is one step towards lifting the desegregation order. It is not the only one, nor is it the final step.

          In other words, as I stated in the post, even if HCS wins, it will still be under the control of the desegregation order.

          I take it you were present at the negations? If so, please share that knowledge with us, and if you have any documentation to share, I’ll be happy to read it as well. Lord knows that the district’s claim that the negations were to be kept secret never rang true.

          Your definition of an integrated system is a bit on the ridiculous side, but you’re free to hold any view you wish.

          Thanks for sharing your opinion.

  4. My comment was about the motion filed as it provides the plan Wardynski has for the magnet schools with a few more details. If the community had involvement and input there probably would not be a need to rezone. @Alex, I can imagine the difficulty personnel is having with the transferred students. If leadership was about making drastic changes with really improving failing schools parents would not use the transfer process. Wardynski does not understand education in public schools and urban public schools. His theory is any teacher can teach anywhere. That is far from the fact. Yes, we have a BOE that is self-serving and too ignorant to know this is a sinking ship . The kids are the ones that will be directly hurt.

  5. Very informative thread here. It would seem that opinions here are somewhat driven by personal consequences of what will happen as a result of rezoning. Those without children, or whose students are in unaffected schools, probably have a lesser interest than those directly affected. My take? When I move to Huntsville many years ago, Huntsville High was a top notch school. Not so today. it is overcrowded and its ranking has dropped significantly. We moved to where we’re at for a reason; the schools. If I was to move here today, I certainly wouldn’t move to the school district I am currently in. Am I against diversity and desegregation? Of course not. But I am against treating a gaping wound with a band-aid, and instituting policies that affect the community without community input. “Schools” don’t fail….the students fail. Do you really think that dispersing students from a failing school will suddenly turn mediocre/failing students into rising stars? Not a chance. What it will do is add to over-crowding and an unstable learning environment. I speak from experience. I witnessed this in North Carolina as well. It all starts with family values. It continues when we have skilled educators who actually love what they do, and feel comfortable and secure going to work everyday. When either or both of these conditions doesn’t exist, which I beleive is the case here, then you have the sort of administrative panic you see today. Wardynski was able to “right” the financial ship here in Huntsville, and for that I give him credit. However, from an educational standpoint, he and the bobblehead BOE staff have lost touch with the very people they are supposed to represent. Can’t leave this district soon enough.

    1. He “righted” the financial ship by cutting SPED by $7 million, financial slight of hand allowing him to write off $9 million, and by running off a third of our teachers.

      But I completely agree that he can’t leave soon enough.

      1. Giving Wardynski credit for “righting the financial ship is like giving a Turkey credit for Thanksgiving. There was no financial crisis, it was invented as an excuse to get rid of Dr. Anne Roy Moore and bring Wardynski in. Wardynski left his previous post at a deficit, and with the exception of 1 member, the same board who enabled ARM is the same board that enabled Wardynski.

      2. Part of the financial improvement came from the monetary resources, materials, and other assistance from the Pearson Educational Company.

  6. I stand corrected about the “financial righting.” You are so correct in your statement. Here’s a guy who flew in, performed a ibt of slight of hand, then will slide out and capiatalize on the business deals he helped to facilitate through Pearson and others. And the rest of the bobbleheads on the BOE? Are we surprised to see that at least a few of them want to springboard to another government position? Not only will they not get my vote, but I will campaign hard against each and every one of them.

  7. Ben – I think we’re on the same side of this and I do see your point and don’t disagree that other schools are being affected. I know that this re-zoning will benefit very few. But don’t think that, at best, taking in Butler Terrace won’t affect the home values in this district. At worst, feeding into a failing middle school and driving to the other side of town for high school will affect it more. With that being said, I agree that we have a lot of “power players” in our community, but over the years, they do not listen to their neighbors in Blossomwood anymore than the people in other areas of town. There was a large petition for them not to build a new school, ignored. We petitioned to not implement common core and both Blair and Mary Scott Hunter favored the Chamber over the neighbors. I agree that common sense would tell me that these politicians would oppose anything that would affect their property value, but I think this has moved beyond their control.

    1. I’m trying to figure out when it became acceptable, for lack of a better word, for elected officials to ignore the will of the tax payers?

  8. It became acceptable when people voted based on big money advertising, lining of certain pockets and a don’t care attitude when assuming it doesn’t affect me.

    1. Agreed. I sure do miss the good old days when the candidate with the most votes won instead of the candidate with the most money. We have the best non democracy money can buy.

    2. Almost every election in the United States is now based on the monetary-backing and publicity of the candidates, similar to a plutocracy except the candidate need not be wealthy when elected if he/she has very rich and powerful political action committees and corporations (Super PACS).

      Even candidates who have had no prior experience in office are able to be elected if they win the vote of the television audience through commercialization strategies.

      Eventually, Ray Bradbury’s description of voting via television control will no longer be fictional. Television shows such as American Idol and Fox News call-in surveys have brought that very close to reality.

      At some point in the future, legislation will be introduced that connects voter registration with cell phone ownership or some similar identification; and elections will be counted completely electronically (despite the increase likelihood of the election results being hacked).

      1. Fact is, most people don’t pay attention to national politics, even fewer pay attention to state politics, and only a tiny fraction keep up with local politics. Go to any neighborhood you want and ask people to name their county commissioner, city council representative, city school board representative, state school board representative, state senator, and state representative. Chances are, less than half will be able to answer you correctly on any of them, and probably fewer than 1-in-20 will be able to name all six. With that level of ignorance and apathy, it is no wonder that a nice billboard and some name recognition is enough to win these very important jobs.

  9. See what’s happening here? Wardynski has now turned us against each other. I think we’re ALL getting hte shaft to some degree here and the mighty dictator no doubt would certainly enjoy this bickering among the serfs. I’m having a hard time following who’s getting what and who’s getting shafted, but I believe all this angst and enrgy should be pointed at the BOE clowns and not each other.

    1. Point taken, but the fact remains that politics in this town is run by a downtown elite who bend things to their whims more often than not. Concentrating on that TOO much in this rezoning situation is not helpful, but neither is ignoring it.

      The BOE clowns you decry are, in many cases, in office because of those elites and their campaign funding. Wardynski’s actions — from the laptops, to the teacher firings, to the rezoning — have been supported all the way by the mayor and the business community. Ditto Common Core. Wardynski couldn’t do what he is doing and the board wouldn’t be so compliant if Wardynski didn’t have the support of the city’s power structure. You shouldn’t lose sight of that.

      1. I agree that much of W’s power base does seem to be located in and around downtown. But that isn’t the entirety of it.

        Many in the south are still true believers and refuse to even ask questions about his actions.

  10. Sorry to say, I am one of those who simply do not know the names of all my representatives. You know why? Because I don’t hear of them doing anything to benefit the people they represent! Seems that once they get elected, they sort of forget where they came from. How about a town hall meeting? How about a few write-ups in the local paper? And speaking from experience….when you DO finally engage in local affairs such as BOE meetings only to get disrespected and renedered voiceless, it’s no wonder apathy sets in.

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