Oppose Committee of 100 Candidates for BOE

Robinson Paying Close Attention by Texting

I am undecided whom I will support for school board in the upcoming elections (August 26th). But I absolutely know whom I will not be supporting or endorsing in the election, and if such matters interest you, read on.

On July 10, 2014 the BizPac arm of the Committee of 100 here in Huntsville endorsed the following three candidates for the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education:

I am not and will not support these three candidates for school board.

The Committee of 100 may do some amazing things in this city. Honestly, it looks like nothing other than a networking tool, but networking is important (being an off the scale introvert, it is hard for me to say that with a straight face, but experience has taught me that this is so). If you’re a member of the Committee of 100, good on ya. I hope that you have found it to be helpful in some way.

Electing “Business-Oriented” Candidates

The stated purpose of the Committee of 100 may be found on their website. They claim that they exist to:

  • Develop long-term strategies that impact economic development and improve public education.
  • Attract and support visionary, business-oriented candidates to run for local elected office.
  • Communicate with local elected leaders on business issues.

Now it makes perfect sense to me why business leaders would care about the quality of education in the city. Honestly, everyone should care about the quality of education in a city. Education benefits everyone.

But I find the second and third points to be the most insightful. This committee exists for the purpose of electing “business-oriented” candidates to address “business issues.”

They do not exist to elect “education-oriented” candidates. They do not exist to elect “child-oriented” candidates.

They exist to elect candidates who will be “business-oriented.”

Committee of 100 Members: 3 Educators

One look at their membership makes this motivation fairly clear: the committee of 100 (which is actually about 185, but 100 sounds better I suppose) consists of about 182 people from the legal, medical, financial, and real estate developmental fields.

There appear to be about three members who currently have or have had an education background and they are Dr. Altenkirch, President of UAH; Dr. Beck, President of Calhoun; and Dr. Caylor, former Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools. (I wonder why none of the presidents from the Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the city are represented on the committee?)

I’m curious; with about three of 185 members (about 1.5%) having backgrounds in education, how informed to you believe the Committee of 100 to be on matters concerning the best way to motivate a child to learn? If they truly wished to “improve public education” as they claim, don’t you think they would have more teachers on their committee?

We’ll come back to that.

Many of the rest are individuals who either have or potentially could benefit financially from decisions the school board might make. This is particularly true of one of the members, J. R. Brooks. (Isn’t it interesting that the School Board’s attorney is a member of an organization that has played a central role in choosing school board members for at least the past four years?)

Previous Committee of 100 Endorsements

With the exception of Mr. Topper Birney, each of the four remaining school board members has been endorsed by the Committee of 100 in his or her last election. Mr. Culbreath and Ms. McCaulley were both endorsed by the Committee of 100 in 2012. In 2010, Mr. Blair received their endorsement and $20,000. Dr. Robinson that year received their endorsement and $17,500 from the committee as well as another $10,000 from the Alabama Builder’s PAC, and $13,600 from John Nolan.

The Committee of 100 has endorsed and supported four of the five current sitting school board members. If the city of Huntsville follows their endorsements in August, that number will rise to five of five.

But setting aside the question of influence, how have the four previously endorsed Committee of 100 candidates done during their tenure on the board?

Robinson’s, Blair’s and McCaulley’s support of Wardynski has been unquestionable. There are moments when Mr. Culbreath will actually ask the superintendent a question occasionally during a board meeting, but when it comes time to vote, he votes with the majority almost always.

The only board member to occasionally oppose Dr. Wardynski’s recommendations during the past two years has been Mr. Birney, and even his opposition has been extremely rare.

In other words, if you believe that our schools are on the right track, you can thank the Committee of 100.

I’m convinced that we are on the wrong track. And all of the “evidence” that Dr. Wardynski likes to tout supporting his record is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Committee of 100 Supports Wardynski

The Committee of 100 has been fully supportive the actions that Dr. Wardynski has taken during the past three years because the vast majority of those decisions have been good for business. The Committee of 100 endorsed candidates from the past have been fully supportive of Dr. Wardynski. The three candidates the Committee of 100 has endorsed for the election in August are fully supportive of Dr. Wardynski.

That is reason enough to avoid these candidates, but we also need to consider their stated purpose once more:

Attract and support visionary, business-oriented candidates to run for local elected office.

Their purpose is to promote “business-oriented” candidates, and that is what their candidates are. If a decision has been good for business, but questionable for the public, teachers, school system or children, our current board has supported it. The moving of Grissom High School from its current location to the other side of the parkway is a prime example. Another would be finishing school a week early simply so the district can start painting.

Perhaps if the committee opened their membership up to more than just three people with education backgrounds, they would learn something that every teacher in the world already knows:

Education is Not a Business

Education is not a business. Our children are not a product nor widgets on an assembly line. Our children’s education is not, as Committee of 100 endorsed school board member Blair once proclaimed, just like golf balls, all “standardized,” and the same.

Education cannot be run like a business because it isn’t a business. Education exists to help prepare students for life not business. Education exists to enhance business not the other way around. Education exists to critique business not mindlessly support it.

Business is not the purpose of life. Business exists to serve and support life. You cannot reverse that statement, and the only people who wish for it to be reversed are those who are attempting to benefit from your having given up your life for the business.

Education must be individualized not standardized.

As I said, I am sure that the Committee of 100 is populated by fine people. But their goal is not and should not be the sole goal for our schools. Electing “business-oriented” candidates is not the right thing to do for our children.

We’ve had enough of the business-oriented “solutions” from our current board members. We don’t need any more.

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


  1. You know we agree on most things. You know we laugh at similar things. I had to LOL throughout this whole blog. If I didn’t, I would have cried. If you were a stand up comic, people would come back for a second show. And, given the circumstances, you have plenty of material. Unfortunately, this isn’t suppose to be funny. If I wasn’t living through it, I would say you are exaggerating. However, every word you have written is true. I think all the individuals you mentioned would agree it is true, too. ISN’T THAT SAD? Business people continually think they are much smarted and wiser than educators. However, the Committee spends thousands upon thousands of dollars on people who will agree with them and do exactly what they say. However, teachers spend their thousands on the students they teach and invest their time in the lives of Huntsville’s children. We desire to teach youth HOW to think, not how to be a puppet. Who do you think is wiser?

  2. When it comes to the Committee of 100 and the Chamber of Commerce, they treat education just like every other issue they deal with: They do everything they can to be sheep. Bleating, me-too, PR-obsessed sheep. It’s good for business, you see, to be able to tell the world that we’re doing exactly what everyone else is doing. Even if everyone else is racing off a cliff.

    Wardynski fully admitted this a couple of years ago when he first publicly defended Common Core. I think you actually quoted him on this blog saying at a school board meeting that he talks to business people around the country who are concerned about the school situation in Alabama, but that he is able to calm them down by assuring them we are using the same dumb curriculum standards as pretty much everyone else.

    The second priority of the Co100 and CoC is to take care of the issues “their people” are concerned about. And despite all the kum-ba-yah “one city” crap, we all know that their members don’t live in 35803… or 35810.

    I, too, will not be supporting any Committee of 100 supported candidates for ANY local office, but I wonder how many other people are actually paying attention… as opposed to the number who are swayed by pretty billboards.

    Is HEA still doing endorsements? Or are they just staying under their rock?

  3. “Many of the rest are individuals who either have or potential could benefit financially from decisions the school board might make. This is particularly true of one of the members, J. R. Brooks. (Isn’t it interesting that the School Board’s attorney is a member of an organization that has played a central role in choosing school board members for at least the past four years?)”

    It is very interesting.

  4. How is Brooks paid — is that public info, ……… in the school budget, pro bono?

    1. Mr. Brooks is a member of the firm Lanier, Ford, Shaver, and Payne firm here in Huntsville. He is the primary legal council for Huntsville City Schools.

      From June 2012 through June of 2014 (25 months), the district has paid the firm of Lanier, Ford, Shaver, and Payne at least a total of $1,934,330.02.

      While this information is somewhat buried on the district’s website, you may find the monthly check registers for the district on the eBoards site. You may find the most current copy of the district’s register at https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/ViewMeetingOrder.aspx?S=2061&MID=1998

      The monthly amount has dramatically increased since April 2014 when the DOJ lawsuit began being litigated. Before that time, the monthly average was usually around $50,000 per month. Since then the average has been in the $150,000 per month range.

      This isn’t really a budgeted amount, but it is a regular expense.

      In the 9 months preceding Dr. Wardynski’s arrival, our average monthly legal expense was about $37,566.29. (This period included two RIFs.)
      In the past 25 months, our average monthly legal expense was $77,373.20.

      No, Mr. Brooks legal work for the district is not pro bono.

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