For the past week, and quite possibly longer, Huntsville City Schools has been experiencing a near system wide Internet outage. There were reports that the faculty Internet was down at the end of last week September 19th, and starting on Monday, September 22 until at least Wednesday, September 24, 2014 most of the district did not have access to the Internet during the school day. Even today, accessing the Internet was at best spotty. That’s right, while Wardynski has been using his “SAFe team” to spy on students (and teachers, and political enemies), our students have been without access to the Internet and all the “amazing” digital tools that he and the Secretary of Education like to brag about.
Wasting Time, As Always
So, lets add up the time we’ve wasted this year.
We have just finished our seventh week of school. For the first five weeks of school, the new single login system for Pearson Realize was basically impossible to use, and so students didn’t have access to their textbooks. For some reason, the district waited until at least the fifth week of school to download digital textbooks onto the laptops.
We begin the year without sufficient laptops on hand because of the district’s issues with reimaging them over the summer.
About 2,000 computers will not be available at the beginning of school. Those students will be issued loaners until “their” laptop is ready.
— Russell Winn (@russwinn) July 17, 2014
The reality was that the number was significantly higher than this, and there were not sufficient “loaners” available at the beginning of the year.
Most of the iPads across the district are no longer being replaced when they break. This means that what was originally a 1:1 ratio for both First and Second Grade classrooms (that do not have laptops as a backup), is now at best a 1:3 ratio for First Grade, and significantly higher for Kindergarten (~1:6) and Pre-K (~1:8 if they have any at all).
But of course, teachers are ordered and threatened not to talk about such issues. No matter how difficult their jobs may become without working tools.
Then last week, the district’s Internet was basically useless for the entirety of the week.
So, our students have had a single week so far this school year with their miraculous digital tools in working order.
For our excellent teachers, this isn’t a problem. They’ve adapted despite the ridicule, despite the threats, despite the push to get them to quit, they adapt to whatever hostile working environment Wardynski creates.
But they shouldn’t have to.
There are some who would say, as Elisa Ferrell was fond of saying when the computers were introduced in 2012, that we’ve just got to give the district time to work through these “growing pains” or “speed bumps.” We’re beginning our third school year of growing pains and speed bumps. Is it okay to ask when this snake oil might start working properly?
Wardynski: “Please No More Such Messages.”
On Wednesday morning, September 24th at approximately 8:15am, Ms. Heather Bender, Director of Education Technology, sent out an email to all HCS Employees containing the following message:
We are still experiencing internet outages in the district this morning. The Huntsville City Schools IT team is actively working with Alabama Supercomputer Authority right now to resolve the issue. Thank you for your patience.
Ms. Bender, to her credit, was doing what any reasonable administrator, what any “strong leader,” should always do during a time of crisis: she was attempting to communicate the situation clearly and effectively to the people who were dealing with the consequences first hand. As Wardynski might say, she was giving information to the troops on the ground.
It would have been even better if the district had seen fit to contact parents via one of their often incomprehensible robocalls to let us know about this as well, but at least she was communicating necessary information to the principals and most importantly our teachers.
But it seems that Wardynski, who often signs his emails simply “W,” did not approve of Ms. Binder communicating this information to the employees of the district.
So, on or around 2:16pm that afternoon, W hit “Reply to All” by mistake and emailed the following message to everyone in the district:
Please no more such messages.
This message went out to everyone in the district, but was shortly thereafter deleted from the email servers. (In case you’re unaware, most corporate email servers have an option of “recalling” a message that was sent in error, but as in this case, it isn’t always effective.)
So it would seem that Dr. Wardynski is more concerned about the possibility of an email that documents problems with his pride and joy leaking than actually addressing the problems that are occurring and fixing them. God forbid that the truth of Wardynski’s folly might leak out. If it does, it might mean that he won’t be able to brag as much about Powerful People coming to town entirely to praise him:
Wardynski’s bragging about being with the Secretary of Education next Tuesday (when Duncan is in town for a private meeting.) #hsvboe
— Russell Winn (@russwinn) September 4, 2014
No, the illusion that the computers are working miracles in our district must be maintained regardless of the truth, inconvenience, or wasted educational time. Just as students can charge their computers at home, they can download the work they need when they get home as well.
The public face of the Wardynski Digital Initiative must be zit free.
Dear Dr. Wardynski and the “SAFe” Team:
I’m aware that y’all are reading these posts. I know that I’m on your “watch list,” and I know that the board has decided to keep quiet about the spying program because, hey, they might be able to use it to figure out who is saying mean things about them on AL.com during a political season.
Please note, there’s no need to wonder when I post something critical; I always sign my name.
Oh, and Dr. Wardynski one last word: it kinda sucks when you think something is private only to find out that people know about it, doesn’t it? Perhaps your mistake will encourage you to reconsider your policy of spying on students, teachers and the rest of our community. Perhaps this will encourage you to reconsider giving our children’s personal information away to Pearson. Perhaps?
Yeah, I know. Now I’m just dreaming.