If You Smell Something . . .

So we had another board meeting Thursday night where the superintendent decided to spend the first 30 minutes of the meeting telling us how wonderful he is. He even brought in the district’s state school board representative, Mary Scott Hunter, to tell us how Wardynski is “really a master at presenting this [testing] information.”

Well, you know Ms. Hunter, people are usually quite good at talking about what they care about. Perhaps the reason that Dr. Wardynski is “really a master” at presenting testing information is because other superintendents are fully aware testing is only a minor part of education.

Of course Wardynski is the master of presenting testing data; he believes it is the only important thing in education.

But setting aside his self-promotion for a moment, Dr. Wardynski did offer a few comments and some slides of data that were rather interesting during his opening spiel.

As is typically the case with Dr. Wardynski when he offers a presentation, he hasn’t made the presentation available to the public. So all we have of it are the blurry screen shots I’ve captured.

Three years ago, when he was making his presentations on how wonderful it would be to merge elementary and middle schools together, for months he refused to make his presentations available to the public afterwards.

This is also why he hates it when people pay attention to what he says. He doesn’t want anyone to have any record of what he has to say to the public. He might, at some point, decide to change his mind; he might decide that it’s better for business for a certain high school to be located on a business owner’s land, and having a record of him saying something other than that is troubling.

He still hasn’t made his presentation at Grissom from three weeks ago available yet.

The Orwellian Ministry of Truth has been in full operation in Huntsville City since 2011.

“Talent Management”

But Thursday night he was talking about “Talent Management” (Hiring and keeping teachers in the district. Why oh why is it so hard for him to refer to teachers as, oh I don’t know, teachers?), and he had this to say:

So this time of year, talent management is a big focus. Having teachers in the right classrooms with the right kids. Uh, so we’ve got a little bit of an update here for the board. Currently we have 4.5 teaching openings. A half because sometimes a teacher might be, uh, shared between two schools. And uh, we had 5.5 this morning. We’re down to 4.5. I believe the principals, by and large, have lists of screened candidates for most of these openings. Uh, this year to fill our vacancies, we looked at about 8,500 applicants. Uh, we screened about a 1,000 of those, uh, using our rubrics. Uh, from that we interviewed about 550 people. And uh placed 85 of those people [Note: his slide read 85 percent not 85 people] into what we call our candidate talent pool. That’s where we draw the names and teachers from that are offered to our schools. The principals get lists of teachers to look at so they don’t have to go out and recruit and do all that vetting, and they have hired 267 teachers.

That doesn’t mean we had 267 vacancies. That means we hired 267 people. Uh, the board earlier in June might have hired somebody. Uh, we do look far and wide for the best teachers, so if we hired somebody from Birmingham. Uh, and they have now found a position in Birmingham, and they’ve let us know they won’t be joining us, then we’re hiring a second person for the same vacancy. [Note: According to the HR Reports, the district has  had three rescinded teacher jobs since April. So he’s right. We haven’t had 267 vacancies. We’ve had 264.] So there are vacancies where we’ve hired three and four people [Note: This is not supported by the HR Reports since April.] simply because when we look at Florence, we look at Birmingham, and uh, distance places, what we’re finding is that the economy is improving, school systems are also starting to hire. So sometimes people will take a job will take a job here, and if they get something a little closer to home, they’ll let us that they’re going to stay closer to home.

Uh, then uh, we’ve begun filling our supplemental teachers. So we know throughout the year, and I’ll share why we know that, that we’ll lose teachers throughout the year for a variety of reasons, and we go out and start hiring for the really hard to fills, that’s the math and the sciences, even though we don’t have a vacancy. And then we hold those teachers as reserve teachers at the district level. When we have a long-term vacancy at a school, they will go fill that vacancy, and then if the teacher doesn’t return to that school, they’ll just become that school’s teacher forever more. Uh, that way we can make sure that we don’t have kids going months, and weeks with no teacher. A constant flow of substitutes.

Uh, and then the non-classroom positions, we still have an Art, two Counselors, Reading Coach, Gifted, and Collaborative positions, seven of those. Collaborative is becoming a hard to fill position, uh, high demand, uh, as we have more and more Special Ed, uh, services. That’s kind of, uh, where we are with the hiring.

Uh, one thing to note, uh, go back there for just a minute Rena, uh, I noticed on AL.com, somebody had said we had about 66 vacancies. Uh, by that methodology, we always have 66 vacancies. We have about 66, 76 job descriptions in our district. [Note: I assume the methodology he’s referring to here is going to the state’s job board and counting the listings.] And, of course, as the board knows, we are always hiring. [Note: As the board knows, assuming that they actually read the HR reports before they rubber stamp them, the overwhelming majority of teachers are hired in June, July, and August. In April and May, HCS hired 4 teachers. In June, July and August (to date), HCS has hired 241 teachers.] We are always announced for positions. And the reason for that is if we don’t announce until we actually have a vacancy, we have to hold, uh, that position announcement open for two weeks, until we can hire. Uh, well that would be two weeks where we don’t have a teacher in a classroom. So, we’re always announcing. We’re always screening and vetting. We always know there’s going to be a teacher who may get pregnant. Maybe somebody who’s moving. Uh, might be an illness in the family. And uh, in that way, it looks like we’re always, got all these vacancies. And so they close month to month, and then we reopen them. So we don’t have 60 or 66 vacancies. We got the five, four and a half classroom positions, and then the other non-classroom positions I’ve mentioned.

So far as I can find, no one on AL.com has commented about having 66 vacancies in the district. So at the risk of seeming conceited, let’s assume that he was actually talking about GeekPalaver.com rather than AL.com. On Wednesday, I wrote that the district had “sixty-four open certified (teacher) positions on the state’s job board for Huntsville City Schools.”

According to Dr. Wardynski, the district had, as of Thursday Night:

  • Four and a half classroom vacancies
  • Seven Collaborative (SPED) vacancies
  • One Librarian
  • One Art
  • Two Counselors
  • One Reading Coach
  • One Gifted teacher

So rather than 64 (or 66, or 76 positions as Wardynski likes to say), according to Dr. Wardynski there were as of Thursday night merely 17.5 teacher vacancies in the district.

While his justification for there being 64 (or 66, 76 in #WardynskiMath) jobs on the Job Board sounded reasonable and even caring as he presented it, it was just another example of Dr. Wardynski pulling numbers and justifications out of thin air to make himself look better.

So let’s look and see what we can see.

Alabama State Department of Education Labels These as “Open Positions.”

If you take a look at the primary site, you’ll see that the ALSED has clearly labeled the jobs on their site as “Open Positions.” It would seem that the state believes that these positions are currently open positions

Other Districts List Only Open Positions

If you take a moment to review other job openings on the state’s website from other districts in the state, you’ll see that most of them, at this point, have only a few openings listed, or none at all.

  • Madison City has two open positions.
  • Madison County has 15.
  • Vestavia Hills has two, as well.

So, it would seem that other districts, including districts that have three times our employment, only list currently opened jobs.

Huntsville is listing 64 openings on the state’s website.

District Has 66.5 Fewer Teachers Today than in April

If we take a look at the Human Resource reports from April to the most recent in August, the numbers are quite interesting.

There have been nine board meetings since April 2, 2015.

Over those nine meetings, the board as approved 153 teacher resignations and 62 teacher retirements.

215 teachers have volunteered to leave the district over the summer this year. (The resignations and retirements approved in April were effective after school was finished on May 22, 2015.)

In addition to that number, the district, on May 20, 2015 “non-renewed” 98 teachers.

Thus, between the teachers who quit, retired or were non-renewed, the district lost 313 teachers this summer.

Here are the raw numbers from each Board Meeting for how many teachers either quit or resigned:

  • 19 on April 2, 2015
  • 22 on April 16, 2015
  • 26 on May 7, 2015
  • 24 on May 20, 2015
  • 28 on June 4, 2015
  • 11 on June 16, 2015
  • 32 on July 8, 2015
  • 30 on July 16, 2015
  • 23 on August 6, 2015

If we add in the 17.5 teachers that Dr. Wardynski claimed we still need to hire, the number of teachers our district needs to replace (assuming that we replace them all) is 330.5

So far, according to the HR reports, the district has hired (or re-hired) 264 teachers this summer since April. (Dr. Wardynski claimed repeatedly last night that we’ve hired 267 people this summer. The difference might be in the number of offers that have been rescinded. The district has, according to the HR reports rescinded three teacher hirings this summer.)

So let’s assume that we’ve hired 264 people this summer, since that’s what the reports claimed. If we subtract the number of teachers we’ve hired from the number of teachers we’ve lost (over the same time period from April), we get 330.5 – 264 = 66.5.

So, the district currently has 66 fewer teachers working in it than it had in April 2015.

The fact that the state’s jobs website is showing 64 openings in the district seems far more like reality than the 17.5 Wardynski was discussing Thursday night now doesn’t it?

“If You Smell Something, Say Something”

So, once again, we see that the superintendent is attempting to alter reality to suit his one personal agenda.

Also on Thursday night, Jon Stewart called it quits on The Daily Show. During the middle of the show, he gave an impassioned plea for dealing with, what was often a signature phrase for him, bullshit.

Here’s what Jon Stewart had to say before signing off:

Now the good news is this. Bullshitters have gotten pretty lazy. And their work is easily detected. Looking for it is kinda a pleasant way to pass the time. Like an I Spy of bullshit. So I say to you tonight friends, the best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something.

I smell something. How about you?

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


  1. Kudos to you for taping all of this and then actually typing it up. I got so annoyed that I had to quit reading his diatribe halfway through. It made no sense whatsoever. Yes, the Central Office has been smelling like a barnyard for a long time now.

  2. I believe the fact (stated in the meeting) that they are always hiring might have something to do with teacher morale or teacher pay. Either way, the work environment (our children’s learning environment) is toxic and causing the need to always be hiring or teachers want to make more money, like in the other two systems in Madison County (6-8%), and leave our schools causing constant turnover in our children’s learning environment (this is bad). It could possibly be both.

  3. I am flattered. Not only did W send someone to our meeting to spy, he is eager to read all about what we say and respond in line. He is a shaking in his boots at the thought of organized opposition.

  4. FYI the Fire Wardynski FB group miscounted and stated the system had 66 instead of the correct number of 64.

  5. Ok, let me get this straight. They have teachers on staff (somewhere) that were hired solely to replace any opening that MIGHT happen during the school year? If so, what are these teachers doing in the meantime? Surely I’m reading this wrong. If this is true, where is the money coming from to pay these “reserve” teachers?

  6. Two comments/questions:
    1. It sounds like HCS is “gaming the system”. Is it legal to advertise for 60+ jobs that we don’t really have?
    2. Perhaps HCS really doesn’t need 60+ additional teachers. I keep seeing TV advertisements for HCS. Perhaps, HCS student enrollment is down … way down. Does anybody track the actual number of students enrolled? I have never before in my lifetime seen a TV advertisement for Public Schools … something must be really bad in Rocket City if they have to advertise for FREE education.

  7. On a positive note … the good Doctor refers to this as “Talent Management” vice “Feedstock Management”.

  8. Hi Russell. Any stats on how many students were pulled out of the school system this year?

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