Mass Exodus of Teachers Continues

At the beginning of school on August 6th, Dr. Wardynski offered the board of education a presentation entitled “Talent Management Update.” During this presentation, he offered the following information:

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 [Note: According to the HR Reports, the district has had three rescinded teacher jobs since April.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. 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.

Wardynski Spin #1: “District is Always Hiring”

According to Dr. Wardynski, the district is “always hiring” and the district “always have 66 vacancies,” so going to the state’s educational job’s database and counting the number of vacancies should show that there are always 66 openings.

Except today here’s what the state’s educational job’s database shows:

Assuming that Dr. Wardynski was telling the truth, it would seem that we currently only have 14 certified job descriptions in our district.

I wonder what happened to the other 52-62 that we used to have?

Assuming that Dr. Wardynski was attempting to spin the nature of the “talent management” problems that the district had at the beginning of the school year, it would seem that we still have at least 13.5 teacher vacancies in Huntsville City schools as we approach the end of the first nine weeks grading period.

Wardynski Spin #2: Teachers Leaving Same Rate as Always

After I wrote the District’s Chief of Staff (yes, we actually have a “Chief of Staff”) Mr. Johnny Giles with a few questions about some of the slides that the superintendent shared with the board, the superintendent’s presentation from August 6 appeared on his “Talk Supe” area of the district’s site. You may, at the present time, download the presentation from there as well. (There’s no telling how long they will be up, so get them while they’re hot.)

Here are the slides that he presented on August 6th to convince the board of education (as if they needed convincing of anything before they rubber stamp his recommendations) that our teachers are not leaving more often than they were in the past. These slides supposedly show the number of tenured teachers who have resigned, the number of non-tenured teachers who have resigned, and the number of tenured teachers who have both resigned and retired over the past six academic years.

When I shared photos of these slides on Twitter during the board meeting, I had an AP Statistics teacher tweet this thanks to Dr. Wardynski and the board of education for giving him such excellent examples of “misleading graphs” to use in class.

Since I didn’t want to accuse Dr. Wardynski of misleading anyone, on August 7th, I wrote our Chief of Staff to request some hard numbers surrounding the slides you see above.

Specifically, I requested the following for the academic years of 2009-2010 through 2014-2015:

  1. Actual number of tenured teachers who resigned each year.
  2. Actual number of tenured teachers employed each year.
  3. Actual number of probationary (non-tenured) teachers who resigned each year.
  4. Actual number of probationary (non-tenured) teachers who were employed each year.
  5. Actual number of tenured teachers who either resigned or retired each year.

In other words, I was requesting from Mr. Giles a total of 30 numbers that would have been necessary to have in order to put together the three slides that Dr. Wardynski shared above.

Here’s Mr. Giles response to my request for these 30 numbers:

Thus, to a request for 30 numbers from a member of the public, and a citizen of Huntsville with children in Huntsville City Schools, Mr. Giles had this to say:

There is no summary of the data used by the superintendent to prepare this report.

When I wrote back to ask how Dr. Wardynski was able to create a chart showing percentages without having two numbers to divide, Mr. Giles (as well as Mr. Brooks and Ms. Wellington) declined to respond further.

Dr. Wardynski must have some new method of calculating percentages that the rest of us mere mortals aren’t allowed access to, I suppose.

He also declined to respond to my final question to him on this matter of “why a request for such a small amount of information is being met with such opposition?”

That email was sent to Mr. Giles, Mr. Brooks, and Ms. Wellington on August 12, 2015. None of them have chosen to respond over the past month.

Wardynski Spin Forever: Even His Own Numbers Show Mass Exodus of Teachers

If we are to assume that Dr. Wardynski’s slides were based on actual numbers (despite the fact that Mr. Giles specifically stated that “there is no summary”), what do these “numbers” show?

First, they show that our tenured teachers are resigning at a higher rate than they have in the past. According to his percentages, they’re leaving at a rate that is four times higher than they were leaving in 2009.

Second, they show that our non-tenured teachers are resigning at a higher rate than they have in the past. According to his percentages, they’re leaving at a rate that is thirty times higher than they were leaving in 2009.

Third, they show that our tenured teachers are resigning and retiring at a higher rate than they have in the past. According to his percentages, they’re leaving at a rate that is two times higher than they were leaving in 2009.

Thus, when Wardynski claimed on June 27, 2014 that teachers were not leaving the district at a faster rate than they have in the past (in response to the one and only question about our teacher departures that any board member has ever asked him—thank you Topper Birney), Wardynski was either mistaken or lying.

Mass Exodus of Teachers: We’re Losing our Best and Brightest

Since Dr. Wardynski doesn’t want to share actual data with the public, I decided to go review what was available from the Alabama State Department of Education to see what I could find. In their data center under the enrollment reports, you’ll find a report entitled, “Teacher Qualification Statistics” broken down by district. This report shows the percentages of Doctorates, 6 year degrees, Masters, and Bachelor degrees a district has.

I’ve taken the liberty of downloading not just six years of data, but rather ten. Here are charts displaying the trends of teacher qualifications over the past decade.

As you can see, since Dr. Wardynski arrived in July 2011, every single chart showing the qualifications of our teachers has declined except one, the percentage of teachers holding just a Bachelor’s degree has risen from a ten year low during the 2010-2011 school year (of 37.99%) to a ten year high during the 2014-2015 school year (of 51.53%).

According to the data from the state department of education, Huntsville City Schools has seen a steady departure of teachers holding advanced degrees during Dr. Wardynski’s tenure.

I write this not as a sign of disrespect of teachers holding a Bachelor’s degree. One of my children’s best teachers was a brand new teacher having just completed her Bachelor’s degree.

She has since left the district for greener pastures, by the way. In fact, I have two kids in Huntsville City Schools. One is in sixth grade and one is in fourth. Not counting their present year, my kids have together had a total of nine teachers. (My son, being special needs, has had two of his teachers twice both of whom have since left the district.)

Over the past six years, of those nine teachers, only three are currently employed by Huntsville City Schools. All the rest have either retired or resigned.

Since April 2, 2015, Huntsville City Schools has hired 297 new teachers. Over that same period 332 teachers have left the district either as a result of resignation (171, 51.5%), retirement (63, 18.9%) or by non-renewal (98, 29.5%). According to the 2016 Budget Hearing report, we have 1,291.6 teacher units which is a decrease of 15.07 from the 2015 Budget.

Thus, 22.9% of our current teachers have almost two months experience in Huntsville City Schools.

And They’re Still Leaving

During the last board meeting on September 3, 2015, one month into the beginning of the school year, Dr. Wardynski announced that twelve more teachers had resigned and one more has retired. This is an increase of 50% over the same board meeting from the previous year. Even given the “new normal” that the Wardynski regime has brought, losing 13 teachers a month after school has started is still a dramatic increase.

That number will increase again when Dr. Wardynski presents the Human Resources report for the previous two weeks to the board on Wednesday night. (I’ve heard reports of more resignations from across the district over the past two weeks.)

And when the HR report is offered to the board for approval, they will approve it unanimously, and without asking a single question.

Our board, and our superintendent are thrilled when teachers resign. And they cannot be bothered to ask why despite the impact that this disruption, during the middle of the school year, is having on our children.

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


  1. The journalism profession is missing in all of this. You are doing their job but without their advantage of distribution. Where is the media? Don’t they attend these meetings? Shame on all of them. Thank you for your in depth postings and your concern for our system and our children.

    1. Thanks. In their defense, the leadership of this system spend and extraordinary amount of time and energy covering up their actions and stonewalling questions.

      1. There is no defense for the media not spending an extraordinary amount of time and energy uncovering the actions of the the leadership of this system. Thank you for being the media we wish we had instead of the media we have.

  2. True journalists wouldn’t let the board of education and superintendent cover up their misdeeds. I cannot imagine why we don’t have at least ONE local media outlet willing to share the truth. Thank you, Russell, for doing their job for them.

    1. I know why. I wrote to a reporter, critical about his article on the city schools. His response was essentially as long as the school board & voters were ok with wardynski, they weren’t going to be critical of him.

  3. If this were happening under Anne Roy Moore the media would covering this like white on rice, as well they should. If this were happening under Anne Roy Moore there would be outrage. As well there should.

  4. A current teacher for HCS I ran into recently told me about applying at a Madison County elementary school this summer. The principal informed her that he had received 276 applications from current HCS teachers over the break. Principals in Madison County still do their own hiring. That is one local principal in one adjoining school receiving that many applications. Yes, there is definitely a problem.

    1. Several of my daughter’s teachers have been very vocal to their students about the district. I’m afraid they will follow through and resigned and retire at the end of the year. It will be a huge loss for the Science program at Grissom High School. Wardynski is running off the best of the best.

  5. Parents, teachers no longer have a voice. Please help us. We love all your children, but many are making the decision to go ASAP for the sake of their health, families, and ability to be an artist at education, not a test-proctoring robot. The “innovators” HCS says they want, will go where they can actually innovate. This is our home. Please be our voice.

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