Exit Interviews from Teachers

After my last post, I’ve received two separate suggestions that we need to hear from our teachers who have left. Since the district hasn’t made a good faith effort to either collect or interpret the data that they might have received from the Exit Interviews, it strikes me that having a place where former teachers can share the reasons why they have left the district.

And so, I offer this as a place for any teachers who wish to share why they chose to leave Huntsville City Schools.

If you wish to share your reason for leaving the district or for retiring, the community would love to hear from you who have left, why you have left.

The comments area below is open, and it can be completely anonymous. If you wish to use your actual name and email, feel free, but it is not a requirement. You may make up a “name” and an email if you wish. (Either way, whatever email use will only be available to me, and I will not use it for anything at all or reveal it to anyone.)

If you wish to follow the district’s feedback form, you may, but we would love to hear any feedback you would like to share with us.

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

19 Comments

  1. I taught in HCS for only 6 months and quit at Christmas. I felt like there was no concern for the students or any actual learning, but rather just on manipulating the numbers to make everything look good. The semester I worked was the first semester that they rolled the laptops out. There were instructions from above that each school was only to allow a certain number of discipline referrals because the superintendent said the laptops would lower the referrals. So essentially if you wrote a kid up after your school had met its limit, the student just got sent back and the referral disappeared. Also I was an experienced teacher and they started my pay at step 0. They gave me no credit for my previous experience. I taught with other people who were not being compensated for their advanced degrees as well. I will admit that manipulation of numbers is prevalent in every school I taught at, regardless of the system. Generally speaking every school I’ve been associated with tried to manipulate graduation rate. There is a lot of pressure to just move everyone along and each school has some pretty ridiculous measures in place to ensure graduation numbers are boosted. With that being said, my experience in HCS was the worst work experience of my life. I don’t know of any teachers currently in HCS who are not actively trying to get out. The reputation around the area amongst teachers in other districts, or teachers currently looking for work, is to avoid HCS like the plague.

  2. I second everything Homer J. Simpson said. I left HCS because Wardynski took all of our great administrators and moved them elsewhere in the district. I knew with our new administrators coming in, there would be trouble. (There definitely has been.) I was also told that we could not write any more discipline referrals for African-American students because our numbers were disproportionate. Personally, my referrals were about even but we were told that in person because Wardynski said it looked bad with the deseg order going on.

    I was also tired of being hounded about Benchmark tests. As a math teacher, I taught lower level students but was expected to have them at the same level as Honors students. My students who were taking Geometry in 11th grade were expected to do as well as students at HMS that were taking it in the 8th grade. They all took the same test. There wasn’t a different test for honors students. As a teacher, sitting through countless data meetings and being told that your scores aren’t good enough is depressing, especially when you see your students making great improvements in the classroom. It’s impossible to take a student from a 4th grade math level to high school grade level in one year without daily after-school tutoring (which I offered every day except Fridays and had only about three regulars all year). I was expected to do that with entire classes of students in the 52 minutes I got to spend with them each day.

    My administration was great and extremely supportive of me. They were quick to point out that I was making progress with my students and that I was doing a good job and so when they were moved to different positions, it was heartbreaking. Wardynski has a military mindset that he can’t let people get too comfortable in one position. That doesn’t work in education.

    My other main complaint about benchmark tests was that the tests sometimes contained questions that didn’t align with the pacing guide or that were even grade-level appropriate. Students also had tests that were too long for them. Once there was a test that was way too long. After the test had been released, a coworker of mine and I sat down and took it for ourselves. It took us one hour to take the thing and we both have math degrees. Students are only given one hour and so that test was way too long. It should take my students about 2 to 2.5 times longer to do an assignment than it does me. Those students would have needed 2.5 hours to even attempt to do well on it. When we voiced our concerns, they were swept under the rug. That’s how it always was concerning benchmark tests.

    Benchmark tests also have no weight for students. Do I think students should be punished by taking these tests? No. My concern is that if it does not have weight for students then it should not have weight for teachers either. HCS thinks that benchmark tests tell us how well a student is doing in a class but they are far from it. They can be helpful in allowing me to see what standards my students are struggling with but I believe that if the pressure was taken off for teachers and all teachers were given access to the test ahead of time, we could truly know what’s coming and be able to prepare our students to take the tests. I’m not saying we should teach to the test, but if we knew the content that was going to be on the tests, we could instruct our children better because these tests could be a good way to help our students better prepare to take the ACT and SAT.

    Overall, I felt as if I was just a number on the HCS payroll. Even though my administration was fabulous at the local level, there was only so much they could do to help me. My students were overtested and it really meant nothing. I’d see students stress about benchmark tests and STAR tests for no reason. I just got to the point where I started telling them to “do their best and forget the rest.”

    I’ve told everyone I know applying for jobs in HCS to avoid it like the plague. It’s better for their sanity. It’s sad though. HCS has some great students who, unfortunately, are losing great teachers to teach them. There have been three teachers in my spot just this year! It’s insane. I’ve had several friends moving to the area because of military jobs and my first words of advice to them are “Madison City Schools.”

  3. With about 30 years of teaching experience and 24 of those in HCS, I was thoroughly enjoying my chosen profession of sharing the love and mystery of science with young people. Two situations developed simultaneously that made me want to leave my profession.
    A couple of students with serious behavioral issues influenced several other students to join them in trying to control my classes which would not have worked in previous years with administrative support in discipline. However that year (2011-12) we had to “pretend” that we had no discipline problems at our school. In the same year we had many exemplary students whom I want to apologize to for not being able to give them my best teaching effort because of the constantly encroaching negativity.
    I had always taught science from a holistic approach because you can’t separate scientific disciplines. If you want to understand biology and ecology you have to be able to apply chemistry and physics, quantify it all with math, and reinforcing it with hands-on investigations. Teaching in this manner was really impossible if one had to be on the same page and sentence with everyone else in the system and take out so much time for teaching an administering tests. My students did take content-based tests and semester exams but they were not the main focus for students.
    In November of 2012, I knew I would need surgery which would require 6-8 weeks of recovery and had planned to take leave. But because the state department of education had just come out with a new frightening edict on the availability and pricing of health insurance if you waited until after 2012 to retire, I decided to file retirement papers effective in December 2012.
    I truly enjoyed teaching and I miss working with the students, but I really would not be able to “teach” in the current classroom environment.

  4. I began working at HCS in the 90s. I took a couple of years off when my kids were little, but was employed only by HCS for 16 years. I loved my coworkers, my immediate supervisor and the students and families.

    It is so hard to put into words all of the reasons I left, but I will try. The climate of the system is dark. There is tremendous stress on ALL employees, not only teachers. The Superintendent’s office makes ridiculous demands on teachers, secretaries, principals and central office staff. It is rare that anyone is commended in the system. I have heard of it happening but have never once met anyone it happened to. I have witnessed good teachers be treated unfairly for speaking their convictions about education. EVERYONE IS AFRAID! I have a job in another system and this is the first time I have ever put anything in writing about my experience and I fully plan to post anonymously. I am a tax payer in Huntsville and a former employee and I still fear retribution for my opinions, that is wrong for so many reasons.

    The pay is absolutely ridiculous. I had 16 years of very unique experience in my field. With all those years of experience, I was a step 0. It was insulting. I always hear people say that teachers don’t do it for the money and, while it is true that I didn’t go into education to be rich, I have three kids who may one day go to college. To dismiss compensation as a reason employees leave is naïve. Surrounding school systems pay far more. HCS is not able to compete with Madison County or Madison City for new hires.

    The stress of the job was not conducive to family life. I worried and fretted about work EVEN OVER THE SUMMER! Sundays after lunch I began to feel sick at my stomach at the thought of going to work the next day. Frequently, I worried if I had done something to get in trouble. Because you don’t have to do anything wrong to get in trouble. My phone rang constantly after hours and on the weekends. I began to have to make excuses to my children about why I was always on the phone. I never felt like I was off the clock.

    Finally, I began to feel like I was defending a system that was not doing good things for children. I was in a position of having to explain district decisions that I didn’t understand myself, and talk to parents who were hurting and disappointed. I just couldn’t do it anymore. When I had an opportunity to leave for a job in another system, I took it. It was not without sadness and many reservations. I am not a quitter!! I don’t leave when things get hard! That has never been my personality. For a long time it felt like giving up. But after the happiest year of work in a decade, I can say, it was 100% the right decision for me!

    There are such good, faithful people who work in HCS. They are standing in the gap for your students. Please, please be gracious to the teachers, secretaries and principals! No one is unscathed in the climate of HCS right now. People are favored one minute and then punched in the gut the next. It is such an incredibly stressful place to work. HCS has no loyalty to the employees that they expect the moon from. It is beyond sad. I too hear on a weekly basis that teachers are desperate to leave the system.

    I am so hopeful that parents are beginning to speak out and pay attention! Thank you for the opportunity!

  5. I left in 2013 for several reasons but not because I did not love teaching and kids. I hated scripts replacing authentic/ best practices and when newcomers, without teaching background were brought in to train those of us with real background knowledge and degrees in education. It became obvious we were under full observation when we resisted what we knew was wrong and voiced our concerns. When the young girl coming in has no behavior issues, ELL, or special Ed kids on their class role and you and the other seasoned teachers have sixty-three percent ELLs who are not even proficient in their own language, making it impossible for that fabulous data, it is time to retire.

  6. As a parent who has posted often, I am heart broken and infuriated at what I am reading from these teachers. I have said from DAY 1 when Wardynski stepped in that something was just not right and the atmosphere in our schools and the relationship between teachers and administration was becoming toxic. We moved here BECAUSE of the supposed great school system, which it was prior to Wardynski. I have never seen a more egocentric louse running a school district than what we have at HCS. I fear that the few posts so far by these teachers is only the tip of the iceberg. If there is ever a chance of finding something done illegally by this administration, we should absolutely follow up and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. It won’t bring back these great teachers, but it will at least remove this poison that we have put up with for the past 5 years.

    1. There is plenty being done illegally and all recorded covertly on audio and video. However Wardynski’s new policy made sure any child with audio or video proof of mistreatment or falsified discipline reports is now in the cross-hairs for suspension and expulsion.

      1. Come to the meeting tomorrow at the Harrison Center sponsored by HUNTSVILLE UNITED (supporting our schools). Meeting is May 17th,6:00. Share this to anyone who has ears to hear and eyes ready to be opened and are ready to take action.
        .

  7. I left HCS in June 2014 after nineteen productive years in the system teaching middle school English, both regular and advanced. I was never given an exit interview so I don’t know if this is something new now or not. I could have shared a great deal with anyone concerned enough to listen… But there lay the root of the problem I fear.

  8. I began my teaching career with HCS and had the pleasure of working with incredible individuals, both teachers and staff. It was consistently a supportive, empowering environment, celebrating great teaching, superb students and sound administrators.

    No longer.

    This is no longer the case and the reason I left for another school district. Instead of support, there is blame. Instead of facilitating best teaching practices, there are tests, tests and more tests. Instead of a safe, respectful learning environment, there is an atmosphere of fear, fear of retaliation, fear for one’s personal safety and fear of losing one’s job.

    As the years have passed beneath what many had hoped would be salvation from debt left by the former superintendent, the hoped for salvation has turned into a reign of tyranny, one oozing with vitriol so toxic it puts a nuclear waste dump to shame, run by a man who is a misogynistic, egomaniac, bent on the systematic destruction of what was once a GREAT SCHOOL DISTRICT – one that used to rival any in the nation.

    No longer.

    If you are a parent in Huntsville City School WAKE UP AND FIND YOUR VOICE!

    SCREAM AND SHOUT!

    This is the SYSTEMATIC DESTRUCTION OF YOUR CHILD’S EDUCATION.

    And it’s not the teacher’s fault.

  9. 5 years ago my husband and I moved back to Huntsville, bought a house, and started a family thinking HCS was the same amazing system we attended. Our biggest goal currently is moving out of the system before our children start kindergarten. I know there are wonderful teachers working hard in HCS, however, I will not support the system with my taxes or my children. Wake up Huntsville leaders!

    1. We as a South Huntsville resident are aware.I as a retired teacher was aware and took on efforts before retirement.We had an administration then who in my opinion would listen without fear of repercussion.This administration,not quite ready to defend them.TEACHERS ARE AWARE.Ever heard of wanting to keep your job? Join HSV UNITED and gain some information.Ever hear of federal and state mandates and all the required standardized measurements and other assessments teachers are required to give? Ever heard of the Nclb Act placed into force with the Bush administration and now being replaced by our outgoing admnistration?Elections are coming up soon for Board ekections.If you are still in HSV CITY.I would suggest you find out if anyone is running in your district or if not,find out which boatd members you might want to supportt in any way you can.IT BOILS MY BLOOD to hear it being said WAKE UP TEACHERS. It takes collaboration.

      1. It says “Wake up LEADERS” – not teachers. She has incredible respect and admiration for teachers.

  10. Teachers have spoken and parents have spoken. As a former student, I would like to say a few things. I attended HCS for elementary, middle, and high school. I also attended Madison county and schools in different states. It’s been a few years since I was in school, but after reading the words from these teachers It sounds as if there hasn’t been a lot of change. Some of the most influential people in my life were teachers and a specific Assistant Principal from HCS. As students, we could see the limitations that were being set. We could see how it turned from teachers being in control to students doing as they pleased. I remember sitting in class my Junior year of high school, we were all to read aloud from a book, a good portion of the class could barely read. We all passed. No child left behind, right? It really made those of us receiving “A’s” feel valued…

    I had the pleasure of being placed with a teacher or two who decided that my education was more important than any limitations put on their teachings. Both an English teacher and History teacher of mine would give me loads of “extra credit” outside of usual class work to keep me from going insane. Neither of those teachers work for HCS anymore and it’s a shame because they truly cared about my education, the students education. I sincerely hope they’re working for another school system.

    I live in a different state now and work with high school students on a regular basis. I can’t say that this system is 100% better as I’ve never experienced it first hand, but the education level of these students is astounding in comparison. They’re taking classes that my high school didn’t even dream of offering. They do projects that I would have thoroughly enjoyed in high school. While they do occasionally talk about tests, I usually hear, “I have this project I’m working on” or “I’m writing a paper on this specific topic for my final.” The drop out rate here is almost non existent.

    HCS has seen some amazing teachers and still employs some amazing teachers, but at this rate no one worth employing is going to want to work. If I had the ability to vote still, I would. If I had the ability to voice my opinion in person and not from this message board, I would. I urge those with the ability to do just that. Stand up for your children’s education and stand up for your teachers. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today had it not been for those 2 specific teachers and that 1 amazing Assistant Principal.

    1. Would like to know the system location.Perhaps it along with other successful systems could mentor the present administration.

  11. Thank you teachers for what you do. Some of your comments explains alot. I was approached by the President of HCS recently and she asked if I had a child in the school system….and I said yes and told her Grissom High School. She asked me if I was happy with the school and I told her no. There is a major issue with the discipline in HCS and had been since Wardenski. There have many incidents in Hsv City Schools and most have been swept under the rug. We have had several problems, from bullying, to being hit by a boy-sexually harassed. Not a thing was done. NOTHING-oh wait you need thicker skin and you should leave the lunchroom early so they won’t bother you. Lauren McCauley you gave me propaganda not concerned for our students welfare. You were worried about the numbers and proving that teacher wrong for their comments on social media. I am glad the students video what is going on because you do not inform the parents of what is really going on. Benchmark as she explained told them what the white female/black female student learning blah blah. Then we’ll we have not lost any teachers…..really well we lost alot and about to lose more. I am misinformed per this lady. The year is almost out…..

  12. We even have principals leaving the district on their own. Like Chapman principal Mr. Bryant.

  13. This school system cares too much on pushing kids through the system and really doesn’t care how ill-prepared they are once they leave. My daughter had a 3.8 GPA in high school and honor society her senior year. I thought, wow, she is really excelling. Then she took the ACT and achieved a 21. She took it again and get a 22. My worst nightmare came true. They pushed her through and made themselves look good with yet another glowing academic example. Yeah right. If she was doing that well in all her subjects, how could she possibly score so low on the ACT? I’ll tell you why. It’s because she really hadn’t learned that much in her 4 years of high school. One more example. My second child finished this year with a 96 average in AP Biology. When she came home from taking the Biology AP test, she was in tears. She said there was no way she could have passed because she hardly knew anything on the test! Wonderful teaching Huntsville High… simply wonderful. If kids are doing well in class, FAIL them. That’s right. Failing them now just might provide the kick in the butt they need to succeed in life later. Giving them all passing grades with a lollipop regardless of the quality of their work is the biggest injustice you could do. And yet, that is exactly what is happening.

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