Yes, I am a something of a broken record, asking the same questions over and over. But occasionally the Huntsville City School’s district leaders say something new that changes the playing field.
On March 22, Frank Spinelli, the CSFO of Huntsville City Schools, and Dr. Wardynski’s personal friend whom he brought with him from Aurora, Colorado last August, finally decided to respond to a request that I had been making since March 7th.
Specifically, I was requesting from him a copy of the initial LEAN Frog contract for an audit that was conducted from October 2011 through February 2012. This was the audit that Wardynski claimed proved that he was a strong leader and everyone who opposed his ideas were just whiners.
This was the audit that was supposed to change everything.
Except, all it really did was allow Wardynski to redirect attention away from himself and his decision and point the finger at others.
Case in point.
You would think that asking for a copy of a contract would be a simple thing to do. After all, the second contract with LEAN Frog that was approved on February 25th is readily available online. In case you don’t want to download it, that contract was for $152,761 and is scheduled to be completed by September 25th.
A third contract with LEAN Frog was approved tonight to revamp the Human Resources department. I suspect that that contract will be posted on the district eBoards site tomorrow. We’ll have to wait until then to find out how much that contract was for, though, since there was no discussion of the costs of any of the approved contracts during the board meeting tonight.
Nope, the only person who discussed money tonight was me in reference to the first LEAN Frog agreement that covered services from October 2011 through February 2012.
According to the District’s Check Registers, the district paid Mr. Headrick of LEAN Frog a total of $28,790.00 during those five months.
Here’s a listing of the checks if you wish to look for yourself:
Since this is about 5 times less than the contract they’ve already published, you would think that they would be happy to share it with the public as required by Board Policy 102-1 Access to Information.
Spinelli decided instead to stonewall. It wasn’t until I sent my request concerning this contract to both him and the entire board of education that he decided to respond.
Here’s the text of an email that I received from Mr. Spinelli on March 22, 2012 at 6:23pm. This email was sent from Frank Spinelli (email@example.com) to myself, every member of the board of education, Dr. Wardynski and J. R. Brooks, the school board attorney.
Mr. Spinelli wrote:
Mr. Winn, the district does not have any documents responsive to your request.
Also, the district had been advised by the school board’s attorney that Alabama bid law does not require bids in this type of contract, Ala. Code Sec. 16-13B-2(a)(2).
That’s right. Mr. Spinelli was telling me that the very audit that unearthed all the “incompetence” that Dr. Wardynski liked to nearly brag about, was paid for without a contract of any kind.
And evidently, there were no “documents responsive to your request” to be had covering the writing of nearly $30,000 of district checks.
Surely this is a mistake, right? Surely Mr. Spinelli is not saying that he wrote six district checks over a period of four months without a contract approving the expenditures of those funds, right?
Now, the second part of Mr. Spinelli’s email concerning Alabama’s bid law was in reference to my request to receive evidence that the bid law was followed in this contract. Unfortunately the Alabama State Code that Mr. Spinelli referenced in his response to me does not exist.
There is no code section 16-13B-2(a)(2). This is, however, an Alabama code section 16-13B-2(b)(2) which states:
Purchases made by individual schools of the county or municipal public school systems from moneys other than those raised by taxation or received through appropriations from state or county sources.
Thus, Mr. Spinelli seems to be trying to tell me that the funds that were used to pay for the first LEAN Frog audit were not actually public funds. (I don’t know this for certain because Spinelli is refusing to answer my questions yet again.)
He does not say where the money came from to pay Mr. Headrick, but I have an idea about that. Back in July 2011, Dr. Wardynski told a group of Special Education parents that he would be “getting an audit” that he would use to evaluate the special education department with. The implication was that this audit would be paid for by The Board Foundation that had “trained” him in how to be a superintendent.
I am convinced that The Broad Foundation paid for the LEAN Frog audit, and if that does indeed turn out to be the case, the “findings” of that audit should be examined quite closely. For as seen during the give and take between Wardynski and Bryon Headrick on February 16th, the LEAN Frog report was couched in such a way to make Wardynski look as good as possible as a “strong leader.”
Doing so would certainly be worth $28,790 to a man like Eli Broad who is worth hundreds of millions, wouldn’t it?
So with all this in mind, I decided to ask the board about these things tonight:
On February 25th, I began asking Dr. Robinson for a copy of the contract for the services that Mr. Headrick of LEAN Frog offered to the district from October 2011 through February 2012. Since his audit was ushering in, in Dr. Robinson’s words, the removal of “business practices that permitted fraud and negligence,” I was curious how much this new culture was costing us.
In accordance with Huntsville City School Board Policy 102-1 Access to Information, I wrote Mr. Marc Seldon to ask for a copy of the contract with LEAN Frog that allowed the district to pay him $28,790.00 from October 2011 to February 2012.
Mr. Seldon, before being placed on administrative leave, directed me to Mr. Spinelli.
On March 7th, I wrote Mr. Spinelli asking for a copy of the October to February LEAN Frog contract.
Mr. Spinelli finally responded on March 22nd to say, and I quote:
“The district does not have any documents responsive to your request.”
I wrote back to ask him how the district was able to write checks totaling $28,790 to LEAN Frog without producing “any documents responsive to my request?”
He has not responded to my questions.
And so, I’m here tonight to ask the board as I have already asked in emails that have been sent to you, how can nearly $30,000 in checks be written on the district’s checking account to a vendor without a contract?
How does this total absence of checks and balances insure, Dr. Robinson, that we are indeed changing our “business practices that permitted fraud and negligence?”
Did the funding for the October – February LEAN Frog contract come from the Broad Foundation?
As Sue Peters of Seattle asks, Why should Mr. Eli Broad have more say in my children’s schools than I do?
And finally, per Dr. Robinson’s suggestion for the kinds of questions she thinks I should be asking, “What is the impact these actions are going to have on the education of our children?”
Having a district that spends nearly $30,000 without any documentation seems to be bad for our children, don’t you think?
I, of course, received no response to these questions.
That’s right. There were no cries of outrage that I would make such ridiculous accusations. There was no denial. There was no explanation offered of any kind other than Dr. Robinson’s frustrated stares. I guess that she didn’t really want me to ask “what impact these actions are going to have on the education of our children,” after all.
What exactly is Wardynski and the board trying to hide? What could they be afraid of? Why aren’t they required to follow their own policies regarding releasing public information to the public?
It would be nice if some of the news organizations who were present tonight could ask this question. Wardynski and the board have taken to ignoring me of late.
Maybe someday we’ll get the truth.