New Grissom Broken Promises

Wasted I-Pod

In August 2011, Dr. Wardynski was on the campaign trail pushing for the renewal of the 6.5 mil property tax. During this push, he met with many various groups across the city, and in particular with groups associated with Grissom High School. In particular, he met with the South Huntsville Civic Association, and assured them that Grissom would be rebuilt on its current site.

He’s always been quick to make promises when he believes it will work to his advantage.

Beginning in October, however, rumors began to surface that Grissom might actually be moved, but of course, these rumors were “unfounded.”

Unfounded rumors seem to always have a way of turning out to be true in this district, don’t they?

On September 28, 2012, the consultant firm hired to do the work of the district in planning for the new Grissom, TCU Consultant Services, sent a letter to potential architect firms concerning the building of the new Grissom High. Yes, we are contracting our contracting now, but don’t distract me.

This letter laid out for the bidders a few general specifications concerning the new building which looked something like this:

New Grissom High School Design for an enrollment, when fully developed, of 2200-2400 students. Initial design for approximately 330,000 sq ft with a construction budget of approximately $48,000,000.00.

Now, you’ll note that there is no discussion of a location in this description from September 28th, but there are a few points that raise several questions about where the new school might be located. When meeting with the public for the first time on January 14th, Dr. Wilson and Dr. Wardynski shared with the public a brief description of the two locations under consideration. According to Dr. Wilson there would be a dramatic difference in the size of the two schools depending on which location was chosen. If the new Grissom were rebuilt on its current site, that building would hold approximately 1,800 students.

If instead the new Grissom were relocated to the “Weatherly Road” site (behind Sam’s Club), this would result in a building with a capacity for 2,200.

Furthermore if the new Grissom were built on the current site, the square footage of the new Grissom would be comparable to the current Grissom of about 280,000. If the new Grissom were instead relocated to the “Weatherly Road” site, it would (wait for it) have a square footage of 330,000.

Approximately one month after Dr. Wardynski assured the South Huntsville Civic Association that he had a specific plan for rebuilding Grissom on its current site, the architects were being asked to bid on a completely different plan.

But wait, there’s more.

If you look further into the letters sent from TCU Consultant Services to the potential architect firms you’ll find a letter dated October 23, 2012 that contains a slightly more detailed project description that reads:

New Grissom High School — will be approximately an 2200-2400 student new school, built on a newly selected site to be determined. The project size is approximately 330,000 sqft and has an approximate construction budget of $48,000,000.00.

So you see, at least as early as September 28th (and likely earlier) and definitely as early as October 23rd, the district was seeking architectural bids for a new Grissom that could not fit on the current Grissom location.

This is how Dr. Wardynski operates. He freely tells “concerned citizens” what he believes that they want to hear, then proceeds to follow a different plan behind closed doors. And while doing so, he happily sends his cheerleaders, like say Dr. Jennie Robinson, to speak to the press (as she did on November 26, 2012 or two months after the request for bids was sent to the architects) to say the following:

School board member Jennie Robinson, whose district includes Grissom, said there should be concerns when the district is contemplating a $60 million investment like a new high school. Like Brown, Robinson said the biggest concern she’s heard is what will become of the old Grissom campus.

“What do you put there that builds value to the neighborhood?” Robinson said. “You don’t hurt a neighborhood in the process of trying to build a school in a different place.”

She said relocating the school is still just a possibility and that no specific site is outweighing the others.

“All of the sites have considerations,” Robinson said. “Some have more challenges than others. Some have more advantages than others.

“In the end, it comes down to which one makes the most sense,” she said.

No, Dr. Robinson, in the end, it comes down to which location Dr. Wardynski actually wants to use, not which one makes the most sense. Despite her willingness to voice concern on behalf of the existing neighborhoods, she knew, or as a board member should have known, when she said that “no specific site is outweighing the others” that one specific site, specifically the misleadingly named “Weatherly Road” site, was far better suited to meeting the specifications that the district had already published.

The decision to move Grissom High to a new location had been made at least as early as September 28, 2012.

When Dr. Wardynski was first hired by the district in July 2011, he posted a document on the website entitled, “Preliminary Draft 60 Day Entry Plan.” For obvious reasons, this document is no longer posted on the district’s site, but since I have a few hoarder-like tendencies, I just happen to have a copy of his entry plan, the second page of which shows the following:

60 Day Entry Plan Page 2

If he truly wanted to be “Our Superintendent” rather than “The Superintendent,” wouldn’t it make it easier if he openly and clearly discussed his plans for our district with us rather than continually telling us that decisions haven’t been made when we know that they have?

Respectfully, Dr. Wardynski and Dr. Robinson, it isn’t that hard to earn the confidence of “All Members of the Huntsville Community.” All you really have to do is to be concerned about all of the community’s members rather than just the business members of the community.


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


    1. They keep referencing BRAC monies. Very few details. But the capital funds are separate from the general funds, so being $20 million in debt in 2011 doesn’t mean that we can’t build tons of new buildings. Evidently.

      1. I don’t understand why they are building a new all black Johnson High School, or a new predominately white Grissom High School. Actually students at Butler and Johnson can attend the new 9 million dollar Lee High School. If Huntsville High isn’t over crowed combine Grissom and Huntsville. No sense in having 5 segregated schools when we can have two.

        Meanwhile all this money to build new high schools while the elementary and middle schools go to hell in a hand basket. What is wrong with this picture?

  1. Russell,
    Did you hear anthing about the citizen comments after the board meeting Wednesday night?

    1. Nope. I wasn’t able to attend the meeting and haven’t watched the broadcast yet either (although supposedly they didn’t broadcast them).

      There were some comments though. Do you have details?

      1. No, I was watching from home. At the end of the meeting, Mrs. McCaulley announced the board business had been concluded. She said they were taking a five minute break and would be back for citizen comments. However, the coverage on the TV stopped at that point.

    1. Yep. They have reduced citizens’ comments to once a month, and they aren’t televising them because “some parents want to talk to the board without the comments being televised” or so they claim.

      1. Wonder what would happen if the news media or a citizen decided to record that portion of the meeting???

        1. If official media did, they wouldn’t be interfered with. But they would likely have less access in the future as a punishment.

          We will see what happens when a citizen does this in the near future.

          As the citizens’ comments are a part of the public meeting and are not covered by the executive session rules of the 2005 Alabama Open Meetings Act, there is no legal restriction on a citizen attending the meeting recording any part or all of the meeting so long as the person in attendance is doing it openly in a non-disruptive manner.

          “A meeting of a governmental body, except while in executive session, may be openly recorded by any person in attendance by means of a tape recorder or any other means of sonic, photographic, or video reproduction provided the recording does not disrupt the conduct of the meeting. The governmental body may adopt reasonable rules for the implementation of this section.”

          You may view the act in its entirety at https://www.openmeetings.alabama.gov/generalpublic/downloads/Act2005-40.pdf

          In other words, when they asked me in May 2012 to leave the meeting for recording citizens’ comments once I was informed that the comments were not being broadcast, they violated the open meetings act.

          The next opportunity for the public to speak at the board meeting should be February 21, 2013. Schedule permitting, I intend to be present and to record the comments. I have already informed Mrs. McCaulley of my intention to do so and asked that she contact me if she has an issue with me doing so. She has not responded to my email that I sent her nearly a month ago.

  2. Is anyone aware of any other school board having as contentious a relationship with the community as ours does? I am curious whether parents and teachers in Madison have as much frustration and anger with their school board.

    1. Frustrated, to my knowledge parents are happy with the Madison Public School System and the Madison County School system. That’s the reason those who can move to Madison and the County to the detriment of those who can’t.

  3. So … the projected bill for a new Grissom building is $48,000,000.00? What are the “other options”? How much to rehab/upgrade the current building? How much to buy adjacent property (even across the street next to Huntsville Police)? So, the School Board plans to abandon all those Teachers and Parents who bought homes based on easy access to Grissom? This sounds like fraud, waste, and abuse.

  4. Wait, arent the demographics (how much did we spend on that study?) showing a DECREASE in students in south huntsville? And that study was done *before* all the cuts at NASA?

    And aren’t we so proud of the new Lee high school — but it is running at about half capacity?

    Why do we have to increase the size of Grissom, with fewer students projected in the future? Well the most reasonable explanation is that we have to have bigger in order to
    a) pay more to the contractors building it
    b) buy a new site – one that bails out developers who are having trouble selling it.

    This goes with the mayors plans for moving the baseball stadium, changing hunt park etc…

    Huntsville is just flat owned by the developers…. 🙁

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