This week, Huntsville City Schools is conducting five separate focus group meetings for teachers to discuss aspects of the Consent Order. These sessions are being hosted by representatives of LEANFrog.
Yes, that LEANFrog.
At the beginning of one of today’s sessions, the LEANFrog representative had this to say:
And we both are employees of a company called LEAN L-E-A-N Frog, and uh, we have been contacted by Huntsville City Schools to be a third-party, independent company to, um, conduct these focus groups. So, that, you know that this is anonymous. We don’t have a stake in this. We don’t have a dog in this fight. So, um, this is strictly your forum to discuss the issue here today.
There is so much wrong with this statement, it’s difficult to know where to begin, but I think the main thing that any teacher who participates in this forum group should remember is that LEANFrog, as a company, has been working for this district, and mirroring Dr. Wardynski’s arguments since 2011. At that time, Wardynski had the CEO of LEANFrog stand before the board to say the following:
Headrick: Oh. Uh, yes. Anytime you create change, you’re going to see apprehension. You’re going to see resistance. You’re going to see people delay and try to hinder or undermine the change. The Huntsville City Schools System will be no different. There will be people who actually try to undermine being held accountable. I mean this is a new standard. If you roll that out, some people are going to be worried.
Mr. Headrick was basically saying that teachers and members of the public who opposed Wardynski’s plans to change the system were just being “apprehensive” and “hindering or undermining the change.” Wardynski restated this by saying, “In the Army, we call that whining.” You can read the entire transcript here if you wish.
Mr. Headrick and LEANFrog have been working, often without a contract of any kind, for the district for the past 5 years. They have been evaluating and recommending “efficiency” modifications since shortly after Wardynski himself was hired.
Even after Mr. Spinelli, the CSFO that Wardynski brought with him from Colorado, resigned as CSFO, he was later hired by LEANFrog at a significantly higher rate of pay.
Mr. Bryon Headrick himself made political donations of $500.00 each to both Walker McGinnis’ and Elisa Ferrell’s 2014 campaigns to win their current board seats.
In short, the LEANFrog employees conducting the focus group meetings this week for faculty were not being completely forthright when she claimed that LEANFrog was “independent,” that the comments were “anonymous” (an identification was required to enter the meeting), and that “We don’t have a stake in this. We don’t have a dog in this fight.”
LEANFrog absolutely has a stake in how Huntsville City Schools operates. They’ve had a stake in HCS since 2011. They’ve been publicly towing the Wardynski party line since 2012. They’ve been contributing to current board member campaigns since 2014, and during the calendar year of 2015, LEANFrog has been paid $961,845.92 by the district for “Other Purchased Serv; Legal Fees,” which is rather surprising since LEANFrog is not a law firm.
If you are planning to participate in the focus groups at Grissom and Huntsville High Schools tomorrow afternoon, you need to keep this in mind. LEANFrog is not “independent.” And they have a stake at the level of about a million dollars a year in what is said at these meetings.
The meetings are a good thing. Teachers should absolutely have a voice in the assessment of the consent agreement (as should parents, students, and the community as a whole). They should have had a significant seat at the table when the agreement was being written. If they had, then perhaps discipline at our high schools, middle schools and even elementary schools would not have basically collapsed over the past six months.
So it’s good that teachers are finally being asked for their opinions. It’s just a shame that the “independent” organization they hired to lead the focus groups isn’t actually “independent.” If you truly wish for your voice to be heard, I would suggest contacting the Department of Justice directly and avoiding Wardynski’s middle man Mr. Headrick altogether.
The more you know . . .