At last week’s school board meeting, Dr. Casey Wardynski became both the Secretary for the Board of Education (evidently Ms. Gail Kiker is no longer working as the board’s secretary), and was officially approved as a signer of official documents. As one of his first official actions, Dr. Wardynski offered the board his opinion on the school closing issues. If you wish to hear for yourself, you may watch it here. The meeting begins at the 32:37 mark, and Dr. Wardynski’s comments concerning the school closings start at 1:05:36 mark.
After a brief introduction from Dr. Robinson in which she asked him, “What’s next” in the process, Dr. Wardynski emphasized that it was important to him to “obtain the maximum value for the dollar spent.” He then goes on to state that “maximum value” is based on the following criteria:
- Student achievement
- Graduation rates
- Attendance, and
- Discipline issues
As I have pointed out before, the demographer’s report does not incorporate any of these criteria, nor does it consider the academic impact closing schools and redistricting will have.
He stated that the demographics study will not be the only factor involved in his decision. “The most important factor in my mind,” Wardynski said, “is which schools are providing the best value for the dollar invested.” He claims that he doesn’t know what the answer to that question is yet, but he intends to receive input from both within the district and without.
This is interesting as he doesn’t identify who these people from “outside the district” are. Is he talking about the state advisers, or is he talking about others? This needs to be addressed in a clearer way.
We’ve heard that part of the value that Dr. Wardynski brings to the table are a range of advisers to help him. Who exactly are these advisers? What are they advising him on? What advice are they offering? These are all questions that need to be addressed by Dr. Wardynski and the Board immediately.
As he didn’t provide a clear answer to her question, Dr. Robinson then asked him to explain again, “What’s next?”
Then he claimed that his ideal situation would be as follows:
- “We” develop a set of criteria by which to evaluate the schools.
- These criteria would then be vetted by the community.
- Then once those criteria are established, then the analysis and demographics to arrive at a holistic picture of the schools in our system.
This was followed by a round of applause from many of the members of the public present.
So, where do we stand?
It seems that Dr. Wardynski is planning to slow the process down a little. I do not believe that he will be able to maintain Dr. Richardson’s deadline of having the board arrive at a decision and send that decision to the Department of Justice by September or October. If he follows his “ideal situation” of developing new criteria that incorporates questions of performance that Dr. Richardson was so quick to dismiss (“No one has said anything negative about Monte Sano,” or “Mt. Gap,” or “New Century.”), this should result in a more reliable picture of our school system.
Perhaps this new picture might even make a case that there are schools that should be closed. This is an increasingly difficult case to make since the board, Mr. John Brown-Maintenance and Construction Director, and Dr. Steve Salmon are all recommending the building of a new middle school in the Providence Area. You can watch this for yourself at about the 52:38 mark in the video above.
Yes, Dr. Salmon, told Mr. Brown that, “you are going to have to build a new middle school on the west side of town.” Do Westlawn Middle and Ed White Middle (or even Davis Hills for that matter) not count west side schools? Since the laughter in the crowd at this statement was ignored, I suppose we’ll have to wait for an answer to that question. However, making certain that academic considerations are accounted for in the board’s decision (and that the community will have the opportunity to participate in the development of these criteria) is welcomed news.
Dad, hubby and irritator of students and school boards alike, Russell Winn is committed to ensuring that the Huntsville City Schools provide access to the educational support system for every student. When he's not enforcing grammar rules or arguing the ethical minutia of Kant's deontology, he spends his time loving his kids, reading anything by Stephen King or Christopher Moore, and attempting to speak truth to power on behalf of special needs kids. You may follow his rants at www.geekpalaver.com or on twitter at @russwinn.