HCS Superintendent Interview – Wardynski

Dr. Casey Wardynski, CFO of the Aurora CO Schools, interviewed for HCS Superintendent on Wednesday, May 25.

I believe that Wardynski is the best candidate for our next HCS Superintendent.  Some of my belief comes from knowing his background (and sharing some of that type experience).  Some of my belief comes from learning about the Broad (rhymes with rode) Superintendents Academy – each of the other candidates mentioned Broad – Wardynski was a fellow at Broad.  Some of my belief comes from his having lived in Huntsville (his son was born here) and having his former co-workers attend his interview (many more wrote Letters of Recommendation – IIRC including former Mayor Steve Hettinger of SAIC).  IMO Wardynski also nailed the interviews: he gave compelling presentations and knew every issue in depth. 

Wardynski speaks in terms of data-driven approaches, proven techniques, and results.  To be fair, so did the other candidates, but IMO Wardynski had a greater understanding of “why” stuff works (and just as importantly, why stuff doesn’t work).

Assessing Wardynski against the standard of “letting food rot in an emergency”:  Wardynski would have anticipated the threat four years ago, wired the schools for mobile generators, acquired mobile generators, trained and drilled staff in the response plan, asssessed the current food stock versus the needed stock through the end of the school year, not only arranged for students to volunteer serving non-perishable foods, but also served excess food, then awarded extra credit for students who wrote Powerpoint presentations on probabilistic analysis of weather patterns applied to disaster management in a value-added learning culture.  Teachers would have volunteered, modeling good character and effective leadership while applying vocabulary lessons.  Principals and staff would have collected metrics for use in improving the performance of the system, which would be used to calibrate the plan based on data and lessons learned.

BTW note that Madison County Schools are wiring their buildings for mobile generators and plan to buy enough generators to rotate among the schools, so I totally ripped that great idea off.

UPDATE:  interview notes

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HCS Superintendent Interview – Springston

Brett Springston, Superintendent of the Brownsville TX Independent School District interviewed for HCS Superintendent on Tuesday, May 24.

My opinion:  Coach Springston is a hard-working, passionate, and bright candidate.  He has a record of improving student academic achievement and system financial  performance.  He started coaching basketball at a junior college for a scholarship to UT – Tyler.  Just like candidate Brigman, his approach to education includes every good lesson learned and proven technique that I’ve read about.  I was unsure about Springston from my online research – he seemed to be good but some of his current school board was trying to get rid of him – turns out he is good and the school board situation is beyond his control and not of his creation.  Brownsville’s school system is more than twice as large as Huntsville’s.

Assessing Springston against my new standard of letting food rot in an emergency:  Springston would have kept the frozen food frozen, gathered students to help prepare and serve still-good perishable food at relief centers, and organized sports programs for the children of tornado victims and relief workers – all in a safe environment.

Much more below (updated with even more muchness!)…

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HCS Superintendent Interview – Brigman

Dr. Daniel Brigman of the Macon County NC schools introduced himself and responded to questions at Fort Book on Monday, May 23.  About 40 people representing various community groups attended, as well as State Representative Laura Hall (D-19) and School Board members Birney, McCauley, Morrison, and Robinson.

My opinion: Brigman is a very sharp candidate.  I liked him when I researched him initially, and he is better in person.  His approach to education seems to include every good lesson learned that I’ve read about.  He seems to be a good leader and communicates well.  My new standard for a Superintendent is: will they let food rot in an emergency?  Brigman would have found a way to keep the frozen food frozen, plus he would have gathered a team of students to help prepare and serve the still-good perishable foods at relief centers.  Students would be offered extra credit for writing reports on tornadoes.

More below…

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HCS Superintendent Recommendation

Dr. Daniel Brigman, Superintendent of the Macon County NC Schools, interviewed Monday, May 23 to be the Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools.   Brett Springston, Superintendent of the Brownsville TX Independent School District, interviewed on Tuesday, May 24.  Dr. Casey Wardynski, CFO of the Aurora CO Schools interviewed today May 25. 

I attended the Community Forum each morning at the Library for all three candidates, plus the School Board interviews for Springston and Wardynski.  The Schools will be running the interviews on ETV (Comcast 17 and Knology 71) and I’m told they will have the interviews available online.  I also got a chance to chat with each one but only got to ask questions of Springston and Wardynski.

The Board of Education will select our next Superintendent from those three candidates at the June 2 meeting.  I thought that the Board did a nice job of downselecting to the three candidates interviewed.  IMO any of the three would do a good job.  However…

There can be only one, and I recommend Dr. Casey Wardynski for our next Superintendent. 

As a good citizen: I listened to the presentations, did some research, thought about it, and provided my input to my School Board member David Blair.  I encourage you all to watch their interviews, read all about it in The Times, and read my following posts for each candidate (rather than write for hours and leave you hanging I decided to just go public with this post first).  Then, contact your School Board member and let them know what you think.

Note that each one of the candidates was pleased by the reception they got in Huntsville and impressed by the support shown by the community. 

I think that the City will emerge from this episode stronger than ever.  However, keep in mind that children stuck in failing schools suffer for our City’s mistakes.  It shouldn’t have taken a financial crisis to wake people up to the deplorable academic performance that is accepted at many of our schools.  David Blair calls it “immoral”.  Whatever you want to call it, it is time for positive change.

Now, on to each candidate’s presentation…

HCS Superintendent Search

So far, two of the three candidates for Huntsville City Schools Superintendent have been interviewed.  So far, I am impressed by the candidates: Dr. Daniel Brigman and Brett Springston – I attended a few of the events and will post my write up as soon as Dr. Casey Wardynski finishes interviewing tomorrow.  Brigman and Springston each made suggestions that are worthy of further study.  The Board of Education deserves commendation for implementing a process that produced these three finalists.

The Board will choose our Superintendent at the June 2 regular meeting next week, then give the successful candidate 30 days to wrap up and move to Huntsville starting in early July.  Note that each candidate prepared a “60-day Plan” for the Board that should be available on the Schools’ website in the next day or so.  Each candidate was also asked to prepare an analysis of a failing school – I hope that the Board makes each candidate’s assessment and recommendations public.

The Board will also make the demographer’s report public at the June 2 meeting.

Strong may run for Commission Chair

County Commissioner Dale Strong (R) announced this morning that he is thinking about running for Chair of the Madison County Commission, currently held by Mike Gillespie (D).

Strong made the announcement at this morning’s Madison County GOP breakfast, which featured speeches by the three Republican County Commissioners (Strong, Faye Dyer, and Phil Riddick).

Commissioner Riddick spoke first, saying that a FEMA official told him that Madison County was the most organized area in the wake of a disaster that FEMA had ever visited.  Riddick also said that the County was exploring options to improve the delivery of water in the County (two companies are vying to take over the system).

Commissioner Faye Dyer spoke next, detailing the County GOP agenda:  going to a unit system instead of the district system (currently each Commissioner has a budget to spend how they want, as opposed to a unit system where spending decisions are made at the County level) and implementing a time management system for employees.  These initiatives have been blocked by the Democratic majority on the County Commission.  Dyer noted that Phil Riddick has already saved the County a couple of hundred thousand dollars by reviewing some contracts.

Dale Strong spoke to strong applause – Strong showed tremendous leadership following the tornadoes – Strong spoke about the 15 years he and Dyer and former-Commissioner now-Congressman Mo Brooks have worked to keep taxes as low as possible, spend public money appropriately and effectively, and improve services for the people of Madison County.  Strong spoke about the hard work that neighbors and churches and companies performed after the tornado outbreak:  helping people, clearing debris, feeding people, and providing services.  Strong noted that the warden and prisoners at Limestone Prison helped early on by looking for people in the debris.  Strong told how some guy asked him how he could help, and within an hour Gator Technologies had set up satellite communications.

Strong got a standing ovation with his closing remark: “we sucked it up and got it done”.


Plenty of officials were on hand, however I’d like to commend Sheriff Blake Dorning for his leadership during the tornadoes (crime went down that week).  Deputy Mayor Rex Reynolds was at the breakfast – Reynolds and Mayor Tommy Battle showed great leadership during the crisis.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that a crisis is the crucible through which leadership is recognized.   Some people rise to the challenge, some people don’t, and some people display bad judgment.  Let’s remember that at the polls.  Elections have consequences.

The national arms have been covered with glory

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated more in the US than in Mexico. While some complain that it is just another ‘commercial’ holiday used to sell Corona, I think it is fitting that the US should celebrate the Mexican Victory at the Battle of Puebla, because the outcome of the American Civil War may have been different if the Mexicans had been defeated, and if the French had decided to intervene on the side of the Confederacy.

Napoleon III had dreams of a Second French Empire, conquering Mexico and Central America, and building a Canal across Nicaraugua. The French, along with the Spanish and English, invaded Mexico in 1861 / 1862. They occupied the port of Veracruz on the pretext of collecting debts repudiated by President Benito Juarez (the Customs House in Veracruz was the main source of revenue for the Mexican Government). The Europeans gambled that the US, embroiled in the American Civil War, would not be able to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. When Spain and Great Britain realized that Napoleon intended to take Mexico, they abandoned the venture.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla, May 5, 1862. About 4,500 Mexican soldiers, artillery, and cavalry commanded by Ignacio Zaragoza defended a pair of hilltop forts North of Puebla. The overconfident French, commanded by Charles de Lorencez, attacked the forts with about 6,000 soldiers and artillery. The French assaults were repulsed, and Zaragoza counterattacked, flanking the French and forcing their retreat. Zaragoza’s one-line message to Juarez read, ”The national arms have been covered with glory”.

As a result of Zaragoza’s victory, Napoleon sent about 29,000 soldiers to reinforce the French Intervention. Napoleon installed Maximilian, an Austrian Archduke, as the Emperor of Mexico in 1864. The Mexican Republican Liberals under Juarez (with American arms and aid) tied up the French forces until the end of the American Civil War. In 1865, the USA sent warnings to the French that the Monroe Doctrine would now be enforced (in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln’s “one war at a time” policy), sent troops to the US / Mexican border, and established a naval blockade to prevent French reinforcement. Note that ‘liberal’ meant something else back then…

The French agreed to withdraw in 1866, Mexican Republican forces defeated Imperial forces, and Maximilian was executed in 1867.

Viva Mexico! Viva Juarez! Viva el Cinco de Mayo!

Repost from 2008.


Maximilian did leave a legacy of brewing beer in Mexico - he introduced the Austrian lager – today represented by beers such as Dos Equis or Yazoo Dos Perros…