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

Again, about 40 people attended the community forum at the Library – FYI more than half of the people attended all three interview sessions – less than half were different each day.

Wardysnki introduced himself then answered questions.  Here are the intro notes:

“Education can be impenetrable” because of the vocabulary used by educators
“Passion for education”
“Public education made a difference in my life”
“I didn’t tell people I flunked second grade until I got my PhD”
Worked with BRAC: labor force analysis, economic analysis, school system evaluation
“Schools need to systematically deliver high quality education”
“Teachers shouldn’t be looking over their shoulders worrying about their job”
“Match abilities of adults to needs of children”
“can’t make strategic changes in 3 years – it took 15 years to change the Army”
Long term view, not about quick wins, can’t change direction every 3 years
Make sure that financial situation doesn’t happen again, “compliance culture is not the same as a planning culture”

Q&A:

Q = academic achievement gap
A = education is an art, teacher’s job to understand needs of child, ensure that data is available to hold people accountable, ensure that systems are in place, Deming’s wall of data, one standard across district

Q = how can business and community help
A = match volunteers to needs (told how his wife had trouble volunteering at Aurora schools), make schools approachable and transparent, use plain language

Q = teacher development
A = vet candidates before hiring to ensure that system needs are met and good fit with school culture, high expectations, willingness to collaborate, willingness to be held accountable, talent management for current teachers, evaluate for development or start process leading to another calling

Q = diversity
A = spent 30 years in a diverse organization (the Army), “you find excellent leaders everywhere”, expect every child to learn, control it at the front door, cultural awareness

Q = diversity, parents influence on kids, how can superintendent affect classroom when they are not there
A = testing / data collection, parents affect behavior, “troops respect what you inspect”

Q = education gap, segregated schools, faculty segregation
A = vetting, make sure teachers are willing to work where assigned

***

About a dozen people attended Wardysnki’s School Board interview, including several people who worked with him at Redstone Arsenal (I’ve known one of those people since college and have a lot of respect for his opinion).  My friend told me he worked his tail off and enjoyed every minute of it – Wardynski is the type of leader who inspires people.

Wardynski presented his 60-day “entry” plan, which he described as a listening tool to build a fact base.  After evaluating the HCS strengths and weaknesses, Wardynski laid out his goals:
- create unified governance team
- encourage a learning culture with high expectations
– talent (teachers / administrators)
– openlearning environment based on student needs / styles
- performance management

Wardynski wants to be “OUR superintendent rather than THE superintendent”

“No time to waste”
“Children only get one shot at school”
Develop fact base networking with community groups, businesses, civic organizations, faith groups, higher ed, Govt officials, parents, schools [every technocrat knows about networking; BTW I'd like to hear someone talk about TAXPAYERS when they list 'stakeholders']

“Must identify problems correctly”

Morrison = use of teacher evaluation
Wardynski = teacher development, best fit for student needs

McCauley = students are harmed with three years of ineffective teachers, how to make up lost time
Wardynski = NCLB, assign teams to failing [my words] schools, incentivize, create culture of high expectations, thinks charter schools will be established here within 3 years, HCS will need to prepare to compete

Morrison = money incentives difficult in tight budgets
Wardynski = compensation can take many forms

Blair = been reading Daniel Pink on motivation, have you read his book?
Wardynski = which one? [that answer got a laugh]

Birney = non-traditional candidate, what do you know about curriculum
Wardysnki = 15 years teaching at West Point

McCauley = selection process for principals
Wardysnki = team approach, important to pick correct candidate

Blair = curriculum, management structure, define proposed cabinet
Wardynski = creative organizational culture, CFO to audit and ensure “value-added” measure and track student growth to establish “value”, CHR for vetting (Chief Talent Management Officer), Chief Acedemic Officer, Chief R&D to look at data, plus someone to look at equity: absenteesim, discipline, find out why people are getting into trouble, Board lawyer as enabler
“Achievement builds freedom”

Morrison = personal weaknesses and strengths
Wardynski = “I’m not infinitely patient”, ask tough questions, “Anecdotes are not data”

McCauley = define systematic delivery
Wardynski = the value of a system is the ability to know data

Birney = heard great things about Broad Academy, heard horrible things about Broad [note that the NEA and leftists hate Broad - even though Eli Broad is a Democratic Party supporter - they call Broad a corporatist neo-con (meaning Jewish) plot to dismantle public education]
Wardynski = leadership is important, passion to improve K-12, immersed in school problems and best practices nationwide

Robinson = plan to collect data for financials / achievment gap
Wardysnki = need good information for good decision, finance (gave example of maintence), achievement gap (student scores, teacher evaluations), drill down to problems

Blair = financial mess because board couldn’t say no and keep people happy
Wardysnki = align resources with plan, may not make people happy but make plan understandable and aligned with best interests of students (defensible, logical, doable)

Robinson = define value-added
Wardynski = student growth model, not a fan of AYP, how far did teacher move a student along

Morrison = discipline, delinquency, Seldon Center
Wardynski = data-driven, positive behavioral supports, start early, tiered intervention

McCauley = desegregation order, some people want unitary status others don’t
Wardysnki = ensure dialogue doesn’t end

Birney = sports
Wardysnki = critical part of learning environment

Robinson = from knowledge of HSV, what are our strengths and how can we leverage
Wardysnki = impressed by large turnout for interviews / events, community engagement and interest in schools

Blair = differentiate best practices vs educational fad
Wardysnki = fads can be injurious, effective teaching works

Robinson = uniforms?
Wardynski = Long Beach longitudinal study, “not too many golden BBs” [read this and this based on the Long Beach survey - money quote: "Our findings indicate that student uniforms have no direct effect on substance use, behavioral problems or attendance. A negative effect of uniforms on student academic achievement was found."]
McCauley interjected a comment about the [FLAWED] HCS uniform survey not being implemented [thank goodness we were spared that useless fad - too bad some schools implemented uniforms]

***

Crystal Bonvillian of The Huntsville Times wrote “Dr. Casey Wardynski…”:

He said a superintendent’s job is to see that schools have the support and resources they need. To implement those resources, a superintendent needs to understand what a principal’s or teacher’s strengths are.

He said the ever-increasing availability of data is helpful when making assessments regarding teachers and students.

“We do assessment fairly well in special ed,” Wardynski said. “We need to expand that to all children. They’re all individuals, too.”

3 thoughts on “HCS Superintendent Interview – Wardynski

  1. Thanks for all the work in detailing the three superintendent interviews. Very informative.

  2. Has Dr. Wardynski ever been associated with Oxford, Michigan school superintendent Dr. William Skilling, who was an officer of ST Concepts, an affiliate of Berny Dorhmann’s Superteaching marketing scheme? Your readers will likely remember Dohrmann was in partnership with UAH for several years as they tweaked Superteaching and researched it. I understand there was an attempt to get Superteaching into a school in Aurora.

    By the way, Brian, is someone blocking parts (or all) of the Superteaching section of your website from Google searches?