Casey is OUR Superintendent

Three of the five members of the Huntsville City School Board voted for Casey Wardynski to be OUR school Superintendent,

Retired Army Colonel Wardysnki (who prefers to be called Casey) developed the America’s Army video game for the US Army, taught at West Point for 15 years, improved Army personnel policy, and learned about education at the Broad Academy (which is the premier education policy center in the US).

Casey speaks in terms of “feasibility and efficacy” and also gets glowing comments from those who’ve worked with him.  Several people have told me that you will work your butt off to please him, because he inspires that level of commitment.  Having known leaders like Casey, I’m excited for our schools.

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The school board meeting was held at City Hall in (correct) anticipation of a large crowd.  As a prelude to the selection of our new superintendent, the demographer hired by the city gave his report.  Quick look (with more after I review the full report):

High School:
1.  Close Butler High School
Middle School:
Either 1a)  combine Davis Hills, Ed White, and Westlawn into middle school at Butler, or 1b)  close Davis Hills MS to Ed White and Chapman
Either 2a) close Whitesburg MS to Mountain Gap and Challenger or 2b) close Mountain Gap MS to Whitesburg and Challenger
Elementary School:
1)  close Monte Sano to Blossomwood
Either 2a) close Whitesburg ES to Chaffee, Weatherly, and Jones Valley or 2b)  close Mountain Gap
3) close West Mastin Lake ES
4) close Montview ES

Non-zone:
Move New Century to the new Lee High School

Celebrate Success!  The rate of 9th graders advancing to 10th grade (which is a critical transition) improved from 78% to 91% in the past five years.  That is huge.  Why? How? Who?

Kudos to the City of Huntsville for funding the demographer Dr. Steve Salmon.  The report should be available on the HCS website soon.  Public meetings will be held very soon (like starting next week) for comments.

My first guess is that Salmon didn’t look outside current school zones for consolidation; in fact, one of his recommendations was for the school system to establish a student GIS.  This recommendation complements the databases proposed by all three candidates for superintendent.  Note that one of my concerns is that members of one of the most partisan and hateful (and cheatful) political organizations would have access to any school database developed by the school system.  Privacy should be a fundamental concern for administrators – we’ve already seen Huntsville schools punish parents for speaking out – what could they do with more data?

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Kudos to Topper Birney for running a good selection process.  My only complaint (shared with The Huntsville Times) is that the board went into closed executive session to talk about “the good name and character” of the candidates.  If “good name and character” was still an issue after downselecting to the top three candidates, then the process was flawed (were any of the three candidates bad characters?). 

IMO the board went into special session to try to get a 5-0 vote (which didn’t happen).  Casey was supported by David Blair and Jennie Robinson (and all right-thinking people), while Dr. Dan Brigman was supported by Alta Morrison and Laurie McCauley (and the AEA).  Morrison mis-remembered Casey’s interview to criticize him while McCauley was just plain “unfair” (saying that Casey wouldn’t relate to inarticulate people).   Birney was the swing vote. 

More later.  For now, congratulations to Huntsville.

6 thoughts on “Casey is OUR Superintendent

  1. Wonderful choice! Can’t wait to see what happens next. I just have to remind myself that he is not our savior, he is just human, and our expectations have to be realistic.
    Question: Did the demographer look at the number of school-age children living near each school ? For example, how many kids live near Columbia and how many are bussed in? (That is a beautiful new school that just might sell easily) Did he look at the number of children bussed into Providence? (Another new school that could sell to a private school)
    Did he look at the bussing issue at all? Or did he just look at the number of kids in each “zone?” I don’t understand what he looked at. Sounds like info. we already knew. But, maybe I’m wrong.

    • [several disjointed comments]
      Both schools were built to initiate and support growth in the west. I’ll grant that it’s not likely that many students will be walking to either school. But is that a good reason to sell them? Not many walk to private schools and they seem to do well. Where do you think kids from, say, east of RPBlvd, would go to school?

      Actually, it wouldn’t bother me too much if those schools went private. My kids would likely attend both if they were to be on par with other private schools. As it stands they will at least attend Providence K-8 thru the elementary.

      I do have high hopes for the new superintendent. He was my pick as well.

      On the executive session mentioned, my guess is that it was related to the Finance Director’s decision to simply become the Business Director (?). Do we need one of those? Did that require an ok from the board or ARM? (Is this about the time when she removes all the ‘W’s from the keyboards at the Merts Center … ?! Pardons a few people ?…)

      Staying on the subject of Providence K-8, it’s odd that the presentation left out the correct capacity for the school. One chart specifically highlighted the elementary and middle schools and declared the capacities combined. But it left out the value for the middle school altogether. Shoddy at best. And all the interesting suggestions for the schools to our immediate east seemed to disregard the overcrowded conditions there. It’s one thing to consider closing underutilized and low-enrollment schools. But even if the Mr. Salmon didn’t know the conditions were contrived, he should have acknowledged that rezoning should mitigate some of his findings for that area.

      Now bring on rezoning and the DOJ! I’m at least pleased that the demographer’s suggestions were made public. Now after the DOJ says No, No and possibly, No, I guess the Board is back on their own in finding their way through all this. It will be interesting … I hope.

  2. Mom – it seemed to me that Salmon looked mostly at Census data and tried to overlay that onto school districts. Salmon looked at the number of school age children, plus made projections based on live births and economic forecasts. I don’t know that Salmon considered transfer / bussed students.

    I plan to look at the plan tonight – the “Demographer’s Report” is on the front page of the schools website:

    http://www.hsv.k12.al.us/

  3. ‘…saying that Casey wouldn’t relate to inarticulate people.’

    What the heck is the point of that comment? Do we want someone who would relate to the inarticulate? Is it his concern that some people are inarticulate? Should we even listen to the inarticulate (and wouldn’t it be, prima facie, quite difficult)?

    Wow…

  4. Mark, I don’t care if the kids actually walk to the school. I rode a bus to school, but I was not “bused.’ I was referring to busing across town to fill the new schools because there is a small school-age population in the area of the school — as you correctly put it: “contrived” conditions. (Providence residents should be just sick over the mess the city made of that school. It should not be over crowded).
    Yes, good schools do attract new residents . However, a fancy new building does not make a good school. We all know this. It is much more complicated than that. You can’t destroy the schools you have, or leave them to decay (in academics AND repair), and expect to build a wonderful new community with great schools just because you have a shiny new building and brand new homes.
    Why are we trying to come up with a way to fill school buildings that should not have been built in the first place? What a waste of money. ANd the students are our guinea pigs — we bus them from one end of town to the other, for no other reason than to justify the expense of the new school ( — and adding to the expenses with busing long distances, not to mention support staff, maintenance, etc.) Are the students getting a better education? No. We created a terrible environment for learning by putting kids on long bus rides and having little parent involvement (because they are so far from home). And the “creme of the crop” leaves the old school, but never quite produces the same, or even close, to the scores seen at Grissom. The students get lost in the now over crowded schools.
    I would think the DOJ would be very pleased if we produced successful students, no matter what school they attended. Instead of fighting the DOJ, we need to figure out a way to get them on our side. We need good schools throughout the city, not just one decent one that has to fight to stay that way (Grissom). Here’s hoping the new super has some common sense and can see through the politics, developers, and muck this city has put in the way of a good education.