SHCA Forum with Superintendent Wardynski

From our friends at the South Huntsville Civic Association:

The South Huntsville Civic Association will host a legislative forum with new Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski and other local representatives on Monday, July 11, at 7 PM in the Grissom High School Auditorium.  Our community is most pleased to welcome our new Superintendent.  We anticipate an informative evening, and we look forward to seeing you there!
 
Monday, July 11th
Grissom High School Auditorium
7:00 PM
 
Confirmed forum participants:
 
Huntsville City Schools Superintendent, Dr. Casey Wardynski
City Councilman John Olshefski
State Representative Mike Ball
State Representative Howard Sanderford
State Senator Arthur Orr
State Senator Clay Scofield
State Senator Paul Sanford
 

Pre-Beach Report

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) monitors water quality from 25 sites at Alabama beaches.   According to the ADEM Coastal Alabama Beach Monitoring Program,  -all- of the most recent samples are below the enterococci threshold concentration (104 colonies per 100 ml of water).  Enterococci is an “indicator bacteria” that is not harmful to humans but may indicate the presence of “potential human pathogens”.  To aid in my understanding, I just call it poo.

The Cotton Bayou Beach monitoring site is of immediate interest to me.  The enterococci level is less than 1 colony per 100 ml of water.  No poo!  However, the Fairhope Public Beach has been closed several times over the past few years because of high levels.  I’m digging into that issue…

UPDATE:  I spoke with a nice person from ADEM – the beach monitoring program is funded by the EPA and the funds cover monitoring, not source tracking.  ADEM has applied for EPA microbial source tracking grant funding which might identify the source of the poo, but no luck so far.  Source Molecular offers microbial source tracking for human, cattle, swine, bird, chicken, dog, deer, and horse fecal contamination.  Looking at their price list,  this seems like an affordable option that doesn’t need to wait on a federal grant.  Most beach monitoring sites have no poo issues, so identifying the source (even just human or not) on an as needed basis could give some insight into the problem.  

ADEM said that stormwater runoff sometimes contributed to higher than desired enterococci levels, but Baldwin County is in a drought.  Fairhope has a sewage treatment plant nearby, but the effluent of the plant is monitored so it may not be the source.  It’s a mystery…

Sharks!

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Bentley to keep another promise

Governor Robert Bentley “said he intends to sign” the Brewery Modernization Act (SB192 – sponsored by our own Bill Holtzclaw R-2), according to Michael Tomberlin of The Birmingham News who wrote “Alabama Governor Bentley plans to sign beer bill into law”:

“When I represented my local community, I voted against Sunday alcohol sales and things of that nature,” Bentley said in an interview. “As governor, it’s a little bit different. I don’t feel I should impose my views on everybody in the state. The Legislature has had a chance to look at it and passed it. I’m sure I will sign it.”

The law will allow breweries to have taprooms and relax restrictions on brewpubs.  Our local brewers say:

“A tap room is already in the works,” said Dan Perry, one of the founders and brewers of Straight to Ale. “We haven’t nailed down the rest of our plans yet.”

Mike Spratley, brewer and owner of Huntsville’s Blue Pants Brewery, said the new law creates an avenue for growth for upstart breweries like Blue Pants.

“We’re putting together a scheme for the next phase of our growth,” he said. “Things like tours and a tap room will likely be in the plans going forward. We see that as a great way to grow the business.”

Free the Hops Vice President and political genius Dan Roberts said:

“That’s what it’s all about — enabling Alabama businesses to grow”

Governor Bentley is keeping a promise made during an interview on WVNN (Flashpoint on the radio):

Dr. Bentley opposed Free the Hops in the legislature (he says he consistently opposes alcohol and gambling); but I asked if as Governor he would sign the Gourmet Beer Bill – with some nuance, he said he would (since it would have passed the legislature). 

Thank you Dr. Love.

Fanniegate

Walter Russell Mead wrote “Fanniegate: Gamechanger for the GOP?” reviewing a new book (tip to Instapundit):

Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon. By Gretchen Morgenson, one of America’s best business journalists who is currently at The New York Times, and noted financial analyst Joshua Rosner…

We’ve known about corruption at the government-backed mortgage corporation Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Corporation), such as Democrat fatcat Franklin Raines doctoring the books to increase his bonus or Democrat Congressman Barney Frank getting a job for his partner (and then defending Fannie Mae in Congressional hearings) or Democrat Jamie Gorelick (who helped bring on 9/11 and the housing crisis) ‘earning’ $26 million for bundling subprime loans into securitized financial instruments.   As bad as we thought the scandals at Fannie Mae were, nobody went to jail (not even the ‘Friends of Angelo’) and the fines imposed on the corruptocrats (if at all) were a small fraction of the amount looted from the American people.

“Reckless Endangerment” provides more insight into the Democratic Party’s culture of corruption.

The villains?  An unholy alliance between Wall Street, the Democratic establishment, community organizing groups like ACORN and La Raza, and politicians like Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi and Henry Cisneros…

…the American dream didn’t die of old age; it was murdered and most of the fingerprints on the corpse come from Democratic insiders.  Democratic power brokers stoked the housing bubble and turned a blind eye to the increasingly rampant corruption and incompetence at Fannie Mae and the associated predatory lenders who sheltered under its umbrella; core Democratic ideas may well be at fault.

…Big government, affirmative action and influence peddling among Democratic insiders came within inches of smashing the US economy.

…The story illustrates everything the Tea Party thinks about the corrupt Washington establishment and the evils of big government.  It demonstrates the limits on the ability of government programs to help the poor.  It converts a complicated economic story into a simple morality play — with Dems as the villain.  It allows Republicans to capitalize on public fury at the country’s economic problems.  It links the Democrats to Wall Street — the one part of the private sector that the Republican base loathes.  It exposes that mix of incompetence and arrogance that is the hallmark of the modern American liberal establishment and links this condescending cluelessness to the real problems of real American families.  It links President Obama (through appointments, associations and friendships) with the worst elements of the Clinton legacy and it blunts some key Democratic talking points.

Read the whole thing.

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.

***

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?

***

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.

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.