Bad Behavior Brings Big Reward?

Busy day at Merts Center tomorrow. In the afternoon, there is a rally asking for Wardynski’s resignation, and in the evening, the announcement that the Board has decided to offer him an evergreen, auto-renewing contract.

I’m not even going to pretend we don’t know what the Board will do: this stinks of a done deal, way done and over done, rotten and putrid, and the soliciting of citizen input through email a huge waste of the writers’ time.

Trash it! Delete it! The Board is way too busy to read mail! For heaven’s sake, isn’t it bad enough every 2 weeks to have to sit around listening to constituents’ whining? You don’t really think we are going to be distracted by all these boring emails, do you?. Write Santa Claus instead, folks! Delete, trash, delete.

And I never thought that the BOE would demand Wardynski’s resignation tomorrow, either.But surely when you know that a change.org petition asking the Board to request his resignation has been steadily attracting signatures over the last few months, switching to an auto-renew contract for no good reason is simply a way to send a loud message to anyone who dares hope for answers from the Colonel that they aren’t coming. And tomorrow night, when they go ahead and declare it done, knowing fully well that hours before there was a second rally in two weeks to express distrust in the man, it will send another message: we have the power and you don’t.

Oh, but what about the title of the post? What bad behavior do you claim is being rewarded?

Got a few hours? Read my old posts? Read redeyesfrontpage.blogspot.com and geekpalaver.com. Or for the bad behavior of Wardynski in the past few months alone, read the change.org petition.

And then skip over to the contract the Board is voting on tomorrow night (yea, I know — just a little theatre there), and carry on to page 7, point 11. And for simplicity, we can jump to reason 5 to terminate the supe’s contract.

Dishonesty.

Now, when a US District Judge says 

“The Court strongly suspects that the district has chosen not to share many of the reasons for the choices that it made as it shaped its student assignment plan” (p.101)

“The district’s shifting story regarding M-to-M data is not an isolated incident. Over the past few months, when asked for information, the district frequently has offered incomplete answers. The construction of Jemison is a case in point. At the hearing on the Board’s motion, when the United States pointed out to the superintendent that African-American students at Butler who would be assigned to Jemison under the Board’s plan would move to a more segregated environment, the superintendent responded, “I have to do that because the Court has ordered me to do that.” (Doc. 352, p. 170). The superintendent’s answer is not
accurate. The Court has not ordered the Board to do anything with respect to Butler.” [emphasis added] (pp 96-97)

Notice first the phrases “not an isolated incident”  and “a case in point.” These suggest strongly to me that what we have here are but two examples of dishonesty, if by honest you mean to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” I think that’s what the judge expected, don’t you? I think when Wardynski chose “not to share” or gave “incomplete answers” he was not telling the whole truth. And a “shifting story” sounds to me much like one that has lots of not quite true bits to it. And when I read “not accurate” I think untrue and lies and dishonesty.

The Board apparently does not share my views. Then again, if you read the judge’s findings, they engaged in the same deceit. Ever heard of “enablers”? That’s the Huntsville Board of Education.

Oh, and then there is still the mystery of the NSA call that tipped the supe’s spies to the foreign connection and ultra tacky dagger, all that nonsense. It’s been about a month — more? — and still we do not know who is lying. Perhaps Wardynski’s cabal didn’t mean National Security Agency but No Such Agency. Easy mistake to make.

So: looks to me like we have had some behavior that should lead to terminating the supe’s contract. Instead, it’s now set to auto-renew. It’s a little like those advertising come-ons of get one month’s service free! but we still need your credit card info because if you don’t cancel the contract at exactly 11:11 on February 29 it will renew ’til the next February 29 and then the next and the next.

Ad nauseum.

P.S. This is also in the contract, still: “Evaluation Form, Format and Process. By October 15 of each year of this Contract, the Superintendent shall submit to the Board recommended evaluation criteria for his evaluation.” (p. 6, 10-B)

The more people outside Merts tomorrow, the more arrogant the Board will look when it raises Wardynski up high in the evening. 

mertz

The Pinnacle Schools: What Are We Waiting For?

Last year, the Huntsville City Schools outsourced its alternative schooling to The Pinnacle Schools at a cost of $1,596,000, entering a 19-month contract.

You want to find out more?

Don’t bother looking in the Student-Parent Handbook. No mention of the Pinnacle Schools.

Don’t bother looking in the HCS Policy Manual. No mention of the Pinnacle Schools.

Don’t bother searching the HCS website.

(There is one mention of the Pinnacle Schools on the website. Here it is, in its entirety: “A student that is attending the Seldon Center or Pinnacle is only eligible to represent the Seldon Center or Pinnacle. A student attending the Seldon Center or Pinnacle cannot participate at any other school.”)

I have been writing about this since last December. See categories: Pinnacle.

My biggest fear has been the potential for abuse at the Elk River Treatment wilderness camp where Col. Casey Wardynski, superintendent, sends kids that Pinnacle can’t handle. There they are held incommunicado for an indefinite stay — as long as it suits Wardynski [one censored letter home a week. No calls. No visits. No legal representation].

Frankly, even I didn’t expect this at the Huntsville City Pinnacle Schools campus: 20121010194922

Read about it here and here.

If what we see above is what is being done to kids who go home at night, just imagine what is going on at W’s private prison.

I’ll say it again:

If what we see above is what is being done to kids who go home at night, just imagine what is going on at W’s private prison.

I looked to see who licensed the Pinnacle Schools, but on its website no mention of a licensing agency is provided. I wonder if the Board knows. (Elk River is licensed as a detention facility by the State of Alabama, for what’s that’s worth.)

I wonder if anyone down at Merts, like the play-dead Board maybe, knows what standards are used to employ personnel for this cash cow. The CEO’s (Ms. Karen Lee’s) only qualification for running the place is that she has two sons who have run afoul of the law. She has no credentials in education or mental health services. Well, hell, we have an unqualified superintendent, so what? We do know that she saw fit to employ one of her sons who is awaiting trial for drug trafficking as a counselor at the Elk River detention camp, but when this was publicized, she moved him to Pinnacle instead.

What are the qualifications of the thug who beat this kid?

How many other kids have been beaten at Pinnacle Schools Huntsville campus and have been afraid to speak out because doing so could well mean that they risk being disappeared to the teepees until the Colonel decides they have been neutralized.

Even without the smacking in the ribs, planking or face-down restraint — and yes, I realize no mechanical restraints were employed to keep the kid in this position, unless you count risk of a beating about the ribs as a mechanical restraint (I would) — has been outlawed in more progressive states and has been at the core of a number of suits related to deaths in treatment facilities.

You can read about it here, here, here, here, and here.

Guess that’s what the citizens of Huntsville are waiting on for their wake-up call: a death.

Then there can be tears and hand-wringing, candlelight vigils, messages from pulpits, all the usual useless brouhaha to assuage a community’s guilt at just not giving a damn.

I never wanted to be in the I Told You So position because it would come only when someone’s child had suffered.

Haven’t you had enough? If not, what would be enough?

 

 

It Gets Worse. If the Board Won’t Fire Wardynski, All Five Must Resign. Now.

Over at geekpalaver, you’ll find all the relevant information on Wardynski’s latest outrageous behavior. Briefly, on September 17 a 15-year-old girl was assaulted, her ribs bruised, in a bathroom at Butler High by at least three other girls who then stole her top and bra forcing her to seek help through the halls of a high school with her chest exposed. The facts are not in dispute. When something horrible like this happens, there should be a clear, unequivocal procedure to follow.

Here’s the clincher: only after her mother told the story to WAFF, only after Wardynski realized he was going to be shown up again as a failure, did he do the most minimal of things to help this child that is, grant the transfer out of Butler her mother had sought for ten days. And mind you, this is only a temporary transfer. And Wardynski then sabotaged the girl’s safety further by, for no reason whatsoever, revealing to all the world where she is going.

The man has the moral fiber of puddle scum.

There are three School Resource Officers at Butler. That is, there are three Huntsville Police Department officers at Butler.

The three girls who pounded on the one were not simply breaking school rules or misbehaving.

They committed a crime.

I want to know why the following did not happen:

1. The girl should have been seen immediately by the school nurse, HEMSI summoned, and then likely transported to the ER. If there is bruising, ribs could have been broken. She could have been concussed.

2. Simultaneously, her mother or an emergency contact should have been summoned.

3. Either at the school or in the ER, a police report should have been filed and the girl’s injuries photographed. At this point a case number is assigned by HPD.

4. The mother should have been instructed on how to go to the Neaves Center (detention home)  on Oakwood Avenue to sign a juvenile delinquency petition against her daughter’s attackers. Since the girl is a minor, a parent or guardian has to do this. This is the same as pressing charges.

5. The girl should have immediately been offered a permanent transfer to the school of her choice. Why the hell is there any question about getting a transfer out of Butler for any student these days? It has failed and failed and failed to come up to minimal state standards.

6. The 2012-2013 Parent Student Handbook says that “an intentional assault upon any individual which does not result in serious physical harm” is a Class II offense; one that causes “serious physical injury” is a Class III. Suspension is the first response to a Class II, and expulsion is “normally” the consequence of a Class III, “with a suspension to the hearing panel unless otherwise authorized by the Superintendent” [5A, 7A-8A]. While they hash out the fairly wide divide between not serious and serious physical harm, immediately the same thing should have happened: suspension.

7. Whatever the HCS decides to do or not do has nothing to do with the criminal case against the girls. This little “temporary” transfer is so bogus and disgusting and shows no understanding of real life. Months are going to pass before the girls’ criminal trial. And let’s say that in spite of the event being on film the DA’s office completely botches the case, are the child who was beaten and her three assailants going to live happily ever after? Get real.

I hope this girl’s family sues the HCS to hell and back.

If the Board doesn’t have the guts to admit they have made a very, very big mistake in hiring Wardynski — if they can’t face up to the fact of their failure — then each one needs to resign.

As for you, Wardynski, may I suggest a trip to Afghanistan so you can see some combat up close and personal for once in your glorious career? Isn’t it about time you visited some field hospitals and met some of those kids your game America’s Army enticed into the military? Or maybe you could make yourself useful by accompanying some of their corpses home?

Just get the hell out of the lives of our kids.

Of Logging In and Learning, Or Digital School Daze

20120904Heatmap

When I saw this map on geekpalaver, what first came to mind is Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.The Huntsville City Schools Board Room is now a War Room. Strategies are plotted to “position” materiel [“As content is positioned in libraries,” says Wardynski].

Wardynski doesn’t want us to think that he is mapping which rooms in a school have their students logged on as a means of disciplining those teachers whose students are forced to “learn the same old way their grandparents did.” That last sentence is from a very bizarre document,Key facts/discussion points regarding the Digital 1:1 Initiative. It talks a lot about the space program, and how “the children of Huntsville will fly into the digital age in the classrooms of schools across the city.” I imagine Neil Armstrong learned using not a calculator or a laptop, but a slide rule. No matter.

No, Wardynski claims his map is needed to find which classrooms may need technical assistance in getting their students logged on.

This means, of course, that if the kids aren’t logged on, they should be.

Are there then no classroom scenarios which would not require logging on? Let us imagine a Q & A session of “What if’s.”

Q: What if the teacher was lecturing and the kids were taking notes?

A: Teachers don’t need to lecture. There are plenty of lectures online on every subject conceivable. What could a HCS teacher have to say that hasn’t been said before and better by those who are online? And why would kids be taking notes when they can watch a lecture over and over again until they learn the content? The teacher is there to make sure the computers are up and running.

Q: What if the kids were learning long division? Surely they aren’t meant to use a keyboard to work problems?

A: Why on earth do kids need to learn long division like their grandparents did? Here, I’ll teach you long division. Go to “All Programs.” Choose “Accessories.” Click on “Calculator.” Enter numbers. Click divide. Next question?

Q: What if the kids are writing essays? They need to get on-line to submit their essays but not to write them.

A: Look, there are 20,000 written compositions already graded available for students to choose from. It’s not like any of them really have any original insights into Hamlet or the Constitution or what have you. They choose one of these, and hope they got one that was assessed positively. What’s important is that they learn what makes the grade, right? That’s a useful skill. Teachers just need to summon up the assessment for the essay chosen.

I expect no more whining from teachers about class prep time and having to grade papers all weekend. This new initiative means they can walk out of school empty-handed and be ready to deliver pizzas or sell washers at Sears, do some real work, in their free time.

Ah yes, now that HCS is “at last doing away with the traditional boundaries of time and space” as they “journey to a new frontier in education,” now that kids are no longer “expected to unplug and logoff, and then study and learn the same old way their grandparents did,” there will be time for them to prepare for their futures. Time to log on to America’s Army.

Thank you, Crystal Bonvillian. Innocent Until Proven Guilty. Nepotism.

Crystal Bonvillian, education reporter for The Huntsville Times, is a brave woman worthy of respect. In today’s Times, she has a lead story, “Huntsville school officials defend alternative school after owners’ sons face drug charges.” Well done, Ms. Bonvillian. She is also seeking to discover what is going on in the HCS classrooms following the 1:1 Learning Initiative I-pad / laptop / Pearson curriculum thrust: “How is the Huntsville schools district’s digital transition working for you?”.

Bonvillian reports that Karen Lee, CEO of Pinnacle, said “‘My sons are innocent until proven guilty.'” That’s true. But the question I raised in yesterday’s post, did Lee tell Wardynski and the Board about the arrest before the lucrative contract with her company was signed, remains. [Update 9/14 evening: “When my sons were arrested I let them know and that was before the board vote took place,” said Karen Lee in an interview with WAFF. I didn’t think anything could surprise me. I was wrong.] Whether she did or not apparently doesn’t matter when it comes to Board member David Blair’s opinion: “‘If everybody got judged by their kids, a lot of people would be in big trouble.'”

As a commenter on al.com noted, “Compare this to Wardynski’s ‘off with his head’ response when Grissom’s football coach was charged with a DUI while mowing Grissom’s field.” Point well taken.

Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Charles Lee, Jr. and Eric Lee aren’t convicted of trafficking. Maybe they were just at that house to deliver a fruitcake to Stephanie Porter, it being the holiday season and all, and had nothing to do with the “24 pounds of marijuana and about $37,600 in cash during the bust” or the “weapons, including shotguns and rifles.” I find it very odd that a reasonably intelligent woman like Porter (see comments here) was stupid enough to get caught again this summer with four pounds of pot. Make of that what you will.

When you look at mugshots over at the Madison County Jail site, smiles are few, and people who look like they are about to burst out laughing rarer still. Here’s the trio of interest here: Charles Lee, Jr., Eric Lee, and Stephanie Porter. Doesn’t Eric look like he is thinking, what in the hell have these two gotten me into this time?

It’s just weird. So Eric is too old for being one of the bad kids in the teepee, but Ma Lee needs to keep an eye on him, and so installs him at Elk River. Or maybe he was already working there as a counselor (does the Board ask for resumes of their contractors’ employees? Isn’t that kinda standard? What’s his degree in? Any relevant training?).

Bold as brass, but here’s another consideration: doesn’t the HCS have a rather extreme nepotism policy in place? See Redeye’s blog and geekpalaver. An owner’s son as employee? No prob, according to Wardynski, since Lee will be  “removing him from the Elk River program and he will be working other duties.”

Board member David Blair, who lives just down the hill from the Lees, is still a big fan of Pinacle’s. He claims,

. . . he and fellow board members looked carefully at the issue of whether to close the Seldon Center and go forward with Pinnacle before their January vote.

“We looked at Pinnacle, their past performance, their methods and the whole-child offerings for our kids that are struggling and are having some discipline problems,” Blair said. “Pinnacle has a proven track record.”

Problems, problems, problems, Mr. Blair.

Pinnacle’s past performance, which he alludes to, was as a very costly, private school.

Pinnacle’s curriculum, as I understand it, is delivered digitally. As we all know, presumably much of all the HCS’s curriculum is delivered digitally these days — when it is delivered at all. So why did the alternative education program need to be contracted out to a private school-of-sorts? Why couldn’t the Seldon crew have used the same technology and software that Pinnacle’s staff gets up and running?

But most important, to me, are Pinnacle’s Elk River programs, the private prison that Huntsville taxpayers are supporting to the tune of $750 a day, every day (now at $193,500).

What’s its track record? What is the track record of any of these wilderness camps? Again, if you can stomach it, watchCongressional Hearings Regarding Deceptive Marketing Practices, Torture, and Death at Behavior Modification Programs for Teens.” Visit the HEAL website, where “you will find links to lawsuits, news articles, and survivor websites detailing the abuses experienced at these facilities.” Elk River isn’t one of the horror stories yet, but aside from any moral or ethical arguments, how about running some cost-benefit analysis for this boondoggle, Mr. Blair? Or paying an unannounced visit? Talking to ex-staffers and inmates?

You want to know why I keep banging my keyboard about this? It’s simple. I’m appalled that children, even badly behaved children, have so few civil rights, including a right to legal representation, privileged communication with a legal representative, and protection from abuse and false imprisonment. And for people to make money, a lot of money, taking advantage of this, is despicable. Got it?

Seriously, Folks. More on Miniature Horses and the ADA.

In my previous post, I told you that the new policy manual for the Huntsville City Schools includes a passage on rules regarding miniature horses used as service animals in the schools.

I’m astounded that these guidelines are in place, when there is no mention of policies governing who can be sent and why to the Elk River Treatment Program, cut off from contact with the outside world, for indefinite stays of months and months.

But back to what is there — the horses. Miniature horses are used as service animals for the disabled. Service animals are allowed where others animals of the same species — and usually we’re talking dogs — are not, as provided for under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 28 CFR Part 35, the source for the four pages of service animal policies, Section 4.14, of the HCS document.

I’m all for service animals, make no mistake.

But why — why so much on service animals when other matters are entirely ignored?

Just a bit of googling later, I may have an answer. Remember last October when Board member Jennie Robinson told Russ Winn “that she knew that the system was meeting the requirements of the IEPs because the system isn’t being sued”?

A jaw-dropper, that. True, the HCS hasn’t been sued about the IEP negligence — yet — but, no, all is not well. Individual Educational Plans, also an ADA matter, like service animals, weren’t met last fall, or last spring, and there’s no reason to expect they will be this fall.

Meanwhile, up in good old Fairfax County, Virginia, in 2011, 12-year-old Andrew Stevens was finally allowed “after a grueling battle with his school district” to bring his service dog Alaya to school with him. Andrew has epilepsy.  He used to have as many as 20 seizures daily, but with Alaya’s help in detecting and preventing these, Andrew is averaging 5-10 a day. Once his parents finally raised the $18,000 needed to provide him with Alaya,  “Angelo and Nancy Stevens assumed that Fairfax County school officials would follow federal and state laws and allow Alaya to accompany Andrew to his sixth-grade classes at Fort Belvoir Elementary School – a role service dogs perform for many disabled children across the country,” but instead the Fairfax County Schools did all they could to keep Alaya out of his school.

Finally, when the story was reported in the Washington Post and became the subject of petitions on the internationally watched site change.org, Fairfax officials decided to comply with the law.

I wonder who wrote this policy manual, and so does geekpalaver.

Curiouser and curiouser, neigh?

The HCS Checkbook

So the Huntsville City Schools passed its 2012 budget on September 8. Geekpalaver reports there was one question from the public: “Could I get a copy of the final budget?”. How, exactly, the public is supposed to ask questions or comment intelligently on documents before they can read them remains a mystery.

Totally worthless other than as an exercise in cultivating indignation is reviewing the Huntsville City Schools’ check registers posted on-line. Worthless because the monies have been spent. Intriguing, nonetheless.

Here are some things that interested me, looking back from January to July of 2011.

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Shop for Office Supplies — at the Hilton Garden Inn????  

Get your Print Job Done — at the Country Club????

I don’t know about you, but Wal-mart or Staples is where I shop for office supplies. It never would occur to me that I might be able to get a better deal at the Hilton. But that’s where the HCS spent $2,176.58 on office supplies, according to page 10 of the May check register.

After shopping at the Hilton, I might buzz over to check out what’s on offer at the Huntsville Country Club, where the HCS spent  $3551.42 on non-instructional supplies, printing and binding in April (p. 14).

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Got to Pay Jennie’s Dues

 

This may be totally legit. If so, it still raises interesting questions. The HCS cut Board member Jennie Robinson a check for $655 for “other dues and fees” in January 2011 (p. 17). None of the other four Board members received reimbursement for “dues and fees.”

I can think of two reasons for this. One is that JR is a star Board member, belonging to all the right Board professional organizations, and the other four are all slackers. Very possibly true.

Two is that the “fees and dues” JR got reimbursed for are not directly relevant to her service on the Board, and that is why the other four weren’t similarly cut checks for $655 each.

If these fees are for organizations directly relevant to her service on the Board, good for her. But not all professional groups would fit that criteria. For example, let’s say an electrical engineer were elected to the Board. He shouldn’t expect his IEEE dues to be paid, because membership in the IEEE isn’t  relevant to serving on the Board.

Of course, there is no point in simply asking her at the next Board meeting, since Board members don’t answer questions from the public.

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Q: How Many Consultants Does It Take to Screw in the Proverbial Lightbulb?           

A: As Many as You Are Willing to Pay

 

First, remember that $70,000 so-called Demographer’s Report? The utterly worthless insult to the Huntsville taxpayers? It really cost $70,656.50. In March, a check was cut to Steve Salmon’s Gude Management Group for $37,669.76, followed by one for $32,986.74 in April. And remember in June the Board voted to pay Salmon’s boss at Education Planners, James Wilson, $3000 to attend the community meetings in place of the pseudo-demographer? Turns out that Wilson was really paid $4,692.60, funneled through Gude. Total amount blown on that fiasco: $75,349.10.

A modest proposal: Until the HCS is in the black, no more consultants.

  • No consultants from California to play party games with the superintendent and Board (“During a more light-hearted exercise, each participant at the retreat had to anonymously write down a secret detail about their lives and the others had to guess which participant the secret was about.”). When the August check register appears, we’ll find out how much that day in the (Burritt) park cost.
  • No consultants from Georgia to cut and paste freely available documents together and call it a study.
  • If the five Board members can’t handle their responsibilities without having their hands held, then they should resign.
  • Surely with five aides, Dr. Wardynski doesn’t need any more consultants.

Well, that’s enough for today’s exercise in futility. Bounce on over to the HCS Finance Report and find your own favorites.