And after a lengthy search, the school board found a guy by the name of Dr. Casey Wardynski. At first I wasn't too interested in blogging something like this because it seemed so...small potatoes. But then I kept hearing some interesting stories about where he came from, and more importantly, what he was doing and who he brought along with him.
I still can't quite grasp why the school board and others love the guy. Maybe it was his military credentials -- after all, he is a retired Army colonel, and this city loves itself some military folk. Perhaps HCS figured they'd get a hard-nosed, no-nonsense leader who'd apply some of that military leadership magic on a school system that seems to be unable to get its collective shit together.
Wardynski's previous job was being the superintendent of Aurora Public Schools. More importantly, he's the alumnus of the Broad Foundation's Superintendents Academy, a program that, to quote Balloon Juice's E.D. Kain, "shapes new corporate reformers to go out and bring school choice and privatization to the masses." Nice, bland buzzwords. The "masses" is a nice touch, too -- gotta patronize the lesser peoples when getting your message across.
I checked up on the batting record of the "star players" that were churned out by this outfit, and it's not looking good:
- Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of Washington D.C. schools and Broad alumnus.
- Marla Goodloe-Johnson, former superintendent of Seattle, WA. public schools and Broad alumnus.
- Brad Bernatek, Director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment for Seattle Public Schools and Broad alumnus.
- Beverly Hall, former superintendent of Atlanta, GA. public schools. Although not a Broad alumnus, several members of the school board were reportedly trained by the Broad Foundation sometime in 2006.
- Robert Bobb, current emergency financial manager of Detroit, MI and recent BFSA graduate. The Broad Foundation, along with the Kellogg Foundation, paid Bobb $145,000 a year on top of his $280,000 government salary. Fair bit of change there.
- Kimberly Olson, former finalist for superintendent of the Dallas, TX. independent school district and Broad alumnus.
- Arne Duncan, former superintendent of Chicago, IL. public schools, current U.S. Secretary of Education and Broad alumnus.
When you've got shit stacked this high, no amount of window opening or air freshener is gonna make the stench go away. And what of Dr. Wardynski? Well, he did leave Aurora Public Schools with a $25 million deficit.
In other words, it appears to be an outfit that trains present and future administrative staff in how to aggressively run a school system in the corporate sense, with the ultimate long-term goal of discrediting public schools as they are now in favor of charter schools largely run by corporate interests.
And now that he's settled into his new job, he's brought a few friends along:
Wardynski recruited his second-in-command, Dr. Barbara Cooper, from the school system in Aurora, Colo., just as he did with the new CFO, Frank Spinelli. Wardynski joked at last week's school board meeting that John Barry, the Aurora superintendent, is "pretty unhappy" with him.
Wardynski worked alongside both during his own nine-month stint as chief financial officer of the Aurora system.
And in Huntsville, he is paying both better than their predecessors. Cooper will make $141,600 a year as deputy superintendent - about $7,000 more than the maximum salary advertised for the job. The salary range on the posting, which ended Aug. 29, was $84,217 to $134,545.
And while the administrative staff get thousands over the maximum for their jobs, teachers, principals and faculty are being forced to abide by the absolute minimum. Keep in mind this the same school system that doubled up on bus routes and consolidated schools to save money. And also keep in mind this is in the same state where a teacher coming out of her own pockets for things like tissue and pencils is considered a perfectly normal event.
Methinks the fact that the school system is throwing extra money at hiring and keeping administrative staff around while at the same time turning teachers into minimum-wage slaves pisses a lot of folks off. Showering upper management and executives with money while drawing blood from entry-level turnips is an epidemic that's swept the entire nation. I understand you want to attract and keep your best and brightest, just not at the expense of the folks at the ground floor. You know, the people who actually run most of this shit.
Personally speaking, the jury's still out on this guy, although I'm not liking what I'm seeing this early in the game. And now for some commentary from the peanut gallery over at AL.com:
These salaries are not excessive. Good leadership comes at a cost. If you want cheap leadership, I understand that members of the previous school administration are available.
Don't you just hate it when people attempt to justify waste and cronyism when it works in their favor?
BTW, Geek Palaver, Redeye's Front Page and Merts Center Monitor has much, much more on this and other crap involving HCS.