• The Man Takes A Better Look At HCS And Casey Wardynski.

    Plenty has gone down surrounding Dr. Casey Wardynski, newly minted superintendent of Huntsville City Schools. If it isn't the parade of new $100k+ hires during a time of proration and teacher layoffs, the drop-kicking of several school principals and a $500k push to higher educators funneled through the Broad Institute network, it's the sudden proposal to change the name of the newly built Lee High School and the controversial move of the New Century Technology School magnet. Yeah, the man seems to be shaking things up, for better or worse.

    Okay, folks. You need some background.

    • Ever since Wardynski got on board, there's been the sense of unilateral decision-making on part of the superintendent on a variety of issues. Case in point, the firing of Fillis McGhee, Jo Ann Thompson and Keith Henderson. Each case has their merits, and they all reek of an underlying motive somewhere. These moves are being hailed as a shakedown in corruption within HCS, except any genuine shakedown would have to involve sawing off dead wood off the White Street tree.
    • Meanwhile, Wardynski's made a few of his friends welcome at their new home by throwing a total of $641,000 their way. And now he's chasing around a $550,000 $850,000 $1,700,000 four-year contract with Teach for America.* Gee, Casey, I thought we didn't have all that money to throw around. The schools are broke, teachers are getting let go right and left, and parents are tired of sending their kids off with their own rolls of toilet paper.
    • Then there's the ham-handed way Wardynski's handling the renaming of the new Lee High School. Pulling down the Lee name without consulting anyone about it is a bit of a dick move that suggests unilateral action, Casey.**
    • Even more ham-handed is the proposed move of New Century Technology from its current location within the crowded Columbia High School, located smack dab in Research Park, to the new Lee High School several miles east. Keep in mind Lee had its own magnet program already in place. Also keep in mind that New Century wanted its own campus for years. Butler or Westlawn would fit the bill for a new campus, as both are a lot closer to Redstone Arsenal and Research Park than Lee is.

    There's also a not-so-subtle push for the school system to gain "unitary status." In short, that means HCS can finally throw off that decades-old desegregation order and start building and zoning schools the way they want without asking the U.S. Justice Department for permission. That doesn't sound so bad until you find out how the school system and the city in general is effectively segregated via north and south sides. I'll explain.

    Thanks to the desegregation order, HCS can't build any new schools in the heavily white southeastern portions of the city. That means the city can't build another school to relieve the rampant overcrowding of Grissom High School, the only public high school in that particular area. That means the Tigers will have to put up with those portable classrooms out front.

    Meanwhile, you have the heavily black northwestern and north-central portions of the city. The houses are cheaper, the people are working class and the schools are majority black, and therefore assumed to be complete shit by the Weatherly/Whiteburg crowd. Schools like J.O. Johnson and S.R. Butler High are operating at way under capacity, for a number of reasons. In Butler's case, all of the Redstone Arsenal students were rezoned for Columbia High when it first opened, drop-kicking Butler's enrollment numbers. Majority-to-minority school transfers rule the roost (guess in which direction), thereby placing further strain on the already over-capacity southeastern schools.

    Given the property values north of University Drive, east of Sparkman & Jordan Drive and west of the Parkway are a bit paltry, to say the least, the schools there don't get as much funding as the schools in the more affluent Whitesburg/Weatherly/Jones Farm/Lilly Flagg areas. Unfortunately, there seems to be an inclination to blame a lack of proper school funding and the education opportunities that are thereby stifled on the somehow natural inferiority of black minds and their criminal, trouble-making tendencies. And I speak as a survivor of a school system where the administration and teaching faculty have already assigned stereotypical notions of who you are supposed to be and thereby act accordingly.

    The only way to get out from under the order is to find a way to bring the ethnic composition of the schools across the city to a desirable enough level for the Justice Department to give an okay. So far, that has not happened. And thanks to the screwed-up ethnic demographics of the city in general, it never will, at least not for the next decade or two.

    And that's why I ask about the way Fillis McGhee was fired. Yes, it's generally not a good idea to try to use your position to get favors for your kid, no matter how well it would benefit them in the end. However, keep in mind this was a black principal of a majority-white school in a majority-white part of town. I hate to lace up  the "Air Rs," but if Wardynski's shakedown is actually the first salvo of many signifying a movement to...ah..."put things back to where they were" or "bring back neighborhood schools" or some such thing...

    Better bloggers than I have covered the ongoing HCS saga in greater detail. I present to you links to Geek Palaver, Merts Center Monitor and Redeye. Go read them.

    * EDIT: Per Geek Palaver, the four-year Teach for America contract actually totals to approximately $1,700,000. I keep that in mind next time I hear about yet another round of teacher layoffs.

    ** EDIT: Wardynski had the "Lee High School" motif put back up after student and community outcry.