Huntsville City superintendent Casey Wardynski was hired in June 2011. His selection has been controversial from the outset, largely due to the fact that he came to the job with virtually no education background. A 30-year veteran of the Army he worked for the Aurora, CO school system for less than a year before coming to Huntsville. He also went to the Broad Academy which supposedly prepares “non-traditional” candidates to become local school superintendents.
(One can not help but relate this situation to the recent decision of our state school board to hire someone as state school chief who refers to himself as a “non-traditional” candidate. Like Wardynski, he also lacks traditional training as an educator.)
However, Wardynski announced at a press conference Sept. 14 that he is resigning, effective Sept. 15. A widower, Wardynski stated that he is resigning so he can marry Karen Lee, CEO of Pinnacle Schools and a contractor for the city system.
For a complete review of this, you can read this article by Anna Claire Vollers of AL.com.
But as with most things, this one too has a back story.
The Huntsville system is governed by an elected five-member board. Observers tell me the superintendent, even when facing fire from parents, has been strongly supported by the board. In fact, one report said that there had never been a single “no” vote cast by a board member during Wardnyski’s tenure.
But this situation took a major hit on Aug. 23 when two former teachers handily defeated their opponents and gained seats on the Huntsville board. Michele Watkins beat incumbent board chair Laurie McCaulley, while Pam Hill defeated Carlos Mathews for an open seat. For certain, neither Watkins or Hill when they take office later this fall, would have been a sure vote for Wardynski’s proposals.
Did this factor into the superintendent’s decision? Only he knows. But it had to be on his mind.
My sources say that the Huntsville system has lost an unusually large number of experienced educators in the last few years. Russell Winn is a Huntsville parent and has been an outspoken critic of Wardynski. He is a tireless researcher and frequent blogger. According to his information, from May 1, 2014 through May 6, 2016 a total of 559 educators left by either retirement (24 percent) or resignation (76 percent)
Truth is that the average “life span” of a local superintendent is three to four years. So Wardynski surpassed that mark. Truth is also that voters still have the power to be heard when rallied to a cause they believe in.