Superintendent Candidates – Stakeholder Input Sought

Board members urge community feedback as they take the next steps in deciding who should be the next superintendent.

An open letter to candidates for Huntsville City Schools superintendent

Active, authentic dialogue will go a long way to resolving many of the issues we face.

Drake draws support and goodwill from our diverse community

The appointment by the Huntsville Board of Education of lifelong educator and retired principal, Tom Drake, as interim superintendent brings the potential for healing and unity to a divided school district.

Lost Lines

Huntsville United - I Love Ms Denson

 

Lakewood Elementary, first grade in Ms. Denson’s class, who I clearly loved. (I really did, and I thought she was beautiful)

I know there are grammatical errors (boots on the river?) and my illustration is not the most accurate, but back in the day, we created one of these papers every single morning.

If you’ll please notice my handwriting.

This picture makes me tear up. Not because I’m nostalgic for first grade (I am, though) but rather, because my first grade handwriting is neater and better formed than my son’s who is in fifth grade.

And yes, maybe I was a naturally better writer than my son, but I also practiced every single day.

Does anyone that grew up, here in Huntsville, remember the Handwriting Lady that we’d watch and emulate on the school TV station in third grade?  The teacher would roll in the tv cart and there she’d be.  She had perfect white or blonde hair (not sure, because she was in black and white) with a hypnotic voice, full of confidence that we were capable of duplicating her beautiful loops and swirls. Sigh…

Thank goodness, one thing that is still intact in our current school system is the love the teachers have for our kids.
I knew Ms. Denson loved me even if she hadn’t replied to me in her beautiful red ink.

Ms. Denson would never have time for that now. She’d be too busy fitting in her material for the day, to teach kids how to take tests. Ms. Denson has been replaced by a black rectangle that gives a little “good job” graphic in the corner of a screen.  Somehow, I don’t think that praise feels the same coming from a computer.

I know a screen shot from my son’s computer, telling him “I love you” won’t be hanging on his wall in 30 years.

The Choking Game – Our Family’s Effort to Educate

After our family’s tragedy, we were sure we could get support and answers from Dr. Casey Wardynski, Huntsville City Schools Superintendent.

Teacher Turnover in Huntsville City Schools

Since 2009, resignations of tenured teachers in the Huntsville City Schools system have risen 225%, as suggested by a graph provided by Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski …

Erasing teachers in Huntsville

Huntsville is Erasing Teachers

*Writer’s Note 5/27/2016:  I had the opportunity today to speak to one of our Huntsville TFA alum.  I am aware that we have TFA employees that have entered into their position with TFA with a teaching education.   As to the number, those are not available to me.  However, most TFA enter with an alternate certificate and no education background.   I have edited my article to reflect this.  On a side note,  I appreciate those who choose to stay past their TFA tenure and acquire a teaching certification.  Passion for education is something that I truly admire.  Please visit the following webpage and review this article by a former TFA teacher, who happens to be Harvard Graduate: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2013/2/11/rethinking-teach-for-america

Huntsville City Schools’ Teachers, we will miss you.

I was fortunate enough in high school to have one teacher for three of my required history courses. His name is Jimmy Knight. For your average awkward freshman, Mr. Knight was intimidating on that first day of high school as he stood before his classroom, elbow propped up on the podium, sizing up every student as they walked through the door. However, as late summer turned into fall, the intimidator turned into the educator. He wanted his students to learn and it showed. I even wanted to do my homework.

Our students in Huntsville are going to lose in this aspect. You see, we are experiencing a mass exodus of seasoned educators in the Huntsville City School system.

They are leaving because they are no longer allowed to do what they do best – educate and build relationships with our students. They are required to teach to tests and pacing guides – pacing guides that are not a fit for every student and sometimes for the majority of a classroom. They no longer have one-on-one time to spend with students with deeper individual needs. They are watching our students and our schools slip between the cracks and they can’t do it anymore. I understand.

Dr. Wardsynki is a big fan of Teach for America teachers. Many people are not aware of exactly what Teach for Amercia is. Teach for America began as a program designed as an emergency response to a shortage of qualified educators in urban areas. As the organization has progressed, it has started to bill its employees as preferable to experienced teachers. Most Teach for America  employees are not trained teachers. They are newly graduated professionals who agree to teach for a period of two years in exchange for an award to pay down student loan debt. Again, most are not trained educators.

They do not cost us any less than a certified teacher and I question the number of Teach for America teachers in Huntsville City Schools Title 1 schools, because these are the students who need a seasoned, experienced teacher the most – the students who sometimes only find stability at school. Seasoned teachers know how to provide this.

Teachers in Huntsville City Schools no longer feel valued and are treated with the utmost disrespect by our Superintendent and the Huntsville City School Board of Education. A teacher should be able to bring issues to the table without fear of repercussion and losing their job. We recently saw that Huntsville Education Association is suing the school board for an ineffective teachers list that they are unwilling to provide. The crowd at Merts Center is persecuting our teachers and they just got caught. However, it is too late. We have lost upwards of 559 teachers in the last two years. This doesn’t count the numbers provided at the last board meeting. These losses have to stop. Now.

I am forever grateful for Mr. Knight and the impact he had on my time in high school and my life. He will always be one of the coolest cats I know. I pray that our Huntsville City School students will find their Mr. Knight in the middle of this chaos.

Teachers, the greatest doctor of them all, Dr. Seuss, wrote, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” You all mean the world to me and many others – parents and students alike. My heart breaks a little more each time I find another is leaving.

Dr. Wardynski, I would like to know just where the good is in all of these goodbyes.

The Lion, The Witch and The Laptop

Huntsville United Love of Books

 

What do you guys think about the exclusive use of computers in elementary grades?

Would you consider refusing to accept your child’s school computer next year?

I’d like to, but I wish it didn’t have to be an all or nothing deal. I like computers. I’m on one now, and often, but I wish kids were using more tactile learning (and I don’t mean their fingers touching the keyboard), at school.

I adored books as a child. I remember, and still LOVE the smell of a book’s pages, the feel of the paper (I always loved the glossy ones with colorful illustrations, the best), and burying my face into them, escaping my world for a while, and entering a new one. I can’t tell you how fervently I hoped that I would finally come across the right wardrobe to transport me to Narnia. I checked in every single one I came across.

I can still remember walking into the little, brown Bessie K Russell library on North Parkway (yes, I’m oldish), and walking out, biceps trembling, with a stack of books, that came up to my chin.

To me, there’s no cleaner, fresher, intoxicating smell, than a library.

We are discovering, now with more and more studies showing, that children learn better and perform better on tests, when using paper and pencil, rather than computers.

I love technology, and of course, use it every day, but I’m sad for my kids that they may not experience the joys of learning from a paper book at school…the joys of covering your books in brown craft paper or newspaper comics, (ok, yes! I know! I already admitted I’m oldish!) and just writing and doodling with a pencil! Remember drawing moustaches on the characters in your English book? (I’m sorry, Ms. Denson)

Do you think our kids love the smell of their plastic computers when they open them?

How do you all remember your books?

Do you think our children are experiencing the magic we did?  They deserve to.