The elected officials in Huntsville, Alabama are fond of saying that ‘Superintendent Casey Wardynski is doing the job he was hired to do’. Considering the fact that during his time as Superintendent racial tensions increased, parents became quite vocal with their complaints and had organized to have him removed, and teachers and students left the system in unprecedented numbers, one might wonder: What job did they bring him here to do?
With the news this evening of the Superintendent’s resignation, effective tomorrow, I felt the time had come to finally get to the bottom of it. We surely do not want history to repeat itself, and as I type this I am confident that the same folks that brought him here are busy typing and talking, working out the details to replace him with a Casey clone.
Let’s start with what those behind the scenes want us to believe is the beginning:
In 2011 the BOE of Huntsville City Schools cited financial mismanagement as the reason they were not renewing Superintendent Ann Roy Moore’s contract. After weeks of interviews and discussions, the 7 person field was narrowed down to 3. Finally, in June of 2011 the decision was made, and Col. Casey Wardynski (Ret.) was appointed the Superintendent.
On the surface the hiring of Superintendent Wardynski seemed pretty routine. It is never pleasant, letting one superintendent go and hiring another, and the process definitely stirred emotion and ruffled some feathers, but it seemed fairly transparent.
After reading the following information I think you will see it was anything but routine or transparent. It was a calculated plan to place Wardynski in a position that many folks benefitted from.
It appears that Col. Wardynski’s sights were set on HCS long before HCS BOE even knew they wanted a new superintendent.
In this article by Kari Hawkins with the Redstone Rocket, the future Superintendent doesn’t mince words about his intentions to live and work in Huntsville, Alabama. Of particular interest is the following excerpt:
“When he retired in 2009 after 29 years of service, Wardynski was one of 14 executives chosen for development by The Board Superintendents Academy, a Los Angeles-based organization that trains executives to lead urban public education systems. His sights were set on leading only one school system — Huntsville City Schools.
But the job wasn’t available.
“Timing really is everything,” he [Wardynski] said. “I waited and when the superintendent’s job did open up for financial reasons, I applied.”
Wait, what? Sounds like he was pretty sure he’d get the job doesn’t it? Why would he be so confident? To understand let’s start with his previous job for the Army: Creation and oversight of America’s Army, a video game aimed at recruiting our youth to serve in the military.
He talks about the video game in this Washington Post article by Josh White:
“We want kids to come into the Army and feel like they’ve already been there,” said Col. Casey Wardynski, who as director of the Army’s office of economic and manpower analysis came up with the idea.”
What does that have to do with Huntsville?
Besides the fact that America’s Army is produced by the Army Game Studio, part of the AMRDEC Software Engineering Directorate (SED) at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville Alabama, the game is also tied to Huntsville’s SAIC, as evident in Robertson Allen’s piece “ America’s Army and the Recruitment and Management of ‘Talent’: An Interview with Colonel Casey Wardynski”
”Yet from my perspective, there also seemed to be rather wasteful spending practices that seem less endemic to just America’s Army, but government contracting in general. One example that was repeated to me several times was that the sub-contracting organization managing the game developers would be paid $100,000 to manage a game developer making $50,000/year. The prime contractor (SAIC) would be paid $150,000 to manage the sub-contractor managing this individual. These are, of course, generalizations, but they were generalizations made by America’s Army employees.”
You will find here a 2009 article by Kenneth Kesner for AL.com covering the huge contract awarded SAIC to support SED, note the references to America’s Army:
“A more fun example of the software development is the wildly popular “America’s Army” computer game.
“Ten million users online,” Naudain said.
“It’s really fun,” Gully said, adding that SAIC is adapting some of the game concepts for use by high school students in science, technology, engineering and math studies.”
You can see in this piece by Travis Leder at WAAY that SAIC is still doing quite well with America’s Army:
“The company announced it was awarded a $757 million Systems and Computer Resources Support (SCRS) task order and a $109 million Aviation Systems and Computer Resources Support (ASCRS) contract which will provide software and aviation engineering support from the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC).”
While huge contracts were won by SAIC in 2009 for America’s Army, in June of that same year a major America’s Army software developer was forced to close its office in CA the day after the launch of version 3 amid rumors of financial difficulties.
Keane NG writes: “Details of the layoffs, including how many people lost their jobs or whether or not they had been given advance notice, weren’t explained. I can only hope that the team was given a heads up to start looking for work – to ditch an entire studio the day after they finish putting out your game seems a little bit harsh.”
As mentioned earlier, Col. Wardynski completed his training at the Broad Academy in 2010. Most folks are under the impression that Col. Wardynski’s journey into the world of k-12 education began then, but that isn’t the case.
You see, before he began training at the Broad Superintendents Academy, and before he began wheeling and dealing to find the most profitable home for his America’s Army game he made another lucrative deal…..with Project Lead The Way.
Project Lead The Way is a name that should be very familiar to parents and students alike in Huntsville City Schools. Superintendent Ann Roy Moore signed a contract with the PLTW in 2010 , but Wardynski turbocharged Project Lead the Way as soon as he took over as Superintendent in 2011. Huntsville City Schools quickly became one of the largest school district in the nation to have the PLTW STEM program in every school.
With all of this information in mind I decided to do a little digging. After cross-referencing the names I learned that in September of 2008 Project Lead the Way teamed up with America’s Army in Ohio’s public schools. In the U. S. Army press release announcing the partnership, Col. Casey Wardynksi is quoted:
“The U.S. Army is committed to educating today’s youth. We are honored to work with Project Lead The Way to employ our technologies to allow students to explore critical subjects like math, engineering and the sciences in an innovative and hands-on manner,” said Col. Casey Wardynski, project originator and director of the America’s Army game project.”
Corey Mead writes about the collaboration in his book “Video Games and the Future of Armed Conflict (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2013). Chapter 8 – ‘America’s Army Invades Our Classroom’ states, in part:
“The partnership with Project Lead the Way is just one means by which America’s Army is making its presence known in our schools. Now that Casey Wardynski is Huntsville’s school superintendent, the America’s Army team at Redstone Arsenal is creating applications of the game for the Huntsville curriculum. These applications will be delivered to the classroom via iPads and iPhones; they will also be recycled into the game’s public recruiting and private training versions. Wardynski has partnered with the U.S. Army’s Cyber Command to restructure the curriculum of Huntsville schools to focus on the skills required to wage and defend against cyberwarfare effectively.”
Now that we have explored the relationship between SAIC and America’s Army, and PLTW and America’s Army, let’s look at the connection between SAIC and Project Lead The Way.
“Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) (NYSE: SAI) announced today it will continue its enterprise-wide program to help inspire, engage and educate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education by pledging an additional $200,000 to Project Lead The Way (PLTW), an organization with demonstrated results in the STEM arena. The donation builds on SAIC’s $400,000 donation to the organization in January 2010.”
So, Wardynski oversees the development of America’s Army before becoming Superintendent, he then sets his sights on Huntsville, government contracts are awarded to SAIC for America’s Army, PLTW and America’s Army team up, SAIC donates to Project Lead the Way, Wardynski is appointed superintendent, he then implements the PLTW system wide, PLTW charges schools for implementation…..and we have heard virtually nothing about all of this.
Which is exactly what they wanted. They don’t want us to do our own homework, to look beyond the press releases and sound bites.
That, however, is exactly what we need to do now that our public schools are seen as profit centers by people like Casey Wardynski.
I am confident the people of Huntsville will not be duped again. Parent organizations such as Huntsville United will help disseminate the truth behind the yet to be named candidates for the vacant position. It will then be up to the public to put pressure on the elected board members to truly put the interest of the children before the corporations.
Editors note: Article was edited on Sept. 18th to clarify when PLTW was brought to Huntsville City Schools.
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