Nearly three weeks ago, citizens were informed by local media that the Huntsville City School System has operated a secret program for the past 18 months, designed to monitor student’s online activity. It was reported that this program began as a result of a tip from the NSA. After it became reasonably clear that the NSA did not contact the Huntsville City Schools security officer, Dr. Wardynski resorted to asking, “What does it matter who the call was from?” It does matter. It seems that the public was misinformed with a statement that would have shaped public opinion if it had been blindly accepted. There are several similar statements pertaining to this program, but no documentation is being provided.Why does this matter? According to Superintendent Casey Wardynski, it shouldn’t. Our only concern should be for the safety of students. While this argument, launched after most citizens took umbrage to the program, is an effective diversion, (who would disagree that student safety is important?), it is also a means by which the conversation has been halted. We still have not heard straight answers regarding the parameters of the program, the source and amount of funding, the reason for its inception, or what elected official, responsible to citizens, knows the answers to these questions.
SHCA has spoken with the reporter who broke the story, who maintains that he reported what he was told by HCS administration. Follow-up interviews included details which differed from the information first provided.
While it was reported that students social media accounts were being monitored, later statements indicated that accounts are only looked at if school officials are alerted by a tip. The specialist hired to run this program works for T&W Operations, Inc. Upon learning about the program, we checked and found that T&W Operations, Inc had “liked” the facebook page of SHCA and was therefore receiving notifications of our activity. At last check, no member of the SHCA Board of Directors either is enrolled in or would have been reported as a threat to any school. Were we being monitored, or is this a coincidence?
Dr. Wardynski - "When we look on You Tube you'll see something go on there that some kid put up there some beat down somewhere on school property, that’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen. We see that then we go looking for the kid. So it’s a matter of using the resources we have, looking in public places which is social media. If we get a tip that a kid is going to do something, we'll go look at their facebook page."
School board member, Topper Birney also spoke with one of our board members. He emphatically states that he was not aware that a program of this nature was in place. When asked by the media whether he knew about the program, the name, SAFe, was not mentioned. The activity was described and he maintains that he was never made aware of its existence.
Dr. Wardynski "They didn't know the acronym, but they knew about the program because we brief them on some of the specific cases rarely and more generally on the trends."
David Blair - " I have known about that for a while as well as my fellow board members. . . “
In an attempt to get answers regarding the program’s parameters, Senator Paul Sanford sent the following request to all Huntsville City School Board Members –
Senator Paul Sanford would like to request a detailed explanation for all
expulsions related to the SAFe program. No personal information is
requested, just the facts surrounding each reported threat and subsequent
facts that lead to expulsion or disciplinary measures.
He received the following reply from Board President, David Blair –
“I am uncomfortable with this request due to the sensitive nature of the
expulsions. There is a process in place to deal with discipline issues in the schools
which we will be glad to share if so desired.”
Senator Sanford sent the following response and has not received another reply.
I see no reason why the board cannot provide information regarding the expulsions or disciplinary measures taken in relation to the SAFe Program. I do not need any personal information about the incidents, but I feel info regarding the tips received, the action taken, and the situations that necessitated the board taking action are an appropriate and reasonable request.
Again I ask that the board provide the previously requested information surrounding the incidents relating to the SAFe Program and the details leading to corrective action by the board.“
While opinions may differ regarding the appropriateness of this type of program, we have a more immediate issue. Our local school board is withholding information from the public. Are you willing to accept being denied information by those you elect and pay? If so, please let us know that we should close our eyes and pretend that our local government is not being run by fiat.
Note from RedEye: Are the rattlesnakes beginning to turn on the Mighty Casey Wardynski........
I attended this Republican cheer leading event at Grissom last evening. It was sickening. I’ve never seen so many Republicans in my life. There were 7 elected Repugs on the stage. Could well have been the Republican convention. They used these “civic” meetings to win the election for Mo Brooks, and it is absolutely the bailiwick of school board member, president, head honcho, Jennie Robinson. I have asked the school attorney how they could use a public building for political meetings, and he said "anybody could use it if they paid for it".Time will tell the truth....
"Folks here are keenly interested in property value," Wardynski told the crowd. "I am also keenly interested in value."Yet he closed schools.....
Wardynski said that focusing too much on price could cause the system to lose many programs of value. He reiterated that he intends to take schools' success into account when deciding which schools to close.
He added that he does not like using the words "school closures."
This non-responsiveness to public comments and opinions is becoming a pattern. As public interest increases, their willingness to allow public participation in the process has decreased. But that’s a posting for another day.To be continued.....