Updated: David Blair Responds to Commissioner’s Claims Against Huntsville School Board, Superintendent

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – School Board President David Blair has officially responded to a verbal attack levied by a Madison County Commissioner.

At Wednesday’s Madison County Commission meeting, District 6 Commissioner Bob Harrison said he and other local leaders have been ‘disrespected’ by Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski.

Harrison characterized the superintendent as excluding the community and elected officials on the rezoning debate.

“I don’t believe in my 50-plus years have I seen such a display of arrogance, deception, deceit, such that when we talk about being together as a community, it defies everything that we are supposed to be about,” Harrison began.

Harrison also charged school board members had “lied in public, recorded meetings,” alleging that Harrison participated in the committee formed to rename Johnson High School.

“It was a misrepresentation of fact and profoundly disingenuous,” Harrison said of assertions that he had formerly made recommendations to change the school’s name.

Harrison said when a fellow elected official from his area requested information about qualifications of Teach For America students, predominately located in his district, she was told the information was thrown in the trash can because she failed to show up to a town hall meeting.

“And was then verbally attacked by this superintendent for disappointing persons who were at that meeting,” Harrison said.

Huntsville Councilman Richard Showers, a handful of clergymen from Harrison’s district and some Johnson High School Alumni representatives were at the Commission meeting Wednesday to show their support for Harrison’s statements.

“I have supported our school system, but today I am saddened,” Showers said, “that as a city representative that we are put in positions to be made to feel like we have no voice.”

Harrison went on to say Dr. Wardynski has had a “total and complete disregard” for professional ethics during the ongoing rezoning battle with the Department of Justice and the Huntsville City School Board.

“Especially in this instance,” Harrison said, “to win an unworthy goal of maintaining a racially separated school system at any cost.”

Harrison recalled the superintendent declined a request to meet with him on the rezoning plan by saying he had his chance to raise questions at one of the six town hall meetings held in February.

“This individual states that if any state, county or local official wants to meet or receive information from him that they should have run for school board because the Huntsville City School Board is the only entity he is obligated to answer to,” said Harrison.

Harrison said he wants the commission to seek a meeting with the school board and superintendent for an explanation of their decisions. Beyond that, he called for the public to continue to voice their concerns in any way possible.

“There’s got to be some community outrage. There has to be some public dissent as it was in the 1960s for a rising tide of individuals who are free-thinking – for people who realize what their creator meant, that all of us are God’s children,” said Harrison.

Huntsville City School Board President David Blair released this statement in response to Harrison:

“Commissioner Harrison’s comments calling the school board and superintendent ‘liars and practicing deception’ is completely inappropriate and untrue.  Let me be very clear, this school board and superintendent are focused on doing what is best for our students and our community.  I remind Mr Harrison that he supported the previous administration who allowed our school system to go $20 million in debt and put us on the brink of a state takeover. This same administration accepted poor performing schools as the norm. In fact Mr. Harrison protested to retain the previous superintendent.

Mr. Harrison seems to have forgotten the fact that he met, at his invitation, with City School Board member Topper Birney and me, along with Councilman Richard Showers, State Representative Laura Hall, Madison County NAACP President Alice Sams and others. We were met with the same disrespect as was demonstrated by Mr. Harrison’s comments today in the County Commission meeting.

Mr. Harrison also made comments concerning the desegregation lawsuit.  Mr. Harrison must not understand how a federal lawsuit works; the lawyers for the plaintiff and defendants meet for negotiations.  Negotiations do not happen in public.  There are over 30 elected officials that represent our community and only Harrison, Hall and Showers demanded a ‘seat at the table’. There are clear delineations in government. Mr Harrison is not qualified to speak on running a school system. The School Board does not tell the Commissioner how to pick up garbage, pave roads, or name public buildings.  It seems to me that Mr. Harrison needs to concentrate on important issues in his district like keeping neighborhoods safe, working on economic development and quality housing.

In just a little over two years this school board and the superintendent have corrected the financials of the schools and retain $20 million in reserve. Our high performing schools are moving forward and the struggling schools are now surpassing state benchmarks.  We have had unprecedented success, the most in our city’s history. Perhaps Mr. Harrison should quit grandstanding and instead put our children first.”