Friday, February 14, 2014

Guest Post - Anatomy of a Snow Day (from a school administrator)

While there have been a couple of fun videos floating around recently of school administrators doing creative things to alert their school communities of school cancellations, the process of making the call is actually a bit stressful. There are not many things that rile up parents and students more than a wrong call one of these inclement weather mornings. 

The message below which was sent yesterday to parents and staff by Glen Urquhart School's Head of School Dave Provost provides a good glimpse of what many school administrators deal with in making "the call."  Thanks to Dave for allowing me to share the e-mail here!

Dear Families,

It's a pretty glamorous life, this head of school thing.  I know what
you're thinking.  Guy wakes up in the morning, puts on his silk robe and
slippers, grabs his freshly brewed double latte, pets his loyal hound, and
wanders casually to window, searching the sky for signs of snow.  He sits
and reflects, quietly, on the magnitude of his realm, and contemplates
aloud: "Will I open our fine institution of learning this morning, forcing
the timid masses to keep a stiff upper lip in the interest of maintaining
academic momentum?  Or, will I grant the young people a reprieve from
their toil, inviting collective glee and the opportunity to frolic while
their parents scramble amusingly to secure child care?"  He sips his
latte, chuckles to himself, revels in the bliss of power, and picks up the

Yeah, not so much.

Here's a blow by blow of how it actually works:

Tuesday morning, the chatter begins around school.  "More snow coming. 
Looks like it might get messy.  What do you think about Thursday?"  My
reply, some form of the following:  "Ummm..."

Wednesday morning, the lobbying begins.  The upper school head, famous for
her love of snow days, begins dropping by with weather updates.  Emails
and text messages from her follow.  My assistant blows into my office like
Kramer entering Jerry's apartment, clutching a printed weather radar
photo: "Did you know we're getting two feet of snow tonight??!!"  I look
at her, my eyebrows raised slightly, amused.  Students ask, casually, "do
you think we'll have school tomorrow?  I have a project due..."  My reply,
a feeble smile and some form of the following:  "Ummmm..."

Wednesday night, 9:00 p.m., check the weather before going home from
school.  Snow beginning sometime between 7:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. 
Anticipated totals between two and eighteen inches.  Storm path uncertain.
Source A reports a dusting.  Source B reports Armageddon.  Source C is
non-committal.  Drive home while receiving multiple pathetically
hyperbolic text messages from the head of upper school.

Wednesday night, 9:30 p.m., eat dinner and watch the Olympics.  Wonder if
they ever have snow days in Sochi.  Wonder, also, while watching pairs
figure skating, "what's up with those costumes?"

Wednesday night, 10:20 p.m., go to bed and check forecast and school
closings on phone.  Worcester schools are closed.  I wonder, "What is
closer, Worcester or Sochi?"  Set alarm for 5:15 a.m.

Thursday morning, 5:15 a.m., wake to alarm.  Check school closings.  Athol
closed.  "How unfortunate," I think, on so many levels.  Amesbury closed. 
Bellesini Academy closed.  A few other schools with names somehow worse
than Glen Urquhart closed.  "Not enough," I think.  Re-set alarm for 6:00.

Thursday morning, 6:00 a.m., wake again to alarm.  Look out the window. 
Nothing.  Check phone for school closings.  Hamilton-Wenham closed. 
"Hmmmm," I think.  "What do these upper middle class yankees know that I
don't?  Have they been tipped off by the meteorological inner circle?" 
Email arrives from a parent.  Manchester-Essex also closed.  "Conspiracy
among the strong tax base," I think.  "Not to panic.  Stay calm."  Then,
the flurry: Gloucester, Ipswich, Danvers, Peabody, Boxford, Landmark,
Pingree...   Expletives uttered as I reach for my home computer.

6:12 a.m., discover that home computer has been re-configured by
16-year-old and that my files, including login information for School
Messenger, are no longer available.  More expletives.  Voice beside me
asks, "What can I do?"  I reply, "You can stop talking to me so I can
figure this out."  I think to myself, "Smooth."  I atone briefly and carry

6:15 a.m., realize I need my laptop and will need to go to school in order
to cancel school.  Dress and run to car.  Drive to GUS at imprudent speed
while alternately breathing mindfully and inwardly, bitterly mocking the
entire mindfulness paradigm.  Wonder what time it is in Sochi and what
figure skaters wear to breakfast.  

6:28, log in to School Messenger and initiate process for recording
automatic call to families.  Realize that the upper school building is, in
fact, an impenetrable bunker without cell reception.  Grab laptop and cell
phone and walk outside the upper school building in jeans, sweatshirt,
realizing I have no poem, no amusing quip, nothing.  I am dead inside. 
Beaten.  Winter, that ruthless marauder, has won.  

6::30 a.m., cell phone rings and I am prompted by automated call system to
record the message, which I do, forlorn and shivering.  I turn with my
phone and open laptop to re-enter the school, realizing I have locked
myself out.  Briefly, I consider weeping.  I then begin laughing
uproariously like an ultra-creepy John Malkovich.  I sit down on the
sidewalk and email the faculty.  Perhaps someone is coming.  "It's ok," I
think.  "If no one arrives I'll just curl up here outside the doors and go
to sleep.  They'll find me in the morning."

6:35 a.m., (A staff member) emerges from Braemar, chuckling.  He saves me
from myself and lets me back into school.  I begin looking for phone
numbers for the local TV stations.  They are cruelly hidden on their
websites.  Finally, I reach channel 7; I am transferred three times before
I reach the right person.  Apparently, there is a room somewhere at the
station, some secret place where school closings are received and posted. 
"Do you have your codes?" the person asks.  I reply, "Ummmm...."  The head
shaking on the other end of the phone is audible.  Even the lowly intern
charged with taking cancellations sees how pathetic I am.

7:05, a.m., log on to Facebook and begin reading snarky posts from parents
regarding the snow day call.  "Ahhh, the glamour of it all," I think to
myself.  I sit back in my office chair and look outside.  It's quiet, and

it has begun to snow.

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