As we begin a new year, we must welcome yet another winter. Very few of us love, but more of us despise, this time of year. That is unless you are a student and you do not have to drive in inclement weather and more so you want snow for sledding, building a snowman or some other outside activity.
I also know as the school superintendent, more people know me for the call on school, and this includes the delay, cancellation, or the absolute worst call is the one that leads to an early dismissal.
I hear it frequently when I am out and about. It happens at church, the grocery story, recently the BMV, Rotary Club, or in many other places. I even hear it when I am in the schools, and more so, staff and students pleading their cases. Some days, I am popular with folks and other days, I might as well go to my office and hibernate in isolation as no one has anything good to say.
When I went into education, I never thought that with this, I would also have to become a weatherman, thus becoming a connoisseur of weather. I often feel as if I have aged to the point of my late grandfather and when I would always walk in the house and regardless of the time of the day, all we ever watched was the weather channel. Every once in a great while, we might switch to CNN, but this was also at weather time. Of course, noon, 5 PM, 6 PM, and if he could stay awake, 11PM, was reserved for local news but with this the primary focus was again the weather.
I may be 43 years of age, but I have become my grandfather. I am sure as he looks down on me, he must be proud.
With all of this said, making the call on whether school is open, closed or delayed is by far the most difficult decision that I make.
To give folks some perspective on the decision and the time frame which I use, a lot of different scenarios, and often individuals, come into play. This includes consulting with my fellow colleagues. Our transportation and facilities directors often play the largest role. With the latter, he has individuals that often start as early as 5AM in buildings or are traveling into Vincennes. These folks will relay items related to weather to him. In the case of our transportation director, our transportation personnel also must start early and they too are quick to communicate. Also, and depending upon the situation, may warrant involving others and this includes our Chief of Police, Emergency Management Director and others.
In the absolute most perfect situation, the call on school is made the afternoon or evening before. I know that this helps parents and others the most for planning for the next morning or day of.
But this is not always possible and in most cases, weather arrives overnight, which means a decision is going to have to come in the early morning hours. When this happens, I often start at 4:45 AM on these mornings and with this beginning to communicate with my colleagues and/or beginning to drive roads. I often drive a couple of different routes, but my routes take me by our different schools and out to some of the furthest points where we provide transportation.
The time frame for deciding in the morning is relatively a short window. We begin running actual bus routes as early as 6:30 AM. However, even before this, we have some students that may be in foster care in the far reaches of the county and in some cases, even outside of the county. With this stated, I often use 5:45 AM to 6:15 AM as my time frame to release a call. This is not to say that I would not go a little later but any later than 6:15 AM begins to have lots of different complications.
I also must consider that the later the call, the more difficult for parents and others, and we start to get into individuals leaving for work and leaving students unattended. The later the call, the more hardships I often place upon parents and others with their jobs and this has a ripple effect on employers.
The latter, or employers, is one that I often hear more from as opposed to parents and students. Some of it is in jest, but very few employers ever delay or cancel. So, every time that the VCSC makes a call on starting late, cancelling or sending students home early, I know that this will have an impact upon our employers.
As I have told employers and I know that they too realize this, I cannot let this ever be an overriding concern as I decide, but it plays a role.
At the end of the day, student and staff safety must be the overriding factor. When using this as the primary factor, common sense prevails. And in most cases, I will get this right and the decision will be the correct one. This considers our buses running their respective routes and student drivers being able to arrive to LHS safely along with our staff, to not only LHS but also the other buildings.
But while I feel that this is most generally the right decision, I also acknowledge that I am going to miss the mark some time and a lot of this likely will have to do with assuming on what I believe the weather is going to do. Or even worse than this, is when weather rolls in as we are in the process of running our morning start-up or afternoon wrap-up. Bottom line is that I am a human being and I will make mistakes. But with all of this, what I can state to you, and that you should always take assurance in, is that the process is as meticulous and cumbersome as it can be and at the end of the day, student and staff safety is always at the forefront.
In closing, welcome to another winter or the Winter of 2018. In my case, I will continue to watch as much weather as what my grandpa would be watching if he were still here. Each day for me is one day closer to pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training for baseball and with this comes the safety and security for me of knowing that warmer weather is on the way.
Go Big Green, Go Alices!