As you are all aware the snowfall that we experienced this morning provided for some slow driving conditions in Dearborn on the way to work and school. I also experienced very slow traffic conditions as I drove to work but I made sure that I drove at a very safe speed. As Superintendent I work in collaboration with Cabinet members, and school administrators to make the best decision with regards to all of our 20,900 students. I am in constant communication with our district crisis team, cabinet administrators, and the Board of Education prior to any decision regarding school closure. Anytime a decision is made to cancel school it will have a big impact our students, staff and community so we also make sure that we provide transparent and timely communication to the public. Our district has always stated that parents and guardians have the right to make an individual decision in the best interest of their children and families regardless of whether or not the schools officially close.
When a decision is made to close the entire school district it would not only create an inconvenience for many of our families but we would be depriving our students of their education/learning opportunities. If conditions are really bad and safety becomes a serious issue, I will not hesitate to close school as I have done in the past. However, I will not base my decision on the number of social media comments that students send to me which are often joking in nature. I have heard some very creative reasons why school should be cancelled which includes scientific theories on road conditions, humorous videos, the meteorite shower that landed in our area a few weeks back, and other creative ideas that have been joking in nature. In my attempt to continue to connect and be approachable to our students, I have also joked with students in a light hearted manner that I made a new years resolution not to close schools. I stated that a few times at meetings and everyone knew the context of those comments and that it was a joke. During those meetings I also stated that reports say that most individuals break their new year’s resolution by January 31st so we will have to see how long mine will last. I also used the comment “kidding of course.” Almost all in attendance laughed when I made those comments. I can tell you that the communication with students whether joking or serious in nature has increased my social media following especially on Instagram. Between all of my social media networks I have over 7000 individuals following which does not include individuals that are on official district social media. I know that increasing the communication network is a valuable strategy so that when important messages need to get out a far reaching network has been established and an open communication line with students, parents, and community members.
I again want to make it clear that when necessary I will close schools when conditions warrant that such a decision should be made. On February 7, there were no closures among Wayne County Public School districts. I am part of the Wayne County Superintendents Association and in these types of situations I am in communication with Superintendents from surrounding districts. I receive updates on other closings and conditions almost immediately from my colleagues in other communities via conference/chat/text line. This sharing of information helps all of us in making the very important decision to close schools.
The final decision on school closure is based on local conditions in the city of Dearborn. My administrative team, including our Director of Safety and Security is monitoring road conditions and is in direct communication with our Director of Transportation and weather experts in the area. Together we are in constant communication which often occurs throughout all hours of the day and/or night. Any decision regarding a potential school closure (that will impact thousands of students, parents, and community members) is made in a deliberate manner to ensure safety for all while balancing the needs of parents, students and community members and the impact that a school closure will have on those individuals. In addition, we are only allowed up to 6 days per year for snow or other unexpected situations. If we go beyond that number of days then per state law we will have to schedule additional days in the summer or during times that are otherwise scheduled as holidays. We still have many more days of winter ahead so we do not want to use all of those days when conditions are tolerable. Listed below is a link to a website on my blog that provides several videos, posts and information regarding school closures. This is important information that will enlighten our public on what goes into a decision to close our school district.
In closing, the winter storm advisory is in effect until Friday so we will be monitoring conditions closely and communication will go out in a timely manner when and if a decision to close the district is made in the best interest of our students.
Note: You will also find a column that was picked up by the Press and Guide two years ago which was light hearted and done in a tasteful but joking manner when I heard that many of our elementary students were engaged in some superstitious activity as they were hoping for a school closure.