A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky, unbidden, and seems like a thing of wonder. -- Susan Orlean

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Understanding the Inner Workings of the Mind of the Superintendent

Here's what we know:

It's going to snow most of the day on Wednesday.
This nor'easter will start some time in the morning hours on Wednesday--between 8 AM and noon.
For once, then, something.

What is difficult to predict is how your Superintendent--who is ultimately responsible for making the BIG DECISION--is processing this information. Fortunately, the Psychology Department at GSD is ready to do the heavy lifting for this aspect of the prognostication for Storm Pumpkin or Mincemeat (poll closes at noon today!).

The first storm of the season always brings new pressures into the decision mix, and throw in a half day before a holiday, and the synaptic activity of the Superintendent will be through the roof today. Here are his or her most pressing considerations:

1. The early snow will melt when it hits the road so an 11 AM or noon dismissal might just be early enough to avoid seriously unpleasant driving conditions. No snow day.
2. Then again, snow could be falling at 1 or 2 inches per hour just at the time when students will be released from their holding pens, especially those cute little elementary school children. Yes snow day.
3. Many students and teachers will decide to leave for their holiday destinations tonight because of the impending storm. Absenteeism will be a significant problem tomorrow as it is. Yes snow day.
4. Then again, last year most school districts had to go right up to the end of June. No one wants to do that again. "Wasting" a snow day on a half day would not be prudent. No snow day.
5. [This scenario does not apply to all districts.] Let's say you are retiring in a few weeks. Let's also say you will be playing with your grandchildren in June and not worrying about the budget for FY 2015-16 or how late the school year is again this year. Why not give the people what they want right now? It's as close to a Presidential pardon as you're going to get. Exercise your executive power. Yes snow day.
6. Then again, a snow day decision should always be coldly rational. Research the facts of the storm and consider the safety of the student population. Check the radar at 4:30 AM Wednesday morning, talk to the bus company, and see what other districts are doing. Make the decision then. Maybe snow day.

This your Superintendent's brain the day before a storm.
Not so easy, is it?

Here's how we see it. Some Superintendents, who want nothing to do with the mental strain associated with this storm, will call in the snow day this afternoon and tonight. Besides being a really shrewd political move, it will give travelers in those districts a jump on the storm. Be on the lookout for those early birds.

Most, though, will take the wait-and-see approach and announce their decision in the normal 5 AM to 6 AM window. Given the uncertainty of the arrival of the first flakes, this course of action (sadly) makes the most sense.

But just to muddy the waters more...

As of 10 AM on Tuesday, we observed that the leading edge of the precipitation is already off the coast of New Jersey. There's a lot of energy transfer and development that still needs to happen (not to mention the temperature has to drop by 20 degrees), but the nose of this storm could push into our area earlier than we thought. Yes snow day.

We'll have much more later, including the official announcement of the first storm of 2014-15's name.

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