Friday, December 17, 2010
Nana Looks Back to the Future
I found this piece of writing while cleaning out an old flash drive. It was written when I was assistant principal at the high school. Now that I have been retired for over a year, it is fun to look back and remember what I looked forward to in retirement. It's every bit as good as I hoped it would be!
Occasionally, on cold, dark mornings when I wake before the 5:45 alarm, I stay curled up between my cozy flannel sheets and entertain the fantasy that I have the power to call off school. Ahh, to remain in my snug nest, at least until the first glimmers of sunrise appear! To spend the day, snowed in, with a cup of tea, a novel with no educational value, and a cat curled at my slipper-shod feet would be heaven. I might even make time to watch “The View” or check in to see who joins Reggis as the inept guest host du jour.
This, however, is a fantasy that doesn’t last long. In reality, when we have a snow day I’m awakened with a phone call from the principal long before my alarm is scheduled to go off. I leave my flannel nest even earlier than usual to start making calls to staff to notify them that school is cancelled. I arrive at school well before first light to start answering phone calls from students and parents.
I know, better than anyone, that I don’t want to have the power to cancel school. It is truly a thankless task. Regardless of the decision that is made, 50% of the population will be unhappy. When school is cancelled, the parent in town will look out the window at the plowed and sanded city streets and complain that those school people will use any excuse not to work. When school goes on as scheduled the rural parent will look out at the snow blown landscape and complain that those school people don’t care about the safety of kids. No matter what we do, we can’t win.
The general public doesn’t realize how carefully the decision to cancel or delay school is made. Our assistant superintendent and the bus company representative actually drive the bus routes starting at 4:00 A.M. to decide if it is safe for the buses to be on the road. Even if it’s safe to travel, the assistant superintendent must then consider if the school sites are safe for students once they arrive at school. Consider how many feet of sidewalk must be cleared at each of the seven Hermiston schools just to get kids safely from the buses to their classroom. Then think about clearing parking lots so staff can park. All this is done by our regular school maintenance staff. There is no special SWAT snow removal team on standby ready to spring into action. An early morning snowstorm doesn’t leave much time for maintenance staff to get a school ready for 500 elementary students.
Snow days aren’t much fun for me now. On our last snow day I spent the morning answering the same questions over and over again.
“Yes, school is cancelled.”
I was actually still getting this question two hours after school should have started.
“Yes, the roads in town are clear now but rural roads have not been sanded and the bus company felt it was unsafe to send out the buses.”
I still have the fantasy. Maybe when I retire I’ll enjoy the snow days more. Or, better yet, I’ll enjoy sleeping late, trashy novels, and mugs of tea everyday!