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!


  1. And now, you are retired and get to do exactly what you want with the day, right? Do you have that cup of tea and watch The View? Or something else?

    I couldn't face life without a routine and wake naturally at 5:30 am. I dress in the dark and catch a bus to town, for my morning latte and 9:00 am class at the gym. It's a good life. By the time I get home at noon, the birds are ready for more food and I check the blogosphere before deciding what to do with the rest of the day. I do try to stay away from the TV since I can get pulled in and then the day is pretty much gone! :-)

  2. Decisions change after retirement. My biggest one yesterday was whether to buy an iPad before our trip to Yellowstone or after. I chose before.

  3. Great Post, Nana!

    We RARELY have Snow days here in El Paso so the admin. don't have that burden as bad.

    And..... I imagine those Trashy Novels and cup of Hot Tea and Sleeping Late are a true BLAST now?!?!?

    You Deserve them - And if I haven't said this to you before - (not that you took care of my kids) Thank You and your Associates for Taking Care of Our Kids.

    Anything at Anytime

  4. It must be so good to look back and see how much you longed for what you now have. A burning question, with direct application to my life and career: When there's a snow day do the school secretaries get to stay home?

  5. You are so right about not being able to please everyone. We had a snow day yesterday with just a tiny amount of snow but the roads were not safe until later in the afternoon. The school system made the best decision at the time.

  6. OH, what a public service you are providing with this explanation! Yes, it's a tough decision made by the superintendent and the school board president, I might add. There is a previous call before the 4:00 am run. The State DEp. of Transportation notifies the school superintendent of the inclement condition sometimes the night before, to help with the decision.

    As for the secretaries, and other employees, if they can travel to work, they are encouraged to do so.

    All snow days have to be made up, unless the district can still fulfill their contractual minimum days of instruction.

    Not a simple decision at all.

  7. DJan: I have to admit that now that I am retired I sleep late and watch The View several times a week!

    Linda: Good call on the ipad. I think I'm going to get one too.

    Danny: Thank you! I have to admit that I really like not having to set an alarm clock.

    June: It's funny to look back and realize that I longed for quiet time to read and relax. When I was working my alone time at home usually revolved around doing laundry! In our district only "essential staff" have to show up on a snow day. The lead secretary in a building is usually essential staff, but the rest of the secretarial staff didn't have to show up. Essential staff included administrators, custodians and the lead secretaries.

    Gayle: A tough decision with consequences. I'd prefer to be safe rather than sorry.

    Rosaria: I wasn't aware that the Dept. of Transportation notified us. I do know that all the superintendents in our area call each other and compare notes...none of them wants to be the one district that does or doesn't call school off. I don't think our board was involved in the decision, but they are notified. Our superintendent was big on making sure our board didn't micro-manage. The day to day decisions were the responsibility of administrators. Did you serve on the board?

  8. Snow days are over rated when you can work from home. While our scientists spend the day watching TV I have to e-mail lots of people and break the news that we are loosig a day in their tight timeline. Plus I eat too much working from home, best to just go to work really!

  9. Goodness, what a palaver all that is, you guys deserved a medal! These past few weeks there have been sweeping school cclosures across the UK, but that is all behind us now, as the Christmas holidays are upon us. I raise a glass to trashy novels, and the luxury of being happily snowed in (chink). Hope your Christmas is filled with laughter and love, dear lady.

  10. So the obvious question is are you enjoying the trashy novels, Regis, mugs of piping hot tea and extra time between the cozy flannel sheets? I sure hope so because I'm living vicariously through your retirement and I want to hear that what you fantasized before you did it is really what its all about :-)

  11. Hi Nana, thanks for visiting my blog. As a former principal and a current teacher, I agree about the thankless-ness of calling off school for weather. You would think, in the south, we wouldn't have to do it very often, but we panic as the first flurry.
    I also liked reading that you are enjoying retirement as I'm leaning heavily toward it this spring.
    One other thing: Two of my grown kids and my grandchildren all live in Portland, so I am a part-time Oregonian.

  12. The behind the scenes work of a school administrator... Thanks for being willing to do all that stuff. I couldn't do it!

    I worked longer than I had to, I don't know why exactly, but I did. Now that I've done it, I love it. At least one or two days a month, I don't even get out of my PJ's if it's cold.

    By the a person who went to schools in Southern California, I always felt robbed because we had no "snow days."

  13. Nana,

    When you get a Chance - stop in at the site. You are #6 of the "12 Blogs by Christmas" (both sites)

    Anything at Anytime

    P.S. Hope you are having a Good Holiday Season!?!?

  14. Well, I hope you enjoy not having to worry about snow days now!!!

    And, as a parent, I thank you for an "insider's glimpse" of how a snow day decision gets made!

  15. How interesting to look back at that piece of writing. I'm glad that you don't have that stress of snow day worries regarding school anymore. My kids just see one flake and they're praying for a snow day!


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