By William Duffield Staff writer
January 7, 2014
CEDARVILLE — As a new superintendent, Cedar Cliff Local Schools’ Chad Mason commented before that there are things to the job you have to experience to learn. Knowing when to call off school because of weather is one of those.
“Experienced superintendents often talk of the stress and worry associated with calamity days and whether or not to make the decision to cancel school,” Mason reported in the district’s most recent Superintendent’s Newsletter. “Community members often ask what determines whether or not school is on-time, delayed, or cancelled and exactly what takes place when superintendents have those conversations — and yes, those conversations take place.”
Mason said that, as a new superintendent, he can now see the frustration involved, now that he’s had to make the call on multiple occasions.
“After all, it is Ohio and it is winter – snow is going to come,” he said.
Mason added that there are many considerations to use when it comes to cancelling school. He said there is five considerations he makes during his decision making process for Cedar Cliff Local Schools.
“First and foremost (is) safety,” he said. “There is a difference between a ‘consideration’ and a ‘determining factor’. For all intent and purpose, there is only one determinant for a calamity cancellation (or) delay, that being safety.”
Mason said that superintendents may and do consider many things when making a decision, but the one true factor is always the safety of the students on their way to and from school and at the bus stops, the buses and drivers on their routes, the safety in the parking lots and parents dropping off students, new teen drivers facing slippery roads, and faculty and staff who drive – some times longer distances – to school each day.
“Superintendents carry a heavy burden,” Mason said. “No superintendent wants to attend a funeral or visit a family in the hospital after an accident in which a child was traveling to school. After safety, all else is merely a consideration.”
Mason said superintendents do seek out other perspectives when it comes to making the decision. The perspectives, he said, is valuable, especially from administrators with more experience.
“Not to have that interaction is naive and an example of poor judgement, in my opinion,” Mason said.
He added that there can always be criticism, which is always greater when a district’s call goes “against the grain” and the district is “in a solitary position.”
Mason said timing is a very important factor, too.
“It is very frustrating school starts at 8 a.m. and you believe weather conditions will be fine by then, however, you must make your decision at 5:30 a.m.,” he said. “Drivers begin arriving for work, preparing their buses for pre-trip activities, and then begin their routes shortly after.
“It is quite common to expect conditions to be acceptable by the start of school but you wonder if there is a chance that you may not get the weather you expect. Then, the district is caught with drivers on routes that make the superintendent’s decision questionable.”
Another consideration is how many days the district has already been out.
“Most folks think, at some point in the year, ‘Well, they had five days to burn and had only used one, so they cancelled today’,” Mason said. “I detest that point of view. No good educator likes to ‘burn’ a day of a child’s education when, for some children, that school day is the best sense of normal they have.”
Mason said that a pressure seems to mount as a district nears the five-day “limit” allowed by the state.
He said that upcoming activities at the school are also a consideration, such as OAA or OGT testing, a program with an expensive presenter that cannot be rescheduled, and so on, “do enter into your mind when making the decision.”
Mason said the idea of “what’s happening today” might be a consideration, it is not a determination for a delay or cancellation.
“But to be very clear, entering your mind and rising to the level of safety are not the same thing,” he said. “That consideration is not a determination for a delay or cancellation. It is merely what crosses one’s mind as a repercussion for the actions of altering the daily schedule.”
Contact William Duffield at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-372-4444 ext. 133.