Monday, December 6, 2010

A One-Hour Delay...?

Welcome to Winter in Central New York. One might ask why I chose to have a one-hour delay when it does snow a lot here in Syracuse. I made the decision because this is our first significant snowfall on the morning of a school day and all of us need to get back up to speed on how to handle these conditions. I felt it was unsafe to have our high school students out at the bus stops in the dark while plows were out for the first time, and we were on the roads trying to get to work on time. The one extra hour gives everyone time to slow down, our students a chance to wait in the daylight, and an opportunity to have most of a school day. 

Please do not ever think that a delay is due to our own school buses or our own parking lots and sidewalks. Our buses are the safest vehicles to travel on during this weather. They all have the best tires, brakes, wipers, and drivers on board that you can find, and they are all "pre-tripped" (all aspects of the buses are checked out and tested) and de-iced prior to hitting the roads. Ice is the only enemy of buses and on those days, we do not have school. Our building and grounds crews work through the night to make sure that parking lots and sidewalks are plowed and that everything is salted. All of our staff take tremendous pride in making sure that everything is ready for school, and I always get calls from them when we do delay letting me know that they have everything ready for when students and staff do arrive.

Afternoon and evening activities are a different story. As the temperatures drop and the evening commute begins, I have to make the decision to have students and parents traveling back to school for practices and events. If you were to chart my decisions over the past eleven years, I think you would find that I have cancelled afternoon and evening activities far more than delayed or closed school. Safety first. It is supposed to snow like this through Thursday, so we will see what happens.

This week is pretty interesting. While I do not have many night-time commitments (only four nights this week!) my days are going to be packed with meetings about the budget. What would be really helpful would be to get some face time with some of our elected officials about the budget, but I cannot get a return phone call from any of them. If I could get a general understanding of the size of the deficit schools are going to face I could make some very concrete budget decisions at an early stage, but I guess for now we will just plan for the worst and hope for the best!

Later this week (probably Friday) I am going to post a presentation that I gave to the Board of Eduction outlining my thoughts to date regarding the budget and what we are going to need to do to balance our finances in the wake of a tax cap, reduced state aid, and reduced federal aid. After the holidays I will release the entire report and we will start making decisions.

Speaking of decisions, the Board of Education and I have agreed to a four and a half year contract extension for me to remain superintendent of schools. I am pleased and very appreciative of the support I have received from the Board of Education, staff, community, and students. With this agreement in place we can now concentrate on moving the District through the most challenging times that New York State has ever seen.

Well, have a great week and remember that closing or delays are always on Twitter ( before they are on radio or television. (Also, check the facebook fan page for updates.)