Weather and School Closings

Q.  The winter has certainly started early.  Can you please explain what goes into your decision making process in the morning when you must close school or delay the opening.

A. I agree, it has certainly been a busy season so far.  Each weather situation has its challenges.  Our first consideration when making these decisions is the safety of students and staff.  When there is a weather event (black ice, snow, mixed precipitation) the morning usually progresses as follows:

  • 4:00am - Wake up and and start brewing the coffee.
  • 4:00am-4:30am - Review TV, online, and specialized weathers reports developed exclusively for Somers.  I also watch doppler radar to see weather patterns in the region.  During this time, extensive texting begins (and continues throughout the process) with other area Superintendents.
  • 4:30am - Have conference call with Somers Department of Public Works (DPW) to determine road conditions now and later in the morning.  My number one question I ask multiple times is "will the roads be safe for busses and students to drive on?"
  • 4:45am - Have a conference call with meteorologist.  Somers subscribes to a weather service in which a meteorologist provides frequent updates and facilitates a conference call with Somers and other area Superintendents. 
  • 4:55am - Another call to DPW to get a final report on road conditions.
  • 5:00am-5:15am - Make final decision.  If there is a closing or delay, I call Somers Administrators who then make contact with the radio and TV stations, bus company, DPW, maintenance and custodial crews, and update online notifications.

Authentic Student Projects

Students learn a lot of content and skills while in school.  The power of teaching is in having them apply these skills in meaningful real world scenarios.

As I prepare to present the Superintendent's Proposed 2018-19 Budget (in January), I realized my document lacked a professional look.   The aesthetics of a significant document is as important as the content within.  I needed help and decided to create a real world project for the students in the graphic design classes at the high school.  They would be the graphics design firm and I would be the potential client that would hire them.

In November, I met with each class giving them an overview of my problem, the project, content and expectations.  During this class, students engaged with me in dialogue and asked clarifying questions.  With an understanding of the task at hand, they started working (individually and in groups) to solve my problem.

In early December, twenty-three design teams made presentations to me (see picture below) in an effort to "market" their concepts.  They shared their designs and philosophies.  Additionally, I asked them critical questions to further explore their thought processes.

Congratulations to Halle Raina for the winning design.

This form of project based learning is essential for students to not only apply learned skills, but to engage in meaningful and real-life scenarios.  In addition to the graphics skills they used, below are some other 21st century skills they utilized.  These are important skills for them to master in order to be successful in a highly competitive and global work force:

  • Problem solving
  • Collaboration
  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Listening
  • Creativity
  • Public speaking
  • Justification

I truly had fun with this project and hope to engage students more in the future.