The morning and evening before a possible a snow day, some students are doing the snow dance and other rituals hoping for a snow day. Some students are not doing their homework, banking on there being a snow day, but the same isn’t true for the superintendent. For him, bad weather means it’s time to brace himself for a long night-and morning-of decisions.
On the average snow day superintendent Dr. Daniel Nerad wakes up very early.
“Last snow day I was up at two,” Nerad said. “That’s not because of the protocol, that’s because you want to see what the weather looks like itself.”
However, this isn’t the time he wakes up every possible snow day. The latest he could wake up that morning would be a quarter to four. Yet, he knows that this early rising comes with the job.
“It’s just part of being the superintendent, and I have sleepless nights when there’s bad weather,”he said.
The process of determining a snow day starts the night before. Administrators set aside the time to go through the protocol and through the procedures that take place to make a judgment on whether there can be school or not.
“We have enough weather information that tells us that we have to implement our protocol and procedures tomorrow morning,” Nerad said. At four o’clock the morning of the possible snow day Dr. Nerad receives a phone call from the operations manager in the district. By that time the operations manager will have collected information about all things related to the building, and if there are any problems with the buildings because of the cold weather or storm. By that time the operations manager also has information from the transportation company about the conditions of the roads.
“What they’ll do is they’ll actually put buses out on the roads probably around three and four o’clock and they’ll see how possible vehicular transportation is, whether you’re a car or a bus,” Nerad said.
After all this information is gathered, Dr. Nerad will make a telephone call at 4:30 into a service that most of Oakland County participates in. This service is a conference call between the school districts and it begins with someone from the weather service giving a complete overview of the weather pattern.
“If it’s precipitation like snow, [we’re told]how much, when did it start, how long is it expected, blowing, drifting wind associated with it,” Nerad said. “We get a really good summary of the weather.”
Afterward the districts spend time on the telephone talking about what each of them thinks they may do. In the end, each district makes its own decision, but they try to do so knowing what the other school districts are doing.
“That call will probably end by 4:45 tomorrow morning, then I’ll make a decision based on all that information from 4:00 all that information from 4:30 and then I make some calls if we stay open, I make more calls if we close,” Nerad said.
According to Kerry Birmingham, who is the Director of Communications and Media for Troy School District, superintendent Dr. Barbara Fowler has a very similar method to determining whether or not there will be a snow day.
“We have an executive director of operations and at 11pm they drive all the roads in the subdivision until 4am and then call the superintendent and tell her what the condition of the roads are,” Birmingham said.
Fowler also participates in the Oakland conference call to talk with other schools about what they are planning to do and help decide whether they should close school or not.
According to Birmingham, Fowler also pays attention to what is going on in the news the night before to help determine what actions will need to be taken tomorrow morning.
Bloomfield Hills Superintendent Robert Glass says he too sends out an operational manager to check on the roads and schools when there is a possible snow day. Glass also participates in the Oakland County conference call along with Nerad and Fowler.
After deciding to close school, a lot of work goes into informing everyone that there will in fact be a snow day.
“Then the people that I call make a lot of calls,” Nerad said.“One of my staff members and communications calls all of the media if we close, one of my staff members communicates with all the principals, one of my staff member’s deals with all the food service, transportation piece. So it’s a whole lot of stuff that happens but I alert the school board president of the decision,”
According to Principal Dee Lancaster, she finds out about snow days the same way the students do.
“I receive a text message saying whether or not I’ll have to report,” she said.
Lancaster doesn’t have to inform any of the other teachers that there will be a snow day; she finds out that there will be no school at the same time as the teachers do.
Dr. Nerad has to put a lot of consideration into his decision and he knows that not everyone will be happy with what he decides. His main goal is to get as much information as possible and then make the best judgment he can make. When it comes down to it all his main concern in the decision is safety.
“The one thing I’ve come to learn having done this many times is that it’s one of those kind of days where you know going into it that not everybody are going to be happy and my goal through this is I want people to be happy but that can’t be the goal, the goal has to be safety, good information, make a decision,” Nerad said.