Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It is time to make up a snow day...

School Districts are responsible for the Health, Safety and Welfare of their students.

Pennsylvania requires school districts to provide 180 days of instruction per year.

Students who display reckless or dangerous behavior are disciplined.

Opinion Piece from Joe ‘the nerd’ Ferraro

On Wednesday, February 24, 2010 Lower Providence Township (Pa.) issued an Emergency Event. A large snowstorm was on its way that eventually dumped over 30 inches of snow on our region. Any person who was driving without proper equipment would be subject to fines and towing. This event was to last until Saturday. This is a good use of government; an irritated Mother Nature coming and for reasons of public safety they tried to get everyone off the roads.

Thursday morning, Methacton School District, which serves Lower Providence and Worcester Townships, opened schools. They violated the snow emergency declaration. When the high school students arrived at 7:30 am they went to class. By 9:00 am they were told they were going home. They were no changes in any forecast for the day in that hour and a half. The school district dropped everyone off before lunch.

Everyone knew that a large storm was coming. The school district put people at risk from across the region. We are not only talking about the students, but the teachers, bus drivers, janitors, and office staff that directly needed to be at school, but live elsewhere. We are also talking about the parents who drove their kids to school and the older students who could drive.

Look at some of the economic impact of what overriding the public safety officials in our community did. Parents of small kids who thought the coast was clear to go to work were called back home an hour or two into a workday when they were notified that school was letting out early. Someone needs to be home to accept the kids. How much in lost wages are we talking about? What about the disruption to those businesses? At school were lunches prepared for the day? How much of that food was wasted?

Now, look at what the kids lost. A day of school. Hey, snow day – great – let’s have fun. But this wasn’t a snow day. I think the Administration gamed the system. A regular snow day gets made up later in the year when Mother Nature is in a better mood. Because the Administration did this little catch-and-release stunt they were able to clock that 180 day number down by one day. A call to the Pennsylvania Department of Education confirmed that the school district does get credit for bringing the kids into school and doing nothing with them. What is more, the state has no recourse for this behavior.

Our kids were not only put at risk, but they were ripped off. We want kids in school being instructed because the competition in the world they will enter is fierce. Our American way of life is dependent upon having these kids ready to compete. An education was not delivered to these kids on this day. At this point, they can’t get that day back.

Our community was not only put at risk, but we were ripped off. The entire point of paying taxes for a school system is to get educated kids as a result. When a School District does this, well, I keep hearing campaign slogans about fraud and abuse. How is our community going to get back the resources expended on this abuse of the system? Think about things like the gas for the buses that was wasted transporting our kids for a day of nothing.

In order to get the scope of the amount of money wasted here, a Right To Know Request was submitted to Methacton School District asking 2 things: how much does it cost to operate the school district for one day, and how many times in the last 3 years was school dismissed early due to weather conditions. At the maximum time allotted by state law to respond to a Right To Know Request, Methacton School District sent a letter stating that they don’t keep track of this sort of information.

Can anyone say Financial Responsibility?

The question now is, “How do we make our kids and our community whole again?”

This is tricky and complex.

Getting lawyers to sue ourselves is really out of the question. First there needs to be an honest accounting of how much we lost that day. It needs to be categorized by teachers and staff and the hard administrative costs like gas and food.

The teachers have been absolutely wonderful for the past couple of years working without a contract. I almost feel bad as a parent for what I am about to ask. Can you see yourselves to giving us a free day of instruction for our kids to make up for what the Administration did here?  You have really extended yourselves and, as a parent, your professionalism is truly appreciated.

We need the Administration to work an extra day gratis also, but they need to reimburse the community for the costs associated with this gaffe. Those who made this decision need to make the school district whole again.  It is not fair that this bad decision be taken out of the hide of the taxpayers.

When a student misbehaves, there is discipline. The Administration misbehaved when it opened the schools after being told by the proper authorities not to do this. If any of our children pulled a stunt like this in our homes by pulling this kind of a fast one we would correct them immediately. They would need to pay for what they have done. As the Administration metes out punishments on kids who step out of line, it is time for those who did this to own up.

The Methacton School Board needs to step up now to make these kids whole quickly, otherwise, they will never be able to run a campaign on the concepts of Health, Safety, Welfare, or Fiscal Responsibility.

This will become a real lesson in respecting authority.


Anonymous said...

Here's a radical idea. Decide for yourself how you're going to react. I decided it was going to be too nasty out and didn't want my kids out on the road so despite school being open, I kept the kids home. I knew they'd be back home soon enough anyway.

I prefer to rely on common sense to guide my actions rather than don't rely on a governmental body with an agenda that was obviously not focused on safety. I figure I usually know what's best for myself and my kids moreso than anyone else.

Good luck getting those teachers to spot the taxpayers an 'extra' school day, though. I'm sure they'll be all over that.

Maybe I'm just jaded but the loss of the school day doesn't really bother me. Then again, maybe I'm just used to MSD ripping me off of my tax dollars & squandering my money on things we don't need or want.

joe the nerd said...

I do decide for myself when my kids go.

The reason I wrote this was exactly for you, jaded and ripped off.

At what point do you want to do something about it?

Anonymous said...

Folks in the Methacton School District should know the following: I am not a district employee but have a confirmed report that there have been school closure days this year where administrative staff have been given an excused day (i.e. no loss in pay, personal or sick time). For the very same snow days, custodial staff were required to use one of their days of personal time if unable to report to the school because they are part of a bargaining unit. Fair or hypocrisy? Do we need to ask further why tensions exist in the district?

joe the nerd said...

it does no one any good if you don't stand up and be counted.

Standing in the shadows does nothing.

Step out with your proof.