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Superintendent: Snow Days Are No Easy Decision

Dr. Laria explains how the call is made.

As a snowfall blanketed the city outside Finley Middle School Monday, Superintendent Joseph Laria addressed a parent's question there at the Board of Education's meeting.

A woman asked why schools weren't closed or delayed March 8, when seven inches of snow made Glen Cove one of the hardest hit locations in the region.

Laria said the decision is based on three factors: the safety of students and staff; the ability of the district's maintenance crews to clear school grounds; and the weather forecast.

"It's probably one of the toughest judgment calls that any superintendent can make because no one is ever satisfied," Laria said.

If schools close, angry parents call and demand to know why. If schools don't close, angry parents call and demand to know why not. Board President Joel Sunshine said delayed openings draw the most ire from parents; calling out of work or finding day care after a closure is one thing, they tell him, but finding coverage for two hours is next to impossible.

Laria said that delayed openings had never been used by Glen Cove before he came on as superintendent and instituted them, and had not been much of a concept on Long Island. 

Glen Cove schools opened March 8 at the regular time while most nearby districts delayed their openings.

"Let me be very specific. On the morning of March the 8th - and I was in New York, despite rumors saying I wasn't - at four-o'clock in the morning I began the process. At 4:15, Joe Fiorino checked in with me, on my home phone in Suffolk County, and told me he was in the process of clearing the grounds of the high school, and he would check in with me as each school was cleared to give me a prognosis of whether the grounds would be cleared to accept buses and vehicular traffic," Laria said.

Fiorino, the district's facilities director, reported the grounds were cleared at 4:30 a.m., by which time Laria said he had been in regular communication with Hendrickson Bus Company, based in Bayville. The company does its own assessments, Laria said, and they reported they were "ready to go."

Past experiences also play into such decisions, said Laria. The last delayed opening, criticized by some parents, had been decided when the bus company reported they were not ready to go. 

This time they were, so with school grounds cleared, the bus fleet ready for action and weather forecasts predicting the snowfall would give way to a rainy mix by mid-morning, Laria decided against closing.

"By this time I had to make a decision because it affects the high school buses," he said. "I made that decision not to have a delayed opening, which in hindsight I regret. It's a judgment call, it's not an opinion. These are judgment calls made on the basis of information."

Laria said he took full responsibility for the decision. As weather conditions worsened that day, after-school activities were cancelled.

The superintendent acknowledged the frustration felt by parents who disagree with a given decision, ending with a story from his time in another school district.

"One person called me up and was so angry. I tried to explain the reasoning," Laria said. "The person said to me, 'You don't ever have to worry about having hemorrhoids because you are a perfect [expletive deleted]' and hung up on me."

The meeting's attendees broke into laughter.

"Well I wasn't going to say that," joked the parent who posed the question.

chris f March 21, 2013 at 11:20 AM
While I realize this is a decision that will cause much debate, the school district should have definately called for a 2 hour delay. The school grounds may have been cleared, but the roads were not. Don't try and make up for a bad decision from a storm before that( 2 hour delay called for no reason) with a bad decision. Decisions have to be made on a case by case basis. Sandy didn't help the district either with 2 blown days even AFTER the power came back on. Getting back to some sense of normalsey then would have been beneficial. Hey look on the bright side Spring is here.
Tom Terrific March 21, 2013 at 12:13 PM
You'll never please everybody. The man made a decision based on the best available information. His rationale was sound and logical. Case closed. Now on to more important things: Configuring a budget that adheres to the letter and INTENT of the 2% tax cap law. If you make every effort to do this, you get my 'yes' vote. If you flout the law, you most assuredly get my 'no' vote.
Warren Haynes March 21, 2013 at 12:15 PM
I totally agree with Chris F about the 2 hour delay. The district really blew that one. Many students, teachers and other personnel were absent because roads were not passable. As for the days after Sandy, the schools were not kept closed any longer than they had to be. In fact, the schools were due to open on Thursday (with the exception of Finley Middle School which was without heat) but that was the day of that horrible storm and a snow day was used by our district and many others.
Suzanne Anderson March 21, 2013 at 06:57 PM
I find it hard to believe that was the most important news that came out of the BOE meeting. How about the retirement and tenure announcements? How about the matter of transparency with the budget that will need $2.7 million or so in cuts to meet the 2% tax cap? In the past the potential cuts were shared with the public, we have yet to see what is possibly going to be removed from the budget. How about the investigators in the back of the room waiting to meet with the BOE that the president referred to as Angels of Doom?
Two roles March 21, 2013 at 08:40 PM
Suzanne, we really do not need the list do we? We already know where the cuts will be - a bunch of secretaries and custodians that don't make much, but desperately need their jobs and some clubs, athletics or programs that benefit the students. There won't be cuts to administrators jobs or salaries most likely. Oh, by the way, they said they would share any potential cuts on April 8th if you recall. They are awaiting news of the NYS aid that is to be announced by next week. So we should all attend that meeting and encourage others to attend as well.
Zefy Christopoulos March 21, 2013 at 10:19 PM
Investigators? Angels of Doom? Does this group have anything to do with the law firm hired by the Board of Education? Why are there investigators? Is there money missing? Was there another incident that involved our police department? Did someone cheat? Are there children in our district that really don't live within Glen Cove's borders? Snow daze!
Micah Danney (Editor) March 22, 2013 at 12:36 AM
The district's legal counsel arrived to meet with the Board as the meeting adjourned. Sunshine joked that he noticed the "Angel of Death" at the back of the room. We are inquiring about the matter.
GCoveLady March 22, 2013 at 03:20 AM
The decision should be made based on the safety of our kids, not the parental convenience of some. They have no business potentially endangering the masses so that logistical problems can be avoided for some.
Warren Haynes March 22, 2013 at 12:06 PM
Mr Sunshine made a joke. End of story.
11452 March 22, 2013 at 05:13 PM
Sunshine is not a comedian, his timing and sense of humor is horrible as was his mob comment last year.
Warren Haynes March 23, 2013 at 12:21 AM
11452 is that a typo or did you move here from Jamaica Queens?
Zefy Christopoulos March 24, 2013 at 01:12 AM
Angels of Doom-Death are no joke when people's life and jobs are on the line.
Suzanne Anderson March 24, 2013 at 02:38 PM
Zefy and our friend from Jamaica are absolutely right! The comment was not appropriate especially when the person making the comment has power over peoples careers. Hopefully the BOE is kept up to date as to what is going on and the stress it may be putting on their employees-if they are-it makes the comment more callous and unsympathetic. PUT AN END TO IT!
Zefy Christopoulos March 24, 2013 at 04:57 PM
Here is a question......how much in TAX dollars was spent by the school board at the Superintendent's recommendation for the investigators? And since public money was spent when can we have a copy of their findings since we paid for this alleged service. I can tell from experience that we are in a slash and burn mode by yet another Superintendent who is leaving our district......oh, by the way.....I understand at the revolving door at Thayer House is spinning again.....It seems that our board of Ed is looking for a business official......slash, burn.....
Jim C March 25, 2013 at 01:16 PM
I have seen third grade classes that whine less than the posts here. Dont you have any kind of life other than complaining.

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