About Me

My photo
A concerned member of the human race

Thursday, March 13, 2014

How the Snow Snafu Turned Over Into a Snow Job on the Mayor

Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina came under a lot of intense fire for their decision to keep schools open on Thursday, February 13, 2014, including apparently an epic war of tweets with celebrity weatherman Al Roker.  Beyond a doubt, the situation might have been handled better, but I am most worried that the incident is a distraction from the most pressing issues. at hand in N.Y.C.

Chancellor Farina, it seems, received the most flack for a seemingly insensitive comment, remarking upon the beauty of the day.  Opponents have made tremendous political capital off of her opinion.  I hate to say it, but, looking out my window at 7 a.m., I did find the scene breathtakingly beautiful.  I wandered outside, without coat, but with my camera in hand to take some photos.  I had never seen flakes that big before.  They came down softly like feathers, falling from the heavens.

I went to work that day.  I was aware that the situation could prove potentially dangerous, primarily for vehicles.  I cannot recommend the public rails and a good pair of snow boots highly enough.  So few cars were on the road.  I walked down the middle of the road in tracks seemingly made by an earlier truck.  If I had had a little horse, I'm sure he would have thought it "queer" in the best tradition of Robert Frost for me to pull out my camera again and snap a shot.  I later learned from my students that they were pelted by ice at the time of their arrival, painful, potentially blinding pellets.  No longer did the weather appear quite so pretty. 

If I was a City parent, I doubtless would have kept my children home.  I didn't have to worry about this decision though because our school district on the Island made the decision for us.  Any N.Y.C. parent or teacher could exercise the option to stay home--and quite a few did.  The penalties for absence are relatively minor to most in the great scope of things.

The Mayor gave his justifications for leaving the school open.  He pointed to the fact that many parents work and have limited access to other day providers.  He stated that some students might need "a safe place" in which addition to being taught, "they get nutrition and they are safe from the elements." 
De Blasio pointed out that New-York-City public schools have only closed 11 times since 1978.  I think this is a very salient point.  Where were all the hotheads calling for the head of previous mayors when the schools stayed open during past storms?  There have surely been more than eleven significant storms in my twenty-year city career.  Indeed, the first snow day in the City since the Blizzard of 1978 was on January 7, 1996.  Ah, yes, I remember it well!  I lived in the City then.  It was a great day for Clydesdales to frolic in the snow!

It seems all mayors and chancellors have pretty much held that schools should be open for business as much as possible.  Schools usually remain open because  city's public transportation system, working hand in plow, with the city's sanitation department is exceptional.  Also, the city usually faces enormous pressure from working parents to provide a safe haven for young children.  In the case of the February 13 storm, the reverse seemed true.  The Mayor faced a firestorm for leaving the schools open.  

Granted, there was not a great deal of new teaching.  Attendance rates were very low.  I played a review and enrichment game with my students and, it seemed, given the situation, we did pretty well.  I had no more than seven students in any given period and none for twelfth period, ending 5:06 p.m.

It was a strange day in so many ways.  I could navigate the hallways with ease in my typically overcrowded building.  I could socialize more with students without a Danielson Rubric hanging over my head like the guillotine.  I probably smiled a little more than usual.  Happily, I got home safely.  I guess we all did, but I realized some had to dig out cars and drive with great care; some slipped along paths and some fell.  Some of us have fallen on different days in this icy season when not a soul questioned the schools being open; thankfully, we all got up again. 
De Blasio took a political spill, but I expect him, in the spirit of a true New Yorker to pick himself up quickly.  I cannot believe anyone who voted for him would now change his or her opinion based on the snow snafu.  I could be wrong but I'm betting almost any N.Y.C. mayor might have done the same.  People voted for a change with the Mayor; so, I guess they expected something different for a snowstorm.  Let's not let a snow snafu snowball.  Let's not let it distract us from the reasons for which the Mayor was elected, namely the more pressing issues at hand, issue like childhood homelessness in our Tale of Two Cities and the potential benefits of public pre-K which the press seems less interested in at the moment.  

"The number of homeless New Yorkers in shelters has risen by more than 71 percent since 2002." (coalitionforthehomeless.org/pages/basic-facts). 


No comments:

Post a Comment