January 28, 2019


Closing School for Inclement Weather
I read an interesting article about closing schools due to weather. Livonia Public Schools in Michigan shared the factors the district used for calling a snow day. The following has been copied from the article:

"Recognizing that our decision to close schools in inclement weather has a large impact on LPS families, we thought it would be helpful to share the factors that go into a weather-related school closing," LPS officials said. "Our goal is to always have school, whenever possible, knowing that students are best served by being in class. However, when Mother Nature throws a curve ball, we must keep staff and student safety as our top priority when making this decision."

Several factors go into making the call on a snow day, including:
  • Information on current road conditions
    • Conditions are monitored throughout the night, and again at approximately 3:30 - 4 a.m. by LPS operations personnel.
  • Amount of snow and ice accumulated 
  • Duration and timing of the snow and/or ice event
  • Temperature and wind chill (for safety of walkers and students at bus stops--we use a -20 wind chill for a sustained amount of time as a "cold weather closure" guide.
  • School building conditions (electricity, heat, water)
  • Current weather conditions, along with predicted weather, but closures cannot be determined solely on predictions.
  • Will buses be operational and running on schedule?
  • Consultation with weather consultants and other nearby school districts
I think it is a great idea to share with the public what factors the district takes into consideration to close school due to inclement weather. The article goes on to explain how they notify the public via automated phone calls, text messages, emails, district website and social media. It also states that if parents think it is not safe for their child to attend school, the parents have the option of keeping their child home.
Can Schools Improve?
I have been consulting with a K-8 school district for several years. This district has had severe financial issues in the past but is a district with high socio-economic status. Following severe cuts to personnel and programs the district is on a path to financial solvency. Some staff and programs have been brought back and the community's faith in the district has increased.
The students in this district had been performing adequately but not as high as like socio-economic school districts. The new superintendent first got the district on the right financial path and worked hard to restore confidence in the district with the school board and the community. The superintendent noticed that the curriculum and the staff pedagogy needed attention. The curriculum was revamped with a guaranteed viable curriculum for all students.
My role was working with the school administrators to work with teachers in a collaborative and reflective way to improve classroom instruction and then in turn improve student achievement. The building level administrators have worked very hard to increase both their informal and formal observations of teacher practice. The administrators were taught and implemented a system in which they conducted a reflective conversation with teachers following both informal and formal observations.
The administrators implemented the tactic of asking questions of students during each observation. The questions asked were 1) What are you learning today? 2) Why are you learning this and how can you apply the learning to real world application? And 3) How will the teacher know you have learned it?
Five years ago when I visited classrooms the teachers were doing the majority of the talking. Today when I visit classrooms the students are doing the majority of the talking. Recently when visiting a fourth-grade classroom I observed students reading and commenting on other students' writing using a rubric as a reference. The students then wrote positive comments to the student who had written the story. In addition, after completing this exercise, this classroom and the classroom next door changed rooms and the students read and commented on each other's writing.
The pedagogy used by teachers and the intellectual engagement of the students was transformational compared to what had been occurring five years earlier. I attribute the success of this district to the vision of the superintendent and the hard work of the building level administrators to spend the time necessary observing teaching and working with the teachers in a collaborative and supportive manner to improve.
Tip of the Week
I tweeted an article concerning "5 tips for giving effective feedback that actually changes behavior." You can read it here.
As superintendents we should teach our administrators how to follow this advice. We should also follow these steps when we are evaluating our administrators.
The tips are the following:
  1. Focus on giving real-time feedback
  2. Involve both people in the process
  3. Always add context
  4. Make sure it's timely
  5. Use feedback to build trust
For more information, please contact:

Dr. Richard Voltz
Associate Director
Professional Development/Induction-Mentoring
2648 Beechler Court
Springfield, IL 62703
Follow me on Twitter at:  https://twitter.com/rvoltz