President’s Corner

Weather We Do or Weather We Don’t

by JOHN R. LAWRENCE

As I write this column it is 4 o’clock in the morning on a wintry Midwestern day. I don’t share this point to impress you with my commitment to our association. The truth is I would rather be sleeping. However, if I wasn’t writing this message I would be reading, which I need to do more of, or watching Andy Griffith reruns, which I probably need to do less.


Rather, as I sit here in my big green overstuffed chair, what I am really doing is waiting. Waiting for that first sound of sleet to bounce off the roof of my house in Troy, Mo., waiting to see that first flake of snow fall through the dim of the street light, waiting as many school superintendents do who live in cold weather climates throughout America to answer the question on the minds of so many: “Are we having school today?”

I am a little more than half a century old, and for more years than not I have been a school administrator. I feel privileged to work in a cherished profession. I love my job and there is rarely a day that I do not roll out of bed looking forward to the work day. But then there’s that winter morning question (Those of you living in a sunshine state, don’t know what you are missing.)

The decision to operate school or not on a climatically challenged day is often made in the dark of night to accommodate the needs of working parents and the call always is influenced by the local weather forecast. Fortunately, those meteorologists are never wrong. Unfortunately, school leaders must make other important decisions in poorly illuminated conditions based on what we project, in contrast to what we know. The crafting of school budgets and the implementation of No Child Left Behind at the schoolhouse are two examples. Yet in the absence of light, school leaders make countless conscientious decisions every day in a climate of self-imposed accountability more stringent than those external.

Regretfully, leader strengths delivered by school administrators frequently go unrecognized. Recognizing what is good in public education is not popular in today’s pop culture. As leaders we also sometimes muffle the singing of our successes for fear of an appearance of self-promotion. It goes without saying that if educators do not trumpet the good news in our schools, few others will.

I am proud of America’s school administrators. But in the context of this morning’s task at hand, one reason rests in my appreciation of the multiple hats we wear. After all, as school administrators, we are:

* meteorologists on inclement days,

* economists in the molding of multimillion dollar budgets,

* professional mediators in a myriad of parent disputes,

* architects in the oversight of major school construction,

* negotiators in contract employments and attorneys in contract dismissals,

* artists when things go well and pieces of canvas when they do not,

* authors, counselors, public speakers and most importantly master teachers and empowered advocates for kids.

Well, it is now 7 a.m. It didn’t snow and other than being a little late a great day for kids lies ahead. When I get to my office some staff members will say “You’re lucky, you didn’t have to get up early.” What we do that is unseen may be as important as what is observed. However, the good news is that when asked, “Having school today?” my answer will be “You bet.” The bad news is the follow up: “What do you think about tomorrow?”

John Lawrencel is president of AASA.