Archive for Thursday, November 30, 2006

Weseman takes blame for late school cancellation

November 30, 2006


The Decision to Close Schools

Rick Gammill, the school district's director of special operations, explains the process of deciding to close schools. Enlarge video

Randy Weseman pointed the finger at himself.

"It's my fault," Lawrence public schools superintendent said, when asked why a decision wasn't announced by 6 a.m. today that schools were canceled - which normally is standard procedure.

"By the time we got the information we needed, it was 15 (minutes) till 6. And by the time our bureaucracy got in place and got it to the media, it was 15 (minutes) after," Weseman said. "I apologize for that. That was the situation. Sometimes that's how it is."

He said the district's public information officer, Julie Boyle, was in Wichita at a conference today, "so the lines of communication were not as fluid."

"If I had made this decision at 5 (a.m.) it would have been easier," Weseman said. "But I didn't have the information I needed. But I knew before 6."

The announcement, which was immediately aired on 6News at 6:16 a.m., when the call came in, and on and, came too late for some people.

Some readers wrote on that they had quit checking after 6 a.m. and had started getting ready for school, with others sending their students out the door before they got word.

"I know people were inconvenienced and I'm sorry about that. But we try to make it based on information we had at the time," Weseman said.

The district's operating procedure for deciding whether to cancel school is to make an announcement by 10 the night before, if possible, he said. And, if not, then by 6 a.m.

"All of this is under the umbrella that it's important to have school. This is going to be a long winter," he said. "Every day that we don't have school is a day we have to add to the calendar later on."

The district has designated one snow day, April 20, in the 2006-2007 calendar. But Kansas Department of Education regulations allow the district to take one additional day before the district needs to schedule make-up days.

Weseman said none of the larger Kansas school districts, such as those in Johnson County, called off classes before 5:30 a.m. today.

"So we all called about the same time. The smaller rural districts who were concerned about the bus routes called earlier," he said.

Weseman said that as late as 5:15 a.m., he had not found any reason to call off school for the day.

"We had people out driving the roads and the major thoroughfares. I was getting information saying, hey, I'm not having any trouble," he said. "At 5:15 (a.m.) the buses were saying they could run. The wind chill wasn't that high. Then it was a function of what about our parking lots and our sidewalks, can we get those clear."

But between 5:15 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., "I was starting to get different information," Weseman said.

"The major piece was we couldn't get the parking lots and the sidewalks done," he said. "And the side streets were still a problem."

"About 5:45 (a.m.) I started the chain of command moving," he said.

He said the people who were most inconvenienced were probably working families who had to get an early start on the day.

Will school be called off on Friday?

Weseman said he has a meeting this afternoon with the school's busing director, the facilities director and the safety director.

"If it looks like enough information is in place to make a call before the 6 o'clock news, that's what we'll do," he said. "If the snow comes in like they're talking about, I think it's a no brainer. ... If I make a call too early and it cleans up, I get the same number of complaints. If I make a call too late, people are inconvenienced. It was late this morning. But, you know, people were safe."


justsomewench 11 years, 6 months ago

some folks need advanced notice, randy.

you know, some employers do ugly things to employee records if they don't get advanced notice that they'll not be in. last time i checked being an unemployed parent is much more than merely an "inconvenience".

you're not the weatherman, nostradamus. make a decision in a timely manner and live with it. please.

greyhawk 11 years, 6 months ago

"If I make a call too late, people are inconvenienced. It was late this morning. But, you know, people were safe."

How about those many students who were already at both LHS and Free State for zero hour? You have made your mea culpa (thank you for taking responsibility), but don't compound the original mistake with an inaccurate statement.

mom_of_three 11 years, 6 months ago

As was posted on the district web site, parents can decide not to send kids to school. If parents were worried about sending kids to zero hours, then don't send them. If you need to make arrangements, make a decision and do it the night before. Call your employer ahead of time.
Stop blaming the school district for the late decision and make one on your own.

midwestmom 11 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Weseman - Please remember that there are a lot of parents who don't have a family support system that allows them to call someone at the last possible minute to arrange for daycare for youngsters, which probably means that there are children who are too young (really) to be left at home alone today, but are, because with the decision being left so late, parents had no choice, other than missing work, which could mean no pay for that day or worse, losing their jobs. The wishy washy is what has everyone upset. School, fine, no school? fine. Just PLEASE make up your mind and get the information out and stick with what you promise - it's important.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 6 months ago

a no brainer, well maybe so but make official before it is time to send kids out and you have to head to work. It would not have killed anyone to say ok no school by 10pm wed. most of the other schools even in the big cities had done so.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 6 months ago

the snow has arrived ahead of it's appointed time mmmm a weather person wrong? oh well all the kids will be having fun now.

graylanternlizard 11 years, 6 months ago

Weseman is quoted as saying "By the time we got the information we needed, it was 15 (minutes) till 6. And by the time our bureaucracy got in place and got it to the media, it was 15 (minutes) after," Weseman said. "I apologize for that. That was the situation. Sometimes that's how it is." I DO NOT consider that last sentence as a viable excuse. He is paid to MAKE IT HAPPEN!!! He failed!!!! Maybe he can personally contact and apologize to each family that was left scrambling to find viable alternative care for their school children. Other school districts in the area had no problem handling the bureaucracy and giving a decision in a timely manner. This is simply poor management!!! I for one did not care whether school was or was not open....We just needed an answer. The whole situation was a flagrant disregard for the families with children in the public school system.

yankeelady 11 years, 6 months ago

As a parent you always have the option of keeping your child home. We usually had a plan in advance as we both worked in hospitals--calling in isn't always an option. I went round and round with the school more than once when I kept my daughter out and school was open. Especially when she would have been waiting for the bus with subzero windchills.

midwestmom 11 years, 6 months ago

graylanternlizard, exactly! Is Mr. Weseman unable to pick up the phone and make a call without his "bureaucracy"? That extra 1/2 hour would have made lots of lives a little smoother this morning!

GetItRight 11 years, 6 months ago

Here's an idea for all of you complaining parents....maybe you should have made arrangements last night, or already have a plan in place considering this is's not like we've never seen snow or ice before. Sounds to me like Weseman wasn't the only one who waited until the last minute. His job is to make sure your children are educated....your job is to make sure they are taken care of.

I find it VERY hard to believe that people would be fired because they have to stay home on a snow day to take care of their children. If you do, get a lawyer...maybe you won't ever have to work again.

PS - the snow is falling...the snow is falling, MAKE ARRANGEMENTS NOW FOR FRIDAY!!!

janeb 11 years, 6 months ago

I think Randy Weseman can only dial 5 calls per year and he can only answer 7 times so geez give him a break. But Seriously Randy Boy I have made an executive choice about tomorrow ( same as I did today). My kids won't be there. So you and your school officials can drive the streets in your SUVs all you want it will not change my mind. Happy Holidays

sinkorswim 11 years, 6 months ago

I am a teacher and I understand the frustration of receiving the late decision to cancel school today. I was pretty close to walking out the door myself when I got the message. As a teacher, I also understand that we want and need to have school as scheduled if at all possible! This means a decision may be made later than we like. I also understand, and have great concern, for the safety and well-being of my students. I worry about my kiddos navigating the ice-covered streets and sidewalks to get to school. Some have access to transportation, but not all. In addition, some students come to school without the necessary clothing to protect them from our winter weather.

I encourage parents to make a plan now for inclement weather days. Maybe there is a parent in your neighborhood/child's class/child's friend that you could make arrangements with for these days? Can a few of you take turns on these days, so that you don't have to risk an unhappy employer, losing a day's pay, or losing your job due to inclement weather? Do you know a high-school student who might be willing to baby-sit (since they're out of school too) and make a few bucks?

Make some calls, talk to some other parents, and try to have arrangements for the next few months. If we have to miss school due to the weather, you'll be set and ready with a plan! :-)

imastinker 11 years, 6 months ago

Why not just have school?

If parents can get to work they can get their kids to school or make the decision on their own to keep them home and make up the work.

Stephen Roberts 11 years, 6 months ago

I am really distrurbed that i am going to defend Randy.

It is about time he has taken the blame for something.

Katara 11 years, 6 months ago

Parents were scrambling for daycare? Why is there no back-up plan by the parents for situations like this?

Lots of things happen last minute that can affect whether your children go to school or not. Don't you plan ahead for those things?

What do you do if your child wakes up sick? You don't always get advance notice of that and you would still have to stay home from work with your ill child (unless you are one of those parents who have no problem sending your ill child to daycare & infect everyone else's child.)

If you are a parent, you always have to have a back up plan.

white_mountain 11 years, 6 months ago

It really is a non-issue because most parents had already decided by last night that their kids weren't going to school today.

karmaxs3 11 years, 6 months ago

Hey, here's an idea....move somewhere that doesn't get ice and snow in the winter.

SoundMind 11 years, 6 months ago

He is quoted as saying the parking lots, sidewalks, and side streets were the problem.

I don't know about anyone else, but the slick streets around my house didn't change one iota between 7:00 last night - and 5:45 this morning.

happyone 11 years, 6 months ago

They didn't change on my street any!

Everyone saying the parents should have made other arangements obviously don't have kids. We have a back up plan in place but because of the LATE notification we weren't able to use our back-up!! Fortunately we were able to work things out but that is besides the point! We were told we would know by 10pm 6:15am is not 10pm!!!!

And for those that said you can't get fired for missing work have no clue! Many parents have to face losing their job if they call in sick with out enough notice -- generally 4 hours!!

KansasKel 11 years, 6 months ago

I was irritated because on the school's website it said they'd make a decision hopefully by 6 pm but definitely by 10 pm. When 10 pm came and went I assumed that meant their decision was that there would be school today. At 6 am I woke up and double checked and still saw no notice of cancellation. I really don't see why it would have been so hard to call it last night by 10 pm.

And as for not having enough make up days built in - HELLO! THIS IS KANSAS! We've been having snow/ice storms in the winters for a pretty long time! Wouldn't it be possible to average out the number of snow days over the last 20 yrs or so and PLAN for that?! It sounds to me in the article like they only plan for two snow days a year, can that be correct??? Have we ever had winters where we only have two snow days?

CeeCee 11 years, 6 months ago

Weseman knew last night he was calling off school today. He was sitting on the forums reading people post that "the decision better be made by 10 pm." and when it wasn't they started complaining. So he decided that he'd show us and he waited until 6:15 this morning. Okay, maybe he did not do that, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Speaking of back-up plans, maybe WESEMAN needs a back-up plan for when Julie Boyle is out of the office!

prioress 11 years, 6 months ago

A good example of a battle the superintendent can't win; I'm amused when "it's too dangerous to travel" and they call off school. The streets are often full of students driving around 'practicing' their winter driving skills. Having school is important. Hang in there, Mr. Weseman.

Ceallach 11 years, 6 months ago

"It's my fault," Lawrence public schools superintendent said

followed by paragraph after paragraph of reasons why it wasn't his fault . . . . . how is that an apology?

jplanet 11 years, 6 months ago

I have to say, what's all the fuss about the weather anyway? When I left for work this morning the roads were fine...and look. It's about 3:30 and no major snow. When I was in school they hardly ever cancelled it. I think he should have made everyone go to school. Wimps.

Currahee 11 years, 6 months ago

It takes balls to admit something- even if it isn't such a big deal such as this case. I admire your honestly Mr. Weseman!

bandito 11 years, 6 months ago

Hey, Guess what? Tomorrow's cancelled too! Ya'll must have pissed Randy off!

CeeCee 11 years, 6 months ago

geesh OTR... it was just an off handed comment. no worse than most of the crap spread around here. get over it. funny... i usually agree with a lot of comments you post. there are some that i don't agree with and some i find unnecessary, but i never feel the need to bash you.

i apologize if anyone elses sensitive feathers were ruffled with my post. (which of course in no way true.) i didn't realize a disclaimer was a necessity in posting in these forums.

ForThePeople 11 years, 6 months ago

"Any one want to bitch about 'no school' tomorrow?"

OTTR....I do....dang I can't get a moments peace around here....LOL!

AND where the heck is all that snow?

Currahee 11 years, 6 months ago

FTP, it's right now to the east of us... well, at least most of it is right now. Hopefully (or rather unfortunately) we should be in the middle of that cell during the late afternoon hours.

auturgy 11 years, 6 months ago

Well, folks, would you be complaining more if he HADN'T called off school? Made your high schoolers drive to school on icy roads? I'm an FS graduate (with 0 hour for three years as well as 3 in Junior High for choir), and I can tell you right now that as a student, I would have been at the television screen right until 6:50 (or 6:55) seeing if school was canceled. I can tell you right now I would even have been in that building before 6:30, when the decision was made.

As far as parents 'making arrangements' is concerned, why didn't you make them last night? It's easier to CANCEL plans then to make them at 6:00 a.m. when the call was to have been made. Or even 10:00 p.m. last night. If you understand that snow days happen during the winter, come up with alternate plans for your children in advance.

I have an even better idea. It's Kansas, this has been established. We KNOW that snow will be a problem in Kansas. Don't improve the Snow Day School Cancelation Communication--improve the SNOW REMOVAL process. I hear that their main method of snow removal is = S.U.N. You go to Idaho, New York, snow days are nonexistant. It's because they are PREPARED for them. You think that we would be too.

auturgy 11 years, 6 months ago

I wouldn't have been at Free State pre 6:50 a.m. any day. I'm not alone (a slight correction).

Terry Jacobsen 11 years, 6 months ago

I don't admire Randy Weseman's honesty. He's full of it when he says he didn't have all the info he needed to make a decision. Did he even walk outside? Everything was covered in ice and was obviously too dangerous for all the kids to be trying to traverse parking lots and sidewalks etc..

Who gives a care about the major districts in KC. Move the cutoff time back to 5 a.m. if you have to, but dang, make a decision early enough for working class people to get their affairs in order.

He may have cost some people their jobs because they couldn't find daycare in time today. Pathetic performance for someone who is supposed to be so highly intelligent.

toefungus 11 years, 6 months ago

Simply time to replace Weseman. Call the state school board and advance his candidacy for Executive Director!

Mike Blur 11 years, 6 months ago

This whole comment board confirms my suspicion that many, (hopefully not) most, parents are whiny pansies that need to grow up. Sack up and deal with it. I bet there are more than a few parents contemplating lawsuits against 497/Weseman. Absurd.

A few comments to any educators/administrators monitoring this comment board (and I know they are.)

  • Clarify the school closing policy. Instead of telling parents "if you don't hear of a decision from us by a certain time, then school is on" inform all parents that the decision is so fluid, they should monitor the media locally and constantly for a definite yes or no. Assumption-based information pipelines are flawed.

  • Have parents and students sign up for email notification, or better yet, text message notification of the status of school closings. Give everyone an up-or-down response. Don't let them "assume" anything. I'll say it again. Assumption-based information pipelines are flawed!

Parents - deal with it. This is what you signed up for when you made the decision to breed. No-one is to blame. My parents had the ability to deal with adversity and problem-solve when I was growing up, and I learned by observing their conduct. Learn to deal. While you're at it, stop treating school like glorified daycare.

Mike Blur 11 years, 6 months ago

I find myself agreeing with the erstwhile dense Pilgrim in this thread.

I'll come right out and say it. 497 needs to pare down the notification policy to its barest bones. Give them an up or down response. Wait until the last possible second - the beginning of zero hour. Parents will adjust accordingly.

I remember when I was a child, there was none of this communication technology we have now. Here is what we did: We tuned into Clown Radio, 1320 AM. We got ready for school, all the while keeping our ears tuned to the radio.

We kept waiting for the "good news" all the while, until inevitably someone from 1320 would say out loud - Too bad kids, school is open today. We groaned a bit, and then got on and went to school. It wasn't difficult. We didn't blame anyone.

There were no TV crawls, no internet, and no Cable 6 News with late breaking news. We managed just fine.

Tychoman 11 years, 6 months ago

I am absolutely miserable. It's bone dry here in Topeka and I want me some snow!

budwhysir 11 years, 6 months ago

Great, with all the things I have to worry about, know I have to decide who I will be mad at tommorow since there is no school. I think I will call the weather people and let them know how I feel.

And to top it off, My spouse lost two days of pay working for the school. Who am I going to call about that. With all the buracuracy in the school system, they cant even cancel school let alone find me more money.

Katara 11 years, 6 months ago

I cannot believe that I am in agreement with Pilgrim here!

For those who state that people posting that parents should have a backup plan have no children.

You're wrong.

From day 1 of returning to work from maternity leave with my 1st child, I have always had a backup plan for the care of my children. I was a single mom with the 1st child back then so I didn't have a spouse to rely on to cover me when there was a problem and my family does not reside in Lawrence.

Many daycare providers understand that school is closed and can help you make arrangements for the time that it occurs. Discuss it with them before this happens!

Trust me on this. Daycare providers prefer it if you have discussed arrangements for the care of your child ahead of time in these situations. It makes it so much easier for everyone involved.

Another helpful idea. Pre-arrange with a local teen or college student to watch your younger children when school is closed and you are at work if you don't have a regular daycare provider.

The teen is out of school too and it is an good way for them to earn some extra bucks.

You can arrange to pick them up in the morning of the school closure and drop them off at your house. Drive them home when you get home from work.

Again, you get no advance notice of a sick child (in a lot of cases), what do you do for that?

If your job is going to fire you for staying home with your child on a snow day, then surely that same place would fire you for staying home with your child regardless the reason.

Heck, some people are lucky enough to be able to bring their children to work or telecommute for the day!

It has been my experience that most bosses are willing to work with you if you have discussed this situation with them well before it ever happens (such as the beginning of the school year).

Some places may offer you the option of telecommuting or flex-time even if it is not their normal policy because you took the initiative and planned with them ahead of time. After all, it can't hurt to ask, can it?

Katara 11 years, 6 months ago

Mike_Blur wrote: "I remember when I was a child, there was none of this communication technology we have now. Here is what we did: We tuned into Clown Radio, 1320 AM. We got ready for school, all the while keeping our ears tuned to the radio." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ In my day, we had to walk to school uphill in a blizzard, 5 miles each way, barefoot and carry our younger siblings on our back. ;p

budwhysir 11 years, 6 months ago

When I was in school, we didnt have snow days. I am still mad about that. Oh well.

budwhysir 11 years, 6 months ago


oxandale 11 years, 6 months ago

i remember when Randy Weseman was vice principle at West Jr High...aahhhh.... those were the days. I wonder....he probably has a computer at home with internet access... does he read the comments left on this sight?? I wonder what his thoughts are on the subject, and also on everyone's opinion. Regarding the ice and snow.....i love big fluffy snow flakes and comments that have nothing to do with the article written. Take this one with the humor it is intended with and smile or make fun.

Raphael 11 years, 6 months ago

Back in my day, the schools never closed. The Bus Drivers decided if they'd risk going out or not, and being out in the country, almost everyone came to school by bus. The radio stations listed the busses that were cancelled. My poor mother drove our the first flake, we'd begin the campaign to cancel the bus...She probably caved in 1-2 x/winter, and this was in the great white north. Such a lot of flurry over nothing.

budwhysir 11 years, 6 months ago

I agree. we should all stop complaining. And if we dont, we should agree to disagree.

If we did have alot of snow, we would all have to complain about driving in the snow and not being able to do the things we planned on doing.

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