Thursday, November 30, 2006


If the saying is true, then the ears of Norm Ridder, superintendent for the Springfield Public Schools, were ablaze on Thursday. Ridder's decision not to cancel school because of a wicked winter storm did not endear him to many (if any) people.

Most schools across the Ozarks were closed on Thursday. By 8:30 a.m., Springfield police had issued a warning about deteriorating road conditions. by 9:50 a.m., city officials had announced the closing of Doling and Northview Family Centers because of power failures. By 10:30 a.m., Greene County had decided to close most of its offices at noon.

Springfield Public Schools waited until early afternoon before pulling the plug on the rest of the school day.

By late Thursday afternoon, enough sleet has fallen to convince Ridder to cancel Friday classes and rethink his decision to stay open on Thursday. The News-Leader reports:
"It's my screw up," said Ridder, who previously headed up a district in Colorado Springs. "I think the reason we fell apart is I didn't understand the Ozarks."

Ridder said he and several school leaders were out driving the roads around 3 and 4 in the morning. Around 7 a.m., he was not finding ice. By 8 a.m. in the northern part of the district he saw some ice on trees, and the roads were wet, but he didn’t think they were dangerous.

"I didn't understand how the ice comes in. We don't have equipment to deal with it like they do in Colorado. From my perspective it wasn't bad, but people in the Ozarks aren't used to ice, and I need to keep that in mind ... And the power outage was a nightmare. I’ve never had that before," he said.
Ridder's apology was nice. The admission that he "didn't understand the Ozarks" is sobering on several levels:

•Ridder has been here since Fall 2005, so the "new guy" excuse is over.

•The National Weather Service reported freezing rain starting at 12:52 a.m. Thursday, at least two hours before Ridder reportedly drove the streets with "several school leaders" and decided school was a go.

•Speaking of those leaders, didn't any of them warn Ridder that the Ozarks has had its share of nasty ice storms? Oldsters remember one in December 1987 that paralyzed much of the city for up to a week. Surely someone on the R-12 staff had a clue that the weather was turning bad.

Hey, Norm Ridder: Your comments to the contrary, people in the Ozarks are used to ice. You're the one who skidded out of control on Thursday.


Anonymous said...

The men and women at the National Weather Service here generally do a good job predicting the WX for the SGF area even though Springfield has the most vaired weather in the country, according to a NWS study from a few years ago. The Winter Storm WARNING was issued Wed AM. The NWS along with TV and radio forecasters were exactly correct in how this storm would progress from Wed PM-the present. Perhaps Norm should've stopped, looked and listened to at least one of them.

E said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

* Forecasts suck. Rarely correct. Calling school over the "potential" for ice would be stupid - and would make me mad.

* Ridder did have staff telling of ice storms and their havoc; he made the call singularly. Guess he doesn't need "staff."

* Ahh, the ice storm of '87. That was a storm. It was freaking freezing for days and days with no power. It was kind of fun, remember? I went to see Eddie Murphy's "Raw" at the theatre to keep warm. Remember that red leather suit Murphy wore?

Anonymous said...

The funny thing was the turn of phrase stating something to the effect of "I didn't know other school districts had cancelled class until 7a.m."

Someone get this guy a radio and tell him where NPR is.

Anonymous said...

Yeh, I couldn't figure out why they didn't close Springfield schools. Sure it was safe getting the kids to school... but I didn't want to fight the ice to get mine back home.

I chose to keep my kindergartener home. He ranted all day, "YOU DIDN'T LET ME LEARN!"

The Lorax said...

I'm biased, but I thought the forecast was pretty damn good.

And closing school w/ exception for the heating/electric issues was silly.

The roads WEREN'T that bad. Ground temps were above freezing. Powerlines and trees were the issue. Not the road. Not until mid to late afternoon.

Friday... different story.

Ridder was right.

And, no, I don't have kids in the school system yet. But they are in places where they abide by the decisions of larger districts.

The freak-out factor was overblown for Thursday.

Let's just say... the supers that called wanting to know "if they should cancel" were many. MANY.

Off the hook.

And some took the money and ran.

Anonymous said...

First, give Norm credit for admitting to a mistake. More of us should own up in public. Second, the TV weathermen were WRONG - 12 inches? Cmon? It didn't happen. Too much hype, as usual, and you lose your credibility. As they did once again, even with all their fancy graphics. But the surprising thing is noone is surprised the weathermen got it wrong. People expect it.

Anonymous said...

hearst at ky3 said 18 inches. That station just loves to terrorize its viewers.

Anonymous said...

with 40 percent of kids in the r-12 district on free and reduced would be difficult for me to cancel school if i were super.

Keep in mind...for HUNDREDS of kids in this is the only place they can get a meal. It's also the only place some kids have power.

People forget....there is a BIG poverty problem in Springfield.

That said...when the lights went should have gone home.