Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Why am I so stupid

On November 11, 2019, it snowed in Novi.

A lot! Probably 8 inches.

It started before school, snowed all day during school, and even continued into the evening. Disaster!

A parent emailed us to describe the carnage:
I know the first snow of the year is difficult but I wanted to express my extreme concern with the bus situation this morning.  The elementary school children stood (at least 4 small children) at the bus stop, in the cold and snow, for 1 hour today.  I am not exaggerating. 
It was not our finest hour.

But in our defense the weather service predicted only light snow - no more than 3-4 inches. We live in Michigan, I rationalized. This will be no big deal.

I was wrong.

Fast forward to yesterday, February 25, 2020. At 2:00 PM, approximately 20 Oakland County Superintendents were on the phone with our weather person. The report was that tomorrow (today if you are keeping track) we would receive 6-8 inches of snow - most of it coming between the hours of 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM.

So it was agreed - snow day. We would be putting our students at risk if we brought them to school, had to release early, and were then late getting everyone home. Roads would be slick. Buses might slide. Parents could not get home in time.

So, by 10:00 PM on February 25th most schools in Oakland County had called off school for February 26th. An eminently responsible position.

I went to bed and slept well. I knew that the decision was reasonable.

But wait.

On February 26th, Oakland County did not receive the anticipated snow. We received 3-4 inches. Clearly, we could of had school. This is Michigan. This was no big deal.

So why am I so stupid?

I prefer to think of myself as human, not stupid.

People make mistakes, bad calls, decisions that, looking back, should not be made. Even though we operate in a world that has more data than we have ever had, many decisions still rest upon people like me to gather, sort, and interpret the data.

My guess is that a computer, given the data that we had, would have made the same decision about today.

The benefit of a human making the decision is that, hopefully, people consider the impact of the decision on the people who will be affected. I erred on the side of caution because people - school children - were involved.

If I'm called stupid - so be it.

I'll continue to try and refine my decision making skills. I will be perceived as stupid at times. But, I'll keep at it. I'll keep trying to make good decisions for the students and the families in my district knowing that together we can keep learning, keep growing, and keep building a positive place for all of us.


  1. Dr Matthews, I hope there is no one in this district that would call your decision stupid. Obviously, all other districts made the same decision. No one has a crystal ball and we all can only make decisions based on data provided to us by the experts.

    I personally thank you for trying to keep our children safe.

  2. We are all "practicing" our craft; educators, doctors, nurses, weather people and so many others. None of us have perfected it! I agree with the above post completely. Thank you for all of your efforts to make the right call. Whaddya gonna do?? :)

  3. I don't think it was a stupid decision. I was questioning it this morning, when the roads were fine - however, as the day wore on, and dozens of vehicles slid off the roads, it became apparent that this was definitely a safety issue and was handled correctly. The only way an early release would have worked is if there was only 1/2 day of school.

  4. I believe you made the right call. It's hard to decide something like this when it is so unpredictable. But with the amount of snow they were calling for it would have been a dangerous drive either in the am or too late in the pm. I'm sure you get a lot of complaints either way. We are happy you look out for our students and some of us just need to be more accommodating/appreciative of your hard decisions. It's a tough position to hold.

  5. Dr. Matthews, I am glad you decided to call a snow day today. It was by no means a pleasant afternoon for drivers, especially teen drivers which we have so many of in the Novi HS. By the way, snow or not, you have been making our schools and community safe and fun for all. Thank you for everything you do!

  6. Thank you for calling off school because the afternoon the snow was coming down so fast and I saw many accidents out there. It about the students would be getting out so our kids and bus driver would be in danger on our roads ar this time. So you made the right call. Thank you for keeping are school student teacher bus driver and every one else that works in our school district safe.

  7. Not stupid. It's a tough call and you will never please everyone. Haters gonna hate.

  8. The weather was stupid for not delivering as promised. . .

  9. Not stupid but dont understand... 15 years ago "snow days" were not called unless there was alot of snow and they were far and few between and a special day for the children and staff and now the weather people just mention snow and students are looking for a "snow day"!

  10. I agree that it was not a stupid decision. It was made with the best intentions, using the best information available.

    But you don't have to look very hard to find people calling this a very dumb decision.

    It's part of human nature. There is a natural tendency to believe we are capable of doing almost any job better than the people actually doing it. That's why thevterm "Monday Morning Quarterback" was created.

    But we can't. And we really need to accept that fact. The superintendents did the best they could under the circumstances. And at the very least, their decision meant that zero kids got hurt.

  11. As an Air Traffic Controller with hundreds, or even thousands of lives in my hands, making decisions every second of my duty, I understand the struggle. I make bad decisions myself at times, but that was 'bad' because I played safe, instead of risking numerous precious lives.

    Hindsight is 20/20. People can criticize your decision at a later time, but you have made the correct decision based on the information you had and the evaluation you've made. No kids got hurt, and that's what matters.

  12. You can’t please everyone. You have more kids in daycare than years before. Parents appreciate the early call so they can make plans. The safety of children should always come first. A snow day is not going to ruin their future.

  13. Dr Matthews...
    Get a good night sleep tonight. You’re the best!
    I’ve had 4 superintendents in my career and you have been the most caring, kindest and child centered one. Continue to make decisions with the child’s best interest at heart and you can’t go wrong.
    Thanks for all you do!
    P.S. I’m retired, so I didn’t even get to enjoy this snow day! It’s ok, I was happy for everyone else!

  14. There is a snow predictor who is far more accurate than the local news...go to S. E. Michigan Snow Freaks and look him up...a subscription giving you access to his predications is very very small and he is very very accurate.

  15. It was a good call Dr Matthew’s. Your good at what you do, don’t second guess yourself because of others. God bless you and praying for you always.

  16. The roads were not good this afternoon. Those same high schoolers who you would have sent to school driving themselves as inexperienced drivers would have to drive home in terrible road conditions.

    You made the right call! Thank you for keeping my 17 year old daughter safe. I am glad that she wasn’t driving in it today!

  17. I agree with your call. It should be a snow day.Early releases are too hectic!

  18. You have to go with what you know at the time you must make the call.

    However, I am nitpicking here: "Clearly, we could of had school." PLEASE edit your post to say "could have", as is proper, since you're in education. Thank you.