Cherokee Superintendent: We Will Evaluate Protocols for Inclement Weather

Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo thanks efforts and patience of the community during and after snow storm.

Patch file
Patch file

Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo posted this message to parents on the school system's website:

The Cherokee County School District has survived this emergency thanks to the patience and support of our parents, employees, partners and countless volunteers.

On behalf of every one of our more than 39,000 students, please accept my thanks, as I have never been as grateful as when we reunited the last of our sheltered students with her parents on Wednesday afternoon.

I know there are many parents in our community today who are frustrated; it’s unlikely that anything I will say will ease this for them.  But know this: I and every one of our employees care more about the safety of your children than how many hours they spend in a classroom.

We based our decision to hold classes on Tuesday and the subsequent decision to close early using the most recent weather information available; Cherokee County was not included in the “winter storm warning” area until after the decision to close early already had been made.  Had we or our neighboring school systems known the speed or severity of this storm further in advance, we would never have held school on Tuesday.

Our focus since Tuesday morning has been safely reuniting all CCSD students with their families.  Our focus today is on assessing when we can reopen schools.  Our focus in the days to come will be evaluating our protocols for inclement weather response.

To address several myths being circulated, please know that there was no financial incentive for school systems to hold classes on Tuesday.  State funding is based on two attendance count days during the school year, and Tuesday was not one of those days. 

Also, please know that school bus routes cannot all be run at the same time – CCSD alone transports 29,000 bus riders home each day, and that process takes more than three hours to complete beginning with hub routes, followed by elementary and then middle and high schools.

I, too, was stranded by the storm and finally made it back to my own home on Wednesday evening. Knowing that our community’s children had to spent the night away from home breaks every educators’ heart including my own, and I am so grateful for the job our staff did to care for these children.  Our schools that sheltered students overnight kept them safe, warm, fed and entertained.

And as I drove on the icy roads, I thought of our bus drivers and their skill and strength that guided them to transport children safely home, and of our public safety agency partners who assisted in evacuating stranded buses so that no child or driver had to stay in a bus overnight.

As you might imagine, parents have been sharing their thoughts with us.  Some are angry, and we certainly understand.  Some have shared thanks for heroism showed by our staff, and those are appreciated more than they know.

The stories are inspiring – the bus drivers and teachers who walked students home in the snow; the volunteers who used their own vehicles to transport students and those who brought blankets, food and toothbrushes to sheltered students; the restaurant owner who fed a bus driver and her students as they waited for firefighters to bring them home; and the school nurse who sheltered students at a school, on her way home helped a woman in labor and then went back to the school to assist with students overnight!

Here is just one of the messages that we received from parents:

“I know it's not over yet and I imagine you are still in the thick of things but I wanted to be sure you had a bright spot of THANKS.  I hope that you are hearing about the positives too - I know people are frustrated and just want their 'babies' close to them but the CCSD team is truly doing a great job.

We're lucky to have great forms of communication in today's world - my email inbox is full of notices from each of my kids' schools (MCMS and RRHS) and Mr. Bennett was thoughtful enough to use his Remind101 (set up for scholarship notification) to communicate via text.  No complaining about over-communication - it has been key in all this. 

Please pass on thanks from a parent - I know those teachers, staff, and administration want to be home with their families too.  There are MANY of us that are grateful that in a time of emergency, they stayed with our kids and executed flawlessly on a plan to care for the children.  Mine are home and safe, but before they were, the staff at MCMS was fantastically responsive and provided updates letting me know if I couldn't get there, my son was safe, warm, and would be fed.

We are part of a wonderful community.  Thank YOU for all you and your team doing.”

We are part of a wonderful community, and my deepest thanks, again, go to our parents, employees, partners – especially our local public safety agencies, and volunteers.

Kevin Kreft January 31, 2014 at 10:24 AM
I'm sure if they had paid attention to the national weather service. Blame it on the forecast LOL North and Central Georgia Winter Storm January 28-29, 2014 NWS Product Timeline 312 PM Sun, Jan 26, 2014 * Winter Storm Watch Issued for central Georgia - including south Atlanta metro from 10 AM Tuesday until 1 PM (link) 315 PM Sun, Jan 26, 2014 * Briefing emailed to government and media partners (link) 453 AM Mon, Jan 27, 2014 * Winter Storm Watch expanded to include the entire metro Atlanta area (link) 835 AM Mon, Jan 27, 2014 * Tweet issued "Conf increasing for significant snow moving in rush hour Tues. Dont wait to make plans for work/school" 100 PM Mon, Jan 27, 2014 * Webinar given to government and media partners, then disseminated to public via YouTube (pdf) 308 PM Mon, Jan 27, 2014 * Tweet issued "Winter precip will make travel risky across GA midday Tues into Weds. Not a bad idea to stay off the roads if you're able!" 322 PM Mon, Jan 27, 2014 * Winter Storm Warning issued for central Georgia - including south Atlanta metro area (link) * Winter Storm Watch remains in effect for rest of metro Atlanta (link) 936 PM Mon, Jan 27, 2014 * Winter Storm Watch for north Atlanta metro area upgraded to a Winter Weather Advisory. The first paragraph included this text "Please understand that even a slight shift in the moisture could result in significant differences in snow amounts and may require an upgrade to a warning." (link) * Winter Storm Warning remains in effect for south Atlanta metro area and central GA (link) 1115 PM Mon, Jan 27, 2014 * Updated briefing emailed to government and media partners (link) 339 AM Tue, Jan 28, 2014 * Winter Storm Warning issued for the entire Atlanta Metro area (link) * Winter Storm Warning remains in effect for central Georgia (link) * Winter Weather Advisory issued for all of the remainder of north Georgia except 4 counties in far northwest Georgia (link) 1107 AM Tue, Jan 28, 2014 * Winter Weather Advisory issued for Northwest Georgia (link) * Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect for northeast Georgia (link) * Winter Storm Warning remains in effect for the rest of north Georgia including Atlanta and Athens, and for all of central GA (link) 112 PM Tue, Jan 28, 2014 * Upgraded all entire county warning area to a Winter Storm Warning (link) 1252 PM Wed, Jan 29, 2014 * Winter Storm Warning allowed to expire (link) * Civil Emergency Message issued for the Atlanta Metro area (link) Product Definitions Winter Storm Watch A 50% or greater chance of conditions favorable for a significant winter storm. See criteria under Winter Storm Warning. Winter Weather Advisory An 80% or greater chance of a winter precipitation event which could cause a significant disruption but does not meet warning criteria. Winter Storm Warning An 80% or greater chance of winter weather event having at least one predominant hazard (snow, sleet or freezing rain) and is expected to cause a significant impact. Must meet at least one of these criteria: 2 or more inches of snow in 12 hours or 4 inc
Allah Tabul February 01, 2014 at 06:35 PM
New protocol: Get your butt out of bed earlier in the AM and check the weather forecast on days like Tuesday. If the temps are forecast to be below-freezing all day long (which they were), and there's snow falling at 10AM (which it was), RELEASE STUDENTS IMMEDIATELY rather than wait another 3 hours, when the roads were already impassable. What a terrible example of leadership. Thank goodness for our underpaid teachers and bus drivers, who saved lives and sanity while the superintendent played his fiddle.
nybelleinga February 03, 2014 at 09:07 AM
Being in a leadership role is difficult. Anyone who has ever occupied one understands that. An effective leader with integrity accepts responsibility for it. All of it. In our community especially, we are blessed with an abundance of Christ followers to include teachers, bus drivers, citizens, students, and leaders. Of course there is a silver lining with a community full of awesome people who love and act on that love. That being said, you dropped the ball "Super" and everyone is home safely and unharmed, including your teachers and bus drivers (thankfully). Please don't underestimate your students, parents and other community members. Lucky for you, we are a rather forgiving group. However, we do not respect being patronized, bamboozled or spun. Step up. Take responsibility. Be accountable and actually make the changes that need to be made in order to avoid the incidents we experienced last week. That's what an effective leader does and the quality teachers, bus drivers, administrative staff, etc. , deserve a leader who steps up and respects them. We deserve leadership in our school system that values us and our children.


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