The brunt of the criticism was directed towards the school districts. Many students had to spend the night in the schools because the roads were impassable. Many students were stuck on buses because of traffic and road conditions.
This was indeed a failure of leadership at the district level. Teachers, janitors, paraprofessionals, and local school administration were heroes: cooking meals, calming students, and watching over thousands. They deserve medals.
The failure lies with the administrators who ignored warnings from the National Weather Service. The NWS gave notice early Tuesday morning that snow could begin in the area as early as 9 am with accumulations starting shortly thereafter. Most districts in the area, however, ignored the warning and opened anyway. Were the NW to issue a tornado warning, students and teachers would have taken action, executing a tornado preparedness plan. But for snow, the attitude was, “eh…we’ll play it by ear. Those weather guys are often wrong.”
The administration of these school districts are good people, with no intention of putting students, teachers and staff in life-threatening situations. But when faced with a bad decision, most administrators followed the bad decision with bad crisis management. At issue was their leadership, especially in crisis and chaotic situations.
We all make mistakes, and as leaders, we all will fail in our decision-making. How we respond to those failures, however, will reveal our true character and leadership skills.