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Jan. 22, 2014

MCPS superintendent criticized for not closing schools

by Ross Cohen-Kristiansen, Managing Editor
Joshua Starr came under fire on Twitter following the announcement that schools would open at regular times on Jan. 7. Courtesy of Community Bridges Maryland
Joshua Starr came under fire on Twitter following the announcement that schools would open at regular times on Jan. 7.
Around 7:00 p.m. yesterday, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) superintendent Joshua Starr announced that there would be no school today. The decision to close school was announced earlier than the past closings this school year. Students and parents verbally attacked Starr on Twitter, Jan. 6, after the announcement that schools would open at regular times the next morning, a projected record-cold day. Following winter break, MCPS had already closed schools once, and for schools using the block schedule, a cancellation on Jan. 7 would have meant students miss the same classes twice, less than a week before the start of exams.

MCPS students left their homes in temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, with wind chills well below zero. While most local counties cancelled or delayed the opening of schools, MCPS announced the day before that its schools would be running on regular schedules.

Soon after students learned that they would be attending classes the next day, many took to Twitter to voice their displeasures. Blair junior Tigist Tadesse joined in the reprimanding of Starr.



"[Starr's] kids probably have rides to school, but some people are being put in a situation in which they have to go to school, and don't have any alternative way…to get there," Tadesse said in an interview.

Twitter barrages are not foreign to Starr. On consecutive days last month (Dec. 14 and 15), MCPS closed schools, but not until around 5 a.m. Many students, wanting the assurance of school cancellation the night before, sent tweets to Starr, prompting the superintendent to send an open letter to parents, in which he stated, "Many of [the] tweets…were offensive and disturbing. Some were threatening to me and others. A few referenced my family. There was rampant use of racial epithets and curse words." This go round, however, Starr never felt threatened, according to NBC Washington.

Tadesse said that while her tweet was not intended as a personal attack on Starr, some by others were over-the-top abrasive. "Some of the tweets were overly offensive—threatening his kids, his job, his car—to the point where they should have never been sent," she said. She attributes this poor behavior to a lack of teaching. "Teenagers don't always think about the consequences in what they do, so maybe MCPS should focus more on educating them. We have this problem of cyberbullying…[but] I feel as though MCPS just says it's the parents fault for not educating their kids."

Despite the harsh criticisms, many backed the decision to open schools, including junior Joel Weisburger. "I don't think they should have canceled schools," he said. "If you wear enough warm clothes, walking to school shouldn't be a problem. The roads were fine."



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  • Jerome Glick (View Email) on January 26, 2014 at 11:01 PM
    Wow. Those parents & students should spend some time up here in Rochester, NY, where it snows most constantly, is 10 degrees colder, and where school hasn't been closed for weather for at least a decade. It's all about societal expectations.
    • Maria on February 5, 2014 at 12:10 PM
      Point here is that our community is not used to this kind of harsh weather, nor they have proper clothing and shoes for that, probably... I lived in Montreal for 2 1/2 years, and never had a snow day... That city and the people is prepared and so used to the weather in the "tundra" ;-) So, it's not a "societal" issue, but rather a "climate changing" one....in my humble opinion. I'm sure in your area, squirrels still run around in the snow... In Georgia, they squirrels froze to death! ...you guess why.
  • Mr. Grossman on January 28, 2014 at 7:45 AM
    Starr's decision to keep the schools open was undoubtedly the right one. The fact that there exists a debate regarding the legitimacy of opening schools on a cold day in itself is shocking- our we so soft, frought with fear and full of whimper as to let cold weather to deny us an education?

    If it is cold outside put on some long underwear, wear a warm jacket, hat and gloves and get to school.

    Most adults cannot stay home from work when it is cold. Stop whining, buck up and get to school.
  • alumnae3 on February 5, 2014 at 5:29 AM
    14, 15 dec were a saturday and sunday, so mcps was already closed.
    Do you mean these different dates : mo 9 and tues 10 december? It was sleet and freezing rain on su 8 december.
  • alumnae3 on February 5, 2014 at 5:30 AM
    mr grossman, buy those students from low income families long underwear, warm jackets(which arent warm enough, for the polar vortex cold a down coat and wool coat was needed) , hats, and gloves. Better yet, why dont you pick them up in your warm car? Because you do know that students had to wait at bus stops longer because MCPS school buses stalled and were late, some didn't even come at all.
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