We're Talking Storms, Schools and Coastlines
The hysteria that roared up the East Coast in advance of the "storm
of the century" last week infected more than few victims locally
with big-time cases of snow-arrhea.
Consider the area's five colleges --among them, Smith College, the
largest residential women's college in the country--calling off
classes for students on Tuesday. If you amortize tuition costs at
the elite colleges, - $23,400 at Smith, or $11,700 per semester,
or some $800 per week - some parents might be tempted to ask for
a refund for the academic downtime.
And what about the Daily Hampshire Gazette, which has been publishing
a local newspaper in various forms for more than 215 years, deciding
to cancel its Tuesday edition even before the first snow began to
accumulate. That is, surely, one for the record books, even if the
storm itself was not.
Which brings us to the Postal Service. Box holders in Florence came
up empty on Tuesday when they checked for mail. Reason. Practically
no mail made it to Florence. Hold on. Remind us of that famous inscription
on the Post Office building in New York City: "Neither Snow Nor
Rain Nor Gloom of Night Stays These Couriers from the Swift Completion
of their Appointed Rounds." No mas.
Local weather forecasters did no better or worse then the experts
on the Weather Channel or the computer models constructed by the
U.S., Weather Service in Washington. They flogged the oncoming storm
for days, but it took its own sweet time arriving despite the media
hyperbole, only to fizzle.
What is annoying about the early morning TV weather segments - I
watch about 6:10 a.m. - is how they withhold straight-forward information
about the weather in favor od drivel - Channel 40 weatherman Jason
Russell and the news anchor Jen Lesmerises beg viewers to send in
promotional coffee mugs and Channel 22's Brian Lapis runs around
the valley interviewing breakfast cooks at various eateries, while
I wait to find out about the weather outlook. Basically, it's the
weather report as tease rather than news. On the subject of weatherman
Lapis, that was a particularly bush league performance a few weeks
back when accidentally dropping the clicking device he uses to produce
images on the screen, Lapis said: "I'm getting more and more like
John Quill every day. It's frightening, it's frightening." You should
be as professional and durable as John Quill during his long tenure,
Mr. Smart Aleck Weatherman.
Thick portions of gloom were served up at a recent meeting of the
Northampton School Committee's budget and property subcommittee.
Not only does the analysis of this year's budget show a potential
deficit of $218,500 but the schools face the nearly impossible task
of preparing a worst-case scenario budget for the next fiscal year
that cuts some $1 million. It is hard to fathom where such cuts
can be made in an educationally responsible way.
One of the bright spots at the meeting was the detailed and professional
presentation by Joy Winne, the school department's new transportation
supervisor, about the outlook next year's school bus expenditures,
which this year are budgeted between $800,000 to $900,000. Clearly,
she had done her homework.
Finally, what' s up with Michael J. Cosgriff, the man chosen Jan.
31 by a divided school committee to be the new superintendent of
schools. It's taken six weeks to get the appointment signed, sealed
and delivered. How come? Meanwhile, retiring Supt. Bruce Willard
has agreed to stay beyond his original departure date to help with
the tough budget decisions facing the schools. Cosgriff was described
or described himself as an "out of the box thinker,'' which apparently
extends to his grasp of geography. Now working in the South Shore
coastal town of Scituate, Cosgriff says his top priority in looking
at real estate here is waterfront property. As a sailor and swimmer,
he prefers to be close to the water. Maybe his hesitation about
committing himself to his new job was due to a belated realization
that Northampton has no coastline.