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A Special Edition of Murphy’s Law — Channeling My Inner School Superintendent

Nasty weather makes for a tough decision
By Jack Murphy

Now I know how all those school superintendents feel when they call off school and then must wait for the snowstorm to arrive.
On Wednesday, June 12, I watched the weather forecasts with growing trepidation. MDDC’s Hall of Fame Induction ceremony was scheduled for 5 p.m. the next day at Knight Hall, home of the Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. But a huge storm was reported to be heading our way from the Midwest.
Member Services Director Jen Thornberry had planned a great event for four honorees. Carol Melamed, Jim Keat and Tom Marquardt were going into the Hall, and Frank Quine was being recognized for his long service to the association. Their families, friends and colleagues were all lined up to come and toast their noteworthy careers.
But the weather forecasters were making increasingly dire predictions about rain, wind, hail and maybe even tornadoes. And it was all due to hit on the east side of Washington in late afternoon, just as our guests were scheduled to arrive at the university.
At first I was in denial. “Maybe it will miss us. Maybe it won’t be as bad as they are saying.” But the weather people were increasingly certain in their forecast.
We were expecting 56 people for the event, and I knew, at minimum, many of those people might not be able to come. I was starting to worry.
About 5:30, MDDC President Paul Milton called. He was worried too. Do we have any options if we have to cancel, he wondered. I said I had been in contact with Jen, and I would tell her to speak to the university catering company at 9 in the morning to see what we could do. I said the three of us would talk in the morning.
The forecasts got worse during the early evening newscasts. About 8 p.m., I got an email from Carol Melamed asking: “With dire storm predictions afoot, what are your thoughts about possible cancellation?”
My first thought was to ask the college if we might be able to move the ceremony to Friday afternoon. But Carol replied that she was not available then.
I sent an email to all four honorees, telling them we were considering postponing. Tom and Jim replied quickly that it would probably be for the best. I called Paul Milton and we agreed to postpone and look for another date in the future. (Eventually, we rescheduled for Aug. 15.) I called Frank and he was also in agreement.
The next morning, Jen spoke to the caterer, and he assured us we would not lose our deposit. So then it was just time to wait.
Thursday had dawned stormy and threatening. The first wave of bad weather went through the northern suburbs about 9 a.m., but then the skies began to clear. But early afternoon it was sunny. And I began to remember uncomfortably all the times I had chided school superintendents for cancelling classes on the threat of snow. The weather forecasters said the storm was still coming, but it certainly looked nice in mid-afternoon.
Then the weather changed. The skies darkened, the wind began to pick up, and eventually the rain began to fall. The storm was even worse than we had feared. A tornado touched down in Laurel, not too far from College Park. I was very thankful that I had not sent people out into the storm to get to our ceremony.
That evening, after the storms had passed, I got an email from Jim Keat: “Congratulations on the excellent decision last night. We’d have been on I-95 when the storm struck.”
My inner school superintendent smiled.

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