Thursday, February 13, 2014

Clueless schools chief: ‘It’s a beautiful day’

Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina cluelessly defended the decision to keep schools open during Thursday’s lethal Nor’easter – incredibly saying “it’s a beautiful day out there,” as snow and freezing rain fell outside.

“It has totally stopped snowing. It’s absolutely a beautiful day out there right now,” she said at a morning news conference in Brooklyn with Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Asked to elaborate, Farina said, “Coming down the stairs, the most obvious thing is it stopped snowing. The second thing, it’s getting warmer – which means that theoretically the snow will start melting.”

She also said that because people were out and about, it must be nicer out.

“I guess the other thing, in looking out the window … there’s a lot of people on the streets,” she said before cracking a flippant joke.

“Obviously it’s not as nice as it is where my husband is in South Beach, but it’s a lot better than it was before.” ” she said, as she and de Blasio burst out laughing.

“It’s getting warmer … theoretically, the snow will start melting,” Farina added.

De Blasio and Farina then haughtily defended their call Wednesday night at 10:33 p.m. to keep schools open – at the same time forecasters were predicting up to 10 inches of snow in the city.

“Unlike some cities, we don’t shut down in the face of adversity. I’m going to make decisions based on the information we have,” de Blasio boasted.

“There is the illusion you can have perfect information and perfect decisions,” de Blasio said. “We made the right decision.”

But their comments did little to mollify parents, teachers and students who took to social media to harshly criticize their decision to keep schools open.

“Why the public school system is open today in these conditions is astounding. Putting the lives of teachers, administrators, and most importantly, children, in danger by telling them to travel in this weather is incomprehensible. Chancellor Farina and the DOE staff: you have some serious explaining to do,” said James Hong on the Department of Education’s Facebook page, which had hundreds of negative comments.

School attendance was down to 45%, according to the Department of Education.

The mayor also said Farina was spot on when she said earlier that it is important for the schools to be open because for many kids it’s the only place they can get a decent meal — a comment that angered many parents.

“We have a huge number of parents, their kids getting to school means their children will have a good meal, in some cases two meals,” the mayor said. “A lot of parents get frustrated” if school is closed, he said.

“The bottom line is, we made a decision that was right,” de Blasio stubbornly insisted.

“The facts on the ground speak for themselves. Throughout the city public transportation has been running. the precipitation levels were such that we could sustain school opening today. it’s our job to do … it’s out job to make the city function,” he said.

The mayor also took a veiled shot at the National Weather Service, suggesting they low-balled their predictions.

“We don’t second guess the National Weather Service. The low end suggested 2 or 3 inches by this morning. The high end estimate was more problematic, but not enough to close schools,” he said.

The effort was too much for TV personality and weatherman Al Roker, who tweeted a response – from the Olympics in Sochi.

“How dare @NYCMayorsOffice @NYCSchools throw NWS under the school bus. Forecast was on time and on the money,” Roker wrote.

Forecasters had predicted anywhere from 6 to 10 inches of snow for the city – and the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning, the highest level of alert.

Asked how much snow there would have to be before schools were closed, de Blasio replied, “If you guaranteed me a foot of snow between midnight and 6 a.m., I guarantee you schools would be closed.”

Farina also callously declared that students who were absent from school Thursday would not be given a pass for taking the day off.

“At the course of a whole day, you can still get to school,” she said.

The mayor and Farina also pointed out that city students have the entire week off next week, and that they were loath to give them another day off Thursday for fear that students would backslide.

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