There’s been quite a bit of criticism for one superintendent and not the other. And this isn’t about why classes weren’t canceled before the winter storm hit or even about when classes were dismissed — concerns that need to be addressed for future reference. This is about what the two school officials did after the snowfall.
Superintendent Emily Lembeck of Marietta City Schools worked the telephone from her office, talking with bus drivers, parents, teachers and staff who were scattered around the district. After city streets became impassable, 20 buses picked up students at two schools before noon and began their route. But five of the buses had to return to their schools with students because of the snow and traffic gridlock.
When Lembeck became aware of the situation, she immediately took action, halting all buses from leaving elementary, middle and high schools. She decided the best course of action was to keep students inside where they were warm and safe.
Lembeck was on the job, coordinating buses, students and parents as much as possible and working with city police trying to get everyone home. She stayed in her office all night. She said, “We handled it the best way possible to keep our students safe.”
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa of the Cobb County School District was in his office — less than two miles from Lembeck’s — when the snow started falling. Hinojosa said that after classes were dismissed and the buses were rolling, he kept in touch with his top administrators.
In midafternoon, he left for home in Smyrna, about seven miles from his office, and arrived in less than two hours, the MDJ reported. Most students got home by 5 p.m. but about 400 students had to spend the night in their schools.
Hinojosa’s decision to go home did not sit well with some people posting comments on the MDJ. A chief executive — or the captain of the ship, as one posting said –— is expected to stay on the job when there’s trouble. As a practical matter, what could Hinojosa have done if he had stayed at his office all night as opposed to going home? He could have kept in touch with his administrators or other staff from his home.
True, he might not have been able to do anything different at the office than he did at home.
But there is the impression left by his going home — regardless of what he could do from home. It’s the perception people have that he was not concerned enough to stay on the job at his office and thus make a statement to the effect that “I care so much about the school children that I’m staying here all night.”
Fair or not, that’s how it is.