When The Principal Cancels School ... With A Song-And-Dance Number | WGLT

When The Principal Cancels School ... With A Song-And-Dance Number

Jan 30, 2019
Originally published on January 30, 2019 6:37 pm

A new musical duo is being hailed across the country as "brilliant" and "mesmerizing." One fan says their work "transcends all ages," and many more are begging them to go on tour.

But to do that, the singers would have to quit their day jobs. They're not professional musicians — they're school administrators in Michigan. Their breakout hit? A video announcing a snow day.

A video that's been viewed more than 700,000 times since it was posted Monday by the Swartz Creek district, southwest of Flint. In it, Superintendent Ben Mainka and Principal Jim Kitchen don sunglasses as they launch into a rewritten version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

Principal Jim Kitchen and Superintendent Ben Mainka in Swartz Creek, Mich.
YouTube

Cancelling school is a tough decision for school administrators. It involves safety, disruption for families and lost learning time. In the past couple years, a trend has emerged where principals and superintendents soften the blow by announcing the news in ever more creative ways.

Swartz Creek's is just one of the videos that appeared this week as subzero temperatures and snow disrupt school across a wide swath of the country.

"It makes our kids smile, and it makes the community smile, and our parents smile," says Brett Hoesing, the superintendent in Missouri Valley, Iowa, a 700-student district in the western part of the state. A week ago, he released his latest single, a remix of "Uptown Funk," to declare a snow day. And this week, he broke the news that school was closed with a cover of George Michael's "Faith."

Superintendent Brent Hoesing of Missouri Valley, Iowa, announces a snow day with his rendition of "Uptown Funk."
YouTube

"It just kind of puts Missouri Valley on the map a little bit," he says.

Despite the fun videos, Hoesing says cancelling school is among the toughest decisions he has to make. He knows that some parents struggle to find last-minute childcare and have to stay home from work. And, he adds, some students rely on school for regular meals.

"It's kind of like, 'Hey, I know this isn't the best situation,' " he says. "But at least we can have a laugh over it."

In Swansea, Mass., Principal Brian McCann agrees. He starred last year in Joseph Case High School's rewritten version of "All That Jazz," complete with backup singers and dancers and lots of fake snow.

Joseph Case High School in Swansea, Mass., released this snow day announcement in 2018.
YouTube

He says the video, which so far has more than 20,000 views, made people feel good about themselves, and about the school. So good, in fact, that McCann and his students have been working on another snow-day video. The song? McCann says it's top secret, but it's ready to go: "We cannot wait for the flakes to come down in southeastern Massachusetts!"

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For educators, the snow and subzero temperatures force a tough decision on closing schools. This winter, the NPR Ed team has noticed a trend. School administrators trying to soften the blow by announcing - even celebrating - snow days with some catchy videos. NPR's Elissa Nadworny reports.

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: In Swartz Creek, Mich., a suburb of Flint, school was canceled this week. Here's how students and parents found out.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "SCCS ANNOUNCEMENT 1-29-19")

BEN MAINKA: (Singing) I heard about a winter storm. It's cold and dreary. Stay home. Stay warm. It's cold and it's a snowy winter morning.

NADWORNY: In a video on YouTube, Superintendent Ben Mainka and High School Principal Jim Kitchen put on cool sunglasses.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "SCCS ANNOUNCEMENT 1-29-19")

JIM KITCHEN AND BEN MAINKA: (Singing) It's a snow day, a winter cold day. Stay home and just play. It's a great family day.

NADWORNY: There are tons of these videos. Everyone from Rock Falls, Ill., to Missouri Valley, Iowa, to Decatur, Miss., wants in on the fun, with varying degrees of musical talent.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (Singing) And we're closed Tuesday 'til the roads are cleared by the snow plow man. And we're closed Tuesday...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Hey, I'm staying home from school today.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #2: (Singing) Make it grand and take it easy.

BRIAN MCCANN: It's funny. It's a little mini phenomenon.

NADWORNY: That's Brian McCann, the principal of Joseph Case High School in Swansea, Mass. Last winter, he starred in a snow day take on the musical "Chicago."

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "ALL THAT SNOW (SWANSEA PUBLIC SCHOOLS SCHOOL CLOSURE PSA)")

MCCANN: (Singing) Hey there, kids, the super's called no school 'cause all that snow. You see, the roads...

NADWORNY: There's fake snow. McCann is singing center stage with a group of students dancing around him. Teachers and students were involved in the highly secretive project.

MCCANN: We had a code name for it. We called it Project Voldemort. So just like the villain in "Harry Potter," you couldn't ever mention the name.

NADWORNY: They finished making the video in the fall. And then...

MCCANN: We just waited and waited until we had a snow day.

NADWORNY: Finally, snow arrived. They hit publish. It was such a big hit that this year, there is a sequel.

MCCANN: We have one in the can, and we cannot wait for the flakes to come down in southeastern Massachusetts.

NADWORNY: For now, students in Swansea are in school, so they'll just have to keep watching last year's video on YouTube.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "ALL THAT SNOW (SWANSEA PUBLIC SCHOOLS SCHOOL CLOSURE PSA)")

MCCANN: (Singing) There's no school today, so just stay home and play....

NADWORNY: Elissa Nadworny, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "ALL THAT SNOW (SWANSEA PUBLIC SCHOOLS SCHOOL CLOSURE PSA)")

MCCANN: (Singing) In all that snow... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.