School cancellation messages go show-biz

Jon Ross (left), principal of Lionville Middle School, and Nick Indeglio, principal of Downingtown Middle School, parody Billy Joel's "Allentown" on YouTube.
Jon Ross (left), principal of Lionville Middle School, and Nick Indeglio, principal of Downingtown Middle School, parody Billy Joel's "Allentown" on YouTube.
Posted: February 19, 2014

In his first robocall of the school year announcing a snow day, Downingtown Area School District Superintendent Lawrence Mussoline stuck to the basics:

No school tomorrow. Stay safe.

A dozen messages later, the strain of the winter had clearly taken its toll, as Mussoline threatened to take a trip to Punxsutawney to have a chat with one of the nation's more celebrated prognosticating rodents.

"You and I have been talking way too much this year," he told parents on his recording Thursday night. "So if we're talking this much, there must be something wrong. . . . I'm thinking it's the groundhog."

As the harsh winter drags on - causing cancellations across the region over every calamity thinkable: snow, power outages, frozen pipes - administrators are getting creative with how they break the news. More snow was in the forecast for Tuesday morning, challenging superintendents to stay on top of their games.

Last week, two principals in Mussoline's district recorded a musical parody - the "No School Musical Medley" - that received 45,000 views on YouTube in 24 hours. The same day, West Chester Area School District Superintendent James Scanlon used a poem to cancel his ninth day of classes this winter:

"There's more sad news that I must deliver

"As we all once again shovel and shiver.

"All schools in West Chester are closed tomorrow,

"So grab your cocoa and drown your sorrow."

Winter-weary school officials across the country have found similarly creative ways to break the robocall doldrums. The most common song to remix: Vanilla Ice's 1990 single, "Ice Ice Baby." As another administrator donned a pair of ski goggles, a Durham, N.C., principal rapped:

"Will it ever stop? I don't know.

"Turn up the heat and let go.

"Sleet falling down like a million missiles.

"Bringing snow delays and early dismissals."

Lionville Middle School principal Nick Indeglio and Downingtown Middle School principal Jon Ross opted to start their parody video with a more local tune: "Allentown" by Billy Joel, sung by Indeglio.

"Well we're living here in Downingtown.

"And the snow is sticking to the ground.

"It's the fifth straight storm in a row.

"There is no school. We've reached a new low."

As he sang, Indeglio stared longingly into his snow-covered yard.

The two principals, who live in the same Berks County neighborhood, have been recording weekly podcasts under the moniker the Rock Star Principals since September. At Mussoline's urging, they filmed the parody over a few hours Thursday afternoon.

"It should be very obvious by watching it there wasn't a lot of production value in it," Ross said.

But it racked up clicks nonetheless, amassing more than 61,000 by Monday afternoon.

For the video's final few bars - see it on YouTube at http://tinyurl.com/lltg2h2 - the two bobbed back and forth in the frame, singing the "Let It Snow" song from the movie Frozen.

Scanlon said he had tried not to take the cancellations too seriously. All he can do this winter, he said, is laugh. And while he might have ideas for other creative cancellation calls, he said he hoped he would not have to use them.

A few weeks ago, he used his fake-out.

"Hello? Hello?" he said as the message began.

"Oh, it's you," he continued. "Oh, and it's me, calling again to close schools."


tnadolny@phillynews.com

610-313-8205 @TriciaNadolny

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