As snow fell last Tuesday morning, thousands of Roslyn parents received a phone call bearing news of a school cancellation.
The audio message was expected, since meteorologists had predicted as many as 14 inches of snowfall that day.
The style of the message, however, came as a surprise.
Joseph Dragone, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, sang the cancellation to the tune of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
“How many feet of snow must fall before Ms. Brown closes school?” Dragone sang, referring to Roslyn schools Superintendent Allison Brown. “The answer, my friends, is a blizzard is enough. Roslyn schools will close.”
“It’s something I do just to keep people happy,” Dragone said. “When you’re snowed in and don’t have a prospect of going out and doing the normal things you do, people get depressed sometimes. I just want to boost their spirits a little bit.”
Dragone has delivered emergency audio messages to Roslyn parents since the district adopted its phone messaging system five or six years ago, Dragone said.
“It allows us to stay in touch with people in the community during an emergency,” he said.
Such emergencies include snow days but are hardly limited to them.
The district used the system three years ago to inform Harbor Hill parents of a helicopter flying above the school grounds in order to use the school’s helipad, Dragone said.
In 2012, the district used the system every morning for ten days in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Dragone said.
“People didn’t have heat in their homes; they didn’t have electricity,” he said. “We had the high school cafeteria opened as a warming center for people so they could charge their cell phones and come in and get warm.”
Dragone said the district has at least one phone number on record for “100 percent” of district families.
When directed, the messaging system immediately sends hundreds of text messages and makes 8,000 or 9,000 calls within as little as 15 minutes, Dragone said.
“It’s a very, very powerful system,” Dragone added.
Dragone said he has recorded an average of four or five of the emergency audio messages each year since the system was adopted.
Creative messages in other school districts inspired Dragone to do his first singing snow day message, modeled after the jazz classic “Stormy Weather,” a few years ago, he said.
The singing reminds him of his days as a student at Queens College, where he performed in a rock band.
“It really has been a lot of fun,” he said.
He has even received and fulfilled requests from students to record introductions for their Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, he said.
Asked about the feedback from his message last Tuesday, Dragone pointed to the reaction of two people in particular.
“The Board president and superintendent got a big kick out of it,” he said. “As long as they’re happy, I’m happy.”