Marion Brothers

Marion Brothers

Friday, May 1, 2009

Shutting Down Fort Worth School System: Right Decision

By Eddie G. Griffin, Child’s Rights Advocate

Friday, May 01, 2009

When we received word that Dr. Melody Johnson was shutting down the entire Fort Worth Independent School District because of the international Swine Flu pandemic alarm, I was amazed. It was a bold and decisive act, the true mark of a leader.

ABC Evening News Charlie Gipson asked if the superintendent had “overreacted”. The medical reporter believed she did, but what other choices did she have?

My colleague Shawn Williams of Dallas South Blog asked the same question. Dallas reported only one confirmed case of swine flu. Therefore, it closed only one school.

Was Fort Worth overreacting?

When the news broke back to local WFAA 8, interviews with Fort Worth residents wholeheartedly supported Superintendent Johnson and her decision to close all the schools.

What wrong with them people over in Fort Worth? Have they gone hysterical?

There is a general consensus among us that it is better to err on the side of caution, to err on the side of our children’s safety. In fact, the City of Fort Worth has taken measures like Mexico City, canceling its annual Mayfest Downtown Celebration, and all other outside communicable activity.

Is it an overreaction?

Maybe. Maybe not. Prevention cannot be measured. But there is a maxim here: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Herein also is a principal in leadership.

In disaster contingency planning, begin with the Worse Case Scenario and work backwards.

The FWISD removed itself as a contributing factor in the transmission and spread of the swine flu virus. The school system will not be a contributory to any increased sickness or additional deaths associated with the disease. Instead, the time out will be spent taking preventive measures, such as scrubbing and sanitizing schools.

The schools will be closed until further notice (May 11). This is time enough to allow the virus to run its course, unless it spreads further.

Next, the Fort Worth ISD will not have to grapple with the disparity in loss school days between different schools. Instead, the school district is seeking a waiver for the loss days.

No one knows what a CDC Pandemic Level 5 Alert is all about. No one knows the magnitude of the national health threat. But we have had a contingency plan in place for a long time, including quarantining whole towns.

Today, Mexico City has quarantined itself because of over 160 deaths from the virus. She is the Worse Case Scenario. The City of Fort Worth and Fort Worth Independent School District has started with the Worse Case Scenario benchmark to develop a preventive and containment strategy, based upon their discretionary use of emergency powers and authority.

This is a wise decision, because nobody knows what tomorrow holds. But we, who believe, know who holds tomorrow.


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