By Marlene McTigue
Capital Region Independent Media
If you decide to head over to the Greenville Central School District’s social channels, you’re in for a treat.
The district’s clever and creative snow day videos have gone viral with hundreds of thousands of views since they began last year.
According to school officials, the success they have experienced with the videos is a result of the great spirit of collaboration within the schools.
It all began with a spur of the moment conversation in the hallway between math teacher Casey Gannon and School Communications Specialist Sierra Pizzola. Gannon had just consulted www.snowdaycalculator.com — a website that kids all over (and their teachers) are using to figure their chances of a snow day — and learned that Greenville was due for a snow day the next day.
“Casey found me in the hallway that day and said, ‘I’ve seen all these other schools doing cool videos to announce the snow day. You should have Mr. Bennett do a snow day video,” said Pizzola, referring to District Superintendent Michael Bennett.
“I was like, oh man, he’s leaving for an appointment in a half hour, I don’t know if I can pull it off,” said Pizzola.
Gannon exclaimed, “You can pull it off!”
“So, I thought, who am I to say no,” mused Pizzola. “So, I ran into his office and I said, ‘Mr. Bennett, please just trust me on this.’ I had come up with the concept on my way down to the district office and that’s how it went. It was crazy and it kept going from there.”
As of press time, the district had produced seven snow day videos over the last year, and all have been seen thousands of times. You can see them all on the district’s social media channels on the following dates: Dec. 15, 2022; Jan. 23, 2023; Feb. 29, 2023; March 13, 2023; March 15, 2023; Jan. 16, 2024; and Jan. 29, 2024.
“The idea for the first video was that people always try to pressure the superintendent into calling a snow day, whether it’s the kids, the staff, the parents, whoever it might be,” said Pizzola. “So, we shot different people from around the school calling the superintendent to try to get him to call a snow day.”
“It was just supposed to be one and done,” said Pizzola, “but it was so well received from the community that we just decided to keep it going and I thought, OK, we’ll just do it for that year, and then it happened again this year. Greenville winters are no joke, I grew up in Rensselaer County and we don’t get winters like you get winters.
“It’s really fun for everyone involved and I am able to shoot the videos in just a few minutes. Even the superintendent’s parts are all done in about one minute.”
That small investment of time is paying off in many ways for the district and its students.
“The videos started as an opportunity to introduce myself to the school district and build a level of trust with the kids and the community,” said Bennett, who came to the district in March 2022. “We understand how exciting snow days are, not just for kids, but for adults as well. So, we figured this was a great way to get kids involved, announce our snow days, and spread positivity during the winter months.”
And involved they are. Even the youngest students get to participate as actors in the videos. You can hear their giggles and see their faces in all the videos, but for the older kids there are learning opportunities as well.
“Last year when I first started, the kids told me I was old for using iMovie to edit the videos,” Pizzola said with a laugh. “So, they had me using Cap Cut, which is a video editing app associated with Tik Tok. Now I use Canva because I am able to sync it from my phone more easily and Canva has a platform for schools called Canva for Education. It’s a free platform for educators and schools.”
“Some kids will help me edit the videos,” Pizzola added. “This next video that we are going to be filming was actually a student’s idea, so I will be giving him credit at the end of the video. Everybody is really getting into it. We had a kid email the superintendent saying he wanted to be in the next video, so the kids really enjoy it.”
Pizzola, a graduate of Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communication, makes it a practice to include the students whenever she can.
“In my job, I incorporate some classes into what I do,” she said. “We publish a monthly piece in the Greenville Pioneer and I partner with our journalism class for that. In the fall, for athletics, I partner with the sports marketing class for that. But for the snow day videos, because they are just so ‘on the fly,’ it’s usually just a junior or a senior who has a study hall who is helping by giving such insight advice as, ‘that edit is lame, you need to use this transition.’ A lot of it is born out of the kids just calling me lame and then me just trying to level it up,” Pizzola admits with a laugh.
According to Pizzola, the success the district has experienced is due in large part to Superintendent Bennett.
“He’s very passionate about it and he’s a great superintendent,” said Pizzola. “I don’t know that any other superintendent would be as supportive of my creativity on the job because he has just been wonderful.”
And what does Bennett think of all the attention the videos have received?
“I’m absolutely blown away, I never could have anticipated this response,” Bennett said. “There’s so much negativity out there, sharing these videos is a break from all that. It’s an opportunity to have some fun and laugh a little bit.”