By Ava Howaed, Freshman
SOUTH DEERFIELD, MA – Frontier Regional Middle & High School in Western Massachusetts had 3 2-hour delays in a row these last 2 weeks. But why no snow day? We paid superintendent Darius Modestow a visit to see how he makes the life-or-death choice: do we cancel school? Since the weather reported it was going to snow Wednesday, we decided to get a look into this process as soon as possible.
Replying to our request for an interview, Modestow instead invited us to his home to see “how, where, and under what circumstances the magic happens.” Slightly mystified, our team visited his bungalow, which he refers to the “Modest-ungalow.”
We rang the doorbell, unsure what to expect. The superintendent invited us in, sporting Walmart brand sweatpants and a “Hackensack Spinach-Fest 1983!” tank top. “So you’re here to see how I decide snow days!” he announced while feeding his goldfish Leslie. “It’s quite a process – road safety really doesn’t have anything to do with it at all.”
“The beginning has some sacrifice-like virtues to it. It stays pretty PG-13, but people with certain phobias may find some aspects of it…threatening.” To begin the ritual, Modestow started shaving in his grubby bathroom mirror. “You need to give the spirits a piece of yourself to help them see what kind of person you are – a responsible school official or an unhinged one.”
Taking the discarded stubble in a small wooden dish, Modestow led us down to his basement and flicked on the lights. The space had quite a sinister vibe – there were paintings of Frontier’s previous superintendents adorning the black-painted walls (“to get the spirits on our side,” Darius quipped), numerous small candle shrines with different small rocks on each, and one large quartz coffee table. Darius set the dish with the shavings onto the coffee table, and additionally placed 6 small green candles, a large wood board, and a few crystals. He lit the candles with a Backstreet Boys cigarette lighter and shut off the lights of the basement. He began a chant that sounded slightly like the opening of The Lion King, and the air of the basement changed. The vibe felt less quirky and laid-back, and more stark and dire.
“O ancient spirits, superintendents of long ago, tell me the answer to the inquiry of the whole student body. Should I cancel school tomorrow?” Darius was sitting cross-legged on the floor. He seemed to hear an answer from these unproven spirits, because he stated that it was expected to snow until about 11 a.m. on Wednesday.
Suddenly, a green candle rose into the air. It turned upside down – by itself – and began to burn words into the seemingly ceremonial wooden board on the coffee table. Our interview and photo team stared, terrified, at the supernatural writing until the candle set itself back onto the table and the flame went out. The words stood smoking in cryptic writing: TWO HOUR DELAY. Darius seemed unsatisfied, but unscathed by the creepy, horror movie-esque ceremony.
“Union 38’s superintendents past have spoken. I don’t know if I believe them that this is the right path to take. They sometimes lie.” Modestow avoided eye contact after this statement. Our P.A., Justin, tried to ask him what just happened, wide-eyed and stammering. Modestow pretended he didn’t hear and trudged back up the creaky basement stairs.
“We can skip the Ouija. That’s unnecessary this time – and it would interfere with the dark signals. It’s time to pay Barney a visit.” Wondering who the hell Barney could possibly be, we followed Modestow into his living room. There, he peeled back a wooden panel of his wall – to reveal a secret compartment. From the dusty space, he removed a plastic box with an ordinary-looking teddy bear inside. Well, we thought it was ordinary-looking: until we saw the large, clean whole in the top of its fuzzy head. If the team hadn’t been freaked out by the mildly satanic ritual, we were certainly very disoriented now.
Darius took the bear and ripped a handful of fluff out of its head. The fluff fell to his wall-to-wall carpeted floor and the superintendent seemed to read what it said, or study the pattern it made. “Ah! Barney has chosen 2-hour delay as well!” boomed Mr. Modestow. “I know I can always trust the decision he makes. The superintendent spirits’ choice is more of a suggestion. Barney’s choice is an obligation.”
After we asked Darius a few more questions, including if he had a psychiatrist, we decided to trust his system and returning to his dwelling was probably unwise. Frontier’s amount of 2-hour delays may rise rapidly if the superintendent continues to use a lacerated stuffed animal to decide the student’s schedule when weather is precarious. However, it seems like no one has been harmed so far by the bizarre ceremony we saw today, so we’ll let Barney and the spirits keep making the decision.