Boring, automated phone messages for snow days at Duchesne Academy may be a thing of the past.
And it’s all thanks to Assistant Principal Eric Krakowski, 44, who sang messages in the form of Disney songs to announce that school was canceled this week. For Tuesday, it was to the tune of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” from the movie “Frozen,” and Wednesday, it was “A Whole New World” from the movie “Aladdin.”
The World-Herald caught up with Krakowski, who has worked at the Omaha high school for 18 years, to get to know him a little better and talk about his clever messages that have become quite the buzz on social media.
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Question: Are you from Omaha?
Answer: I’m originally from Mishawaka, Indiana, but I have been in Omaha for 20 years. I taught theology for 16 years at Duchesne before becoming the assistant principal two years ago.
Q: So where did the idea of creating clever snow day messages come from?
A: I was sitting with the dean of students and the principal at a Duchesne fundraiser Saturday, and it was clear that we were going to have at least one snow day this week. The principal said to me, “You should do something fun.” So I started thinking about it the next day. I decided to write lyrics to the songs from “Frozen” and “Aladdin” because these kids love Disney. If I ever would play a Pandora station in the classroom, nine times out of 10, the students would choose Disney.
Q: Is this the first time you sang the phone messages?
A: Yes. Last year was the first year that we used an automated phone system. Before, my messages were just like, “Hi, this is Eric Krakowski and ... ” I accepted the challenge to do something fun, and I’m happy people are excited about it.
Q: How did you come up with the lyrics?
A: My wife believes I have a penchant for making ridiculous lyrics for songs. I do it in the car or wherever. I do it all the time. This is just the first time it has ever got caught on a recording. Writing the lyrics didn’t take me very long.
Q: It’s clear from the messages you can sing. Is music a passion of yours?
A: It’s more a hobby than a passion. I enjoy singing for my own self. I sang at church for years. I am a cantor regularly for Mass at St. Margaret Mary’s, and I play guitar with another teacher at school Mass every Tuesday at Duchesne. I got my first guitar when I was 15. I was in a band in high school and a band in college — all rock ’n’ roll cover stuff, mostly just for fun. Occasionally, I’ll also sing at a funeral or a wedding. I’ve always enjoyed singing.
Q: Did you think your messages would get this kind of attention and be shared all over social media?
A: I had no idea. I sent the message Monday afternoon at 3:35 p.m., and as I walked out of the building, a couple of co-workers said they really liked it. I got home at 5 p.m. and checked Facebook and saw someone had posted a link. It should have occurred to me this might happen, but it never dawned on me. Later in the evening, I kept getting alerts on social media. My wife was laughing because it was even being shared by local media. A former student of mine even heard about it on the local news in Denver.
Q: Several Duchesne parents posted on Facebook that their entire families stood around the phone to listen to the messages and were excited to hear them. Is that what you were hoping for?
A: January and February is a hard time of the year. Days are short, the weather is bad, there are midterms, people are stressed, seniors are waiting to hear back from colleges. I was just glad it made our families and students happy. It was nice to know it was a positive thing. At Duchesne, we really emphasize relationships and community, and doing something like this really helps to contribute to a fun and positive environment.
Q: You’ve set the bar high now. If you get another snow day in the future, will you continue to come up with lyrical messages?
A: I suppose I have to. I don’t think I am getting out of this one. I plan to continue to do it. It’s great PR for our school and leaves a great impression.