DURHAM — Two buttoned-down Durham Academy administrators rapped their school closing announcement on a YouTube video Wednesday, becoming a viral sensation.
The announcement, to the tune of the 1990 hit “Ice Ice Baby,” featured Michael Ulku-Steiner, head of school, and Lee Hark, assistant head of school and upper school director. In the video, the tie-wearing headmasters break into rap, complete with dance moves and emphatic hand gestures.
“Alright, stop. Collaborate and listen, ice is back and road will glisten,” they rapped. “Polar vortex has a hold of us tightly, wind like a harpoon daily and nightly. Will the power stop? Yo. I don’t know. Turn up the heat, and let go. Sleet falling down like a million missiles, bring school delays and early dismissals.”
The video had more than a half-million views by 4 p.m. Thursday and had been tweeted or posted by CNN, Time.com, BuzzFeed, Gawker and Deadspin, which called it “wonderfully dorky.” It was also featured on the morning shows on national TV and picked up by news sites in India and Canada. Even “Ice Ice Baby” rapper Vanilla Ice retweeted a link to the video.
“It must be a very slow news day, and people all around the world enjoy laughing at school principals,” Ulku-Steiner said. “That seems to be a universal thing.”
He said he got up at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday to check the forecast and make the call. Instead of going back to sleep, he started penning a rhyme to the Vanilla Ice anthem. He called Hark and the two decided to have a little fun with it.
Ulku-Steiner grabbed a pair of his daughter’s ski goggles, while Hark put on a Team USA sweater that had been donated for a school auction.
“It took three takes,” he said. “The first two were hilariously bad.”
The third, he said, was only moderately bad, so they posted it.
“We really thought it would make some people chuckle,” Ulku-Steiner said. “We had no idea that it would go beyond that. We would have rehearsed, probably, and worked harder at it if we knew that many people were going to see it.”
Among the YouTube comments: “Coolest principal ever,” “uhh, that was boss!” and “I’m a teacher and I want to work for THESE guys.”
The social media foray by the private school in Durham was a big hit with alumni, faculty, parents and students. In spreading it on Twitter and other sites, they proclaimed it WAY cooler than a robocall.
One reason “Ice Ice Baby” may have caught fire, Ulku-Steiner said, is that so many school districts are wrestling with snow-day decisions and how to make up the time, Ulku-Steiner said.
The two rappers cautioned everyone to be safe: “Slippy roads might be, so stay in your house and drink hot tea.”
They also encouraged the students not to forget their academics, promoting several online learning sites. Now they’ve thrown down a challenge to students to respond with their own one-minute videos describing how a snow day can be productive and, Ulku-Steiner said, “make (an) argument about why we should have more of them.”