All posts by Kara Bohonowicz

‘Improve parking, street safety for sake of kids at BSE’

Kara logoDear Editor:

Watching the filming of an accident scene  for “The Judge” on Mechanic Street in Shelburne Falls was exciting, but a real accident there involving any of our children would devastate our community. The town of Shelburne would be on trial if such an accident happened.

Mechanic Street along the Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School property is a problem area posing danger to students, and the time to act is now:

There is no extra parking for families who live close to school. There is no safe winter street parking. There are no prominent road markings for school foot traffic.

Students living within a mile-and-a-half of school have no bussing provided by the Mohawk Trail Regional School District. Lack of bussing requires caregivers drive students to school. Were additional parking provided, the teacher and visitors’ parking lot would not become a parent parking lot.

As likely most of us have seen firsthand, and been part of, nearly all of the cars in this lot require the driver back out before exiting. This puts walking children in danger in the parking lot. This danger is aggravated when snow flies.

When snow piles up along Mechanic Street it is not being cleared from the curb. This problem forces drivers to park into the street or else find parking in the teachers’ parking lot.

How many of us have circled multiple times on these winter days in effort to find parking? The district forces children leaving the building and vehicles to walk into icy roads and parking lots — and out in front of cars, trucks, and busses.

Children attempting to reach parents or caregivers waiting in warm cars try to stop before reaching traffic but before sliding under cars. Parents must choose between children sliding under vehicles or walking out into the road.

Worse still, that’s a road not clearly marked as a school zone. The paint markings on the road meant to inform drivers of the school zone are faint at best. Yes, there is a crosswalk just south of the entrance to the school, but it’s barely noticeable, either by clearly defined paint or by a brightly lit sign.

The crosswalk at the post office intersection is newly painted. Why, then, is the crosswalk serving the school left with old, worn paint? The school signs at Mohawk are new and bright yellow. Why are BSE’s school signs aged and dull?

As a concerned parent, I urge the district and town to come together on this before winter. And before it’s too late.

YOUR TURN! The Flow invites brief letters to the editor of interest to our local readership, and prints a select few as a public service. Extra credit for kids who write. We reserve the right to edit or decline letters. Letters must have the author’s name and contact information so that we can verify authorship.

‘Rescue Genius’: Linda Rollins rocks

Linda Rollins, left, just placed little Dylan with Towner Smith, right.
Linda Rollins, left, just placed little Dylan with Towner Smith, right.

Kara logoMANY BELOVED DOGS in the Shelburne Falls Area have Linda Rollins and her pack of dog mentors to thank for life. She says that her one-woman rescue organization, Better Than Dead, has saved 154 dogs, “one at a time,” in 11 years.

These were dogs facing the end of the line, she explained in a recent interview with Flow staffers.

She said she named her business after her many exclamations to her pack of dogs as they’d run in the fields or play along the river banks: “Isn’t this better than dead?”

Rollins said rescue work with the Humane Society following Hurricane Katrina was traumatizing. She recovered with the realization that there was more work to do.

According to Rollins, dogs need to be allowed to be themselves and heal in their own time among a nurturing pack.

And she knows dogs. She has this down. When asked how she rehabilitates them, she says: “I just let them be dogs.” She says she learned this approach through God and intuition.

And she said she lives a dog’s life. Her pack goes out three times a day. They run no matter the obstacle to Rollins; she had a broken foot for months and still got on her bike and took the dogs out daily.

She lets shy and damaged dogs heal themselves instead of pushing them to try new things. She doesn’t hurry to fix them.

She said she got her start in rescue work as a “go-to person” but after Katrina she began partnering with the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society. She took in dogs that Dakin would have had to euthanize because, as she says, “they didn’t fit in with their program.”

Rollins brought 15 dogs to her home, rehabilitated them, and placed many with families in Shelburne Falls.

A Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School family (Bill Green, Catherine Fahy, and their children, Liam and Lilliana, spent four months working with Rollins in search of their perfect match. Bill was prepared to fly to Oregon to pick up a puppy. Rollins found them two puppies from Missouri: Lilac and Willy, who now are often seen around the school.

Rollins describes Lilac and Willy as spotted and adorable.

Surprisingly, the Northeast is short on dogs to adopt, as Green and Fahy discovered. Private adopters are getting dogs from the South, but without a safety net like Rollins provides, if it doesn’t work out … that gets to be tricky.

Rollins occasionally has to take a dog back that she places — this is no fault of the dogs, she says. She places them with new homes quickly, and it’s always worked out.

She said dogs face an uphill climb in escaping shelters. Dogs don’t present well in shelters, she says. “You don’t get the real dog. It’s stressful. When you get them from someone like me they come right out of the house.”

For those looking for ways to help, fostering is a short-term commitment with no financial obligation. Here’s how the business works: Rollins pays for food, supplies, and medical bills for dogs in her care. She finds her furry friends a foster home. The foster family meets the dog, takes the dog home, and stays in touch with Rollins.

With Brooke Looman and Joy Bohonowicz. For more information, write You can also find Better Than Dead on Facebook.

PTO relies on volunteers to make the magic happen

Eighties rockers, left to right: Kylie Lowell, Aeria Heilman, Avery DuPree, Joy Bohonowicz, Mirra Girard, and, in front, Madeline Lily. The PTO-organized dance was amazing fun for the community, and a benefit for The BSE Flow.

Kara logoWHETHER YOU’RE NEW to Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School or are an old hand, one thing you’ll notice is that the community is blessed with a wealth of talented people who make things happen. Well, we have the people. We need more of them to get involved, to help run the events everyone agrees are so much fun, and so good for the kids, and such a strong reason why many of us moved here or never wanted to leave.

That’s according to this year’s PTO president, Karen Hicks. Here is an excerpt from a conversation we had earlier this fall about the PTO and what more parents and teachers can do to strengthen this remarkable community.

LONGTIME BSE volunteer Tammy Shippee holding young Esme at the PTO’s Holiday Gift Show Nov. 15 in the school cafeteria. Crafts and gifts were made by vendors and BSE students.
LONGTIME BSE volunteer Tammy Shippee holding young Esme at the PTO’s Holiday Gift Show Nov. 15 in the school cafeteria. Crafts and gifts were made by vendors and BSE students.

KARA: How would you describe how the PTO works?

KAREN: This organization is composed of parents and teachers and staff working to support and enrich student life at BSE. Every parent, teacher, and staff member at BSE is automatically a part of the PTO.

KARA: How did you come to be president?

KAREN: I came into this position last year  when during a shifting of officer roles. I was excited to get involved with the PTO and take on the responsibility.

KARA: How are PTO members elected or how do PTO members volunteer?

KAREN: PTO members are elected yearly. We meet monthly to discuss and plan activities such as fundraisers and family activities that support and enrich the students and school community.

Anyone can help. Coming to meetings is a great way to learn about what’s being planned and how to help. The PTO welcomes everyone to participate in whatever way they can. We love having people attend meetings and share ideas but even if you can’t come to a meeting, we always appreciate help with activities such as organizing fundraisers, offering to bake for special events, helping serve MCAS breakfast in the spring, staffing dances and family events, etc. The PTO recognizes everyone is busy and we appreciate  any time and energy you can donate to help our school community.

KARA: What are your favorite past PTO events or fundraisers?

KAREN: The Original Art fundraiser is always great. The students work with Ms. Silverman, our art teacher, to create a special piece of art that will be used with this fundraiser. We’ve been doing this fundraiser for years. It’s a great way to share your child’s art with family and friends. We do this fundraiser around the holidays, and these make great gifts.

My favorite activity was the spring “Back to the 80s” dance. This was a great family activity, with kids and parents out on the dance floor.
After the success of the 80s dance, I’d love to have a 70s disco dance.

Think of the possibilities! I think families really enjoy these types of activities, where they can share in the fun with their children. It brings out the kid in all of us.

KARA: How are teachers involved?

KAREN: We are fortunate to have Principal Joanne Giguere and one or two staff members in attendance at most meetings. The PTO greatly appreciates the wonderful staff at BSE. We recognize the importance of maintaining a strong partnership between parents and staff to help best support our students.

We strive to maintain close communication with staff to support staff and students. In addition to the $150 the PTO provides for each teacher during the year for field trips and classroom supplies, the PTO is responsive to staff requests throughout the year.

KARA: What if somebody wants to volunteer but feels they don’t have enough time to do everything they want?

KAREN: We would love to see the room filled with parents and staff at all our meetings but we realize this is not feasible for everyone. There’s always a need for people to help, from baking to organizing a fundraiser.

Meetings are always posted on the PTO bulletin board at the school entrance and we send out a notice in the Thursday folder as well as on our Facebook page.

[Our thanks to Kylie Lowell, Aeria Heilman, Avery DuPree, Joy Bohonowicz, Mirra Girard, and Madeline Lily.]

Kara Bohonowicz is a BSE parent and an adviser at The BSE Flow.

Far-Flung Family


A fifth-grader re-discovers Chile, sunsets,
and his mom’s hometown

Kara logoSHELBURNE—He saw aunts and uncles and 37 cousins, and his grandparents. He slept in one house after another after another. He knew how to ward off the town’s stray dogs. He photographed gorgeous Pacific sunsets. He ate octopus.

I listened, amazed. This wasn’t the typical back-from-vacation carpool story.

Jeffrey Buck, a BSE fifth-grader, had been gone for two weeks to Chile, where his mom, Elizabeth, is from — at a town called Tomé. This was Jeffrey’s third trip there but the first he’s old enough to remember. He had just returned to the village and was fitting back into daily life, happy to play with my son Will.

Jeffrey was excited about his trip. He showed us lots of pictures and told a story of romance and adventure: his parents’.

His father, Phil, is an adventurer, Jeffrey said with just a trace of a Spanish accent. He explained his parents met when Phil traveled to Santiago, the capital of Chile, “to seek adventure,” and he sure found one: He and Eli met within an hour of his landing — his first-ever

South American trip — and the two traveled the world.
In 1994 they got married.

Eli joined Phil in the States, leaving her birth family behind to start her American family. Mark was born first; he’s now an athlete who’s just graduated Mohawk Trail Regional High School. Jeffrey came next.

While Eli raised her sons she worked for Community Action’s WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program. She taught Spanish at Mohawk High School for four years, and now teaches at the Academy at Charlemont.

"The adventure that drew Phil to Chile 20 times so far started as a seed in his heart. He was a boy when he read a book by Thor Heyerdahl called “Kon-Tiki” (1947) that told of Heyerdahl’s long sea voyage on a balsa raft..."
“The adventure that drew Phil to Chile 20 times so far started as a seed in his heart. He was a boy when he read a book by Thor Heyerdahl called “Kon-Tiki” (1947) that told of Heyerdahl’s long sea voyage on a balsa raft…”

The adventure that drew Phil to Chile 20 times so far started as a seed in his heart. He was a boy when he read a book by Thor Heyerdahl called “Kon-Tiki” (1947) that told of Heyerdahl’s long sea voyage on a balsa raft.

According to Jeffrey, it was then his dad decided to help validate Heyerdahl’s theory — that ancient peoples could have taken 8,000-mile sea voyages on rafts, creating contacts between separate cultures — by building an ancient-style reed raft when he grew up. So, in 2000 he built a 64-foot replica and sailed from Arica, Chile, to Easter Island.

ChileThe journey of his boyhood dreams came to fruition in the company of a group of men and two ducks. (Sadly, one of the ducks jumped ship.) They’d brought the “animal friends,” as Jeffrey described them, because Heyerdahl and his crew had brought a parrot on their voyage.

The story Jeffrey told about his father following Heyerdahl seem larger than life and bring to mind Alex Rover from “Nim’s Island.” But the telling is accurate. Heyerdahl wrote up his accounts and documented them on film, winning an Academy Award in 1951.

Phil followed Heyerdahl into print, too: Journalist Nick Thorpe overheard Phil and his crew planning their voyage, joined them on the trip, and wrote “Eight Men and a Duck: An Improbable Voyage by Reed Boat to Easter Island” (2001).

Jeffrey continued telling the story of his mother’s family and country with passion — and that slight accent that mirrors his mother’s full, beautiful one.

The family visited Eli’s family in Chile this summer because they wanted to see Jeffrey’s grandfather, who is ill.

The sights, sounds and smells of Chile came to life with Jeffrey’s rich description. “I felt so much like I belonged there. I felt like I actually lived there,” he said.

His aunt Priscilla took him and Eli around to visit. And there was much good food. The country sounded practically famous for its food. Jeffrey particularly enjoyed the ribs.

And all the stores had candy. So much candy. “Boxes everywhere,” he said in wonder.

And there were more stories: Jeffrey and his cousin Bastian enjoyed parkour, rock-wall climbing, and the circus. There were sea lions, too: perhaps the highlight of the vacation, he said.

The only time he pronounces Chile as “chili” is when he explains that most people in Chile “don’t even like to eat chili.” Otherwise he uses the proper Spanish vowels: “chee-lay.”

Now our playdate carpool chit-chat has taken on a new flair. My son Will is determined to learn Spanish, and he and Jeffrey compete to see who knows more words. Jeffrey wins these games.

Jeffrey, with his home here, said he looks forward to a life of travel and adventure: His parents, brave and curious, inspire him. How can you not be swept along into a story like that?

Kara Bohonowicz is a Flow adviser.