Category Archives: Opinion

‘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.

What Thanksgiving means now

AMY ROBERTS-CRAWFORDAS WE PREPARE Thanksgiving feasts and gather at tables with family and friends, I encourage each of us to share one thing for which we are thankful. If you find your mind is too occupied with the chaos of kitchen timers and joyous squeals of children and the chatter of family, I’ll make it easy and give you a few words to consider: life, children, family, and the community in which we live.

Long, long ago (four years) in a galaxy far, far away (Shelburne Falls) a BSE family faced crisis when two reckless drivers caused a five-car auto accident on I-91 in Holyoke.

In one of the vehicles involved in the accident was a self-employed, single mom with three kids: me. A sunny Saturday afternoon, driving down the highway, and a car leaped across the median directly in front of me, and it was over: lickety-split, no time to think.
‘The kindness of strangers’

Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers. People stopped to make sure I was OK. They kept me company while we waited for the emergency crews. The EMTs and police were efficient and polite, as were the doctors, nurses and X-ray technicians at the hospital. I don’t wish to do it again, but the emergency personnel were skilled and impressive.

I continue to share my story for many reasons. It emphasizes the importance of wearing your seat belt. We all survived, even the people who were in the cars that flipped across the median, because of the simple fact that we were all wearing our seat belts. I found that pretty amazing.

According to Wikipedia, the seat belt law became an enforceable law in Massachusetts on Feb. 1, 1994. Had this accident happened just 20 years ago the outcome might have been drastically different.

I have a new appreciation for speed limits, turn signals, and courteous drivers, so this story creeps in as I try to teach and reward patient driving. When pain flares up, as it does in the aftermath of that accident, work seems slow. I drive south past the Holyoke Mall or past another accident and I’m reminded that I am a survivor — a survivor for a reason — and to be thankful for my second chance.

I was self-employed, and my injuries left me unable to work for months. Imagine it: a pianist unable to sit at the piano bench without discomfort. When I tried playing, excruciating pain shot up and down my spine, into my head, and out to my fingertips, eventually turning to numbness. It was terrifying.

Between the trauma and pain medications I was unable to drive for months. In any event, my only vehicle was totaled. I’ve played the piano since I was 7 and had been described as the Energizer Bunny. I just kept going and going.

And then… to have life come to a screeching halt, or so it felt, and not be able to make music, or meet my children’s expectations for their birthdays and holidays… the situation felt hopeless.
From hopeless to hopeful

Jackie Walsh, former coordinator of the school’s before- and after-school program, invited the BSE community to step forward and help an anonymous BSE family during the holiday season. We were that family. The outpouring of love and support was unbelievable. In a matter of weeks my outlook went from hopeless to hopeful.

We’ve all heard that it takes a village to raise a child. In this situation, the village helped the entire family, and I want to take this opportunity to thank you, members of the village, for your blind generosity. Many times throughout the year I find myself giving thanks for the friend who offers a ride, a sleepover, an early morning drop-off, a Facebook chat, a brainstorming session, or a hug.

The quiet people who made a huge difference four years ago in their organizing efforts were Jackie Walsh and the BSE community, Danny Eaton and the Majestic Theater in West Springfield, Cathy King and Arena Civic Theater, Margery Heins and the GCC Chorus, and the Choir and Ashfield Congregational Church — and most importantly my parents and family.

Four years later I have two artificial discs in my neck, three fused vertebrae, nerve damage in my left hand, and chronic pain. I understand, yet have not mastered, the value of asking for help. I appreciate vans with automatic sliding doors, and cool auto open/close back doors. Front-load washers and dryers now fascinate me.

I miss directing musical theater, but I really love teaching piano lessons and spreading the joy that music brings to my life, and the time I’ve been given to spend with my children.

Lastly, there’s a reason I survived, and I think I’m getting closer to figuring it out. For now, I’m thankful for the time I have to think, to watch a show or a parade, to listen to a concert, to talk with friends, to eat good food, to share gluten-free recipes, to care for my rose garden, to make music with my kids, to remarry, and the list goes on.

Do you still need things to be thankful for? Be thankful for seat belts, which save lives. Give thanks for our eyesight that we can see the beautiful colors changing with the seasons. Give thanks that we can smell the hay as the farmers mow the fields, and hear the children’s squeals that distract us from our daily grind. Give thanks that we can feel the warmth in a hug or handshake.

Most importantly, know and be grateful that we are gifted to be part of this amazing village.

— Amy Roberts-Crawford is a Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School parent

Prize terrier puts poodles in their place

Brooke logoEVERYONE THINKS poodles are the all-time show dogs. Well, every year in the Westminster Kennel Club dog show they get beat. The 2014 winner was Sky, a wire fox terrier.

There were seven dogs in the final competition:

  1. Best Hound was a bloodhound;
  2. Best Toy was a miniature Pinscher;
  3. Best Non-Sporting was a standard poodle;
  4. Best Herding was a Cardigan Welsh Corgi;
  5. Best Sporting was an Irish water spaniel;
  6. Best working was a Portuguese water dog;
  7. Best Terrier — yes, the wire fox terrier.

The Westminster Kennel Club 139th Annual Dog Show will be Feb. 16-17, 2015, at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Picture day — but why?

Terri Hyer’s fourth-grade students prepare for their class photo at BSE’s library on Sept. 25. Photographers from G&B Photography of Enfield, Conn., said they start their day at 3:30 a.m. and love the full-time seasonal work, which takes them all over New England.
Terri Hyer’s fourth-grade students prepare for their class photo at BSE’s library on Sept. 25. Photographers from G&B Photography of Enfield, Conn., said they start their day at 3:30 a.m. and love the full-time seasonal work, which takes them all over New England. (John Snyder photos)

Bennett-mugI BET YOU’VE ALWAYS WONDERED why we have picture day. Here’s what a middle-schooler named Anthony Snyder — my brother — says about it:

“… Maybe it’s a reason to dress up. Maybe it’s so your parents can have a quality picture of you with a background selected by their child.”

Anthony says he gets less excited about picture day the older he gets: “It doesn’t change much except you get less and less interested in it.”

However, picture day changed for Anthony this year, because he went to a new school called Four Rivers Charter Public School.

“Picture day at Four Rivers, the portrait part is in the cafeteria or common room, and at BSE it was in the library,” he says.

Here’s what Anthony remembers most about the BSE photographer: “Move your head a few inches to the left then look up a little. Now a little more…”

And don’t forget to say cheese, of course.

BSE’s picture day was Sept. 25, and it was in the library. I’m not sure why we have picture day when so many people have iPhones and other devices that can take selfies for free.

You can buy packages on picture day, though. Your picture on a 12-month calendar is $13. An oval pendant, chain included, is $15. An 8×10 grandparent print is $12. There are a lot of options.

Here are a few other BSE students’ opinions about picture day:

Brooke Looman says, ”People don’t like having the picture guy messing with their hair after they have it one way.”

Gussie Smith says she likes having her picture taken at picture day. “Sure, it’s good.”

And Aiden Rose likes it too.

“My favorite part is usually that they’ll animate it, so if you blink they animate it in the computer so that it looks like your eyes are open,” he says.

What’s your opinion on picture day? Let us know at

Wait, We Have a School Newspaper?

FLOW STAFFERS review their story budget in the newsroom in April. Third-grader Harper Brown, center, says our ideas are “amazing,” and is eager to introduce them at his school when he hits fourth grade.
FLOW STAFFERS review their story budget in the newsroom in April. Third-grader Harper Brown, center, says our ideas are “amazing,” and is eager to introduce them at his school when he hits fourth grade.
Flow 2
TOP ROW, left to right: Joy Bohonowicz, Arwen King, Ashley Wrisley. Bottom row, left to right: Anthony Snyder and Octavia Crawford.

THIS APRIL some of the most talented kids I’ve ever met signed up to learn a little bit of what it means to work at a newspaper and have fun doing it.

As their after-school spring enrichment adviser I wanted to see how far we’d get in six hours (one hour a week for six Mondays) by interviewing each other, asking follow-up questions, and talking about how and why news is covered in our larger community.

In our art room-turned newsroom we talked about times we’d appeared in a newspaper — whether in quotes or photos — and how that felt. We interviewed friends and family, came back with copy (with direct quotes, all attributed), and had fun talking about it.
We pored over the papers serving our region, discussing the elements of story, page, and section. We noted ads and comics. We began to think of ways to serve the reader.

After talking about newspapers, interviewing each other and family members, and practicing asking follow-up questions, we worked up a list of story ideas. Here we see the outline for issue No. 1 coming together, including our first big feature: a profile of Cassidy, a teacher’s dog..

Everyone showed heartening enthusiasm.

When we could grab someone out in the hallway for a photo or an interview we did that too, and came back with a great profile of a school dog, a lively Q&A with patient school staffers, and a chat with our librarian.

We voted on a name for this paper — three contenders were proposed, and “The BSE Flow” won — and I thought we’d have fun opening a Word newsletter template and typing our stories in.

The kids looked at me like I didn’t understand.

“No. We want a newspaper,” they said. They pulled a broadsheet, with all the cool stuff in it, out from the pile of papers before us. “This.”

We'd spent weeks looking at how newspapers worked. Our students weren't going to settle for a anything less.
We’d spent weeks looking at how any why these newspapers worked. Our students weren’t going to settle for anything less than a paper of their own.

“Uh… OK,” I said. “Let me see how we would print something that large. I’ll get back to you. Hold that thought.”

And I checked with the Daily Hampshire Gazette, which owns just such a press, and they promptly offered to donate 250 copies of a four-page Flow, two pages in color. And then I reported to my bosses — all in grades three, four, and six — and they got to work.

Cassidy page
From story idea to research to interview to photographs to writing to editing to layout, this piece was a huge and exciting success! And doesn’t Cassidy look sweet!

They organized a list of story ideas and decided who would work on what. They wanted to explore, for readers, what it’s like to learn here, create here, contribute here.

We interviewed and photographed and asked ourselves what we can provide our audience...
We interviewed and photographed and asked ourselves what we can provide our audience…

They took the project seriously and laughed often, which in my opinion is the perfect balance of life skills.

The kids found stories everywhere...
The kids found stories everywhere…

We had planned to cover everything — all the other enrichment programs, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the eclipse, news from every class, and big events scheduled for May and June.

We worked on stories together; they voted on photos to use out of a dozen or so per subject we’d met.

I roamed the halls on their behalf, taking pictures, interviewing teachers, and … that was a problem. We’d run out of time. I wanted this to be their paper, not mine, so to finish now, without them, to get photos they wouldn’t get to see or vote on, to get quotes they wouldn’t get to consider for follow-up, would defeat the purpose.

I wanted them to lay the thing out, write headlines and captions, and proof pages. I’d help, of course.

Our first issue, with breaking news!
Our first issue, four pages, with breaking news! We printed 250 copies and gave them out in school. Families, teachers, and students said they wanted to see the project continue…

Then I learned Jacqui Goodman’s class won that prestigious award, our new lead story. Thrilling for them and for the whole school. This was news! A BSE Flow exclusive! We have such potential. (This also “bumped” other material we had planned for you. It happens.)

So the project ended, and work remains, and we can certainly do this again and build on our experience and add staff, as the kids asked me whether we might, way back on Day One.

I hope you enjoy reading this newspaper with your family. The one at home and the one we share as BSE.

Here’s to the conversation.

ELLEN ELLER of Sawyer News says folks love getting the Flow. Our distribution manager, Brooke, grade 5, gets our papers to their proper destination, and the students see how their work gets from the story pitch to readers' hands.
ELLEN ELLER of Sawyer News says folks love getting the Flow. Our distribution manager, Brooke, grade 5, gets our papers to their proper destination, and the students see how their work gets from the story pitch to readers’ hands.

— Words and pictures by John Snyder, publisher and adviser