Thursday, August 30, 2012

a few days and a few tanks

We spent way too much time away this summer. That's the verdict. This week, my husband is away again (for work). But I'm almost too busy to notice. We've had a house full of kids - but even more so - a CARLOAD of kids. I went through a tank of gas in less than 48 hours!

But in spite of my being sick of the Mazda, I'm having a blast. I love hearing them laugh.  Even with the constant reminder to turn down (or off) the inappropriate music (they want me to drive around blasting some really "heinous" stuff) I'm happy to be in their world. I wish that practice didn't trump day trips to the beach on days like today. But if four weeks of summer camp taught me one thing: I can go to the beach without them, but I prefer to be with them.

This time next week they'll be back in school. Back to school is a very different experience for the upper school parent than the elementary/intermediate school parent. I have to step back and let them step forward fighting their own battles and making their own way. Of course there is a PTO at both BRMS and BRRHS but it isn't (for me, at least) like the coziness of elementary school. Most of all, I miss helping kids pick books to check out in Van Holten's library.

But in this hot August week, I can still bring them some joy: Ritas, Yogurt Oasis and conversation around a lively table.  Tonight they've requested Thai Food (one of our guests has never tasted it before). It's a beautiful night, so they'll have to let me have some fun too. 

We'll dine al fresco... Thai in a park. Enjoying the days of summer while we can. Before we know it, it will be too cold to even think about a meal in the sun. Worse than that, the days when they allow me to be included are numbered. In two years and two months C will have her license and the umbilical cord will be completely gone.

So for tonight I proclaim: Carpe Phad'ia - Seize the noodles!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

YOLO, Ma! YOLO

It's times like these that I wish I had a parenting handbook. Is it too much to ask for guidance every once in a while? What would Gloria say??? How did she manage the four of us: my hippie brothers with their buddies gathering in the garage... my friend puking in our living room on New Years Eve and my sister's various boyfriends (Nicknamed things like "Biff" "The Priest" and "The Walrus")?

Despite being a parent for about fifteen years (and my own experiences as a kid), I still have so much I wish I knew. Here are a few questions:

  • How do I set realistic boundaries? I'd like something where my home is neither a maximum security prison and a 60's hippie love fest. My kids are good and have (so far) only made great choices. They do well and work hard in school. Can I trust them?
  • What is fair punishment when kids do wrong? What is overdoing it? Am I too mean? Too easy? How can I get angry so quickly one day and not let things bother me as much the next? 
  • How do I prepare my friendly, but too-sweet and rather naive 11 year old for the shark-infested waters of the Middle School? (Or can I leave that to my tough-love daughter who wants me to toughen him up - by being meaner to him).
  • Is it really better for my kids to give them the role model of a successful business woman or to be a stay-at-home Mom involved in their lives - just enough but not too much - and provide them the extra support (and watchful eye) that I can be when I know what's going on (or think I do) under my own roof?
  • What is fair and reasonable spending on/with/by children in our overly materialistic culture and this bastion of wealth in Bridgewater? How old should she be when she has to earn her spending money? What about things beyond the norm: concert tickets, trips? 
  • What is the goal, anyway? Ivy League college? (Or any college, for that matter) 401 K plans? Family/kids (grandkids for me)? Fun? Big job? Money? Travel? 
My "few questions" became a long list and as I write them more and more come up. With a daughter entering high school I wonder every day how to draw boundaries? Should I trust her as much as my parents trusted me? I got away with a fair bit - but a lot of the "bad stuff" I did (and none of it was that bad) they didn't know about. We got caught playing strip poker once - and my father sent everyone home at 4am. I think our lack of appropriate dress went unnoticed... and the guests didn't.

What do I say about alcohol or sex? If I forbid her to be anywhere where there is alcohol she won't even be allowed to go to a football game. (Where lots of parents also drink in the bleachers). Same deal regarding boys? Obviously the big stuff is verboten, but kissing? Hand holding? Cuddling? OMG I don't even want to think about it. 

I may not have the answers to these questions, but my daughter thinks SHE does. If she heard them, she'd say:

YOLO**, Ma!

And I'd ask for the thousandth time, "Huh?"

A teenage girl's answer: You Only Live Once.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Reminder

I read the obituaries in my hometown paper, online, every day or so. My family has lived in a small town for generations, so I tend to recognize names. My Dad stopped getting the paper about 10 years ago, and since then my sister and I check for his friends' names. I used to call him regularly to ask "didn't you work with this person?" Now he's older, with fewer friends left, so I only call every few weeks or so with bad news.

This morning I saw something really tragic - two people with the same last name had obituaries (I opened it because he worked with someone with the same last name, but it doesn't look like they are related). It turns out it was two brothers brothers who had died within a few days of each other after a car accident last week. One would have been starting his freshman year in high school. The other, beginning his senior year.

When I read such things, I realize that I am the most fortunate woman in the world. Two healthy, happy children. A beautiful family - a lovely home. Countless friends.

What's most important here in this world? Not the small stuff that I seem to get so worked up over - politics and the like - but that my family is healthy and well. My dad - a truly unique and wonderful man - is EIGHTY-SEVEN, healthy and has all his faculties.

Tomorrow we pick up N from camp. In honor of the mother who has to bury both her sons this weekend, N will get extra kisses and hugs.

It's terrible to be reminded how lucky I am. But it's important, too.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A USPS pick-me-up

I miss him, but he's not missing me....
I can't help it. I miss my kid. He's been away for 3 1/2 weeks this summer.... and, well, I miss him.

And my daughter is beyond being a teenager. She's a high schooler now and she clearly doesn't need me.

I'm disappointed that my new job isn't taking much time - the economy is bad so that I'm only working 1-2 days a week. A friend of mine e-mailed me today about her new job. It gives me hope that there is something great out there for me.

A one-day a week job wasn't my plan.

BUT something nice did happen to me today. I got a package in the mail. I'm in a yarn swap. I made something for a woman in Maryland and received a package today from a young woman in Louisiana. The max amount to spend is $20... but I fear she spent much more.
Cotton yarn - good for knitting in the heat

Here is a picture of my gift.

Four skeins of yarn, two bags - one of them hand-sewn (the black one in the foreground). Two sets of needles (never used any that big before), a book of patterns, a wine glass, which I'm sure to use. Stitch markers - good for someone like me who can't count to 5 repeatedly. And a package of notecards with a matching pen.

I'm very happy with my gift.

Right now it is a beautiful summer day. I'm heading outside with the yellow yarn that I just received so I can knit sunshines for my on-going project.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New hope

I was at the High School very early this morning. The coaches and trainers were positive and helpful. Not sure if it was because the Trainer had a poster from my home town where he played baseball professionally, probably many years ago. We lamented the loss of the team and the downward economic spiral of Elmira.

I've been so apprehensive about the new year starting without a contract, (not to mention the fact that I didn't have my paperwork in by the deadline), that their friendly responses this morning came as a surprise.

Maybe the teachers have spent some time this summer, as I have, distancing themselves from the politics of the negotiations and enjoying a little family time and sunshine. Perhaps they've been reading nice books, enjoying a few beers with friends? Working on a tan?

As September approaches I am looking forward to my kids starting their new schools. I'm not sure how it is possible that I have a daughter who is almost 15 years old, since I'm far too young to have a teenager (in my mind), but I do. My freshman year was one of the most fun and adventurous of my life. Trips to Vermont, drive-in movies, new friends. New worlds opened up in 9th grade. I wonder what changes are in store for my daughter. She seems worldly enough, if you ask me.... but new friends and new experiences are in store, and there is no turning this train back.

And if the rest of the High School goes like this morning, it will be easier than I could have hoped.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Big questions get long-winded answers

A college friend of mine is sending her kids to public school for the first time - previously they either attended prestigious private schools or were home schooled. This is her question:

How do you feel about the argument that children don't need to be standardized, but rather nurtured in the best environment to bring out their individual strengths and then as they mature they may interact with the "real" world in a more authentic and empowered way? There are lots of articles coming out now about how single sex education is better for girls/women in every area of life b/c it allows them to be more creative and define leadership and intelligence in new ways...I feel the greatest WEAKNESS of our public education is the standardization...which includes treating every child and family as a cog in the wheel...if someone is just a number and has no real say over what they can think or do, why should they care? Maybe our public system needs to get radically creative and breakout into "wilderness" therapies and "vocational" schools in addition to the more academic lines for those inclined...why do we have to force children to be the same? I think it's making everyone nuts...many kids are coming into schools as a primary care-giving "facility" where they need meals, attention, guidance...I don't believe institutions can or should do that...but the teachers and administrators could if given the resources (time and space) help those kids find their own unique strengths and talents...as it is now, it's "fit in or die."

Elle is asking several questions at once.

Standardization vs. nurturing environment:
I believe that the best teachers can teach the planned curriculum, and do it in a nurturing environment. By nurturing, I don't mean hand-holding and kumbaya-singing. I mean teachers who are mentors. I want teachers who show that they care through connecting with children on an academic and personal level. (I'm speaking about Middle School specifically here - I expect warmth in a K-4 or even 5 classroom). There have to be some minimum standards, otherwise teachers can go off into a six-month long tangent or they could just not teach. (C had a science teacher who was so involved in a project that she didn't teach the curriculum in the classroom. In order to pass, C had to rote memorize the information. Many others didn't and failed tests.) On the other hand, "teaching to the test" is a nightmare - it does impede creativity and once the NCLB testing has taken place, sometimes it seems like the school year is over, with six weeks left.

It's been my experience that how teachers treat students varies WIDELY. We've had teachers that have made huge and very clear differences, especially to my son who struggles. Other teachers barely knew the basics about him after an entire school year, and his lack of improvement showed. Even when two experienced teachers flagged him for needing help, we got a lot of flack from the school. One supervisor finally insisted he get help, and in 5th grade he finally did. Since then, he's flourished. He starts Middle School this fall and I'm concerned about how will he do now that he's entering a huge school expecting a lot of independence. I actually requested (or insisted on) one of C's teachers. She's exactly what you are talking about: nurturing but challenging.

In K-6 C was very lucky in the crap-shoot known as placement. One teacher bored her, other than that she never had a "bad teacher" until sixth grade.

Single sex education:
I'm a HUGE proponent of this for girls, BUT kids - especially by the time they hit middle school - deserve a say in this. Even if it were available here (I think the closest all girls middle school is more than 30 minutes away), I don't know how I feel about it for boys, as I haven't thought about it much. One caveat about single-sex education is, that while girls come out of it BETTER prepared to deal with "a man's world" and can more easily identify sexism when they experience it, I came out of it (I attended a women's college with Elle) feeling like I didn't know how to deal with men. To this day I feel most comfortable with women, even though I do have male friends. I wish, in a way, that more men were teachers. There are too few male role models in the schools, outside of administration or gym/art classes. This is most true in K-4 classes.

Treating the family as a cog in the wheel:
I think this depends on the teacher. It's a lottery. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don't. I will say this: two years ago a friend of mine died. Her daughter was in the 7th grade. I was thoroughly impressed at the compassion and lengths the teachers/counselors and community went to help the girl get through this. Several teachers showed up at both the wake and the funeral. They worked with her to keep her academics up and her focus on school.

Another example is when N entered 6th grade he was on the same team that C had been on two years early. C and N are very different people. C is extremely well organized. N is not. At any rate - I e-mailed the team (since there are so many kids in the district, they get grouped into teams, that way the core teachers can work together with the various academic needs) to let them know how different the kids are. They never compared them - and N really thrived last year. I felt like he was in an environment that really met his needs and worked with him. In fact, I think he had a better rapport with his teachers than C did. They weren't all "warm and fuzzy" (some were) but they were engaged with him, followed up as unnecessary and challenged him. The one teacher who I didn't feel "cared" much or contributed much to his success wasn't very good with C either, so it says more about the teacher than the student. At this school, I definitely did NOT feel like a cog in the wheel.

Some of the cog-wheel dynamic comes down to the family as much as the school. Are families engaged in their child's education? Are they in contact (as needed) with teachers? Are they asking kids the right questions: what are you reading in school, how are the teachers, why did you get X-Y-Z grade (sometimes the kids don't study, sometimes they are careless mistakes)? Are they asking about how things are socially? But most of all, engaged parents know when their kids are learning and what they are learning and when they need help. And they aren't afraid to ask for it. My daughter doesn't want me contacting her teachers directly, but then the onus is on HER. If she isn't willing to get help, then I'd step in, but so far she is afraid that Mom will call (totally uncool) so she does it herself.

While I'm all about trying new things, like "wilderness therapies" (I'm not sure that I know what that is) I have been to enough budgetary meetings to know that most districts simply don't have the funding for this sort of thing. In our district, payroll and benefits make up about 75%  percent of the budget and everything else is very tight. We have lots of needs. More teachers would lessen the classroom burden, but that is for another discussion.

Also, I'm now very skeptical to alternative teaching methods because our school district had YEARS of "I'm ok, you're ok" no standards in Language Arts and a Romper Room math program, and you see the results in our standardized test scores. Our kids can't spell even though parents have been bitching about the Language Arts program for years. In an age where kids communicate through texting acronyms spelling is more important than ever because kids don't know when what they write is wrong. (No pun intended). When they write college application essays, colleges see if they have had proper training. Perhaps my kids won't be able to write quite as creatively (I disagree) since I may be limiting their exposure by attending a "regular school" but I don't want colleges to dismiss them entirely because they can't put a noun and a verb together with a three-syllable word and call it a complete thought. In terms of vocational training, here in Bridgewater, they have opportunities. But even then, they need to have standards of some sort. If you learn a craft, you need basic math and business skills so you don't go broke. C can sew and cook after two years in Middle School Home Ec (they don't call it that anymore). These are actually very useful skills.

Yes, there are a lot of kids who need "primary care" (as you call it) but as a society we have a right to free public education, and even in affluent communities, this is where those needs get flagged. How many kids are coming from neglectful or abusive homes that are only identified once a teacher has noticed something unusual? And if kids haven't eaten, they will be more disruptive in the classroom. The school breakfast/lunch programs cost relatively little and provide the minimum of support. Our kids who have "plenty of everything" work better with children when they are not hungry in school. I would much rather have a program that meets basic needs for kids who need it, than experimental programs to expand their horizons. Many kids who need guidance come from affluent families - and these services are open for all students. Don't believe me? If your kids get a "bad guidance counselor" you will see the difference and realize that your kids, too, need a certain amount of guidance.

I don't think it's fit in or die. I think that it comes down to individual teachers. Some are excellent at their jobs. Some aren't. Some can do a great job taking the curriculum and teaching it to students of varying levels, giving more challenge to some kids and extra help to others. But many teachers don't do this. Some administrators run excellent schools. Others don't. It's part luck, part geography, part society. Are parents keeping tabs on their district and then speaking out when something is off? I know I have been complaining about the lack of direct language arts teaching - primarily spelling - for more than five years. I am not the only one. And FINALLY they are putting in a pilot program. Others may rationalize "everything is written on computers with spell check so why is spelling such a big deal?" Spelling has to be taught in a direct way. Kids simply have to memorize some things in school. Spelling and basic math facts are two of those things. There may be other ways - out of the box ways - but I'm a bit of a (gasp!) conservative in this: rote memorization needs to be part of the process. How did you learn foreign languages? Memorization of spelling and grammar rules - AND using it authentically. The same goes for writing: good writing comes from rote memorization, PLUS reading well-written texts.

Well, "Elle" - this is the long-winded answer I was thinking of writing last night. It is more of a train of thought response than what I had wanted to give you.

There are definite pros and cons with a public education. As I said, I grapple with our decision often - but the truth is that the only way we can afford for me to be at home is if the kids are in public school. Also, we moved to this community based on the fact that we want our children to be in a public school. (We would have bought a much cheaper home elsewhere if we were going to go the private school route). I wouldn't consider home schooling, especially once they hit this age, which would allow for endless experimental educational methods. The truth is that I don't have the capacity to home school, nor the desire. That doesn't mean I don't care about my kids' education. In my case, I send the kids to public schools because I care. If I had unlimited funds, I would take a second look at private schools in the area (and at times, after BOE meetings or a meeting with certain teachers I have), but there is one thing they get in public schools: a chance to meet kids of varying backgrounds and deal with "authority" figures that they don't like. What better preparation for the real world can I give them?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Savvy in Somerville (an update from Sad)

Saturday morning live
Just got back from Somerville. It was a little quiet at 11am - quiet enough for a film crew to manage shooting a commercial without much interference from the curious public (I'm not shy, I took pictures). I don't usually watch many commercials, as we DVR most shows, so I may miss an upcoming Heeley shoe ad, but if and when it runs, maybe you'll recognize Main Street?

Proud as a peacock after a fab cut from Ky (see previous post - but try this link for 75 West) I hope someone - anyone - notices I had my hair done. I see it... Ky gets my curly hair and I love the way it looks and feels!!!

After a primping, I returned to Discover Wines - and said I enjoyed the wine I had bought yesterday, but I couldn't remember what it was. No problem. He knew exactly what it was. And at about $10, I bought another bottle. He also picked out a red and white for tomorrow when I'm invited to a small barbecue. I didn't know what we will be eating, but he still found a good choice. Did I mention that they have a wall of wine specifically designed for the many great BYO-restaurants in Somerville? Are you eating at Origin? There's a wine just for you. What about the Portuguese restaurant? Something for that too.... I have yet to try this out (since I usually have lunch there) but I look forward to giving it a try.

Finally, I realized that Diego needed a second leash. I'm sick of looking for the one non-chain leash. Back at The Hungry Hound poop bags were only $0.99 a roll. Got that too. If only the humidity would lift, I would feel more inclined to walk the dog. Hopefully a new leash will inspire me.

My daughter is meeting a friend in Somerville. I look forward to hearing about her little trip. When I was her age I could take the bus to our downtown with my little sister. A downtown that barely exists today. Just one or two Main Street stores from the 1980s are in business. Iszards department store - gone. Rosenbaums too. Fanny Farmer gone and the bookstore that replaced it, gone too. And of course... People's Place: a hippy clothing store where my brother worked with a now-iconic designer closed in the late 1970s. Will C look as fondly on Main Street in Somerville as I do on Elmira's Main Street? I sure hope so.

Somerville may lack a yarn shop, but it has plenty of ice cream (or "Fro-yo" or Italian Ice). And for us weak ice-cream eaters, I'm glad they have options for a good tough workout. Next week I'll head to another Somerville business: Strength and Honor Fitness. It's a hard workout, but my flab needs no more excuses. I saw a new cafe scheduled to open on the new PEDESTRIAN street. That is something I absolutely love!

Finally, tomorrow morning, I'm hoping for some inspiration from Father Ron at Somerville's St. John's Episcopal Church. Doors closing on some businesses, but there's always an open door somewhere else.

Sad in Somerville

One of my main gripes about Bridgewater is its lack of a downtown. I've adopted Somerville. Besides, it's closer than much of Bridgewater to our home. Among other places, I generally shop at The Hungry Hound, Discover Wine and Alexandra's Boutique. Today I had to run an errand at the Courier News and my daughter and a friend wanted to walk around Main St. They ended up eating at Alfonso's, supporting another local family business...

Unfortunately other Mom and Pops aren't going to be there anymore. Lloyd's European Market is holding a Going Out of Business Sale, but even at 50% off, I couldn't afford much beyond a pillow. Perhaps their target audience just resides in a different zip code? They are closing just a few months after changing their business plan to a more affordable model, but still it was a step beyond what I wanted to spend.

Lots of For Rent signs on Main Street
One of my favorite places for a bagel or an omelet no longer exists, Razzle Dazzle Cafe. It's sad to see so many places for rent on Main Street. But it's the same thing across much of America.

I did my part to support Somerville's economy. Besides the pillow, I bought two bottles of wine and two tank tops (at 50% off, $12 wasn't a huge boost to the economy).  Today there are going to be sidewalk sales all over town. Go spend a few bucks. It feels good.

Maybe someday an (until now unknown) Aunt will leave me enough to start my little dream: a yarn shop in Somerville reducing the number of For Rent signs.

Until then, I enjoy supporting others' dreams. Today I'm going to try a (relatively) new establishment: 75 West will get a chance to do my hair. I requested someone who can cut curly or ethnic hair. Usually I like Bridgewater's Hair Unique, but occasionally I try something different.

I hope you will join me in supporting Our Downtown. I shop Bridgewater's stores, but mostly they are chains. Not so in Somerville. But remember: pay the meter! Lovely Rita is hard at work on Somerville's streets!! Parking is not expensive but tickets are.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

In the news...

My friend Pam write this about The Brass Lantern. I was already so happy that she was willing to help me with input about the yarn, but when she told me she would blog about it too, I was thrilled.

I hope that this bring a little turnaround to the store's economic state.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Response to Dick's blog

I was planning on posting a completely different blog today (that I wrote but will save for another day), but I read this on Dick Bergeron's Bridgewater Blog.

I was thinking about commenting, but I still wonder if my politicking hurts my kids. So, I'll post it here instead, where traffic mostly comes from family and friends. Here's what I thought about responding in the comments section:


In my humble opinion there are no winners here. Will a new contract restore good relations between the parties, or is this part of a wider national debate we see reflected on so many levels: California state universities cannot graduate students in 4 years because of funding. In DC and New York City we've seen battles over who should sit in the leader's chair - an educator or a fiscal manager (why not BOTH). And, of course, we've all watched Wisconsin. Here in New Jersey the suburban debate revolves around wanting top schools, but wanting lower taxes more.

Today BRHS schedules were posted. While kids used social media to compare who's in what classes, I remembered the animosity of last year. I thought about Springtime BOE meetings and wondered what "worse" would look like.

  • Are the rumors that teachers won't write letters of recommendation true or just a threat to force the BOE's hand? 
  • Has the BREA's rhetoric changed the fundamental relationship between our community and our teachers? 
  • Kids may have forgotten that their teachers picketed their schools, but have parents? And do they care?
  • And what about the relationship between Administration and Teachers/Staff? Is the resentment about the Superintendent and his top advisers' raises harboring longer-term issues?

I'm grateful that there is still another month to work things out.

Thanks, Dick, for another great blog.


Friday, August 3, 2012

NIMSY headquarters

For years I've thought Bridgewater was the NIMBY headquarters of the world. (In case my dad reads this: NIMBY stands for "Not in My Backyard").

Sometimes I've been aligned with the groups declaring NIMBY, more often I've disagreed and felt that people were being too elitist. Here are recent issues you could argue were "NIMBY-ish" in no particular order:
  • The "Mosque" (and before that, the Indian temple)
  • Various placement for Cell Phone towers
  • Suggestions for turning "green spaces" into sports fields/dog walks, parks etc.
  • Expansion of a fire station to add a meeting space
  • Placement/movement of special programs in schools (ESL, AI, Special Ed)
  • COAH housing proposals
Not sure about NIMBY? My Central Jersey dot com blogger Dick Bergeron debates 18 Homes as a NIMBY-issue here. Well worth a read. 

Isn't it strange how we all see these items first how they would impact our lives, and how differently we see them when they don't? Take Green Acres: When I first saw "No Green Acres" signs I had children attending Van Holten School. Van Holten Road is already overused as a cut-through between Country Club and Meadow roads, and large portions of it has no sidewalks. It is a recipe for disaster, and actually I'm surprised how few accidents happen. So when these fields were suggested, I thought it was insane to increase traffic on Van Holten Road.  Sound familiar? If I had looked at the Bird's Eye View from a map, I would have said it was the perfect spot.

But then when I was a soccer Mom (still with kids at VH), more fields seemed like a good idea. Now that we have a dog, a dog park also is tempting... but as a runner I prefer fewer cars (like mine) speeding between Meadow and Country Club. More traffic would be a big problem.

Classic NIMBY - not in my backyard.

So what do we call NIMBY when it effects our schools? NIMSY? (Not in my SCHOOL yard?)

My daughter is considering applying for a summer program that requires three letters of recommendation... and as I considered which teachers would be appropriate, I remembered a threat I'd heard in passing in June. If there isn't a new contract in place, teachers won't write letters of recommendation.

When I first heard about this I didn't think that teachers would really go along with it and jeopardize their students in such a direct way. In fact while lots of parents take pride in what their kids do, this refusal hurts the kids directly.  It may bounce back and hurt the teachers too.

One of the main things that get looked at when parents are talking about quality in a district is where their graduates head to after they finish high school. The best and the brightest can get into top schools, but students don't get into college without letters of recommendation from teachers! Since counselors are also under the same contract, can I assume they will follow suit and refuse to write them? With the possibility of the class of 2013 not getting accepted into any colleges (except some that don't require recommendations), BRRSD's standings will drop - even if not in numbers on listings - in reputation. Could there be a "Black market" of sorts - teachers who write them on the sly for their favorites? ("Don't tell anyone, but here you go" - I guess since there are common applications now, this might not be possible).  If I had a junior or a senior and I heard that my college-bound kids couldn't get recommendations, I'd look at the private schools which promote their teachers/guidance counselors as mentors and advocates for their kids in the college process. 

When I heard about this, I considered it a threat akin to those I make to my kids regularly. "If you do XYZ No TV for a month! I'm going to take your cell phone for a week." and within 24 hours they have both TV and cell and the argument is forgotten".

It's an effective argument - several BOE members have college-bound high school students.

Granted, C's desire for a camp counselor in training position pales in comparison with kids trying to get into college. And, she has non-BRRSD people in her life who (I believe) would be happy to write one for her. It's just a program for camp.... but the principle is the same: I didn't pay careful attention until it would impact what is most important to me and now that it is, I'm watching more carefully.

Even if my daughter didn't need one, refusal to write recommendations as a way to force the BOE into an agreement is a risky position for teachers to take. I think the B-REA assumes parents will ask for capitulation "do anything, just make sure they get an F'ing contract" when really, it may turn an already contentious situation into direct hostility. If the union is concerned that the community doesn't support its teachers, I doubt this will help them!

And it makes me want to tell the negotiation committee that any contract needs to include language stating that teachers etc. will agree to make written evaluations or recommendations as part of their contract.

I don't like blackmail. Especially Not In My School Yard.

Do I have a case of full-blown NIMSY? I don't know, but I may be coming down with it.