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A letter to Bedford’s families and school staff

December 15, 2012

Submitted by Jon Sills, Superintendent of Schools

I’ve included some thoughts from a child psychologist about how to approach difficult conversations like those precipitated by yesterday’s events.  It is followed by a video that you may find helpful.

As we review door security this week, we will be guided by the need to ensure our children’s safety and while recognizing the limits of any measures that we might put in place. Tragically, the principal at Sandy Hook had recently instituted a locked front door protocol, and it did not suffice to prevent the intruder from entering the school.

In the meantime, I have asked the BEST parents to organize volunteers to create a people-friendly presence inside the front doors at Davis and Lane this week.  The response has been tremendous, and we will have a parent sitting by the front door in two hour shifts for the entire week, enabling us to keep the front doors locked as families, children and staff deal with the emotional vulnerability that the Connecticut events have caused.

At JGMS and the high school, our SRO’s will maintain a visible presence as well.

Talking with Our Children

Preschool: Keep it simple. Even if you think young children are blissfully unaware the news, if the tragedy is local or being discussed among parents, chances are they’ll know that something’s going on. Dr. Schonfeld suggests talking to your young children in simple and concrete terms. You can say, “there was a man who brought a gun to a school and hurt some people badly.” Be honest and direct, but skip the details, which can be traumatizing.

Reassure, but don’t lie. It’s common for a preschooler to express very direct fears like, “I’m worried someone will come shoot us.” If they do, Dr. Schonfeld says parents should reassure their kids without making any false promises or dismissing their concerns. “Tell them it’s very unlikely something like that will occur.”

Limit media exposure. You don’t need to hide the newspaper during a tragedy, but you shouldn’t have the news running 24/7, either. Dr. Schonfeld says studies have shown that repeated exposure to graphic details may make it harder for a child to cope with a tragedy. Try to watch the news when young kids are not in the room, and if they do hear a scary-sounding news snippet, address it simply and let them know you are doing everything you can to keep them safe.

Talk about what real guns can do. Whether they’re playing with toy guns or simply making their fingers into the shape of a gun, preschoolers are typically aware of guns and need to understand the difference between a toy and a real weapon, says Hayley Sherwood, a psychologist who works with kids who are victims of trauma. “I would say, ‘it’s okay to play pretend guns, but real guns can hurt people and very scary things can happen with real guns.'”

Grade School: Be honest, but not explicit. Like preschoolers, the best approach for school-age kids is a direct and honest one. Sherwood suggests starting the conversation by asking what, if anything, they’ve heard about the shooting in school from their classmates or teacher. Correct any misinformation and answer questions honestly, with simple answers that don’t delve into explicit, potentially traumatizing details.

Find out their fears. If you’re going to try and comfort kids, you have to find out what’s worrying them, says Dr. Schonfeld. “The fears children have might be different than adults and might be distorted and incomplete,” he says. Speak in a calm, empathetic tone and make sure any conversation you have includes lots of opportunities for your kids to ask questions and share their concerns.

Share your feelings, too. It can be tempting to look like the stoic parent who has everything under control, but sharing some of your worries and fears — without losing it completely — is actually beneficial for kids.
“It’s not useful to see parents overwhelmed, but we can’t ask our kids to share without sharing some ourselves,” says Dr. Schonfeld.

Talk about safety measures in place. Let kids know that the adults in their lives are doing everything they can to assure they will stay safe. Talk about what you do to keep your home safe, such as locking doors or not opening the door for strangers. Don’t falsely promise that these measures will definitely protect you and your children, but reassure your kids that the chances something bad will happen are very slim.

Middle/High School: Be as direct and honest. Sherwood says parents should let their kids know, “I know you know what happened. If you want to talk about it I’m here.” If they ask a question such as, “why would somebody do this?” be honest that people sometimes have lots of anger and bad feelings that make them want to hurt and kill other people.

Think about social media exposure. Social media tools like Facebook and Twitter can make your kids feel like they’re very much a part of a tragedy such as the Newtown, CT school shooting, says Dr. Schonfeld. While it’s not realistic to ask your kids to stay off their smartphones or avoid their Twitter feeds completely, you should advise them to think carefully about their social media exposure and how much time they’re spending reading, following and responding to what’s on these outlets. And if they’re upset by the constant stream of information, reassure them that you’re available to talk — and make sure they know it’s okay to stop paying attention to the story and do something else.
Reassure them that feeling different or angry is okay. Reassure your kids that an individual who committed such a crime has other serious problems and take the opportunity to talk about other troubling feelings your children might have.

Approach it from the third person. Teenagers are not exactly known for their willingness to communicate with their parents, but Schonfeld says you can sometimes back into a conversation by saying something like this at the dinnertable: “So I heard about this on the news. What were your friends saying about this?” Never force your kids to talk, but let them know you are there if they are ever ready to discuss it.

Don’t feel obligated to give a reason for what happened. “Resist the temptation to come up with simple answers to complex situations,” says Dr. Schonfeld. Although parents often want to provide a reason for why someone committed such a crime, the reality is we just don’t quite know. And that’s okay.

Click here to see an excellent video on the subject of talking to children about tragic events like this.

Jon

Jon Sills
Superintendent
Bedford Public Schools
781-275-7588
jon_sills@bedford.k12.ma.us

A Mixed Bag of Precipitation – A Mixed Bag of Forecasting

December 15, 2012

Mixed precipBy Peter Collins Brown

The forecast for this Sunday into Tuesday (December 16-18) calls for a “wintry mix” of precipitation. This also means a messy forecast that is often plagued by the smallest of details and leads to many important questions. How cold is it going to be? Will it warm up enough to see only rain, or will we Bedfordites have to deal with a prolonged period of sleet, snow and freezing rain? We could see only one type of precipitation; then again, we could get all four types! Yet, most importantly for kids and parents alike is the issue of school on Monday and Tuesday. What exactly does this mixed bag of weather hold in store for Bedford?

Mixed precipitation—the mention of this term is enough to send shivers, literal and figurative, down any Bedfordite’s spine. The term “mixed” simply means that we have the chance of seeing rain, sleet, freezing rain and snow within the next five days. But, what is the difference between these precipitation types and their effect on Bedford? We all know what snow and rain are and their impacts on our daily lives. What about sleet and freezing rain? These are the two truly “mixed” types of precipitation—sleet, which is a mix of snow and ice; freezing rain, which is a mix of rain and ice.

Sleet begins its journey high in a winter storm as snow. As the snow falls to lower altitudes, it encounters a layer of above-freezing air. This freezing air layer in Bedford is caused by the nearby ocean, and air over the ocean in wintertime is typically warmer than air over land. This warmer air, carried by an easterly wind towards us, rises above the heavy, dense cold air at our surface. The snow becomes rain at an altitude of about 3,000 feet. But it takes a strong ocean wind of 25 to 35 mph to remove the cold air here. If the ocean wind is very light, a large layer of just-below-freezing air going up to about 2,000 feet stays in place; the rain refreezes into small balls of ice or sleet pellets. It’s too cold for any rain, but the cold air layer is not large enough to form snow again, so it forms sleet (which can be easily swept off of paths, sidewalks and roads).

Now, what about freezing rain? This is the true beast of any winter storm. Freezing rain begins life similarly to sleet. However, in this case, the ocean wind is a bit stronger than it is in the sleet regime. There is a small cold layer high in the storm, and snow quickly falls into the warmer ocean air below. Due to the stronger ocean wind, most of the cold ground air is pushed out. Yet, in many inland towns like Bedford, if the air is below 30°F, the slightly stronger “sea breeze” is not enough to scour the cold air from ground-level to about 400 feet (A slight difference that can be extremely difficult for forecasters to pinpoint). The liquid rain falls into the sub-freezing air and solidifies on impact with the ground.

You can demonstrate the properties of freezing rain right in your own kitchen. Put a metal pan in your freezer for a half hour; then spray it lightly with cold water. The water droplets will freeze upon contact with the pan’s surface! Now imagine how slippery Bedford can get when a storm full of freezing rain comes its way.Freezing rain is a nightmare for anyone traveling in a car or trying to take off from an airport. Never mind that—In freezing rain we can’t even keep our feet under us! Any small area of untreated surface will become treacherous. And It’s difficult  to sweep away or quickly melt a large area of solid ice.

So, what does our forecast look like for early next week? Will we be shoveling, sweeping, skating or just plain getting wet? It is going to be near freezing on Sunday when precipitation begins. A slight east wind will mean very little snow, with more in the way of sleet. The wind will shift to the southeast on Monday, bringing milder ocean air into Bedford. Since the ocean is still mild compared to mid-winter, the warmer air will win out, sparing us the effects of freezing rain. By Tuesday, it looks like plain drizzle will be with us, with temperatures in the high 30’s. Kids, school will be in session all of next week. Unfortunately, Bedford, Old Man Winter is here for now…

Bedford High Tournament of Plays Tonight

December 14, 2012

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

Image (c) Kennard-Dale School, PA

Image (c) Kennard-Dale School, PA

The annual Bedford High School Tournament of Plays will take place tonight, Friday December 14, at the Buckley Auditorium at BHS, starting at 7 pm.

Each of the four classes will present an original play, vying for awards like Best Actor, Best Ensemble, Best Newcomer, and Best Play (overall).

Come to cheer for your favorite high school actors or class, to match your opinion with the panel of judges, or just for an enjoyable, hometown Bedford evening.

The event is free but donations to the Drama Club are cheerfully accepted.

Plank Street Redevelopment Plan Sent Back to the Drawing Board

December 14, 2012

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

Vince O'Neill

Vince O’Neill Image (c) KSM 2012, all rights reserved

Vince O’Neill, owner and president of Vinco Properties and Walk the Plank LLC, came before the Planning Board on Wednesday night for a public hearing to discuss his revised redevelopment plan for 100 Plank Street. After much discussion and debate about the mixed-use concept, whether it could be successful in that area of town, whether mixed-use meant parcel by parcel or within the whole corridor, and whether the area would turn around once the Middlesex Turnpike construction is completed, the Board moved to continue the public hearing to a later date, when further revisions to the plan could be considered.

Read more…

b.good Restaurant to Open in Former Cambridge Savings Location

December 14, 2012

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

Bgood logoSaying that business has been brisk with “a lot of permitting stuff coming in,” Glenn Garber, Bedford Director of Planning, announced that a b. good restaurant intends to locate in the Whole Foods/Marshall’s shopping center in the former Cambridge Savings location, adjacent to Café Luigi.
Read more…

Dance Your Way into the New Year at Serenity Yoga Center

December 14, 2012

By Sandra Hackman

Serenity Yoga photoLooking for a fun and funky way to let go of the old year and usher in the new? Join in JourneyDance at Serenity Yoga Center in Bedford on Saturday, December 29, from 4 to 5:15 pm. The event—open to all who have preregistered by December 27—will teach simple sequences and allow free exploration designed to “reconnect you with your innate state of joyous well-being.”

Read more…

Vacancies on Town Boards Seen as Incumbents End their Service

December 13, 2012

By Meredith McCulloch

Town elections occur in March, but citizens interested in running for office will need to step forward in January. So far two long-time Bedford office holders have announced that they are not seeking reelection. Ann Bickford who was first elected to the School Committee in 2001 is ending her twelve-year service.  Catherine Cordes, a Selectmen for four terms,announced recently that she will not run again.  Selectman Bill Moonan’s term will also expire in 2013, and he has indicated he will seek another term. No other elected officials have commented on their intentions

Each year a portion of terms expire on all elected town boards including Assessors, Planning Board, Library Trustees, Board of Health, Regional School Committee, and the Housing Authority. Often there is added interest in open positions when an incumbent decides to leave the board and not to stand for office again.

Citizens interested in any office can take one of two paths to nomination.  They may be nominated at the Town Caucus on January 8 or may collect signatures on nomination papers. Up to two candidates for each position may be nominated at caucus and will be listed as“caucus nominee” on the ballot.The second path is to take out nomination papers from the Town Clerk and collect a minimum of fifty signatures of registered voters.Papers must be filed with the Town Clerk by January 18, 2013.

The caucus is not only an opportunity for a candidate to declare his or her intentions, but by the end of the meeting it is clear which positions as yet have no candidates. When that occurs, others may be encouraged to step forward and take out nomination papers.

Between now and the Town Elections in March, The Bedford Citizen will feature information about candidates who declare their candidacy.  Look for the “Town Election” tab on the Citizen home page.

For more details about Town Caucus see this previous Citizen article: https://thebedfordcitizen.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/selectmen-set-town-caucus-date-tuesday-january-8-2013/