Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Wow, is it possible that I haven't written a new blog post since January? That's surprising. I've meant to write many times, but somehow never got around to it. I blame Twitter. And Facebook. And LinkedIn. And... For me, personally, I've always said that I feel a need to communicate and share and write for others. Blogging was (and still is) great for that. And when I was on the Board of Education in Ridgewood, I felt compelled to do it on a regular basis. Once that obligation to communicate with the community and with voters was lifted (aka I was defeated in my re-election attempt), I found that microblogging via Twitter (I'm @lauriegood1) and posting on Facebook seemed to fulfill my need to reach out. (I'm pretty active in those forums, if you want to follow me!) Also, during this same time period, much of my freelance copywriting work switched to blogging and social media sharing on behalf of various clients. Truth is, at the end of a long day of writing for others, it can be hard to get energized to write some more, when there isn't a deadline or curious voter or marketing plan involved.

Lots of changes are in the air now, so I'm not sure where this blog will go. I'd like to think I'll find the energy and desire to write more often. There are certainly things to write about -- whether it be personal experiences, comments on the goings-on of Ridgewood, thoughts on education and public schools...I certainly have plenty of opinions and thoughts about all those things. I'm constantly reading about them, that's for sure.

Over the past few month, my lens has shifted slightly due to the following:

My son leaves for college next week at Penn State University. I am so excited for him and also terrified by all the scary things that can happen when a fearless 18-year-old boy is cut loose from daily parental controls (as loose as they are). He is an amazing kid, very smart, good head on his shoulders...I'm sure things will be fine, but I'm still going to find it very hard to sleep for awhile.

My daughter began her teaching career this week. She is teaching at an elementary charter school in New York City, in Harlem. It's exciting to realize that she has actually realized one of her childhood dreams, to be a teacher. I know this year is going to be hard, awesome, challenging, eye-opening and, ultimately, fulfilling. I am thrilled to get an inside look at the life of a new teacher as well as life inside an NYC charter.

My husband recently started a new job in Chicago. This is a huge, positive career move for him, a great position at an impressive & successful company, so when the offer came through, he had to take it. The plan is for me to join him in Chicago in the spring/early summer next year. Until then, he will commute home when he can, I'll fly out there when I can. It's going to be a challenge, but we'll figure it out.

All of this, of course, will end with us leaving Ridgewood in approx. May/June (by our best estimate). That's truly sad and unfortunate on many levels. I'll write more about that transition in the future (the near future, I promise!). And I'll have plenty to say in the meantime about Ridgewood politics, and Ridgewood schools, with my view from the "outside."

For now, maybe my next post will talk about teaching, based on my daughter's experience with her long job search and starting her new job.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

We need to amend Ridgewood's underage drinking ordinance

I was not a supporter of Ridgewood's underage drinking ordinance when it was adopted in 2007. I'm still not a fan. Not because I advocate underage drinking, but because I felt the ordinance was not really going to have an effect on the ways kids do what they do and the way the police do what they do. I felt it would give the grown-ups in town a false sense of having "handled" the problem, while driving the teens to get more secretive and hurried (which is dangerous when it comes to drinking). But the point is moot now because the ordinance has been in place for 5 years.

What I'm advocating now is an amendment to the ordinance that makes teens and parents aware of a state law designed to save lives and prevent injury.

Here are the comments I made to the Ridgewood Village Council at their work session last night:
In October 2009, the State of New Jersey signed into law 911: Lifeline legislation – also known as the “Amnesty Law” – which says that if a minor calls for medical assistance for an intoxicated person, they can not be prosecuted for underage drinking themselves, nor will the intoxicated person be prosecuted if they are underage.

This is an important law – its intention is to avoid a situation where a teen doesn’t call for help because he’s afraid he’s going to get in trouble.

It’s not a “get out of jail free” card, there are very specific rules to be followed, and it doesn’t protect teens from punishment from mom & dad, but it can keep kids safe when they find themselves in a dangerous situation and have to make a decision.

Amnesty is already the law in Ridgewood, because it’s the law in the entire state of New Jersey. And yet – this potentially-lifesaving law is only effective if kids know about it. In order for it to work, to potentially save a life or prevent injury, kids must know, in advance, that they can call 911 to get help, without fear.

I’ve talked to many Ridgewood teens since the state law was enacted, and I can say that none of them knew about this law.

One way to get the word out is to amend Ridgewood’s underage drinking ordinance to include the language of the state amnesty law, and I know you have such an amendment on the agenda tonight.

Several other towns and municipalities in New Jersey have revised their municipal codes in this way, and I urge our Council to take this step.

As you review the amendment tonight, I hope parents will be paying attention, and will take this opportunity to discuss the law and inform their children.

I hope teens will hear about this amendment, will talk about the law with each other, will know that it’s for real, and will remember it should they be faced with a dangerous situation – a friend that needs help – on any Friday or Saturday (or any other) night in Ridgewood.

All of us want Ridgewood teens to be safe. We all hope they make smart choices. But when they make a mistake, and it turns dangerous, this law can help ensure that mistake doesn’t turn into a tragedy.

Following my comments and those of Municipal Alliance chair Sheila Brogan last night, a few Council members had questions. Some of the questions and comments focused on perceived problems with the proposed ordinance's wording. As Village Attorney Matt Rogers explained, the wording is taken verbatim from the state law. If anyone has a problem with wording of the state law, they should take that up with Trenton. All we are trying to do is highlight the state law for Ridgewood teens.

The Municipal Alliance (of which I'm a member) will be putting together some materials and hopefully distributing to our high school students soon.

I've heard too many stories of close calls -- kids who dropped off a drunk friend on their doorstep, or invited a friend to stay and "sleep it off," or left a friend passed out on the curb or the right-of-way -- that luckily turned out OK. Kids make mistakes. We know that. It's normal for their development. It's also normal for them to fear getting in trouble and, in their immature brains, this fear can trump good decisions. I'm proud that our state had the good sense to enact the Amnesty Law and I hope Ridgewood's ordinance amendment will help get the word out in our town.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Class of 2012 is "sick" (or looking good)!

The early college acceptances are starting to come in and, to quote my son, "the class of 2012 is sick!" He meant that in a good way. As in, the Class of 2012 is going to be impressive in where its graduates get accepted for college. He may be right...

This week some Ridgewood High School students got their Early Action and Early Decision answers, plus some got answers from rolling admission schools to which they applied early. Just anecdotally, my son has told me about two of his friends accepted ED at Stanford, three accepted at Cornell, two at Amherst, two at Colgate, plus some Columbia, Boston University, Lehigh, Duke, UNC... Keep in mind, these are all Early Decision or Early Action, which tends to be more competitive. (My own son was accepted to Penn State...really proud of him!)

The college process is a crazy whirlwind in Ridgewood. We've tried to keep things sane for our family. My philosophy is that there is not one single "best" school for every child. There are a lot of good schools and each student's success depends a lot on what he/she puts into it. Colleges are different than back in my day (not so long ago...30 years). They compete, with services and marketing. Students have become more savvy and more demanding. I get frustrated when people outside the school system complain that Ridgewood "isn't sending enough kids to the Ivy League." I've got news for you: not very many students want to go to the Ivy League. And why should they? Should they incur those high costs and high pressure environments for the name on the diploma? Today's students have learned to shop hard for their schools, and demand the education, the facilities and the services that feel right for them, personally. Maybe it's an Ivy...probably it's not. But if they work hard and make the most of it, they'll get an excellent education.

I can't wait to watch these young people embark on the next stage of their lives...the rest of their lives. The application and acceptance process will be rolling on through May, so let's remember this is a marathon and not a sprint. When the final list is complete, I'll update you here.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Love letter to New York City.

I love this video love letter to New York City, created by the talented Andrew Clancy who shot the video and edited it together. The music is beautiful, too.

A Year in New York from Andrew Clancy on Vimeo.

Read more about the video by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Innovative special ed is the Ridgewood way.

Innovative special education? It's just how we do things in Ridgewood, at least as long as I've been here and clearly since before then. The mission statement of our school district is the real thing, especially the part about "enabling students to maximize their unique potentials." In some school districts, special education is seen as somehow other...separate...different...well, special. But in Ridgewood, special ed is just part of how we educate and care for every student and his or her unique potential, whatever that may be, from overachievers to underachievers, from superstars to kids who struggle with basic everyday survival. Most Ridgewood residents have no idea the range of needs and challenges faced by Ridgewood youth, and are unaware of the lengths our educators go to educate students of all aptitudes and developmental levels. The very fact that our special ed programs operate somewhat "under the radar" is a testament to how these programs are part of the very fabric of our school system. The recent referendum and construction projects to add/change spaces at our schools and better accommodate special programs is further confirmation. Financially smart, yes, but also simply the right thing to do.

That's why it's truly great when a Ridgewood program is recognized outside on the larger stage. You may have read recently that RHS principal Jack Lorenz was recognized by Bergen County for his leadership in developing the S.A.I.L. (Strategic Actions & Innovations for Learning) program at the high school, and kudos to Mr. Lorenz. According to the story on Ridgewood Patch, the S.A.I.L. program "houses special needs students in-house, focusing on providing lessons of independence." The program consists of a curriculum that combines academic lessons with internships, job training, counseling and technology. S.A.I.L. also saves the district money, since the students remain in RHS instead of being sent out of district where we would have to pay tuition for their education. It's a win-win for the students, their families and the district (not to mention the other RHS students who have the benefit of working with and getting to know these students, too).

I think it's important to mention that many people created, and currently give life everyday to, the S.A.I.L. program at RHS. In particular, Kerry Huntington, Director of Special Services, and Pat Staab, Supervisor of Special Education, were architects of the program along with Mr. Lorenz. And, seriously, I save my strongest praise and respect for the teachers with, as they say, the "boots on the ground," who work with the S.A.I.L. students day in and day out. Yes, it certainly takes leadership to get a program such as S.A.I.L. off the ground (thank you Board of Ed, too, for funding it). But it takes a District with an overall commitment at all levels to create an environment where such a program could be theorized, designed and implemented pretty much in the background, business as usual. Thank you Ridgewood, and thank you to all the educators involved, for making it a reality.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The higher education bubble is coming. Watch out.

I heard someone recently say if you thought the "housing bubble" was tough, wait for the "higher education bubble." It's gonna be worse. This graphic helps explain the situation. (Note: Even though I'd like to see a graphic like this include sources for the data, I do believe that the general message (or messages) in it are true and accurate.)

Go to this link (sorry, I can't paste the full graphic here without it getting chopped off).

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Technology and innovation in education.

Had a good time at the Edscape conference today in New Milford. Last year it was called the Tri State Technology Conference and this time the format was basically the same – sessions all about different ways to use technology to create teaching, schools and classrooms that are collaborative, innovative, engaging and high-performing. There was a little too much SmartBoard focus for my taste, but it makes sense – SmartBoards are everywhere and they do offer a lot of opportunity to engage students in lessons.

There was also a lot of focus on MLDs – Mobile Learning Devices. AKA cell phones, iPads, tablets, etc. It’s becoming more and more clear that as our students carry smart phones and other devices, schools cam efficiently take advantage of this and incorporate them into teaching. Why wouldn’t we allow students to use the small, handheld devices that can connect them to just about all of the information in the world and which they are already carrying in their pockets – at no cost to districts! We should be allowing, enabling and encouraging this use throughout our schools, especially the high school.

I attended sessions on:
  • Professional Development: What is it and what should it be?
  • Mobile Learning
  • "What If" – what kind of technology do teachers want?
  • Building a Culture of Literacy – how do we ensure books and literature are not lost in the push for technology

I enjoyed learning about Edmodo, which is basically "Facebook for schools." It's a platform that allows a teacher and students to collaborate, share work, give feedback, plan, get assignments, take quizes, participate in polls, etc., using an interface that looks a lot like Facebook and works the same way, so it's intuitive and kids are engaged right away. It's a completely closed and secure system so everything is private and...it's free!

Probably the best part of the day was the keynote address by Diana Laufenberg of Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. Diana focused on innovation in schools and described how everything her school does – every single lesson, every single project – incorporates the school’s core values: inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection. As Diana said, and as is stated on their website, “AT SLA, leaning is not just something that happens from 8:30am to 3:00pm, but a continuous process that expans beyond the four walls of the classroom into every facet of our lives.”

As you may have predicted by now, that kind of talk is getting me energized again to focus on technology and innovation in our Ridgewood schools. I tried, unsuccessfully, to get traction on this subject during the three years I was on the Board of Ed. I’m not giving up. As a “regular” parent now, I am pursuing the subject again, and will be bringing some ideas to the Board in the next few weeks. I’ll keep you posted!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Losing some school safety.

Yesterday’s Bergen Record had a story about budget cuts forcing school districts to lose their School Resource Officers. Ridgewood lost its SRO and it’s definitely a loss for our students.

It may surprise some people that I am a fan of police officers in schools for any reason, but the SRO is not simply an armed-guard. Rather than intimidating students, frisking kids, searching lockers or chasing down youthful offenders, the SRO’s benefits are more subtle and long term. In Ridgewood, our SRO formed relationships with students in the high school and middle schools. Actually, elementary school students became acquainted with him as he would occasionally talk to their classes, then when they got to middle school they’d see him more often and perhaps get to know him one on one. And then by high school they were comfortable enough to share information about activities and interests of kids in Ridgewood – things that might happen in school or outside of school. The SRO got to know many students by name, he had his ear to the ground, and heard stories about parties or incidents. He knew who had bad home situations. He helped get assistance for kids with substance problems. And the kids felt he genuinely cared about them. Students could come to him for advice. If he heard about an issue that was in the principal’s purview, he’s share that info. And vice versa. Without a doubt, the SRO prevented some crimes from happening and when there were incidents, he was able to follow-up with more precision and success.

It’s nice to read that some towns, such as New Milford, stepped in with funding from the town budget, to keep SROs in place. Our BOE was unsuccessful in getting the Village of Ridgewood to fund our SRO when grant funding ran out. So the Ridgewood SRO was reassigned to “regular” police work.

Does my opinion of the SRO program conflict with my opinion of extracurricular codes that punish kids for activities that take place outside of school? Absolutely not. I still am not comfortable with a school imposing sanctions – such as barring a student from sports or clubs – because of something they may have done on a Saturday night. But the SRO program was different. It was about communication and rapport and the “it takes a village” mentality, not simply a shortcut to official police reports.

It’s too bad we lost it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hawes School ribbon-cutting Wednesday night

Residents, neighbors, parents and kids are invited to the official ribbon cutting ceremony at Hawes School Wednesday night 9/14. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. I haven't seen the new addition at Hawes since back in March or so...can't wait to see how it all turned out.

This is the addition that was funded as part of the 2009 bond referendum. Other projects include the addition at Ridge School (not going as quickly, different contractor, different challenges), additions at Willard and GW (in progress), the RHS fields (need to be repaired) and lots of important but not-so-obvious work at RHS, BF and other schools.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lunch point-of-sale system confusion.

Received this email from the Ridgewood Public Schools tonight:

Hello Parents of Ridgewood Middle Schools and High School,
As you may know, we have implemented a Point-of-Sales system in the cafeterias at the Middle Schools and High School.  In order to make the lunch period run quickly and efficiently, we ask that you remind your students that they will require a Key Pad number for purchasing items from the cafeterias, either on account or in cash.  Your students key pad number can be found in Skyward Family or Student Access under Food Service.  If you need assistance, please email skywardhelp@ridgewood.k12.nj.us.Thank you for your patience during this transition period.

I do encourage everyone to be patient (and nice) during the transition, but I have to agree with some of my friends who find it utterly baffling that students must enter a PIN number in order to purchase something with cash. Makes no sense to me. (Not to mention -- if you don't use Skyward to pay for lunch in advance, then you don't have a PIN...or you don't know you have a PIN.) I'm hoping this is something that can be tweaked and corrected. I don't understand why a Point of Sale system needs to track cash purchases. 

I'll let you know if I hear about anything changing.