Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Feel the Pulse

I got an email about a month or so ago from Linda at World Sports Academy/Pulse Cafe in Westwood asking me if I wanted to have a free "play date" at their new facility for up to 20 kids, including mine. She wanted me to be able to check it out. I told her that I'd love to and that I write this blog, so if we like it, I'd write about it. She said she knew of my blog, so I guess that's how she found me. In any event, I was happy to have a new kid venue to try. It's almost November and I guess I need to start thinking about E's birthday. Considering he's been thinking about it before his last birthday ended.

Westwood isn't far but isn't exactly close either. It's just not somewhere I would ordinarily think of to do a kid party. On a Sunday it's fine, thanks to the Bergen County Blue Laws (not allowing most retail shopping on Sundays). With no traffic, we could be there in around fifteen minutes. I made this play date for quarter after ten in the morning, on a Sunday, and it would run for an hour. I didn't know what would be planned for the kids but I rounded up whoever I could think of off the top of my head. Mostly kids who are only children or ones with a sibling close in age. It's a lot to ask parents of more kids to shuffle one kid to something like this when I know how many other sports and various obligations people have when they have more kids. As it was, I had many who I knew wouldn't be available because of religious school or soccer. Neither of which we are involved in. A few days prior to the event I had fifteen kids. Add in sickness and pop-up emergencies, I think we ended up with ten, maybe eleven kids.

World Class Sports Academy/Pulse is located at 701 Broadway in Westwood, on the right hand side, going toward Hillsdale. It's actually across from the Kmart shopping plaza. Everything in there is brand new. They built the whole thing out. The first thing you see is Pulse Cafe in the front. It's spacious and the food selection is really amazing for something inside a "gym". They're a training gym, a cafe, and have an area in the back where they put turf down to do soccer clinics and birthday parties. It's a very cool set-up.

I will say off the bat- I don't know much about the gym/training aspect of it because that's not what I was there for. I wasn't sure what their main business was when I accepted the offer to come in. I am just interested in what's available in the way of events geared for kids.

I'm sure many people don't know that Pulse is open to the public. It's not just a cafe inside a gym. It could be free-standing. It's large enough and you can see it from outside. You do NOT need to have a gym membership to go to the cafe for your protein shake or to sit with a cup of coffee and bagel.

They serve breakfast, lunch, salads, specialty beverages and snacks. It's different than just going to chain coffee place because Pulse really has a large variety of more healthy choices. I feel like other places have some healthy options but it's still hard to keep kids away from junk. Here, they have a great majority of healthy vs the other way around. They are open many hours daily, so it's also very convenient. The current hours are- Mon-Fri: 6a-8p and Sat/Sun: 7a-6p. They have a large flat screen tv with Direct TV where they can also screen sporting events for groups. They are considering doing a "Dad's Day" where dads and kids can come in to watch football. It's definitely a cute place where moms can come meet up with or without their kids. I know they're always trying to come up with new classes or events for parents and kids to be able to use their space to their advantage. So, if you have an idea of how you or your group could utilize them, go in and speak to them. Allen Gross is the owner.

Back to our event- We were taken to the back rooms where kid parties and sport clinics are held. There is a nice room for parents to sit in that is closed off by a door to the turf area. It also has a large flat screen tv. In the turf area they had a large bounce house/slide set up and then had some balls the kids could throw around. Jessi came to greet all the kids. She wanted to wait until most of them were there so the kids had some free play and bounce time before she organized anything. It was a Sunday morning, kids full of energy, so that was nice. After a little while she then had some of them playing games and the rest of them could continue to bounce. They all seemed to have a great time, no one ended up hurt or maimed and the hour went really fast.

E asked if we could come back, so that's always a good sign. All the parents who were there thought it was a nice, clean space and were happy with their choice of how to spend an hour on a Sunday morning. My one friend who was there said she was most likely going to book a party for her younger son who was there with her. They have a great deal going for parties/field rental right now- 50% off for November.

For more information:

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Superhero Dylan

This is E's friend Dylan. We can't go because we have another commitment but I did want to spread the word. It's a great reason for a morning run!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I Want To Know

I've been meaning to get to this entry. I've been writing it for like two months now. Knowing it's probably going to be somewhat controversial or ruffle some feathers though, I want to make sure I'm articulating it all the way I want it to come out. Since school is now in full swing and I'm reading on my message boards how awful kids are to each other, I think it's important to make sure I get this done.

A friend of mine posted this article from the Scary Mommy site on Facebook a few weeks ago. It's called - "If my kid is being an asshole, I want you to tell me". I don't know this site, because I generally don't read parenting blogs or articles anymore, which I've mentioned. Just my personal preference. I'm not interested in reading about other people's "sage" parenting advice or whatever. But I read this and my thoughts were- "Hell, YEAH." If my kid is being an asshole- I WANT TO KNOW. That's not just posturing. Anyone that knows me or my kid, knows I'm fine with hearing the truth about my kid. And then actually applying the appropriate discipline or teaching.

My kid is NOT perfect. Not even close. But he's NICE. He's a NICE KID. Or, at least, that's what I'm told. There have been instances, seldom, but instances, nonetheless, that I've been told occurred, that I wasn't happy about. Things that I felt warranted a further discussion. Nothing mean though. Nothing that ever made me embarrassed that it was my kid- having to do with hurting someone's feelings. And I would DIE if another parent or the school ever told me he was rude, disrespectful, mean, or the bully. I'd be furious, sad, angry and bewildered.

I've been working on this stuff with him since he started school at two years old. We would discuss being a good friend, what that means and entails, standing up for the underdog, not being a sheep, etc. He KNOWS. I'm confident he knows the right way to act. Will he always act the way I want or expect him to? No. But will he take it far enough to be considered an asshole? To be a bully? To have other parents hear his name and roll their eyes? Hell to the NO. That's what I believe right now, when he's six and a half and I have a lot of control over his behavior. But so help him if he doesn't act right, I would expect someone to tell me.

There are kids I can think of, just off the top of my head, that when their names are said, other parents just sort of look at each other and nod in understanding. Not in a good way. I always wonder if the mothers of these children know this happens and if they care. I'm not one to care about appearances, or keeping up with the Joneses or Kardashians or whoever, but I do care that other parents don't think, "OH CRAP!" when they find out my son is on their kid's team or in their class. If more parents cared more about the impression their kid makes on other kids and adults, than the impression other kids and adults are making on their kid, we'd be in business. Business of nicer kids.

I didn't repost the Scary Mommy article because I decided I wanted to write this entry. I wanted to repost it when I saw it, but I also wanted to do it during the day when it would get the most eyeballs. Why? Well, I wanted to see who and how many would agree and say "Me too!". I think initially, anyone would agree, because most of it seems like common sense. However, when it really comes down to it, knowing who I know, I definitely know a few that they don't want to know. They might hit like on the article or say they would want to know, but I really don't think they would.

B doesn't really have much of an opportunity to be with E and kids he knows. He's not at the park with them or at activities. There was an instance where B happened to be around E and a kid we've known for a few years now. Long story short, B was playing with the two boys and the other boy was so extremely rude and disrespectful to B that B was too taken aback to even really respond. Beyond telling the kid that he and E weren't going to play with him any longer that day, he didn't know what he was supposed to do. B came back to me so irritated, bewildered, and questioned what would've been the appropriate action to have taken.

I wasn't surprised this happened. In the least. I know this kid, I'm fully versed in how he treats people, and this was not a first time offense by any stretch of the imagination. I'm also confident that his parents would say, "Not my kid!" or give some excuse of tired, hungry, etc. I would bet my life they would not own this behavior as typical of their child nor would they do anything about it. He has an older sibling who I have have heard be just as rude and disrespectful to others with no consequence given by the parents. Just excuses given. They aren't bad people, nor are they mean people. They just have a very idealized view of their children. They aren't the first and they aren't the last.

I read the article maybe a few days to a week after that incident. Then I was told of another instance where a little girl was bullying others. When the mother was told, her answer was shock and surprise, saying that her daughter is the nicest. My jaw dropped. This wasn't an isolated instance. Not by a long shot. I, myself, have HEARD this child basically tell her mother off in front of other kids and parents, in public places. I've heard her be nasty and rude. So how is her mother truly shocked when her daughter gets in trouble somewhere for this kind of behavior? It's true shock too- it's not just fronting. How does this happen?

If you're worried either of the children in my examples might be yours, it's time to start discussing appropriate behaviors with your kid(s). You HAVE to have these conversations. Especially if you suspect your kid could have the propensity towards being the "mean" kid. Even if you're not sure what kind of kid you have. You still have to talk about being a friend, being caring, being the one to stick up for others when they can't stick up for themselves. Be the one to talk to or sit with the kid who seems to be alone a lot. None of this is just common sense to all kids. It isn't just important that they read or write. They can be the smartest in the room but if they're also the meanest, you're not doing your job.

Those kids who have parents who don't stress kindness & respect turn into adults who don't practice them either. There are two kinds of adults- the ones you're happy when good comes to them & sad when bad comes to them- because they're good people. Then the other- the ones you're not particularly sad for when bad comes their way and you're not happy for them when good comes their way. Because they were always the asshole. From child to the present. You REMEMBER those people from elementary school. I heard a scandalous story recently about a guy I knew as a kid. My first reaction was- "Yeah, he was always a dick. Even as a little kid." Well, that's not the adult I plan to raise.

I'd tell you straight out if you're wondering if you're housing the asshole, but like I said- I'm pretty sure not all parents want to know. So unless you're really concerned with changing this kind of behavior, don't ask.

Yes, personality is both nature and nurture. All kids are going to say things, at some point, that are nasty or hurtful. It's part of growing up. Learning how to treat people. It's not even always "bullying". I think bullying is a systematic thing. Like when it doesn't let up. It's not just a one time lash out. Everyone has a lash-out. Lash-out or bullying, whichever it is, I don't wholly fault them for doing it. We all have to make mistakes and gain lessons from them. However, I do also fault the adults in their life for not redirecting them. For not teaching them a better way to communicate and/or to get what they need and want. For wearing blinders to the faults of their child(ren). For not being able to be objective enough to notice that your child treats peers and elders with a level of disrespect that warrants further investigation or deep discussion by teachers, other school officials, or other parents.

We can be nasty, rude and disrespectful as adults. It's not like it's something specific to age. We all make mistakes, get in bad moods, say things we mean to be funny but end up hurting feelings. The difference is, as adults, we know the difference between right and wrong. Whether we act on the right is another story. We do know what is hurtful and crossing a line. We can have a thoughtful conversation after and resolve it. Through age and life experience we can have the confidence to tell someone they've hurt our feelings or be able to let what someone else says just roll off our back. Kids don't have all that. The kids who aren't treated nicely often suffer silently because they're afraid of making it worse in some way. The ones that bully or are just nasty keep doing it because they can. It gives them a feeling of power. Well, it's our job to teach them that they can BE powerful human beings, but not in that way. THAT way is completely unacceptable.

Scary Mommy article:

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Important Questions- re: Carver Report

This may only be of interest to those living in Glen Rock or those who have lived in Glen Rock. I think it's an important letter to post because it illustrates how out of control a town government and police upper management can become when they just go rogue and allowed to do whatever they want. So it might be of interest to others outside of town because you never know when it will happen in your own backyard.

Our town paid THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLARS for a ridiculously worded report about the climate/culture in the current police department. It basically says that people like to go to work there so it will be fine eventually. It reads like marriage counseling notes.

This letter below, written by two current residents is amazingly more intelligent, professional, and comprehensive, than what we were given. The original report Rebecca & Kevin are responding to is at the bottom of this page.

Rebecca grew up in Glen Rock and moved back to Glen Rock in 2007.  She has two kids currently in the Glen Rock school system.  She is a lawyer licensed in California and New York and her law firm (Quadra & Coll) is based in California.  She travels a lot for work but fortunately can do most of her work from Glen Rock by telecommuting.

I always read her posts on the Glen Rock Facebook pages and feel like she is right on point. So I am happy to share her letter so anyone interested can see what's really going on. I knew bits and pieces of what was going on, but this was so much more eye-opening.

There is a council meeting this upcoming Wednesday October 14th, 2015. The judge is supposed to be there to answer any and all questions. Glen Rock Boro Hall. 8p.

Rebecca's (and Kevin Davitt's) letter:

                                                                                                                        Rebecca Coll
                                                                                                                        Glen Rock, NJ 07452

October 11, 2015


RE:  Judge Carver’s Report Regarding the Glen Rock Police Department

Dear Mayor van Keuren and Council Members:
This letter is to raise certain questions and concerns about the investigation and report conducted by Judge Carver relating to the Glen Rock Police Department, which was disclosed to the public on October 8, 2015.
Judge Carver’s report states he was retained to “investigate the Glen Rock Police Department, to take its pulse as it were, with a particular view to learning how the disciplinary charges for deletion of photographs form a 2005 retirement party came to be brought.”  Judge Carver goes on to state that, however, he is prevented from reporting on the origins of the charges against the two officers because of the pending charges against Detective Sergeant Eric Reamy.  The implication is that Judge Carver is nevertheless reporting on “the pulse” of the GRPD, and excluding only issues relating to the wrongful charges against Chris McInerney and Bryan Scott.
The investigation and report raise certain questions.
1.         Questions Regarding Choice of Investigator and Conflicts
a.       Given the foregoing scope and the brevity of the report, it was surprising to see that Judge Carver spent a full paragraph opining on the propriety of his own disciplinary action against Officer Stanislao.  It was also surprising that Judge Carver disclosed only his own interpretation and feelings about the hearing testimony (which is not available to the public, and with which Officer Stanislao would likely characterize differently).  The limited information disclosed about the circumstances of Officer Stanislao’s termination seems extremely one-sided.  Is there a conflict of interest for Judge Carver to investigate and opine on the propriety of his own interpretation of the evidence in the Stanislao hearing?  How is the Judge’s role as the investigator into the Stanislao matter not a conflict of interest?  
b.      Was it proper to disclose in this manner only the details relating to Officer Stanislao’s disciplinary matter that favor the town’s point of view, with no countervailing points raised?  Why was only the town’s point of view presented in this report? 
c.       Was it proper to disclose the details of the alleged complaint against Officer Stanislao in this context, especially without hearing the other side of the story, or was that a confidential personnel matter?
d.      Last May the council was asked whether it would be better to have a fresh start with a new impartial investigator, and whether it was a conflict for Judge Carver to be the investigator given his role in the Stanislao, McInerney, and Scott cases.  Mr. Garibaldi responded that a new investigator would have “set this back for quite a long time.”  In retrospect, do the council members and the mayor believe an impartial fresh set of eyes would have been more appropriate?
e.       The question was also asked whether the matter could simply be referred to the county prosecutor for investigation.  Mr. Garibaldi responded that the matters did not “rise to the level” that a prosecutor should be involved.  Now though, Judge Carver states that “inconsistencies” were brought to his possession indicating a “lack of response or attention by the GRPD management.”  He states these issues have been referred to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office for investigation.  What are those inconsistencies?  Do those “inconsistencies” rise to the level of potential criminal conduct?  If so, why not clearly describe the conduct as Judge Carver did with his opinions about Officer Stanislao?  Why did Judge Carver believe it was appropriate to discuss what led to his decision to terminate Officer Stanislao, yet is safeguarding the personnel and privacy rights of everyone else?
2.         Questions Regarding Claims of Anti-Gay Culture: 
            In the State of New Jersey, it is illegal to discriminate against or harass a person on the basis of sexual orientation.  While the personnel allegations against Officer Stanislao are freely discussed, the serious allegations of anti-gay conduct by the GRPD are ignored in Judge Carver’s report and, presumably, his investigation.  Notwithstanding the apparent conflict of opining on his own decision, it was important for Judge Carver to investigate Officer Stanislao’s claims of an anti-gay culture at the police department, which is certainly relevant to “the pulse” of the police department.  For example: 
a.        Officer Stanislao claims in his lawsuit that Officer Reamy would “dry hump” Stanislao behind Stanislao’s back in front of other officers.  Did Judge Carver ask if that type of behavior was noticed, known or tolerated in the GRPD?  Did he ask if anyone witnessed that behavior, if they felt the management of the GRPD would tolerate that behavior, and why?
b.      Officer Stanislao claims in his lawsuit that he reported violations of rules by Reamy to Chief Stahman, and Reamy was never disciplined.  Did Judge Carver investigate whether management routinely failed to discipline Reamy, as alleged?
c.       Officer Stanislao claims in his lawsuit that Captain Miller, in response to Stanislao’s request for time off relating to high-risk throat surgeries, made a joke about Officer Stanislao’s “gag reflex” and that other officers also made anti-gay jokes to Officer Stanislao.   Did Judge Carver investigate whether that took place?
d.      Officer Stanislao claims in his lawsuit that an officer, in the presence of officers and supervisors, stated, “Stanislao is going to make the kids into a bunch of pussies because he’s a fucking faggot.”  Did Judge Carver investigate whether that took place?  If this happened in the presence of others, it seems like an appropriate area to cover in interviews of officers.
e.       Officer Stanislao claims in his lawsuit that an officer referred to him as “special” and stated that it was a relief not to work with him, and that Officer Stanislao reported this incident to Captain Miller.  Did Judge Carver investigate whether that took place, or whether discipline was imposed?  Officer Stanislao also states in his lawsuit that the same officer made a derogatory comment about Officer Stanislao having coffee with his boyfriend, Officer Stanislao reported that officer for sexual harassment and asked to not work with him.  Officer Stanislao states the response from the GRPD was to suggest that Officer Stanislao be placed instead with the officer who called him a “fucking faggot.”  Did Judge Carver investigate whether that took place?
f.       Was there any inquiry at all into whether the culture of the department is anti-gay, whether anti-gay behavior is tolerated or even encouraged, and what steps have been taken to ensure that the police department is complying with state anti-discrimination laws?
g.      At least one-third of a page in the three page report is devoted to the opinion of the Rodgers Group, which is an accreditation program.  What knowledge, if any, would the Rodgers Group have about any of the foregoing issues?
h.      Why does Judge Carver conclude that Officer Stanislao was not a “good fit?”  Was there any investigation into whether that alleged feeling has any relationship to his sexual orientation, given his experience with multiple named officers in his complaint?
i.        Did Judge Carver find during Officer Stanislao’s disciplinary hearing that he was not harassed for being gay?  If so, why did Chief Stahman falsely and paradoxically go after Chris McInerney for supposedly harassing Officer Stanislao?  Was that issue investigated? 
j.        What is the position of the Glen Rock Mayor and Council on the importance of investigating whether an anti-gay culture exists in the Glen Rock Police Department?  What plan does the Council have to investigate these claims?
3.         Questions Regarding Retaliation for Reporting Sexual Harassment
 The report states that the circumstances relating to wrongful charges against Sgt. McInerney and Officer Scott are not being addressed in this report, presumably because the prosecutor has asked Judge Carver not to address that issue.  However, there are many allegations in the public domain which are not related to those charges which do not seem to have been addressed at all.  For example:
a.          Sgt. McInerney’s complaint stated that he was retaliated against by Chief Stahman before he even became the chief, for reporting sexual harassment at the GRPD.  He also claims that after almost ten years of a clean record, Sgt. McInerney was investigated and reprimanded by Chief Stahman 20 times after he reported sexual harassment.  Was that claim investigated?
b.         What is the position of the Glen Rock Mayor and Council on the importance of investigating whether its chief of police retaliated against a respected Sergeant for reporting sexual harassment in the department?  What plan does the Council have to investigate these claims?
c.          Sgt. McInerney’s complaint states that before he filed his lawsuit, he reported the harassment and retaliation he suffered to the Borough Administrator and Borough Attorney, and that he was thereafter further disciplined and harassed for reporting events to the Borough Administrator and Borough Attorney.  What investigation was conducted to examine that claim?
4.         Credibility Questions
The only substantive conclusions in the report seem too incredible to believe.
a.     It seems extremely unlikely that “the morale of the GRPD dramatically increased with [Chief Stahman’s] promotion to chief” in 2009.  However, more importantly, what is the opinion of the rank-and-file now, in 2015, 6 years later?
b.     Also questionable is the statement that “[Chief Stahman] and Cpt. Miller were considered a good team” (though there is no indication of whether anyone, and if so how many people, would disagree with that statement).  Given the allegations described above and others in the lawsuits, what concerns if any does Judge Carver have about whether the officers were being forthcoming in giving their glowing reviews of Chief Stahman and Cpt. Miller?  How is it possible that morale could be good given Chief Stahman’s actions against two officers and their subsequent return to the force?   
c.     At the same time, Judge Carver also states: “Unfortunately, the result the foregoing (sic) is a rift between the rank-and-file of the Department and its leadership. There seems to be a drumbeat of resentment against the Chief, Captain and Lieutenant, for what many perceive as the rush to judgment in the case of McInerney and Scott.”
        It is questionable that many simply perceived the wrongful charges against the two respected officers as a mere case of a “rush to judgment” rather than retaliation and harassment.  Regardless, Judge Carver believes that the “rift between the rank-and-file of the Department and its leadership” will subside and the department will recover from Chief Stahman’s actions.  The implication of the report is that the department would recover over a “relatively short time” with no change in leadership.
i.                    What qualifications does Judge Carver have to analyze workplace psychology and dynamics?  

ii.                  Did Judge Carver intend to communicate that the department would recover over a “relatively short time” with no change in leadership?

iii.                If so, why does Judge Carver believe it is best to wait and see, rather than make changes? 

iv.                What factors influenced this “wait and heal” recommendation?
v.                  What exactly would Judge Carver prescribe for the “healing and recovery” of the department if not a change in leadership?
vi.                Was it the Council’s intent to obtain a recommendation from Judge Carver on whether the department’s psychology can recover from what has taken place? 

vii.              Is the Council and the Mayor placing any weight on Judge Carver’s opinion about whether the department will recover without personnel changes?
d.     Judge Carver states that “most GRPD officers considered Stanislao a bad fit and a poor police officer.”  However, Judge Carver also states, “a few other members of the GRPD attempted to support and defend him, and felt he had been unfairly targeted.”  Why does Judge Carver state that the members of the GRPD “attempted to support and defend him?”  What does it mean to “attempt” to support someone in this context, or “attempt” to defend him?  Given the relatively small police department and the fact that there has been turnover since Officer Stanislao was fired, is it really fair to imply that “a few” officers supporting and defending Officer Stanislao is insignificant compared with “most” who did not, especially in light of the fact that multiple officers and management level employees who allegedly harassed Officer Stanislao for being gay are still on the force?  Isn’t it incredible that any officers at all had the bravery to support Officer Stanislao given the horrendous allegations of how Officer Stanislao was treated by the management of the department?
e.     With regard to the Rodgers report, what information does Judge Carver have that Tim Rodgers was aware of the wrongful actions being taken against Chris McInerney, Bryan Scott, and Matt Stanislao?  If Mr. Rodgers knew about these issues, how could he have concluded that the GRPD was “professional” or that it had “no major deficiencies?”  If Mr. Rodgers was unaware of these issues, then what is the relevance of his opinion?
5.         Miscellaneous issues
a.       Judge Carver states that Officer Stanislao was disciplined but demanded a hearing, and Judge Carver then imposed a higher discipline- termination.  If you demand a hearing then a harsher disciplinary measure can be imposed?  Does that satisfy Officer Stanislao’s due process rights?  It seems as if appealing from a disciplinary decision should not result in a higher discipline being imposed without notice and an opportunity to be heard on that new higher disciplinary charge.  What is the authority to issue greater discipline at the appeal stage?
b.      The Council referenced in May that there is a statute that provides the Council with authority to appoint an investigator to examine the police department culture.  What is the statute?
c.       What responsibility does the Council place with Chief Stahman for the well-publicized wrongful conduct of Eric Reamy?
As it does not appear that the culture of the GRPD has been adequately examined and/or adequately reported on, a new plan is needed.  Though the employees of the GRPD are likely frustrated with the multiple interviews they have endured, the Council may need to take steps directly to speak with officers, at least on a voluntary basis.  The Council should be open to hearing from officers about their experiences in the department, especially with respect to the issues described above.  Given the history of what has taken place in the GRPD under the leadership of Chief Stahman, and the current state of matters at the department, the Council should fire the chief of police, or ask for his resignation, and undertake a search for a new chief who can bring unity and an atmosphere of respect to the department.

Finally, the council should not to sit silently while Judge Carver addresses questions in his report.  Members of the community have entrusted the council to govern this town, to speak up and to take actions when necessary.  It does a disservice to the town to fail to be forthright and vocal about any concerns or opinions the council members and mayor may have regarding these issues.   

Becca Coll                                                       Kevin G. Davitt 

Carver Report below: