Saturday, October 7, 2023

A Visit from the Secret Service

Recently, I reconnected with a high school buddy and subscribed to his Substack, Lou's Joint. His posts resonate with me on a number of levels and, in some cases, bring back memories. In his latest posts, he tells us of his visit from two FBI agents and how he fell for the Nigerian Scam back in the 90s.

I don't remember the exact date, but around the same time Lou was talking to FBI agents, I was face-to-face with two Secret Service agents. Here's the Reader's Digest version:

It was a Monday morning when I walked into the school office to sign in, and the secretary told me that the Superintendent wanted to see me right away. I headed up to the office, and when I walked in, I saw two imposing men dressed in black.

They told me that over the weekend, someone had threatened the life of President Clinton, and they had traced the computer back to our school.

I said something like, "Oh shit! I think I know where that came from." I went on to tell them about the lesson I had given the previous Friday:

"I stood in front of my class holding my keys, my wallet, and my cell phone, and I told the class I would give them all of those things before I would give them my email password. When they questioned why, I told them that if you give someone your password, they can have their lives destroyed."

"No way!" they said.

I went on to say, "I can destroy your lives with just two words." Again, they said, "No way! How?"

I just said, "All I have to do is use your email account, address it to the White House, and say, 'You're dead!' How long do you think it would be before the Secret Service was at your door?" Well, I guess I got the answer about how long it would take.

I was finding it hard to believe that one of my students would be so stupid as to do that, because they already knew about IP address tracing and the lack of anonymity online.

As it turned out, it wasn't a two-word message via email. Someone had come to the White House website where you could leave a message for the President. In the message, they ranted and threatened the life of the President, and left their email address. The email address they left was to a student in a neighboring high school, but the IP address showed it came from our school.

We went to the computer logs and traced it back to a specific computer. Apparently, two boys were enamored of the same girl, and the boy from our school wrote the message and left his rival's name. Much to my relief, it was not my lesson and not my student.

The Secret Service didn't drag him out in cuffs and left the discipline up to the school. As they left, one of the agents turned to me as he put on his aviator sunglasses and said, "Nice lesson." (Just kidding about the aviator sunglasses.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

An Open Letter to Facebook Administrators in the Raymond Area

Dear Facebook Group Administrators and Members,

I am penning this open letter, which I am sharing on only here on the Raymond, New Hampshire Residents group, to address a matter of growing concern. As this is a private group, Facebook's policies prevent direct sharing of this post. However, I encourage you to share this link in any other local groups you are part of.
I am aware that this message may come across as boastful or arrogant, but I assure you, it is not my intention. I am writing this out of necessity, not choice.
My journey in the online world began before the term "online" was commonplace, and possibly even before some of you were born. Since 1983, I have been involved in online community building and administration, a part of my professional life in education. I am confident that my experience in online administration surpasses most.
If you've been in this field as long as I have, you'll likely resonate with my observations. If you're relatively new to forum administration, please don't take my words as a personal critique.
You may have noticed an increase in fake accounts attempting to join your group, a surge in scams being posted, and a rise in the number of posts and users you've had to deny or ban. If these trends have escaped your notice, it's crucial to understand that you may be inadvertently doing a disservice to your users.
Starting a Facebook page or group is easy, but managing it becomes increasingly challenging as the content grows. This increased responsibility includes protecting your members from scammers and ensuring their online safety.
Regrettably, I've found that individuals and scams I've banned from our group are still active in other local groups. As administrators, we are the first line of defense for our users, many of whom lack the necessary online survival skills.
It's our duty to stay abreast of technological advancements and scammer tactics. If you're wondering why scams have become more prevalent, the answer lies in two letters: AI.
An old Arab proverb states:
He who knows not, and knows not he knows not, is a fool—shun him; he who knows not, and knows he knows not, he is simple—teach him; he who knows, and knows not he knows, he is asleep—wake him; he who knows, and knows he knows, he is wise—follow him.
In the context of Facebook administration, consider which description fits you best. If you believe you're fully informed about AI, you may need to revisit the first line. Artificial intelligence has empowered internet scammers in the same way email once did for Nigerian Princes. If this analogy confuses you, it's time to enhance your skills.
Over the past week, I've created numerous screen capture videos documenting my moderation activities on Raymond, New Hampshire Residents. Before investing time in editing these into a formal presentation, I want to gauge if it would be beneficial.
I propose a series of Zoom conferences with Facebook administrators from Raymond and nearby towns. While I bring considerable experience to the table, I am certain there is much I can learn from you. As a lifelong learner, I am acutely aware that the more I learn, the more I realize there is yet to know. I am eager to collaborate with you for the betterment of our community.
If you're interested, please send me a Facebook PM expressing your interest. If we're not already connected on Facebook, include the name of the group you administer, as I will need to verify your identity before responding and granting Messenger access.
Remember, a great leader doesn't say, "Follow me." Instead, they say, "Show me where you want to go, and I will help you get there." I don't seek followers, but I believe we can navigate this journey together.
Art Wolinsky 
Co-admin, Raymond, New Hampshire Residents


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Student Becomes the Teacher Again!

Sarah Tantillo is the author of Hit the Drum: An Insider's Account of How the Charter School Idea Became a National Movement.  

I first met Sarah around 1995 when we were both in the Long Beach Island Elementary School. I was a 5th grade teacher, and Sarah was in my student. If you had told me then that by 2021 she would have four books and be one of the nation's top experts on the charter school movement, I wouldn't have doubted you for a moment. On the other hand, if you had told me that in 2021 she would be teaching me things about my wife of almost 55 years that would give me an even greater appreciation for her, I would ask you what you were smoking, but last night she did just that.

During an interview by Michael Scotto, one of her former students, she was asked to share some insights about how a parent can best support their child in school, and she told a story that hit me like a ton of bricks. Watch this six minute segment and I'll explain. 


If you ask me whether I prefer vanilla or chocolate, I would simply say, "Chocolate."  If you ask my wife the same question, you will likely hear about the first time she tasted a Hershey bar, the time my son put a bowl of vanilla ice cream on his head, her introduction Neapolitan ice cream, and the plot of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Eventually, I would get the answer I was looking for five  minutes earlier. 

After listening to Sarah, I realize that at the same time she was sitting in my 5th grade classroom, Jill had been that mother in the supermarket for five years with our children. While I was teaching Sarah and the other students at LBI, Jill was laying down the educational foundation for our children in ways that I couldn't begin to match.

So after 55 years of marriage, the next time I ask my wife a simple question, instead of getting impatient when she goes on a verbal safari, I will think of Sarah, the woman in the supermarket, two amazing kids, and I will be thankful and grateful for all she has done.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Chuck Brodsky, Holocaust Awareness, and Schools

Normally, the video would come at the end of my blog post, but don't waste your time reading my words until after you watch how Chuck Brodsky helps students at the Pine School in Florida relate to the Holocaust in a unique and powerful way. 

This all started about two months ago, when I wrote about singer/song writer Chuck Brodsky, his thoughtful and reflective music. I explained how the pandemic was keeping him from touring, but how it offered a unique opportunity for schools and creative teachers to tap into a world class talent to provide a learning opportunity that would not be possible save for the pandemic.

Most of his songs are based on true stories that are windows into the human condition. They are insightful observations of life, how it is lived, and how it should be lived. I knew his songs of the Holocaust could help students connect to history in a way that no text book could ever do. I knew that if I wasn't retired, I would be looking for ways to connect Chuck with my students and give them life lessons and experiences in history, story telling, and writing in ways that could never be done through text books. 

My days in the classroom ended more than a decade ago, but my connections to schools and the like minded teachers I had worked over the years were still at it. After reaching out to Chuck with my thoughts about how his music could inspire students and offered to help connect him with schools and he took me up on my offer.

In the beginning of February, I reached out to my friend Karlheinz Haas, who was the Educational Technology Curriculum Director at Southern Regional, where I was teaching and consulting in the 90's. He's now at the Pine School in Florida where 8th grade teacher, Kim Yaris, conducts an annual Holocaust unit. 

The class had already read Eli Wiesel's "Night", done research, and had a visit from a classmate's father who was a Holocaust survivor. Kim's unit was based in story telling and after some planning it was decided that Chuck would could first conduct a Zoom concert, and perform some of his songs, tell their back stories, and answer questions as a way of leading the students into their culminating projects. Then about two weeks later he again once again met with the class for more in depth interviews about his life, his writing process, and to provide commentary and suggestions on their projects. It was one of the three most significant educational experiences of my 40+ years in education.

I documented the project and here's a 30 minute compilation of the activities. If you would like to connect Chuck before the pandemic begins to ease up and he resumes touring, you can reach him at .

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Chuck Brodsky, the Holocaust, Civil Rights, and Songs of Hope and Inspiration

If you are reading this, it is probably because we are Facebook friends and I personally asked you to come here. It's also very likely you are a teacher and we met because of our involvement with the Internet and school change. 

I have invited you here to meet Chuck Brodsky, who I met about 20 years ago. I'm hoping he can touch and enrich you life and possibly the lives of your students, the way he has mine. I know his songs, stories, and insights into the human condition will touch your hearts and I'm hoping they might fit in your classroom or curriculum.

I hope you will take the time to explore the links here and figure out ways to use his gift to reach the hearts and minds of your students in creative and powerful ways that can't be done with the simple written word alone.

I first met Chuck around the turn of the century shortly after Pandora launched and I set up a folk channel. The first song I heard was, Radio, the story of a football coach, in Anderson, South Carolina, and a kid they called Radio. That prompted me to buy the CD and after listening to it, the possibilities for use in the classroom excited me. One thing led to another. I went to see him perform, spoke with him after the show, and began planning a cross-curricular project for the students in our high school, but I digress. Here's Chuck singing Radio.

We are in the middle of a pandemic (stated Captain Obvious), and teachers are scrambling to create engaging online lessons. Musicians, such as Chuck, who make their living performing live are in much the same boat. To make ends meet, Chuck is doing Facebook and YouTube live concerts, the concerts are free and Chuck asks that you tip as you see fit. He also has all of his songs available to download, and I've been introducing him to educators who can tap into the richness of his songs and stories. 

I'm willing to bet that many, if not most of you will become Chuck Brodsky fans, and I hope you will use his songs in your classes. If you do you can support him in many ways.  Simply paying $1 to download one of his songs from Band Camp  would help, but I'm betting some of you have the wheels turning about a Zoom concert.

You could spend the next week listening to his songs just to figure out which ones might suit your curriculum, but I know you don't have that kind of time.  However, I do, and I know half of his songs by heart. There are at least two dozen songs that would overlap in a number of places and cover topics such as the holocaust, civil rights, values, immigration and more, including the division in our country today.

I've put together a short description of at least two-dozen songs on the topics listed above, along with links to them. If you are interested saving yourself hours of work locating the right songs for you and getting a copy of the list, or have any questions about the education potential, feel free to email me at

Oh, and by the way, if you are thinking about songs that will excite your class about song writing or poetry, there a few dozen more that would fit the bill.  

If there is a silver lining in this Covid-19 cloud, it is that you have an opportunity to bring a world class talent into your classroom via Zoom at a school budget price. If you're interested in having Chuck work with you students, you can contact him directly at

Stay safe! Stay healthy! Stay sane!

Saturday, December 26, 2020

A Christmas Surprise

Here's a huge shout out to my son-in-law, Paul Kerstein, for taking the lead on making this Christmas special for Jill. It was a year and a half in the making. In early 2019, Paul and I were talking about my father-in-law, Jack Saylor, and his service in the submarine service during WWII. I didn't know much. 

Jack died less than three years after we were married. He never talked about his service to his family and of course I never asked him in the short time I knew him. The only story he ever shared with Jill was one of sinking a Japanese transport and what transpired after it sunk. Suffice it to say, they didn't take prisoners on the high seas, and like so many others, the man who left for war was not the man who came home and never would be again.

USS Lapon

All I really knew was the name of the submarine he served on, the information on his service card, and a few other details I could find in the public record. As we talked, Paul mentioned a flag display he had made for his uncle. I had the flag from Jack's casket in the basement and the plan was hatched (no pun intended). We used to fly it regularly when we lived in NJ, but was stained and faded on one side. I had it professionally cleaned, but Paul had to fold it 7 different ways to display it at its best.

Awards can only be secured by a blood relative. It was obvious I couldn't get Jill to sign the documents without letting the cat out of the bag, but my daughter could. That's when Paul took the lead. With Ranyde's access as a relative, Paul was able to dig into military records and found out things neither Jill nor I had any inkling of.  

Jack rose to the rank of Seaman 1st class, and worked in the torpedo room of the USS Lapon in four campaigns from 1942-1945. The Lapon was one of 214 US submarines that sunk 1264 enemy ships. Only 35 sank more than the Lapon.

Text messages went back and forth over the months, mostly me answering questions, doing progress checks, and discussing the best display case and how to get it. The about a year went by waiting for the government to come through with the items you see on display.  The last items arrived about a week before Christmas!


The display includes the Lapon patch, his stripes, and all the pins, ribbons and medals for which he qualified. The sub you see in the display box is a 1/350 EXACT replica of the Lapon, painstakingly and lovingly crafted by Paul. 

When Paul sent me the last text with the picture of the final product, I told him Jill always said he was the best son-in-law in the world, but after this it would be the galaxy.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Truth, Lies, Rumors, and Rumbles

The sacrifices and hardships endured by those who choose to serve are something most of us will never understand, but all of us should honor and cherish them. In keeping with my pledge to give thoughtful posts, I'll refrain from editorializing and offer this post in the hope it will help someone in some small way.

Today, on Facebook, Mess Wright said,  "My dad was a Vietnam vet who had some issues as a result. I got to grow up dealing with that. One brother served in combat in Kosovo and is totally traumatized from that. Another brother killed himself in his driveway after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Trump calling dead vets losers is not surprising but it’s just one more way he beats up decent people who have served the USA in ways his accidental presidency never has and never will. I’ll never understand those of you who still support him, and I never will. I want you all out of my life for now and forever." 


Her story, like many others, brought to mind my Uncle Harold. He was a WWII vet, but didn't speak about it much. One day, when I was about 12, I asked him what he did in the Army.  I didn't go into detail, but he told me of being stationed in Germany and of an anonymous poem pinned on the barracks bulletin board and the impact it made on him.

I sat transfixed as he recited it. It made such an impression on me, I asked him to write it down, and I memorized it that same day. Over the past 60+ years, the more I learned about the war, the more I realized, how much that poem said about his time overseas.  I have shared it with others hundreds of times and recited it in my mind thousands of times, but one time will live forever in my memory.

Back in the mid-90s, our teachers and administrators were in a battle with a board of education who ran the school district much like the country is current administration is running the country.  They had two agendas, neither of which had students in mind. In their efforts to implement them, the district suffered considerably. One was to get rid of the superintendent and the other was to cut spending as much as they could.  They started on the later as soon as they had the majority.  Sometime later, the superintendent resigned for the good of the district.  

The new superintendent, while not a puppet, was powerless to fight their decisions. Lies, backroom deals, cronyism, bullying, firings, transfers, and control of local media were their tools. If a teacher or administrator opposed them, they were called to task, fired, or transferred. After a year or more of this, I decided to use the internet to get the truth out, because I felt it was a tool that could make a difference. I created Truth, Lies, Rumors, and Rumbles.

Over a 6 month period, my battle became public as newspapers began getting wind of it a teacher taking on the board on the web. The battle was no longer local as my website won a Point 5% award in the education category and the Electronic Freedom Foundation offered legal help. I thanked the EFF and told them I would let them know if I needed any.  

I had a habit of fighting city hall, and as they say, this wasn't my first rodeo. More importantly, I had the advice of one of the top attorneys in the country, who just happened to be my first cousin. Before I began, I contacted him, told him I was going to take on the board, and knew they would come after my job at some point.  He told me exactly what to do and as things turned out, his advice was golden. 
When they eventually did come after me, it was a surprise attack. It happened one night at a televised board meeting. The meeting was almost over.  They had just come out of a non-public session. After getting up to make a comment, they attacked me. I couldn't believe what they were doing, because it violated state law, our contract, and more, which you will soon see. As it was happening, I couldn't believe it, but then as looked at the table and realized the board attorney who was a regular fixture at EVERY meeting, wasn't there to stop them as he had in other instances when they were getting ready to cross a line. I later found out as they came out of non-public, the board president told him he could go home, because there was only 5 minutes left in the meeting.  As it turned out, those 5 minutes were arguably the most important 5 minutes in the meeting. It became the next episode of As the Board Churns.

It was at that point I decided to get the state teacher association's legal department involved. Our first and only meeting was held on the morning of the next board meeting. After I filled the attorney in on what had transpired over the past 5 months, he asked if I had any documentation. I could hear it in his tone and see it in his body language, he had heard it before.  I knew he wasn't expecting the three ring binder filled with about 250 pages of notes, letters, newspaper clipping, and more.  His eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas.

As we continued, I asked what our next step should be, because the next board meeting was that night (Tuesday). He told me I had two choices.
1) I could sit in the audience and say nothing, and if they took any action against me, he would file in federal court by Thursday for violating my civil rights.  2) I could go in front of the board and say whatever I like, and if they took any action against me, he would file in federal court by Thursday for violating my civil rights.  I opted for number 2.

That night, as I stepped up to the podium, I saw the board attorney say something to the president. I began about a 10 minute speech that refuted everything they said during their attack on me, and then gave them a bit of their own medicine.  If looks could kill, I would have been struck dead on the spot. At one point, the VP was getting ready to say something when the attorney to put his hand his shoulder and just nodded his head, no  . It was obvious the attorney had updated them on how badly they had screwed up in the 5 minutes he was not at the previous meeting, because they never said a word.  I really don't remember what I said in the speech, or how I made the transition to the poem, but I can still see their faces every time I recite it.

I have hoped. I have planned. I have striven.
To the will I have added the deed;
All that is in me I've given
In the hope that I would succeed.

I have dared and reached only disaster,
I have battled and broken my lance;
I am struck by a pitiless master
That the weak and the timid call Chance.

I am old. I am bent. I've been cheated
Of all that youth urged me to win;
But name me not with the defeated,
For tomorrow, again I begin.

Shortly after that, I reached out to LM_NET, the Internet's largest mailing list of librarians, to try to find out who wrote the poem. They came through in flying colors.  The poem was titled, Unsubdued, and was written by S.E. Kiser. The version above, is how my uncle remembered it. The S.E. Kiser version had only a few words different, but the changes provide a powerful picture in to the mind of the GI who posted it on the bulletin board, but that's another discussion.

Things came to a head with the board as we approached the April elections. Three of the members' terms were expiring.  Two of them had decided not to run, but the president was up for re-election. On TLR&R, I said that on the day after the election, if the president was re-elected, I would take that as a message from the public, and would resign my teaching position. In his campaign literature, the board president said he was elected to the board by one of the largest margins in township history, and trusted that the voters would return him to the board.  When the results came in he was defeated by one of the largest margins ever.

The truth is a powerful thing!