On education: from Josh Turiel, the Clam’s Token Elected Official

(even if he is from Salem, not Gloucester)

Question 2 is on the ballot this fall, and charter schools are a massively polarizing issue even among the left of progressives that tend to make up the Clam’s braintrust and much of our readership. Many progressives and liberals are on different sides of this issue. In short, Question 2 proposes to allow the creation of up to 12 new charter schools per year. Those schools would favor districts in the bottom 25% of statewide districts.

Advocates paint this as an issue of improving access to quality education for our most vulnerable students and families (a large proportion of whom favor charter school expansion). Opponents see this as taking away resources from our already struggling public schools and an attempt to privatize a public good.

In many senses, they are both right. Full disclosure though, after 9 years in our city’s public system my own son opted to attend Salem’s charter school for high school and we allowed that (a decision that spawned much Facebook abuse from some of Salem’s “characters”) and supported his decision. I’m a fan of our public schools, and I have done a lot to support them, but I’m no longer a public school parent.

My own opinion on this ballot question is that charter schools themselves are neither good nor bad per se. Gloucester had a very bad experience with their charter school, which was poorly run and wound up being closed down. Salem’s has been very positive with Salem Academy Charter – ranking in the top handful of schools statewide and well-managed.

In a perfect world, the presence of a charter school in a district can be used to spur innovation and growth in the public school district it lives in and gets students from. In practice, though, the district shuns the charter, and the charters take an elitist attitude over the rest of the district.

Dudes, you get your kids by lottery. They’re the same group the rest of the district gets. If you game the lottery, you ought to lose your charter. Period. I think some of this split has to do with outcomes, though. And that bugs me more than a little.

Education and knowledge are important in today’s world. But progressives tend to over-value secondary education. And they undervalue the use of actual work – the kind where regular people make and fix things. Charters are popular with many because they send a lot of kids to college. Well, college isn’t all that. If you have a career path that’s not served by college, then maybe it doesn’t make sense for you. Maybe the best answer is a trade education (something sadly neglected in today’s world), combined with an apprenticeship. Maybe it’s a general liberal arts college education. Maybe, just maybe, it’s a specialized college education combined with a postgraduate education in a specialty (law, engineering, architecture, medicine, whatever). And maybe I’m biased as a college dropout who went on to a career in corporate IT management before starting my own company 13 years ago.


But anyways. The important thing is for every kid to have the best outcome for that kid. Not just whatever the workforce need is, or whatever is perceived to create the Renaissance Person. So, ultimately I do support charter schools as a solid educational alternative that ideally should be part of the educational system.

So Question 2 should be a no-brainer, right?


At the same time that charter schools are (I believe) a good part of the system, there’s a growing movement among both “education first” liberals and “privatize everything” conservatives to turn more and more of our educational system over to charters – and there’s also a growing movement to turn charter schools into a for-profit industry. I really don’t like that. As I mentioned above, in Salem we had a positive charter experience where community members basically brought the Salem Academy Charter into existence. Gloucester tried to do the same, but never was able to get their school onto a solid footing and has been without ever since.

basically the GCACS

Basically the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School

Since that time we set up an in-district charter for troubled students (New Liberty Innovation School, which transitioned this year away from being a charter and back into the system), and Bentley Academy (formerly the Bentley School – the school whose problems were what brought the Salem district into Level 4) was a political football – an incredibly divisive topic driven at least partly by the use of the aforementioned private charter companies to get the ball rolling.

Also of note is something that is both a fact and a misleading fact. Yes, money is taken away from a district when those students leave for a charter school. But it’s not like that money just vaporizes, “poof” into the sky. The Mass Taxpayers Foundation (a fairly centrist policy group) put out a study this past week saying that charters aren’t a drain on traditional public schools at all, and though I quibble over a few findings (mostly in the below paragraph, having to do with fixed costs), we are in a state where the “dollars follow the student” system is applied to ANY public-option school. Including School Choice districts (like Hamilton-Wenham, which has brought in large numbers of out of district kids), vocational schools like Essex Tech, and of course, charter schools.

That money is given to the charter school to educate the child. Basically, the same total pool of money educated the same total pool of kids. This said, there IS a cost to the public schools for this. We are not in a true competitive market with schools (not should we be). But public schools have to staff teachers, maintain and operate buildings, provide transportation, and manage all sorts of fixed costs that stay the same if the enrollment goes up or if it goes down a few percent. So if the Chapter 70 money from the state that goes into the school foundation budget equals $7500 per pupil (not an exact figure) and 300 students go to the city’s charter school, that equals $2,250,000 assessed from the city.


Hahahhaa oh god it’s true sweet fuck

That $2.25m becomes the basis of the charter’s budget – it’s still going to educate your community’s children – in addition to any other grants or funding that school is able to obtain. But depending on things, your regular public school didn’t shed $2.25m in costs. Yes, they did have some costs come out. But not that much.

In their infinite wisdom, the Legislature came up with a funding formula to make up those costs to the district that loses to the charter. Which they don’t fund. Where the argument gets more traction in my view is in an overall comparison of school finances. And this is one of the fundamental flaws in charter school development nowadays  and the whole “for profit” charter school industry. Public schools in many communities are struggling. There are a lot of reasons for this. Demographic shifts. Special education requirements and costs (this is one of the loopholes many charters use – they have more leeway to send children with extensive special education needs back to the public school system). Increasing costs of owning/managing school buildings. Often restrictive teacher union contracts. The failure of the state to keep up with costs in their foundation budgets.

One more common objection to charters is that they aren’t overseen by elected school committees. Well, not every community elects their school committee (most notably in Boston, but regional vocational schools also appoint their school committee members as well). More importantly, charters don’t operate in a vacuum. They all appoint a board of trustees who have that oversight role. If they fail to do it, the state can (and in a few cases, has) stepped in to take oversight or even close the school. Massachusetts is good at this.

But charters aren’t all sunshine and roses. There are threats to the model, and that is a good reason to not just run away willy-nilly and build charter schools everywhere. And this is where the money is. An entire industry has emerged to build charter schools that run like a business, not like a community. And the financial companies and foundations (like the Waltons of Wal-Mart fame) with ties to the for-profit charter businesses are putting plenty of money into the MA fight. On the No side for big bucks is the MA teacher’s union – many of the charter schools are non-union so that’s an obvious place to defend.

The entire battle is a cluster. There are people who would rather see Trump in the White House than see a single new charter school. In our state, we’re doing better than most when it comes to charter management and oversight. But there’s also long waiting lists for charter schools all around the state, especially in districts where the schools are lower-performing.

Personally, I’m voting NO on Question #2, because I like having more brakes on the charter school system. I think there’s room to expand. But not much, and not quickly. And I also think both sides have a long way to go before we can get to a happy medium and run charters the way they can make the biggest difference for the state as a whole.

But our priority has to be on improving our public schools. That’s where the bulk of the resources should be going, that’s where the bulk of the kids are (and should be) educated, and that’s where the rubber meets the road.

Lenghazi Is Upon Us, Folks, Buckle Up

So by now everyone and their mom has heard that our police chief, Saugus native Lenny Campanello, has been suspended while an investigation takes place. Lenny is known mostly for his innovative approach to heroin addiction and subsequent founding of PAARI, which has literally saved dozens of lives and is spreading compassionate treatment instead of locking up addicts. The Clam folk were really taken aback by this, as most of us across the city  were. We’re no stranger to the issues between law enforcement and the citizens they police, and we prided ourselves on having a caring, nonjudgemental, decent local police force. And now, the media trucks are surrounding our downtown, and it’s a huge goddamn letdown for all of us who care so much about this town and were just so, so tired of scandals and negative stories about Gloucester.

"It's JRM's problem now, suckers!" - Hiltz, probably.

“It’s JRM’s problem now, suckers!” – Hiltz, probably.

We like(d) Lenny, but this investigation is serious business. The initial knee-jerk reaction by a lot of people is that it was a “witch hunt” and no one should say anything until more comes out, and that people including the mayor just don’t like him and are stringing him up on false charges. Because Lenny could do no wrong, obvi. I can see why people believe that – he’s literally, again, saved lives. He’s changed an entire way of thinking. He has done a lot of good for the entire dingdang nation.

But it’s getting more clear that he did something wrong, or at least the very serious appearance of such. This isn’t a light discussion on his personal life. The probe will be led by a firm outside the city. He’s stepped down temporarily from PAARI. He seems genuinely concerned for a dude that claims to be real unconcerned. Well, his lawyer is speaking on his behalf now, for what it’s worth. A Sgt. Detective has also been placed on leave that may or may not be related, and the department is now in the hands of the fourth-in-charge, which at this point is just the guy who cleans the place on weekends when the normal custodian plays in a ska band.



And so the rumors have started flying. Since all of that is just it – rumors – there isn’t really much for any local media to go on and nobody’s saying jack shit on record, for good reason.  So we’ll just list them all here, in order of likelihood, or in no particular order. Who even knows. Most are probably vast conspiracy theories. Don’t trust us to get it right.


  • Lenny had an affair with a woman or was dating a woman shortly after leaving his wife and it went sour and there might be some domestic issues there. The former part isn’t a huge secret and may not even be a problem. I mean, shit happens, that’s barely enough to ruin somebody’s weekend these days. He may have done nothing untoward at all. But the latter part, if there was any truth to it, would be career ending. It may be something where the truth is never really known, because of the positions of power involved. 
  • Lenny drove drunk and crashed his car or someone else’s and there was some shenanigans. Well, it’s a theory floating around, that’s for sure, but one with no evidence. Again, however,  It would be career ending as well. I just assumed if you lived in Saugus you were contractually obligated to drink seven bud lights at a chain restaurant and bomb down the right lane all the way to fahkin’ Peabody, guy.
  • He was paying himself for time he wasn’t working, or was working at PAARI, or some other not-okay situation that doesn’t involve being a total asshole but still isn’t cool. 
  • He went to Midori for lunch buffet and totally used his hands to get bonelesss spareribs.
  • He wore crocs and socks for an entire work week.
  • He is personally responsible for why they tore down everything you love on Route 1.
  • 1983-1998- didn’t rewind. Once.
  • Had Star Wars Marathon. Started with Phantom Menace.
  • Walked his dog on Good Harbor Beach in the summer and didn’t pick up his dog poop.

Obviously, this is a big thing. And we like to cut the obvious tense moods with humor. We really liked Lenny, but this could be something that makes him not a good guy. And we may have to separate our feelings for what Lenny has done for our community and beyond from the actual human that the chief is. It’s sad, but the first thing I thought of when I saw the million “he couldn’t have done it!” comments was the similar sentiment that came out directly after Bill Cosby’s allegations. It is inherently hard for us to believe that someone we respected could be a bad guy.

For the record, your beloved The Clam recommends strongly never to put another human being on a pedestal, unrelated to this incident. Human beings, although capable of tremendous greatness are also The Worst. Trust us on this.

And we all hope he isn’t The Worst. While we joke – we don’t want to lose faith in the people whom we trust to impartially, and fairly, lead our city. It’s a huge disappointment to ourselves, our kids… it just sucks. If he is guilty of something, PAARI will continue without him. It’s a great organization run by phenomenal people. We know this.

So until further notice, I guess we all hope it’s that he really loves grabbing crab rangoons with his meaty chief hands.




A not incredibly detailed set of reasons for voting to elect Ed O’Reilly for Sheriff on Thursday


So we’re on a bit of a hiatus as we try and get our respective lives in order here at your beloved Clam. But civic duty calls and when the eleventy-fifth person asked us, “Who in the name of blessed Varda Elentári in her Great Hall of Ilmarin should I vote for to become Essex County Sheriff?” (and the denizens of the Clamiverse do talk like this, by the way) we decided it was our responsibility to find out who the best candidate is.

This turns out to have been a huge fucking mistake. There are more people running for Essex County Sheriff than can fit comfortably in a CATA bus. The big, new one. And the whole race is a total shitshow. Trust us, dear readers, you don’t want to dive into this mess without a gallon of absinthe and that tin full of flaky remainders of those hallucinogenic toadskins the weird old Najavo dude sold us on that aborted trip to the proto Burning Man festival in 1991.

But we rocked that turtle-neck-tweed combo pretty hard, as I remember

We rocked that turtle-neck-tweed combo pretty hard, as I remember

Here is just a sample of what we found:

  • One of the candidates running as a Democrat does not seem to have been a Democrat since before May.
  • One of the candidates will draw a pension from another government job while doing this government job, which we guess is cool since he earned it, but wow.
  • Some of the candidates are already managers of the corrections system and some are taking thousand-dollar-plus donations from their employees, which is also wow.
  • One of the candidates when asked about re-creating a similar effort to Gloucester’s Angel program in Lynn said something on the order of “addicts in Lynn don’t want to get clean,” and now his defenders say he was taken out of context which I can only believe if the statement before was, “A totally dipshit thing to say would be…”
  • One of them is apparently driving around in a truck with NH plates, as one does here in MA.
  • A bunch of the candidates want to privatize the corrections health care system, which is a mistake we’ll talk about in a second.
  • And other stuff. Lots and lots of other stuff.
  • Feel free to wade into this shallow pool of derp yourself and figure out who the best one is. Or do what I’m doing and vote for Ed O’Reilly on Thursday.


Did you know there was a primary on Thursday? There is. So go to your voting place and vote.

Ok, so Ed. I’ve seen him around the scene for a couple of decades now. First of all, he’s not an employee of the corrections system. He comes at this job from the other direction, from the people the system is set-up to serve.

Yes, serve. The corrections system is a service. It serves us, the public by carrying out the sentences handed out by juries and judges and it serves the people in the corrections system by offering them a safe and hopefully rehabilitory experience.

Like these guys, who when they get out will be the hottest flashmob talent money can buy

Like these guys, who when they get out will be the hottest flashmob talent money can buy

“Screw them, they committed crimes,” you might think. But you would be oh-so-wrong. Regardless of how you feel about what makes people commit crimes (and if the Gloucester Police Notes are any guide, the answer is: Being within 500′ of the Maplewood 7/11) folks caught up in the corrections system are not going away. Most of them are only going to be in jail for a short while, the average sentence is about 3.5 years. So if they go in and don’t get some kind of treatment, skills training, education, or something to prepare them for a normal life outside the walls, then they are going to be back in our towns and neighborhoods causing problems and costing the system more. So you’d better hope the system serves them and well.

Which brings us to the privatization issue. Private companies want to save money. The way they do this is by minimizing expenses. These companies make more profit if the people in their care for a few years don’t get diagnosed and treated for chronic issues. And then these folks get back outside where the public and private systems have to deal with them at much higher cost. Good call in opposing this Ed, because it’s dumbass.

As I said, Ed has been around for a bunch of years. I see him at all the right things, public service events, education events and so on. His angle at the Sheriff gig is coming from the right direction, and as we’ve learned with the Angel program- focusing on the people with the problem rather than the massive public edifice we’ve built to contain it and only ever winds up perpetuating it, is the right approach in my book.

But my last reason to vote for him is the most Clamtastic. I was cranking down a portion of my daily hogshead of coffee at Pleasant Street one day when Ed walked in. Being an obnoxious wag, I said, “Ed, if you’re running for sheriff, you should dress like one. You know, hat, chaps, the whole deal.”

Or, as the Clam crowd would no doubt prefer, go all "Sheriff of Nottingham"

Or, as the Clam crowd would no doubt prefer, go all “Sheriff of Nottingham”

He brushed by me toward the people he was meeting and without missing a beat and said, “I save that for the bedroom.”

Huzzah, good sir. You have my vote.


Gloustec Podcast

Hey there nerds.

Did you know there are nerds in Gloucester? Did you further know there is all kinds of geeky crap happening here all the time? Too often folks don’t talk about all the crazy technology and science stuff going on locally because we are overshadowed by those dorks in Cambridge doing stuff like finding a workable fusion solution or curing cancer.

Screw those guys, there is plenty of locally awesome science, tech and geek culture going on right here.

So one day Myself and Joey C of Good Morning Gloucester and our own beloved Len Pal got together and said, “What if we did a podcast where we talked about geeky stuff as it relates to our crazy little island? And also bikes and how to best watch Game of Thrones without a TV and Len’s crazy trip to perform for Neil Degrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawkings and the guitarist for Queen who is also an astrophysicist (a real thing that happened) and electric cars at City Hall and all that? And we could drink beer and eat pizza.”

The question is obviously rhetorical and thus here it is. It’s funny, it’s informative and it’s mostly three dudes shooting the shit about hopefully interesting topics.

Click Here to go to the Podcast on Good Morning Gloucester


Innovative Addiction Treatment Program Promises to Aid Local Artists

GLOUCESTER—Starting in July, concerned Gloucester residents will try out a new program for managing a pervasive and seemingly intractable social ill.

“This addiction is tragic—and it’s a blight on our city,” said Dorothy Pendleton, president of the Rocky Neck Art Colony, one of several local groups supporting the experimental initiative. “But rather than stigmatizing the victims, we’ll give them the help they need.”

Pendleton delivered her remarks on Tuesday at the Cultural Center at Rocky Neck, where artists and other representatives from Gloucester’s creative class had gathered to announce their plan.

“I know all too well how easy it is to slide into a fixation on nautical themes and marine imagery in one’s art,” she told the audience, which responded with a chorus of amens.

“It starts with a lighthouse, a lobster trap, or a gaily colored dinghy bobbing in the harbor,” she said, her voice rising to a fever pitch. “And you think, Just this once. Just to score some easy cash.”

ColorfulDinghy[The grim consequences of addiction]

Pendleton trained as a sculptor at Montserrat College of Art, graduating with her BFA in 1977. For years she occupied a studio on Rocky Neck, where she produced sleek, minimalist works in aluminum and epoxy.

But when the market for such conceptual sculpture collapsed in the mid-1980s, things went downhill.

She explained: “On a lark, I used some leftover resin to fashion a stylized anchor. It was hideous—and just so cliché. But I hung it in the window, and a buyer walked in the same afternoon.”

“That was my gateway to homogenous beach art,” Pendleton said, shaking her head at the memory. “Within six months, I had sold off my old materials and begun to churn out whimsical mobiles from driftwood and sea glass.”

DriftwoodMobile[Rock bottom]

According to Daniel Sizemore, a painter and board member of Cape Ann Artisans, stories like hers are common, especially in Gloucester.

“Our city has a long and sordid history as a hotbed of maritime art,” he said, pointing at a framed print of two schooners skimming over a choppy green sea.

“Fitz Henry Lane was the original kingpin,” Sizemore said, his eyes narrowing. “With his rakish frock coat and luminous sunsets.”

Pendleton elaborated: “Lane and his minions established a culture of nautical addiction in this town. So it’s difficult to escape the motifs—coiled rope, billowing sails, mirror-calm coves lit by low-slung crescent moons—that have dominated the vocabulary of the Gloucester artist for almost two hundred years.”

FitzHenryLane[Lane, plotting the consolidation of his artistic cartel]

Others place the blame on the steady stream of money coming across the Piatt Bridge.

“We wouldn’t see this habit-forming behavior if it weren’t so lucrative,” said Dexter Gee, a member of the Gloucester Arts Guild and a recovering photographer of the relentlessly pounding surf.

He explained: “Tourists from New York and Boston generate the demand. They come to Gloucester, waving their platinum cards, clamoring for low contrast images of breakers rolling onto Bass Rocks.

“And if the Twin Lights loom in the background, they’ll pay double or triple,” Gee continued, his shutter finger twitching restlessly. “For a photographer who’s barely getting by, it can be hard to resist.”

According to Pendleton, the cumulative effects on a community can be devastating. “Rocky Neck Avenue is starting to look like the hallway of a Motel 8 in Ocean City,” she said.

Sizemore admitted that for years he and other artist-vigilantes had tried to shame the creators of maritime kitsch into reforming their ways. “We’d drive to their known hangouts—the Back Shore, Eastern Point—and heckle them as they captured the sunlight staining the clouds crimson.”

But it never worked—and now, rather than shunning the nautically obsessed, Pendleton and her partners are extending a sympathetic hand.

“We are inviting all affected artists to come down to the Cultural Center here on Wonson Street,” she said. “And with no judgment whatsoever, we’ll begin the rehabilitation process together.”

That process entails the safe disposal of finished beach art, as well as any associated paraphernalia. Pendleton listed some possibilities: “Watercolor sets, moveable easels, and floppy straw hats for those tawdry plein air sessions.”

PleinAirArtist[Image obscured to protect privacy]

Gee elaborated: “The Cultural Center will also pair you with a patron from the community who has agreed to purchase your first piece of clean, cliché-free work.”

“It could be almost anything,” he said. “An abstract canvas. A photo of a squalid gutter. Heck, even a naturalistic portrait.”

“Except no hoary sea captains,” Pendleton interjected.

Gee confirmed that their program is based on other local initiatives, which have used a compassionate approach to successfully address more significant addictions.

“If it can work for black tar heroin,” he said, “then there’s a chance it might work for pastel-tinted nautilus shells.”

Most exciting of all, according to Pendleton, is the potential for growth beyond Gloucester.  Artists’ collectives throughout the region have expressed interest in the plan’s radical, outside-the-box methodology.

“We’re getting calls from lots of seaside towns struggling with the same issue,” Pendleton said. “Apparently, the compass rose is absolutely rampant on Cape Cod.”

Gee described just one disappointment with the plan’s design and execution thus far. “We approached the Rockport Art Association as a potential partner,” he said. “But they insisted their town doesn’t have a problem. In their minds, the addiction is ‘only a Gloucester thing.’”

Imacon Color Scanner[Green and purple regions untarnished in any way]