So, here’s the deal. Every once in awhile there’s a Gloucester issue everyone is talking about but nobody will actually spend an hour or two investigating, which inevitably leads to a ton of bogus information and rumors floating around. There was the lifeguard thing a month or so ago. There have been endless assumptions made about the possible uses of the Fuller property that a quick posting of the undisputed facts could have hosed away the stupid with. Now there’s Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken’s educational experience.
I guess we’re the one’s who have to do this. Again. Us. Your favorite local snarkblog and unhealthy drone obsessives’ web support portal. So before we get started, Gloucester Daily Times, do you ever wonder where it all went wrong? You are being scooped by people who spend 2/3 of their journalistic effort trying to come up with amusing combinations of human body parts and vermin.
The issue: Our current interim mayor is running for election to a full term. Flashback mode reminds us she agreed to only serve the interim and not run as mayor this round, but decided to anyway. Your beloved The Clam predicted this because once you’re in the number one slot it’s hard to go back the minor leagues. Still, this choice got some people not unreasonably upset. Fine. Our take at the time was voters will make their call with the “one and done” agreement collapse as part of their calculus.
Along with the pay and prestige, once you move from council to mayor the level of scrutiny gets higher along with the stakes. And what folks over at Cape Ann Online [motto: “WHINE LOUDER!!1!”] latched onto last week was Mayor Theken’s educational credentials. There were shouts she was claiming degrees she did not have, there were passionate defenses, lots of the usual name calling and the usual pants wetting/cryscreaming one finds over there.
Aside #1: This is why The Clam deletes most of your comments. Because we love you people, but most of you suck at comments. Sorry, but you do.
Aside #2: Amusing thought experiment: what would the appropriate degree be for running this town? I mean, we are personally not certified to do anything we actually do, so assuming degrees are even useful beyond the hard sciences, in an ideal world what degrees would a prospective Mayor of Gloucester hold? We’re going with a double major in Marine Science/Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on delusional disorders.
At the heart there were some real questions. So here we are. A quick investigation of which apparently only The Clam is capable of (pug wizards up over here) found Sefatia had claimed the following:
- In a 2011 campaign letter in the first person at The Beacon Sefatia claims:
I have a bachelor degree in business management, masters in health & human services.
- At this city council meeting in 2007 at 00:14 then Councilor Theken claims a masters in health care.
In a fit of journalistic pique we then went and ASKED the mayor about her degrees so we could PUBLISH what she said (take note of our mad journalizzm skillzz). We were directed to this statement on her campaign website, which we republish here in full:
“In February 1997, I started my employment at Addison Gilbert Hospital. At that time, I enrolled in certificate programs at Salem State through the Fishermen’s Wives when Salem had a satellite campus in Gloucester. In September 1997, my husband took his own life due to depression and left me with three children. My children and I needed to understand how that happened and what that meant. After taking my children to several therapists and finding no answers, I looked elsewhere. Through my colleagues at Addison Gilbert Hospital, I was able to use the hospital’s Medical Library. From there, I enrolled in online courses in my quest to find those answers.
In the meantime while still doing online courses, I was also taking courses through the Department of Public Health and became certified as a Health Education Advocate. While I still felt lost, I continued those online courses and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Management from San Diego Pacific University in 2002. I also continued my coursework through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. These courses are ongoing, and I continue them today to maintain my certification.
I continued online courses and in 2005 received a Master’s Degree in Health Service Management.
I also continue courses through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Office of Elder Affairs and the Department of Medical Assistance and am certified in Health Services.
I have very proudly talked about my degrees at various times since 2005. On my current bio, I chose not to include my degrees because it was brought to my attention that San Diego Pacific University is no longer in existence. I took the degrees off my resume because I didn’t want people to focus on them; I wanted them to focus on me. Because I know how nasty campaigns can become, I didn’t want all the questions which take away from the real issues and focus on the future of Gloucester; however, I do not want to discourage anyone from online education. The online education not only afforded me the opportunity to earn two degrees, but it gave me the ability to help my children understand that depression is an illness for which sometimes there is no cure.”
And because fairness, we also asked candidate Council President Paul McGeary for his educational background, which is congruent with what he’s claimed as far as our research goes. We think this is also what journalists do, we guess? We have no idea.
Education of Paul McGeary
Educated at Worcester Public Schools through High School.
Graduated Holy Cross College, Worcester, with a B.A. in history (1971).
Graduate work in history at the University of Connecticut (1971-72)
Graduate work in history at Harvard University, (1992-1996)
Professional training in project management, personnel management and systems.
Highest degree attained: B.A.
We don’t know much about San Diego Pacific University beyond it was never accredited and it closed. We have no idea how much work they required (thesis?), what kinds of follow-up and backing they provided their alumni. It falls into the “Seems sketchy” to us category. We’ll leave it to the mayor, her campaign and her pr/opponents to answer those questions.
But it’s clear that in the end some Cheers and Jeers are in Order:
- Cheers: For distancing herself from degrees that seem to hold little real-world recognition and being up-front about that.
- Jeers: For not actually, you know, distancing. Like, physically. Take them off the wall maybe? Are they still there? We don’t know.
- Cheers: For being a person who’s actually lived a difficult life (which many of us relate to) to rise above great challenges with pride, love and a better understanding of what real people face in a world that can very quickly become cruel and disheartening. We love the Mayor for this as a human being.
- Jeers: For crossing the streams a too much with personal/objective issues as a candidate for Mayor. We’ve said it before, the biggest challenge Sefatia faces is keeping appropriate emotional distance from issues. Most politicians are lawyers because many lawyers are crevice stoats (YOU’RE WELCOME) who train on keeping emotions out of their work and therefore become heartless dickweeds. Sefatia has the opposite issue. We would like “just the facts” and less personal story when it comes to simple, objective questions such as what degrees one holds or has claimed to hold.
So that’s it. I doubt it will change any minds, but those are the facts and our take. I swear we’re going to get back to full-time making fun of things soon.
At some level, I think the mayor is a victim of a predatory diploma mill.
I would have appreciated her statement better if she had addressed that issue directly.
Was it predatory? Was she a victim? Would supposing either be mere speculation in the absence of evidence one way or the other?
I, for one, am happy the rumor-mill has ground to a halt.
The rumor mill has ground to a halt only because The Clam, not the GDT, did some basic journalism. And now that we have the facts, and we are able to speculate about what those facts mean.
And I was clearly speculating; that’s why I said, “I think”. But diploma mills are by their nature a predatory industry; they charge money for a bogus product.
If a school (online or otherwise) is not accredited by a legitimate academic organization …it means nothing. And for the detail nuts….regional accreditation has more heft than national accreditation; I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but dose are da facts.
(This is not a judgment about the interim mayor – simply a statement of fact)
(I might have written that poorly…”it means nothing” meant that degree conferred by non-accredited institutions are, essentially, worth nothing.)
They are not “by their nature predatory”; some might be, but some sell certification openly so recipients can claim salary increases or seek employment in positions that might otherwise be unattainable.
Speculation as to victimhood invites speculation as to motive and awarenes, due diligence and naïvety. Evidence is lacking.
So what do *you* think about it?
I think there is insufficient evidence to come to a conclusion, so speculation is pointless and potentially damaging to the candidate.
That doesn’t really make much sense.
You think we can only discuss things for which we have complete and accurate information. That’s not a lot of things.
What we have here is a lot of information. Not complete, but a lot.
Speculation is what we are left with. I speculate that the mayor was taken advantage of, which you think is “potentially damaging to the candidate”. Yet the opposite speculation, that she knew that these degrees were worthless, and she was cynically purchasing an erudition to which she wasn’t entitled, is equally damaging.
So you don’t want to speculate; that’s fine. But now that we have almost all of the facts, I’m going to go ahead and speculate.
Ah, I mistook you rematk for sympathy. Carry on.
No, you got it right; I am sympathetic to the mayor. I feel that she was exploited by a predatory industry.
What would The Clam pay for a Grammar Editor? (I have some free time….)
Really! You would have to be pretty stupid to believe that such degrees are valid! Or perhaps you knew all along and you chose to misrepresent your educational credentials. Either way it does not bode well for the candidate. If one is willing to go that far to deceive the electorate, one wonders what else she would do to become mayor and forward her agenda.
That she is volatile and buffoonish is evident to all who witness her in action. Now we know her “education” was courtesy of the Close-Cover-Before-Sriking Correspondence School. But this is Gloucester so she’s a top vote-getter.