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 List of the 20 Best Names of Registered Presidential Candidates


Guess what, nerds? Turns out the Federal Election Commission’s website has a list of all individuals who submitted Statements of Candidacy to be considered for the job of President of the good ol’ USA. (America! Fireworks! Eagle!) Yes, my friends, each one of these is registered to get YOUR vote this November. Here’s a list of potential nominees we totally could have gotten instead of Ted Cruz, Zodiac Killer:

  1. Osama Bin Liftin
  2. Dat Phat A$$
  3. Nostalgia Critic
  4. Disco Daddy
  5. Tipa Dis Dick
  6. Tronald Dump
  7. Alexander “Soy Sauce and Taters” Gordh (Prohibition Party)
  8. Lucille Hamster
  9. Fredrickson Asshat Kazoo
  10. Doctor Pepper
  11. Tarquin Poontang Ole Biscuit Barrel 
  12. Dick Your Mom Pound
  13. Ghost of Macho Man Randy Savage
  14. Seattle Seachickens Suck
  15. Left Shark
  16. Butt Stuff
  17. Ponzi Schemes Suck 
  18. Luther T, The Merciless Warlord Stock
  19. Why Not Zoidberg
  20. Carly Fiorina

“Building On Top Of The Ocean Is A Great Idea” – Nobody

When we first heard about the planned Soones Court development to subdivide the land Cheryl Soones owns on the ocean side of Atlantic Road on the Back Shore, we all looked at each other quizzically, and said “What the fuck?” It was the same look we gave each other when Trump started polling favorably.

I’d also bet a crisp, clean five dollar bill on the fact that at least 75% of Gloucesterites said the same damn thing, or a more child-friendly version thereof. Why the fuck would anyone try to develop on the back shore? What kind of actual bullshit is this? This is the worst idea anyone has had in Gloucester so far in 2016, and that includes the guy who called the police because his friend stole his drugs.

If you’re not aware of this debacle, let me Clamsplain this one for you. Sit down and Irish up your coffee, preferably ensconced in a mug you’re willing to smash into a million pieces against your wall. We good? Ok, let’s go.

The Back Shore, as we all know, is a stunning, scenic wonder. It’s a fantastic road for sightseeing tourists, joggers, cyclists, and teenagers smoking pot in their cars. The 1.5 mile stretch of the Back Shore that has open ocean beside it is part of what makes Gloucester a unique and beautiful place. The tourists aren’t coming here for our discarded Keno slips and abundance of nail salons. They’re coming for the Back Shore.


Untouched splendor! Did you think it would stay like this forever? LOL.


But clearly, we can’t have nice things. And that’s where Cheryl Soones comes in. Soones is a Florida resident who has owned four parcels of land on the ocean side of Atlantic that the town, in a stunning logical move, had long deemed unbuildable. This designation has been reflected in their value – the four lots are assessed at less than $20,000 combined. When this debacle first started several months back, Soones planned to sell the land and an architect from Lenox, James Harwood, had planned to build one 1500 square foot, single family home on one of the lots. However, Soones enough (see what I did there oh god someone stop me) that one home that was already controversial somehow turned into four. Four houses. Along the Back Shore. You can throw your mug now.

I saved this as facepalm.jpg

I saved this as facepalm.jpg

So somehow, this land, for which back taxes had been owed and the city could have legally taken possession of, is now ripe for four houses to be placed on it. This would be a hilarious comedy, except it isn’t.

At this point, the seven libertarians who bother reading the Clam are saying to themselves, “Well, it’s their land, right? Why can’t they build on it?” So let’s take a look at this land. These lots have very little vegetation and are ledge with boulders upon it. Also, the ocean is there. Like, right there. During even non-notable winter storms, this is how the road looks:



And this was a minor storm. Remember the Perfect Storm? Even I do, and I was 8.


This photo was taken exactly where these four homes are proposed. These aren’t in idyllic, protected coves where building close to the shore will have a negligible effect. The Back Shore is a monster in storms. Gigantic boulders get tossed  across the road like a drunk bro throws up late-night tacos in the interior of your mom’s Jeep. On the Good Morning Gloucester post where these photos were originally shared, Jo Major Ciolino commented, We were both completely shocked at the level of destruction and damage. I remember thinking it looked like a plane had flown down Atlantic Road and dropped bombs every 30 feet. It was inconceivable a storm could destroy that much and do so much damage.” And that was twenty five years ago. Climate change will make the next Perfect Storm even more powerful. It’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN. 


Oh, good. Nature.

But don’t you worry! The architects and engineers hired by Soones say they have the technology to make these houses happen. That technology to get around the flood zone requirements involves 24 steel beams which will elevate the bottom of the homes to… wait for it…

15 feet above Atlantic Ave. Floating houses 15 feet above the roadway. Because that makes sense. It’ll look great. Good job everyone, pat yourselves on the back. In addition, the maximum height permitted in this zoning is 30 feet. However, that’s not calculated from the level of the street or the bottom floor of the house – instead, it’s calculated from the average pre-construction grade of the footprint of the house – which are the rocks several feet below the road. Marty DelVecchio, who is a vast fountain of knowledge, pointed out that this means the highest point of the house (except the chimney) can be 30 feet above the rocks, which is 26 feet above the road. 16 feet of that is steel supports, leaving a full 10 vertical feet in which to build the house.

This whole idea is atrocious, especially when you consider stuff like utilities – getting gas, power, and sewer to those houses, where cars would park, and dozens of other concerns like how the homes would even be insured. There’s no evidence that even if these homes were built, there’s a market for them. The homes will all be built on spec – the landowner makes money, the builder makes money, and no one really gives a crap about who buys them and what becomes of them ten years down the road – and when the inevitable happens and these homes end up like my dreams, dashed across Atlantic Road and into their neighbors’ yards, who will be left holding the bag?

This photo by Cindy Lawry, taken an hour before high tide Feb 8, shows the lots mostly submerged.

This photo by Cindy Lawry, taken an hour before high tide Feb 8, shows the proposed lots mostly submerged.

Even Planning Board member Kenneth Hecht referred to the proposal as “bizarre”. What’s even more bizarre is the convoluted way this plan even got to the point where the planning board did a site visit and will hold a hearing this week. City Councilor Joe Ciolino proposed and pushed through an overlay zone for Atlantic Road that was approved in December. The zoning requires a special City Council permit for any building to take place along the ocean side of Atlantic Road from High Popples to Bass Rocks Road. However, the day this zoning was adopted, Soones and the developers submitted their plans for a four-house subdivision solely to avoid the new law, and thus have apparently grandfathered themselves with the previous zoning law.

The city dropped the ball the first time by not taking possession of the properties when taxes weren’t paid. Full stop. Even more aggravating is that (props to Marty for knowing this) once upon a time, until recently, the city had a law requiring City Council approval of any construction in a sensitive coastal area, but that law was lifted – apparently a it meant lot of work for the City Council over minor development that everybody was OK with, and besides, the reasoning was that there are several other boards that can stop the nonsense.

Like the Planning Board. This Thursday, March 3, the Planning Board will hear the proposal. This was continued from last month’s meeting, where it wasn’t brought up – although 60 people still showed up to voice their opinions on the project.

Save Our Shores Gloucester is a group headed by Barb Silberman, with a Facebook following of nearly 2500 so far. They will not only be showing up to this week’s proposal meeting, but they’ve also pooled their resources to hire expert legal counsel to stop the subdivision dead in its tracks.  They’re also looking for donations to help offset this cost. The Back Shore is a resource for all of us, and if you want to see it remain in its current undeveloped condition, you can make a donation below (or click here for mobile users) via GoFundMe. If you would prefer to donate by check, you can do so by write a check to The Gloucester Fund – Put “SOS Gloucester” on the memo line, and mail the check to 45 Middle Street, Gloucester, MA 01930




A List Of Annoying Names For Winter Storms

Winter Storm Jonas. Ugh. Not only is naming winter storms kind of dumb [looking at you Weather Channel], but If you’re under the age of 50, you, like us here at the Gloucester Clam, may have “My Name is Jonas” stuck in your head THE ENTIRE LENGTH THAT THERE IS STORM COVERAGE.



It won’t leave. It’s insipid. I mean, it’s a great song, but I’m yearning for last week when I had solely the flute part of Moonage Daydream stuck in my head for a record 9 days straight.

So that, my friends, got me thinking. If we’re going to name winter storms, we might as well face the truth: winter storms are incredibly annoying. We should start naming them after really annoying things. Such as.


Winter Storm Your Child Has Brought Home A Recorder From School

Winter Storm Netflix Has Encountered A Problem

Winter Storm Completely Unreasonable GoFundMe Request

Winter Storm Vaguely Christian 90’s Band

Winter Storm I Have A Structured Settlement But I Need Cash Now

Winter Storm Creepy Little Girls At A Trump Rally

Winter Storm Expresso

Winter Storm Guy Who Corrects Your Pronunciation of Espresso

Winter Storm Firework By Katy Perry

Winter Storm Eighth Client Revision

Winter Storm Ammon Bundy

Winter Storm Inebriated Thirtysomethings Singing Don’t Stop Believin’ At Karaoke

Winter Storm Every Maroon 5 Song

Winter Storm Chris Christie’s Face

Winter Storm Comcast Customer Service

Winter Storm That Guy That Never Stops Talking To You At Parties

Winter Storm Robocall That Your Debit Card Was Compromised

Winter Storm Nearly Unintelligible Public Official

Winter Storm Soggy Wrap

Winter Storm Replacing A Tooth Filling

Winter Storm Customer Feedback Survey Email

Winter Storm Watch Me Whip

Winter Storm Men’s Rights Activist

Winter Storm The Fact That They Don’t Make Super Mario Underpants For Adults

Winter Storm Manbun

Winter Storm #Blessed

And our favorite of all time:

Winter Storm 1-877-Kars 4 Kids (You can thank Anna Benedetto for that one)