ClamHouse Rocks! A Back To School Primer

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 1.39.56 PM

YOU CAN TELL IT’S THE END OF SUMMER because since July 4th the CVS and Walgreens have been pushing their Halloween goods, teachers have been quitting their side jobs, and seasonal workers have been trying to figure out how to correctly collect unemployment until April.

That means it’s back to school time in the city, that magical time of year where students who are done harvesting on the family farm return to the schoolhouse equipped with new chalk and writing boards, eager to complete the three Rs.

Teachers are relieved to get a steady paycheck once again, and parents are excited to have something to busy their kids with for six-to-eight hours aside from Camp, the beach, wandering the town’s streets and parks, the beach, a neighbor’s pool, summer job, hanging out with cell phone in the house, the beach, protesting outside Market Basket, the river, or the beach.

Lesson: to every thing there is a season, and purpose, except in summer. During summer we’re just waiting until the kids can be busy again. Countdown to Columbus Day: six weeks.

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 12.20.36 PM

YOUR, YOU’RE, YORE & THEY’RE, THEIR, THERE – Gone are the lazy, hazy, crazy, Swayze days of summer – it’s now officially sweatshirt weather at nights, and probably a strange heat wave for the first few days of school. If you have kids ages zero to seven, this might mean you still stop by the beach after school or the weekend. Otherwise, the rest of us  are now slaves to anything school-related and weekends full of non-stop sports games and birthday parties at the bowling alley. Always the bowling alley, always.

In the adult world we operate on the notion that life is fifty-two weeks at a time, and you’re always working unless you take a vacation (who does that?). In school we think of life a grade at a time, or a semester or quarter at a time. Learning is somehow confined to 180 days, six and a half hours each, only from September to June. Fight the power! Learn alongside your kids if you can – have them teach you what they learned that day. Have them show you some new way of learning math or remembering history facts. Before long (you have until they’re like fourteen, right? Maybe twelve?), your children won’t want to tell you anything, so enjoy them while they’re young enough to talk about their day. You can always follow your kids’ lives on Twitter or Instagram because Facebook is now only for old people, and by old people we’re talking like the 24-64 demographic).

Lesson: Trick yourself into learning things by tricking your kids into doing homework with them. Doubleplusgood! Countdown to Thanksgiving: twelve weeks.

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 8.47.03 AM

Y=MX + B – It’s important to remember that you (and your children) have and will forget most of what you learn in school. Adults have forgotten about 70% of what they learned since three years old, even counting college and grad school and the years of television shows and movies they’ve consumed. And if they were paying attention? Still 70%. That’s right – educated humans will forget most of what they learn in 14+ years of school (that’s counting pre-school). Adult humans always forget how to be kind and not beat each other up, and rarely know how to share, and those were some of the basics.

Lesson: I totally forget. I knew it at one point, but maybe I have it written down somewhere in a notebook in the attic? Countdown to Christmas Break: sixteen weeks.

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 12.25.47 PM

FAILURE IS AN OPTION – That’s right. Any teacher, coach, or principal who says otherwise is totally wrong. Whether you’re a teacher, parent, student, or all three, don’t be afraid to fail. Fail big, fail often, but only after you’ve tried your bestest and then learned something. If you fail as a parent, you have time to make it right, even if your kids are grown. If you’ve failed as a student, there is always a chance or teacher or test you can do to regain your place in the world (or another road to travel to get to where you want to be). If you’ve failed as a teacher, start over. September is a good time for this.

Lesson: Life is very long, so you’ve got time to become the person you’ve always wanted to be, whether you’re a freshman in high school or a rookie parent. Countdown to February Break: twenty-four weeks.

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 2.00.44 PM

THE GOOD WILL HUNTING ANOMALY – Only 20% of you are going to run the world. Well, probably like 1% of 20% of 20% of you. That means the rest of us get to party and protest and out-learn each other, which is what we call society. HOWEVER there is this place that has ALL the knowledge in the world (aside from the library): this place of magic and wonder is called the Google.

On the Google you can literally learn everything ever taught or learned in the history of ever. From Plato to plate tectonics, from embryos to empires, it’s all there. ‘Ol good Will Hunting from Cambridge once said something like, “you could get a $100K education from a $1.50 in late fees to the library,” and he was right except that most people don’t read and most people don’t even know where the library is. But you – yes, you! have the entire knowledge of the world in your pocket! It’s that rectangle thing with the broken face that you just can’t seem to fix. Install the Wikipedia or TED Talks or NPR app and learn something new every day. In fact, you could spend a whole year just learning from the Google and you would probably know more than most people on the planet right now.

Lesson: Use technology to supplement your learning, not just for pixelated adventures and Twitter. Countdown to Spring Break: thirty-three weeks.

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 12.24.20 PM

TIME IS RELATIVE – If you are living in Massachusetts, and reading this, and own a computer, and have finished at least eighth grade, and you and your children are relatively healthy, then, in the year 2014, you’re doing better than 98% of the world over all of time and memorial. Really. You’re better off than every empire and state that ever existed. That’s how awful the world is and history has been for regular people. And just think, Massachusetts is the best place in America (and most of the world) for education. THE BEST. AND Gloucester schools are amazing, as are their teachers and students. So there are no limits for any of us – those returning to school, taking time off of it, avoiding it, or starting it up for the first time.

Lesson: We’re too advantaged to waste one day. Well, maybe one. Well, maybe we can waste a few days, but only a few. Countdown to Memorial Day: thirty-eight weeks; Countdown to Graduation: forty weeks or so; Countdown to next year’s Back to School Special Primer: fifty-one weeks.

See you at the bowling alley.

The Fuller School. Oh God, do we really have to talk about this?


One of the many obsolete products of the ’70s

We are nowhere near drunk enough to talk about the Fuller School. Fuller is one of those things that is essentially a fractal of idiocy. It’s stupid, but then when you look at any given part that component is in and of itself equally stupid, and those stupids are made up of their own entirely dumbass components. All. The. Way. Down. Never before have I run into an issue where there were simple, fairly easy to comprehend reports about the impracticality of a particular course of action, created by certified professionals that were routinely ignored by everyone who chose to talk about it save a few key individuals. Oh lordy lord.

Screen shot 2014-05-07 at 1.04.55 PM

people who know what they are talking about wrote this

History: Fuller was built in 1965 by The Archdiocese as a parochial high school. Some additions were built in the ’70s. But here’s the thing- a lot of it was built in ways that are impossible or highly diffiucult to make compliant to modern building codes, especially for a building that houses children. Among the people who said so are Dore & Whittier Architects, who are certified and licensed and bonded and probably went to college and stuff for this.

Their report, which was as clear and easy to understand as it was unread, explained in stark terms what would be required to have Fuller even serve as a temporary school while building out the new West Parish, a little tune that goes: “14 million bucks”. Yeah, spit that morning mojito out. 14 million, just for a temporary school.That’s half the cost of a new one. Getting it to be able to be a fully functioning school again, rehabbing the whole thing would cost 67 million bucks, twice per square foot what building the new Manchester Essex and Ipswich schools cost each. When you actually read the reports and find out the facts it’s obvious that using that site as an educational institution just isn’t worth it. The maths don’t lie.

Wow. Interesting. So smart, certified professionals took a look, made a call and the School Committee acted accordingly. Fine, end of story, lets move on to some other topic…wait, what? What the what? Do we hear the unmistakeable low howl of a distant wind of dumbassery coming in off the harbor? Yes we do indeed. It’s a Dumbeaster, headed our way.

You see, almost no one read this report. And no one summarized it. And no one posted it in an easy-to-find place. It was like the report on building the new bypass over Arthur Dent’s house in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy- it was apparently in a locked filing cabinet in a disused basement washroom with a sign on the door reading ‘Beware of the Leopard’.  We had to request it from our ward councilor once word of it’s existence began to spread. I think we found out about it from spraying lemon juice on the back of a Leonardo Da Vinci, if we remember correctly.

The GDT, apparently having switched to a more toxic form of ink and not using proper fume protections, kept reporting that it would be simple to house students there than rent a space for something like $500 large. They kept saying that using our existing ‘asset’ of Fuller would make sense and that we would recoup the costs because we’d invested in a building we owned rather than leasing a space for the West Parish rebuild. This is fresh off the heels of their ongoing fantasy of closing the neighborhood schools and consolidating them at Fuller, saving mondo dollars.

How many mondo of these dollars? Did they ever produce a number or a spreadsheet or a scrawled gravy-stained napkin that projected these savings? Did they ever run an analysis? No, that would require the actual work of the journalism and we know that the GDT doesn’t really go for that anymore. These days its just about bloviating on topics but not actually doing any fact checking that one can just easily google, like we did.

We found that as far as consolidation goes, for all that work it would be far more expensive to move the kids to a single site, wouldn’t meet the educational goals of the city and you don’t save that much because the real cost is in the teachers and educational staff, not in the cost of the buildings themselves. It’s not a lot more expensive to run 5 schools than one big one. Seriously. Look it up. And as a temporary site, would we get the 14 million back? Probably not, because we’d have to get the site to educational code, and if we then decided to do something else with it, that would be a huge waste of money that we wouldn’t recoup. This is not hard to figure out. Also, we hired a consultant to do this. Just read the fucking report.

But despite this, local politicians and political aspirants seemed to be magnetically drawn to visit Fuller and ritualistically humiliate themselves there with their lack of knowledge. They’d look around and go, “Jeez, it looks fine in here, shucks and stuff,” and then claim that it was ‘negligent’ and ‘criminal’ that the building had been let go. People kept calling it an ‘asset’ and talked about how great the school was during the fucking Carter Administration. Is this how we do multi-million dollar asset evaluations? Were there any architects or engineers involved in these site visits? Am I really going to do these posts for free and not ask people to cover my alcohol bills? Oh man. Better just go to a metaphor here so I don’t try and gouge my own eyes out in despair.

Metaphor: it’s like this: Your neighbor is in some financial trouble. Maybe sort of he’s been accused of some not great things and his assets are being seized. It’s messy. So he has to get rid of this unused shed on this parcel that abuts your property and he just gives it to you. “Take the shed,” he says so you do. And you use the shed. But it’s not a well built shed. It won’t fit a car or a boat, it doesn’t meet modern building codes, and it’s going to cost more to fix than it’s worth so over time you sort of stop using it and let it go. You’re having your own financial troubles, particularly back in 2008 when the economy crashed. So you don’t replace the roof on the shed and try and keep your own house maintained instead. Your useful house, the one you and your 2,000 kids live in.

A few years later you’ve make it through the crash and you’re figuring out what to do next, do you listen to a lot of assholes going, “why didn’t you maintain that shed! The roof leaks now! That shed was hella awesome back in the 70’s, I used to get high in there listen to Jethro Tull on BCN with my cousins! YOU MONSTER!!!”? No, you do not listen to those assholes, you remind them that the construction of the shed precluded you from doing much with it. It became a liability and you treated it as such. You offer to show them the spreadsheet you…

“But the Tull, Mark Parenteau!”

Shut up, idiots.The best thing for Fuller today would be to bulldoze it and build something useful there. Maybe get the fire and police stations out of downtown into a modern facility. Maybe the Y. It’s a central location, a lot of land, that part is great. But as a school, it’s over.

Just like Tull.

Here are the reports. God have mercy on your soul:

Dore & Whittier reviews Fuller as a place to house W. Parish Students during construction of new school in the gripping Preliminary Evaluation of Alternatives

And the Fuller Site Reuse Study, also a page turner