Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Salemweb may experience an outage.

I just received the following from the Salemweb administrator. Wanted to share.

Hi there,

Here we go again with Salemweb's domain renewal.  The site will likely go down tomorrow - perhaps for a day or two, unfortunately.

There was another glitch with renewal through this Registrar and so we are transferring the domain to another one.  I renewed at the existing registrar Monday and also had to pay for a year at the new one - this should have given us two years.

I thought I had it covered, but it looks like the renewal at the existing registrar didn't work.  I'm complaining loudly although it probably won't do any good. :(

I'll post the bad news on the Salemweb FB page, and if you don't mind mentioning it on your blog I would sure appreciate it.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Tomorrow's election (How I'm voting, and why)

This is a crazy election season. I was quite confident a month ago that Obama would cruise to re-election. This despite an economy that, under normal circumstances, would absolutely sink an incumbent. Maybe it's just propaganda, but I've sensed a lot more confidence from the Romney camp, than the Obama camp, in the last week. It makes me a little nervous. My gut tells me that Obama pulls it out.

For president, I'll vote, tepidly, for Barack Obama. I was a somewhat enthusiastic Obama voter last go around. I loved the "new level of cooperation and openness" he promoted. I'm still waiting for it. On cooperation, it's clear he didn't get any help from Republicans, but my sense was that he didn't try very hard, either. On openness, he's failed all on his own. He also promised to allow 5 days of public comment before signing a bill. Another failure. He wouldn't hire lobbyists. Oops. He promised that I wouldn't see any increased taxes. That one went away when he shrunk my healthcare FSA. So why vote for him? As near as I can tell, Mitt doesn't have any core beliefs. At least none that aren't easily changeable. I have to ask which Mitt we will get. It's too scary a question for me. I think I'd like Mitt better on the economy, but I KNOW I'd like Obama better on most (not all) social issues. I'm taking the devil I know. ( I should add, I'd have voted for Gary Johnson  above Mitt, and probably really line up better with him than Obama.) One final reason I'm voting for Obama, and it's a theme you'll see continue throughout, is that I'm a big believer in split government. The only thing scary than the Democrats in complete control in DC, is the Republicans in complete control. There is no question that the Republicans will maintain control of the house. It's highly likely that the Democrats will continue to control the senate. On the off chance (and really, it's very, very small, regardless of Warren vs. Brown) that the Republicans take the senate, I NEED a Democrat in the White House.

For senate, I'll again vote for Scott Brown. I was an enthusiastic supporter of Brown's last time around, but that had a lot more to do with Martha Coakley than it did with Scott Brown. I attended Fells Acre Nursery School as a child. I knew and loved the Amirault family. To see why the only time I wouldn't literally urinate on Coakley is if she was actually on fire and I might put it out, read this, and the linked pieces. Elizabeth Warren is a much better human being than Martha Coakley. At the same time, I can't imagine her breaking with her party on anything. She also describes herself as a rock-thrower. Washington has enough hyper-partisan lockstep politicians of both stripes already. Scott Brown promised to vote his conscience, and break with his party when it made sense. He's largely delivered on that promise, to my surprise. Ask hardcore Republicans about Brown, and they deride "that RINO" (Republican In Name Only). We'd all be better off with more RINOs and DINOs. That's the cure for our Washington dysfunction.

For US house, I'll vote for Richard Tisei. See above. Tisei is a heck of a lot more likely to work on good ideas when the source is "the other side," than John Tierney. One only needs to look at Tierney's record to see that. Plus, a pro-choice, openly gay, pro-gay-marriage republican? MA should send that person to the Republican congress. What fun. Again, the way to fix the dysfunction in Washington is to get rid of the partisan idealogues. Tierney, like Warren, is one of them. Consider this: every major paper in the district except the Gloucester paper has endorsed the Republican, and even the liberal Boston Globe has picked Tisei as their token. Let's hope it works out better than the Globe's last token, Mary Connaughton, who lost the auditor race to a woman exposed before the election as a tax cheat. But that's Massachusetts for you. When you throw in John Tierney openly lying to us over and over again about his "wife's family problems" it becomes a no-brainer.

On that subject, let me say that in any other state I'd be a hard core democrat. I don't know how anyone can do that in Massachusetts, where absolutely everything is dominated, and poorly, not to mention corruptly, run by the democrats. I normally refuse to vote for democrats for statewide office, because we absolutely need a little more balance. I'm making exceptions for Joan Lovely, and John Keenan. I like Joan, I've covered the reasons before. I usually don't vote for Keenan. I either blank or write-in a neighbor. Mostly I do this because Keenan is all too happy to play the corrupt game. (See his support of since indicted Sal Dimasi for example.) When the speaker is under investigation, and it's clear that an indictment is coming, and it's actually becoming a tradition, I lose respect for you when you go along with that. So why am I voting for Keenan? Simply, I think he's done really good work protecting Salem in the wake of the Dominion announcement that the power plant was going to close. I gained some respect for him there. For the first time, I'll fill in his oval. I will lose some respect for both he and Lovely when I learn how much they collect in per diems next year, for making a commute that thousands of Salemites make on their own dime every day. So anyway, in MA, I'm one of the great unenrolled, who has always leaned to the left, but who is having a harder and harder time doing that because of MA democrats.

Questions 1-3: Yes to all. Boring. That's all I have to say about them other than this: what happens when the first person takes advantage of question 2, and the relatives go to file a life insurance claim? Suicide is excluded from just about every life insurance policy ever written. Will they pay? Should they? It will be vaguely interesting to watch that play out. On question 3, why aren't we just legalizing and taxing?

Question 4, the dreaded CPA:

It's important to consider who is for and against an initiative. In this case, the single biggest supporter of the initiative is Mickey Northcutt. So who is Mickey? He's the Executive Director of the North Shore Community Development Coalition. The first point in the mission of NSCDC? "We are committed to creating housing that serves low- and very low-income residents." One key provision of the CPA, which Northcutt neglected to dwell on when he addressed the Derby Street Neighborhood Association, is that annually, at least 10% of the CPA funds collected need to be set aside for affordable housing. Don't we have an awful lot of that in Salem already? Aren't we one of a handful of communities statewide that has already reached (and exceeded) our mandated 10%? Yes, we are. Northcutt's involvement gives me great pause.

Who opposes CPA? Well, the really vocal ones frequently seem like tea party animal "UN Agenda 21" wing nuts. I hope I'm wrong about that. The outlandish claims of the opposition also give me pause.

Here's the problem for me. The CPA law is near-perfectly-written extortion. "Pass it, and we'll give you free money," said the state. I'm good at math. I like free money. I even like parks, open space, recreation, and historic preservation. Because I'm good at math, I also know how expensive affordable housing can really be to those footing the bill. See? A dilemma.

Should I put faith in our leaders that they'll keep the affordable housing component to the minimum the law mandates, and will use it for upkeep and capital improvements on existing properties, rather than development of new units? I think several of them would like to limit it that way, and they'll all face immense pressure to do so. Of course, poster child Northcutt may not appreciate that.

Will I notice the $11 a year or so that this will cost me? No. Do I notice the larger tax burden that this adds to? Absolutely. Does that total burden impact my lifestyle? Yup. Do I see this as prop 2.5 end around? Yup. Do I loathe the idea of voting myself a tax increase? Yup. Am I going to? I've really written this entire blog post to decide what to do on Question 4. I think the answer is that really begrudgingly, probably while spitting, yes, I think I'll vote yes on 4. If our elected officials misinterpret 4 passing (I still think it won't) as voters endorsing widespread tax hikes, know that I'm coming for you. If you take that as an endorsement of increasing affordable housing stocks, I'm coming for you. I also reserve the right to change my mind on question 4 when I hit the voting booth tomorrow. If I do change my mind, I'll let you know.

Most importantly, go vote.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

State Senate Primary This Week

Thursday is primary day in Massachusetts. I know! Thursday, of a holiday week? Insane. But it is, so let's talk about it.

Let me get the easy candidates out of the way. Edward Carroll has a fantasyland proposal to put a gigantic resort casino less than a football field from my house. He has no plan to get people into or out of it, though clearly Derby Street can't handle the traffic something like that would bring. Neither can Webb Street, Bridge Street, North Street, or any other local street. Carroll estimates 5,000 new jobs at that location. The roads won't get the employees there, nevermind the customers. Beyond that fact, he talks about the Chapter 91 and DPA designations like they are nothing. They aren't easily waived, as he asserts. Sorry Ed, just no. You're off my list. Even if elected, his one and only plan will never see the light of day. Basically, he offers nothing.

Next, we have John Slattery. He's the endorsed candidate of the Boston Globe, for what that's worth. I think Mary-Ellen Manning said it best. "I thought I was reading The Onion... The Boston Globe just endorsed my opponent because he wants to raise taxes!" If you haven't been paying attention, Slattery has been endorsed by just about every public employee union under the sun, and a large portion of his campaign has been underwritten by out-of-district union money. (Why is the Boston Teachers Union endorsing someone for our district?) Check his recent campaign finance filing yourself. PAC this, and PAC that, all over the place. I pay for those union contracts, and as retiring incumbent Fred Berry recently said, "One candidate is totally sold to the unions..." I don't need to tell you that he was referring to Slattery, even though he never mentioned his name. He seems to owe a lot of people at this point, and they are people who benefit from me paying more taxes. What's in it for me with Slattery? Just a world of hurt. No thanks. Luckily for him, there is an absurdly large portion of the state on the public payroll. Not supporting Slattery is another easy choice for me.

The Boston Herald (which, with Howie Carr on board, and their right slant, should be fertile Manning Country) had the following to say about this race.
In the Second Essex district now held by the retiring Sen. Fred Berry, which contains Beverly, Peabody, Salem, Danvers and Topsfield, the sensible choice in the Democratic primary is Salem City Councilor Joan B. Lovely. Her opponents include John Slattery of Peabody, who famously staked out both sides of the death penalty issue when he previously served in the House (and cast the fatal vote that killed a death penalty bill); and current Governor’s Councilor Mary-Ellen Manning, who needn’t bring her brand of insular politics from the Council Chamber to the Senate chamber.
The criticism of Manning is one that seems to be repeated frequently, and gives me pause. While I enjoy that (really a lot) from her as a Governor's Councilor, I'm not sure it would serve the district well as a state senator, where compromise and cooperation will be necessary to make sure the district gets its share of economic support from the state. A contrarian is really easy to ignore when it's time to dole out the goodies. I'd probably vote for her for governor, or mayor, but I don't know that she can (or wants to) play nicely with others, which the district needs from its Senator (I have the same concerns about self-described "rock thrower" Elizabeth Warren). Berry's comment directed at her (though thinly veiled) was, "... and the other candidate has a history of caring more about finding fault with others than working with others to find solutions to serious problems.” Enough smoke, and there is probably a fire.

So that brings me to Joan Lovely, who I've criticized plenty over the years, but who I'll vote for on Thursday. In her many years on the city council, I've disagreed with her on plenty. Between her and Manning, I'm much closer to Manning's position on taxes. (Are we sure she's not a Republican?) That said, Manning has never had to pass a budget, so it's easy to say no tax increases. I disagreed with Joan on the St. Joe's senior center proposal. It was the first issue I ever discussed with her. We ended up agreeing to disagree, but I came away with confidence that she had put plenty of thought and reason into her position, and she was very respectful of my position, and had clearly already considered the points I raised with her. My overwhelming impression of Joan is that she does her homework, considers all options, looks for common ground and compromise, and is an excellent consensus builder. Those are all things we need in a State Senator. She's the only candidate who fits that bill. Sometimes I wish she'd state her opinions a little more forcefully, and differentiate herself from her opponents a little more. She should borrow from Manning there.

I think the Berry endorsement really helps Lovely, especially in Peabody. I think the gaggle of pro-Manning sock puppets with numerous made-up real-sounding names and one message clearly demonstrate that the other candidates think so, too. On that topic, the gaggle as a whole really turns me off to Manning. It concerns me that her people don't know that the type of people reading that stuff aren't changing their minds because of made-up internet people. My favorite, posted while I'm writing this, was this line. "How can you trust a woman [Lovely] who wears a scarf in a facebook photo on a 95 degree day." Just wow. That's desperate. The newest line of thinking supported by the puppets is that Berry didn't actually endorse Joan, and Lovely made it up, with help from two Boston Globe staffers, a Salem News reporter, and Patch reporters. By the way, Senator Berry must be in on it. Clearly if someone claimed he endorsed them, and he hadn't, he'd stay quiet about it, right? The Salem News quoted him thusly, “To be effective in the state Senate requires a combination of experience, intelligence and the ability to work with others to solve problems for the people you represent,” he said. “I believe City Councilor Joan Lovely has the attributes needed to most effectively serve the people of the 2nd Essex District.” These people believe that the snooze made it up? I bag on the snooze a lot, but that's insane. Beyond that, the whole sock puppet thing is a terrible (and desperate) strategy.

Seriously? Let me have one of my own. How can you trust a woman whose campaign supporters are pretty obviously behind about 15-20 fake IDs (none of the supposedly-real names are registered voters in the district) throwing what amounts to libel around on a regular basis, accusing people not involved in the campaign with crimes (people the candidate would have to work with if elected, btw), complete with witty phrases like "Phoney Baloney Joanie" that sound like they were written by a twelve-year-old? That said, I generally like her chutzpah a lot. If Lovely were out she'd have my vote, even though I question the sanity of the people she has supporting her campaign.

One last good (ok, maybe just fun) reason to root for Joan, the race to take her seat on the Salem City Council will be really fun. Two people involved with her campaign think they have the inside track to replace her. Good motivation for them, and great entertainment for us, down the road, when it eventually explodes. Someone will find out that someone they think has their back actually doesn't.

Who will win? I don't have the foggiest idea. I think it will probably be one of the two women. I hope so anyway. I think a lot of Slattery's support is puffed up union leadership, where the rank and file may not follow. Lovely has to get Salem to the polls, and I still have major doubts there. I must not be alone, as this letter from Salem Democratic Committee member (and Lovely supporter) Darek Barcikowski shows.  I'd vote for either woman in the general. If not, it's Jolitz for me in the general election.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The emperors are naked

Sometimes they make it too easy for me. It's as if they want me to have material.

Last night's school committee meeting was one of those times. It was mostly quite dull, and the only thing that struck me was how little detail has been made public about our school turnaround plans. Then finally it happened. Watch for yourself, as first Mr. Fleming, and then Dr. Walsh, go off. Then we'll talk.

First, Mr. Fleming may well have been in Florida while this investigation was going on. Who knows. Maybe we tried to contact him. You'd think with that raise that he caterwauled about deserving, along with Dr. Walsh, that he'd know what's been going on in the schools regarding purchasing SINCE 2006!

The hypocrisy of Dr. Walsh is amazing. He doesn't sound upset to learn that we were violating public requisition laws on his watch. He sounds upset that someone, who today he describes as, "having more to do with his own inadequacies" is "throwing gasoline."

He went on to say, "I know what the former business manager who brought this up, what his status would have been if he had not left. He would have been shoved out the door, as far as I'm concerned." The not veiled implication is that the accuser is incompetent.

These are two of the same school committee members who heaped praise on Dr. Cameron (since utterly discredited by the DESE) in his 2010 evaluation. Can we trust them to judge competence? (Note that none of the criteria used to measure Cameron's performance involved student achievement. Unbelievable!)

Meanwhile, looking back, Walsh had this to say, when Sheehan gave his resignation in 2010:

The school committee minutes report the following:

Dr. Walsh thanked Mr. Sheehan for his service and noted that it has been a pleasure to work with him.

Dr. Walsh moved to accept Mr. Sheehan’s resignation effective January 1, 2011 so that the School Department can begin the process of hiring a Business Manager. Mr. Carr seconded the motion carried.

If he was so horrible, why did he note what a pleasure it was to work with him? Why didn't he move that the resignation be accepted effective immediately?

The Salem News quoted Walsh thusly:

"It has been a pleasure and will continue to be a pleasure, I'm sure, to be in Tim's company. He has worked extremely hard in his position."
That sounds a lot different than the story that Walsh is spinning today. What happened to everything in the schools having the overt or tacit approval of the school committee? Careful what you say, Dr. Walsh, your words can come back to bite you. Don't you own what went on in L'Heureux's department for at least four, and probably more, years?

I mean, was he just lying about Sheehan? Or is he the one throwing gas now? I can only conclude, yet again, that our emperors have no clothes.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cleaning out the closet

Here's a bunch of stuff that's been swirling around my mind for the last month or two.

That's not blood in the water.

It appears that poop pumper Peter's Rockmore floating cesspool may be returning. First came this blog post, which I shared on Facebook. Now, this article confirms the earlier blog post.

Noyes doesn't sound reformed. He's now downplaying the earlier incident, which cost him a cool 300k (not including the lawyers). His statement, from the article:

"The restaurant was never charged with anything," said owner Peter Noyes, further explaining that the charges were brought solely against the Hannah Glover.

Looking back at the original press release from the US Attorney, it included the following:  "During some summers, the company allowed the sewage holding tank aboard the Rockmore intermittently to overflow, such that raw, untreated sewage spilled into Salem Harbor." Officials from both Salem and Marblehead  appeared to back this claim up. So while his statement above may be technically accurate, it's at least somewhat deceptive, and ignores the DA's claim. He was accused of allowing the Rockmore to leak poop into the harbor, but those charges weren't brought because he agreed to the plea deal. Convenient.

A lack of transparency, and care for the environment, isn't new for Noyes, as you can read here.


Things we can learn from Lawrence ... yes, Lawrence.

As part of the Lawrence school turnaround plan, six Lawrence school principals have been informed that they will not be asked back for next school year. Additionally, a large number of tenured teachers are being forced out. The state is running Lawrence's turnaround, and having that outside voice is probably helpful. The state doesn't care about stepping on toes, and isn't mired in the local politics of payback. They are aggressively weeding out those that don't contribute enough. This includes telling the local teacher's union what's going to happen. It was my understanding that one of the "benefits" of having a level four school, was greater autonomy for the district to make unilateral decisions that normally need to be collectively bargained. We don't seem to have the stomach for that here, if today's Salem News article is to be believed.

I hate rewarding failure. It just seems unfair. That's not to say that I think teachers deserve all of the blame. There's plenty of that to go around, and I'm sure many parents need to accept a share. I know administrators and the school committee need to accept their slice. (Don't hold your breath.) But we're talking about this because our schools have failed. We paid our teachers to do the job. They haven't, whatever obstacles they face. Now they want to be rewarded for failing grades? Have you no shame, Joyce Harrington? Have you no balls (figuratively, of course), Kim Driscoll?

Another thing that the state is doing really well in Lawrence is involving the leadership of successful charter schools. Here in Salem, some in local leadership choose to demonize them, rather than learn from them. The Lawrence plan goes the other way, actually asking the leaderships of several successful charter schools to take over running several of the Lawrence public schools. Over Brendan Walsh's dead body will we see our own very successful charter school taking over a Salem school. Click that link and see how much more successful Salem Academy Charter School has been with similar students.

I laughed at Willy Scamtigua when he asked the state to takeover the Lawrence schools. What a failure to lead! Maybe it's not such a bad idea. We don't seem willing to discuss whether or not principals need to be removed. At least not out loud. Several people have whispered to me that the middle school's failings start at the head. Nobody wants to say it out loud, but the words "dinosaur" and "backward-thinking" have been used in private. I've asked around, and can't find any parents looking to sing the praises of our middle school principal. But again, we don't seem to have the stomach to address the real lack of leadership that appears (according to the DESE) to be pervasive around here. I haven't had any personal experience with Ms. Manning. I see her actively involved and attending and participating in school committee meetings, but can a really diverse population with seemingly one opinion be wrong? I'll add that I did witness an exchange between Manning and several of her teachers after one school committee meeting, and it appeared that there was real affection there, both ways. That may not help kids learn.


Terrible timing, Dr. Walsh

Speaking of Dr. Walsh, he must have the worst timing on Earth. Two weeks ago, he wrote a letter to the editor chastising Salem CyberSpace director Linda Saris for not giving the school committee credit for everything going on in the Salem schools. The following day came word that the Attorney General reached a settlement with the city regarding malfeasance in the schools around bidding and purchasing.

Somehow, I'm guessing that if the state had taken over our schools, like Lawrence, that Paul L'Hereux would be looking for a new job today. Wasting tens or hundreds of thousands of our dollars must just be all in a days work here.

Saris, by the way, is actively getting her hands dirty truly helping the toughest cases in our district. Dr. Walsh might want to try that. (Yeah, I know, he did his time. Save the belly-aching.)

Strangely, Dr. Walsh, who as a school committee member, claims responsibility for all that goes on in the Salem schools, has not stepped forward to accept responsibility for allowing these misdeeds. The article about this includes a great picture or Walsh, smiling with the whistleblower, who detailed the allegations in his resignation, which Walsh moved to accept when it came before the school committee. Oops.

The Snooze article back when Mr. Sheehan resigned failed to delve into the contents of the resignation letter, and included quotes from Cameron about Mr. Sheehan leaving due to timing on his pension, and Walsh lauding him for being a pleasure to be around. He was similarly congratulatory of Cameron when he left. Is he really this clueless?

Election Shenanigans

State senate election season is in full swing, and with it comes plenty of insanity. Read any Patch articles recently? If so, you've probably read plenty of comments from commenters who all seem to have a very similar message. The phrases "evil Kim Driscoll," "phoney baloney Joanie Lovely" and yelling and screaming about "the gay agenda" appear over and over, as if they were written by one person... The names used don't have any other local web presence at all, not even white pages listings. They claim to support Ed Carroll (who supports gay marriage) for state senate, at least on Salem Patch. I recall one of them, while writing on Peabody Patch, proclaiming support for a different candidate. The person behind the people claims to have plenty of inside election knowledge, and even wrote the following:

Janet Marino-Johnson
2:15 pm on Sunday, August 19, 2012
LOVELY CAMPAIGN IN BIG TROUBLE! She is going to be hit next week with multiple Ethics & Campaign violation for ILLEGALY mailing absentee ballots to people this week and demanding they vote for her because " I expect a low turnout and really need your help!" That is not how absentee ballots are to be distributed-- a clear violation of state and federal law! Plus just read on Peabody Patch a group of Lovely volunteers are jumping ship and supporting Edward Carroll because of way too much interferance from the arrogant Kim Driscoll her aide Jason Silva--accusing them of Nazi like tactics on her own volunteers! Vote Edward Carroll State Senate like me!

Patch removed it, probably due to its patent insanity/libel, but you can see the cached version here.

Someone with one of these campaigns has way too much time on their hands. Somebody should let them know that we don't go to the Interwebs to have our minds changed. We go there to spout when they're already made up. The fellowship of the miserable is a terrible predictor of elections. Look at Tom Furey for proof.

The central question for Joan Lovely in this election is, "How do I get people in Salem to go vote in the primary?" I've asked around, and haven't really heard a compelling answer yet. If she can't come up with one, it will be a sad day for team Lovely on September 6. The tactic alleged above may be her best shot. And yes, the primary this year is on September 6, a Thursday, during a holiday (and for some, back to school) week. That should help turnout.

Tom Watkins leaving, Paul Prevey repeat?

City Purchasing Agent Tom Watkins is leaving for a job in Andover. I'll be interested to see if Paul Prevey pulls another sit in on the next appointment. Watkins stayed "acting" for quite a while because Prevey refused to allow a confirmation vote, in an apparent power struggle with the mayor. He demanded copies of the resumes of all who applied, and refused to go to the city HR office to review them. It was an odd move from the normally pretty level-headed councilor, who never really explained his position to satisfaction. I'll be interested to see if there is a repeat with the next purchasing appointment. If not, it will make me wonder about the first instance even more.

Andover must think Watkins is qualified. They've made him their Director of Purchasing. Of course, that news came out the day before news of the Salem schools purchasing/bidding fiasco. Related? Good question. I'll admit I know very little about how much carryover there is in purchasing between the city and the schools. They sound unrelated, but the timing was curious, and Sheehan specifically mentioned the fact that there was a new city purchasing agent (Watkins) in place when he came to town, and that the purchasing agent had to sign off on all requisitions as well. Maybe Watkins got out while he could.


SESD oversight

Sleep well at night, everyone. City engineer Dave Knowlton is Salem's lone representative/oversight on the the South Essex Sewerage District. We only send them almost 7 million dollars of tax money a year. For a little more info on that board, check this out, the only blog post that I've been threatened with litigation over (yet). I think Dave Knowlton spends most of his life dealing with complaints about all manners of city life and construction around. I'm sure he's not finding too much time to dig into the spending at SESD.


Blaney Pier

It's interesting to see that construction has finally started on the Blaney Pier extension. I say finally, because it was originally slated to start back in early November, and be completed by now. I'm still not sure that it was wise to go forward with this phase while the neighboring power plant site is up in the air. They have a ready made dock for the type of large ship we're looking to attract.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Interesting paths to KIKS

I've always found the search terms that lead people to this site to be fascinating.

Here's a sampling from the last week:

keep it klassy Salem (times a hundred or so)
shirley walker
rockmore co
salem ferry
mary ellen manning resign (say what?)
Salem Patch asleep at the switch (still sad Aubry removed that wackadoodle blog post)
Paul Pierce gang sign (??? several of these)
Darek Barcikowski wife (oh really?)
shirley walker salem (X4)
jefferson at salem station 40b
sesd Salem
south essex sewer district
salem en graffiti
christian day salem ma
salem ma charter commission
klassy salem (X20)
derby lofts salem ma
judge richard mori
sesd Salem ma
eve knows topsy curvey
ward 2 social club
janine matho
dr stephen russell, salem ma, employment history
11 gardner st salem police
bridge street salem ma construction
mike blatty (X2)
hanna glover boat
salem + assistant superintendent
linda stark salem ma (no idea)
school committee salary salem ma
Annie Skerry
point and salem and issues
f*ck p*ssy salem mass now (what? also, there were no * in the actual search)
christian day warlock fake
linda cappuccio facebook
slow down for allie bad drivers (sad but true)
Peter noyes rockmore
tyler lagatta
"joan lovely" "barbara anderson"
monique gonyea
aubry bracco
peter noyes marblehead

So yeah, that's the last week. Whole lotta random.

Monday, June 4, 2012

ELL students shafted in our schools

The agenda for tonight's school committee meeting includes a presentation on ELL sheltered immersion by the assistant superintendent. Since ELL students will be discussed, let's review what the DESE said about our English language learners and the sheltered immersion program.

On English Language Arts:
"the biggest gaps (-12.7 in both cases) were for the limited English proficient (LEP) and formerly limited English proficient (FLEP) subgroups. Limited English proficient students, also known as English language learners (ELLs), demonstrated the lowest CPI of any of these subgroups at 47.1 points; the special education subgroup demonstrated the next lowest CPI at 62.8 points."
And on math:
"The largest differences in CPIs are shown in the -17.9 point differential for formerly limited English proficient (FLEP) students and  -14.8 point differential for limited English proficient (LEP) students, also known as English language learners (ELLs). The ELL subgroup had  the lowest CPI of any of these subgroups at 41.4 points, and the special education subgroup the next lowest at 50.1 points."
It's important to note that these comparisons are not our ELL students, against the rest of our students. They are our ELL students, against the ELL students in the rest of the state, including several districts that look like ours. We should, because of our large ELL population, be better at instructing these students than many other cities and towns, but apparently we're worse.

More DESE:
"In summary, seven of these eight district subgroups demonstrated lower performance than the state subgroup in both ELA and mathematics, as measured by CPI. Considering both performance and growth, the subgroups that raise the most concern are English language learners and students who were formerly English language learners."
Perhaps most disturbing, was the attitude displayed to DESE by some of our educators.
"According to staff interviewed, there is some latent resentment about current students being different from what Salem students were historically, and some staff have low expectations for students, especially ELLs, while other staff are “very committed.” The ownership of all students in the district was said to be “very uneven.” 
They continue:

At the time of the review, there was no administrator with a specialty in ELL in charge of the
ELL program, which includes 11.2 percent of Salem students.  Rather, two full-time teachers
shared the coordination duties K-12. In 2010 the achievement of English language learners
(ELLs), the lowest-performing subgroup, was 12.7 CPI points lower in ELA than state ELLs’
and 14.8 CPI points lower in math (see Tables 2 and 3 in the Student Performance section
above). These were the largest gaps with state counterparts for any subgroup except for the
formerly ELL subgroup.

On the subject of math:
Several teachers in two different focus groups noted that  ELL students have difficulty with
Everyday Math and  Connected Math (textbooks) because these programs have so much verbal content. Likewise, an administrator said in an interview that Everyday Math is “embedded in language,” which results in more  challenges to ELL students. When asked if the district was planning to review the selection of this program, since the number of students whose first language is not English (FLNE students) and ELL students in the district is substantial, and has been during the seven years since its adoption, the teachers said that they did not know of any such plan but that they were sure that the district would listen to them. There is, however, research that indicates that mathematics programs that require a high degree of literacy can actually help students increase verbal as well as mathematical skills—if they are taught well. 
Their overall conclusion on curriculum includes the following:

Salem’s curriculum does not  serve the needs of its diverse student population, particularly since there is minimal evidence of curriculum and models of instruction that are directed toward the subgroups  that are most in need, i.e., ELL students  and students receiving special education services

Let's see if that is addressed tonight, or if we continue talking about cosmetic bullshit like uniforms and calendars.

Lest you think I'm too harsh on the school committee, and I am harsh, read this.

The Salem Public Schools do not have the administrative capacity to effectively guide, supervise, and evaluate the staff to implement reform and improvement initiatives. There is too little communication between the central office and principals, principals reported having too little time to supervise teachers, and the numerous paraprofessionals are not evaluated.
The school committee reported that their goals for the superintendent did not include a goal or goals that held him accountable for student achievement. Interviews with central office leaders indicated hesitancy at holding principals accountable for student achievement. In turn, principals reported that the difficult conversations about student achievement were not part of the discussions in their supervision and evaluation of teachers.

Let me repeat that key finding. "The school committee reported that their goals for the superintendent did not include a goal or goals that held him accountable for student achievement."

What else is there? Show me a school system where students don't achieve, and I'll show you one where there is no demand that they achieve. That's Salem, folks. Heck, here, apparently many of our "educators" expect them to fail. How much effort do you think that those particular teachers are giving?

The agenda item for tonight is a presentation on sheltered immersion. So what did the DESE say about that?

Review team members inquired  in focus groups  about the level of professional development
available to fulfill some of the ongoing curricular and instructional needs in the district. Some teachers said, and others agreed, that there was training for new programs, such as Superkids and FASTT Math. Other staff members stated that there was very little training at that time in sheltered English immersion (SEI) to support teachers working with ELL students, and that in many cases, even when initial training was given, there had been little if any follow-up support. District staff members lack cohesive strategies for teaching regular education as well as ELL and special education students beyond flexible grouping, regrouping, and pull-out in small groups. One administrator said that the district lacks  “cognitive clarity,” meaning knowing what to do and why.
They later added this:
Classroom observations conducted by review team members revealed minimal use of sheltered
English immersion (SEI) strategies to support ELL and other students’ learning. The use of a
literacy-based elementary mathematics program without adequate and consistent classroom
supports and intervention procedures means that many students may not be able to realize their
potential to learn mathematics and may not be able to accurately demonstrate what they know,
can do, and understand in mathematics. 
And then this:
However, other opportunities to seek and use meaningful data are missed. For example, principals do not conduct systematic walkthroughs to gather information, either to identify strengths and weaknesses in teaching and learning or to monitor what are said to be district instructional priorities such as differentiated instruction or sheltered English immersion (SEI) strategies. As a result, though they are said to be priorities, these strategies were infrequently observed at high levels of practice during classroom observations by review team members.                                  

But really, the crux of our problems may have been captured in the section on student support.

In interviews, district administrators and school staff could not clearly articulate what the district
was doing in relation to the low performance of ELLs and students receiving special education
services. They did make reference to programs, but it was unclear how these programs were
working together to improve student performance. There appeared to be a prevailing assumption that the analysis of MCAS scores would lead to improvements in subgroups.  Review team members were told in interviews that teachers were “differentiating instruction” but interviewees could not explain how this approach was specifically addressing the needs of diverse learners. Interviewees also noted that capacity to differentiate instruction was weak in the district. Classroom observations revealed little evidence of differentiation or sheltered English immersion (SEI) instruction.
Another theme that emerged from interviews with district administrators and school staff was
that some appeared to be resigned to the school district not having the capacity to address the
problems of ELLs and their families and other families. Many interviewees attributed lagging
test scores to the effects of limited English proficiency, poverty and its accompanying problems,
and mobility and attendance issues. According to some interviewees, the community has found it difficult to adjust to its changing population, particularly the increase in residents who speak
other languages; cultural issues are not addressed in the schools; and some administrators and
staff do not have high expectations for students, especially ELLs. One effect of a lack of a clear
vision in how to serve diverse students and their families is the eroding belief and conviction
among some school staff that the district can successfully address the academic, emotional, and
social needs of all students. This effect was apparent in interviews with school staff who
appeared overwhelmed with the needs of students.  Unless a vision of how to serve diverse
students and their families is developed and the resignation of staff who do not now see a way to improve these students’ achievement is addressed, it will be difficult to bring about the

Our educators don't believe our kids can succeed, and they don't even know what we're doing to try to help them. Who did they interview? Dr. Walsh?

The DESE made several recommendations in their report. They included these around student support:

Student Support
9. The district should evaluate its existing support programs and services and use those evaluations to address supports for students in its new strategic plan, including supports for English language learners, students receiving special education services, and students from diverse backgrounds. It should consider whether strategies related to school climate and family involvement should be included.
10. The district should consider a systemwide focus on a “full service school model” as a way to support the learning and achievement of diverse learners, especially ELLs, and to bolster the impact of promising programs already operating in the district.
11. The district’s new professional development plan should prioritize training in the instructional models (Like SEI) currently in use and the district should provide  follow-up support to ensure that practices are institutionalized.
In short. We're failing our ELL students through a lack of organization, effort, knowledge, and caring (by some). DESE has instructed us on how to address some of those failings. It's results from those recommendations, as well as several others, that I'll be looking for tonight. Has training improved and become systemic? What new training programs are in place? What are the chances that I see any? Don't forget to tune in, this one is live on Channel 15, at 7:30.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A new direction?

Today's Salem News article on whether or not the mayor can or should have the right to address council, talks about whether or not the charter guarantees the mayor the right to speak. Of this, they say, " In recent weeks, the debate has taken a new direction."

KIKS readers will know that this is not a new issue, as I raised it over fourteen months ago, here. Additionally, the mayor asserted as much in council chambers during the budget meeting last year, when Councilor Ronan attempted to block the mayor from speaking, though she was invited to attend and participate in that meeting.

See for yourself. About two minutes into this video.

Copying from myself:

Section 19 of the General Provisions, is as follows:
19. Mayor to provide information to council; attendance at meetings of council; addressing the council.
The city council at any time may request from the mayor, or, under Plan D or E, from the city manager, specific information on any municipal matter within its jurisdiction, and may request him to be present to answer written questions relating thereto at a meeting to be held not earlier than one week from the date of the receipt by the mayor, or, under Plan D or E, by the city manager, of said questions. The mayor, or, under Plan D or E, the city manager, shall personally, or through the head of a department or a member of a board, attend such meeting and publicly answer all such questions. The person so attending shall not be obliged to answer questions relating to any other matter. The mayor, or, under Plan D or E, the city manager, may attend and address the city council in person or through the head of a department, or a member of a board, upon any subject. (emphasis added)
This provision of the charter doesn't permit council to prevent the mayor from addressing them. It expressly authorizes the mayor to address council regarding any subject. Therefore, Pinto (and council's rule) may have violated the city charter with his actions. So which takes precedence? The City Charter is basically the City of Salem's version of the constitution. A rule of council in their handbook that violates the Charter wouldn't be permissible, and would therefore be invalid. Don't believe me? Consider this example. The Charter lays out that there will be 11 City Councilors. If City Council decided to vote to increase that number to 13, without amending the Charter, do you think that would fly? Surely it wouldn't. So without amending section 19 of the charter wouldn't Pinto's action also be illegal?

Do I think that the mayor should be allowed to attend city council meetings and filibuster for hours? Of course not. I don't think I buy that the charter allows that, either. The way I read it, the council president does have the responsibility to recognize the mayor, or a department head, or board member sent by the mayor. That doesn't mean that the council president has to allow them to go on indefinitely. The president still holds the gavel. This is going to be made into a much bigger deal than it has to be.

The last thing anyone wants, is a new charter commission. Though, if there is one, sign me up!

The idea that this is a "new direction" for this debate, however, is another example of the snooze being in the dark. It has been discussed in council chambers several times. It was even mentioned on their own pages months ago.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Election tidbits

Salem resident Edward Carroll announced that he's running in the democratic primary for state senate, against Mary-Ellen Manning, John Slattery, and Joan Lovely. It's a pretty massively huge coincidence that his landlord is also his opponent, Mary-Ellen Manning. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but I have a hard time buying that. My guess is that one of two things must be true. Either Mr. Carroll really hates his landlord, or really likes her. I'm sure both would claim it's a coincidence, but I can't really believe that.

Insiders tell me that they believe that Manning asked Carroll to run, so that there would be two Salem residents on the ballot, hoping to pull Salem votes away from Joan Lovely in her own backyard. The joke, of course, is on Manning (and maybe Lovely), if this is true. Because, we all know, Salemites don't vote, especially in primaries. All those signatures gathered for nothing. If you saw the blog post "Patch Asleep at the Switch," which was posted on Salem Patch for a few days, but has since been removed, you'd have a hard time taking Mr. Carroll's campaign seriously. Let's just say that the spelling, grammar, and punctuation in this post touting Mr. Carroll made the piece almost unreadable. It also read like something from the free republic, right wing nutjob play-book. It would seem odd that if Mr. Carroll shared the beliefs of that particular supporter, that he would be a much better fit on the (also less crowded) Republican ballot. Something fishy there.

The Carroll campaign doesn't appear to have any sort of web site, phone number, Facebook page, etc.

While researching the claim that Manning owns Carroll's builiding, I stumbled across this little tidbit. His landlord recently had another of her rental properties in foreclosure. And she's even paid all of her printer's bills ...

Oops, someone didn't open the mail!

Still haven't decided who I'm voting for on Thursday, Sept. 6. Thoughts?


Salem mayor Kim Driscoll will face her toughest opponent since her first election in the next mayoral go-round. Of course, when the toilet tipper was your last opponent, that's not saying much. Current ward 2 councilor Mike Sosnowski hasn't been quiet enough about his intention to jump full force into the next mayoral election. Though he hasn't made any official announcements, he's told many supporters that he fully intends to run. Can he cobble together enough special interests to defeat a mostly popular incumbent? We'll see. I tend to doubt it, but the longer someone sits in office, the more people they piss off. Sosnowski is sure to lend a sympathetic ear to people who oppose lots of different things. A short list would start with wind turbine, transfer station, parking meter, 40b housing, Saltonstall special treatment, Bridge St senior center, increased liquor licenses, and/or condos without parking spaces opponents. His game will need to be cobbling together enough people who will be single-issue voters on those specific issues, plus whatever else comes up in the next year. (See why it gets harder and harder to keep office the longer you're in it?) The longer that list gets the easier for a challenger. Maybe he does have a shot. He'll do well with the old Salem, lifer, don't want to vote for a woman crowd, too. Then again, maybe I pay too much attention to the Patch/Snews/Salemweb fellowship of the miserable. I was convinced that councilors Pinto and Ronan would win in a landslide as well. In hindsight I'd probably take Pinto back. Carr is bo-ring. Council on a whole has been pretty boring.

Nobody ran against Sosnowski last go around in Ward 2, but I hear it's not his intention to file papers for both the mayor's seat and the ward 2 spot. It's wise, don't be a Sawicki. Any chance that Ward 2 has nobody file to run? Big Metal Box is gone. (What did that cost us?) I guess we could see a retread. Claudia Chuber is in Ward 2 now (not sure what the museum would think of her running for office with her new role with them), as is frequent candidate Mike Blatty, who hates seeing people run unopposed. It would be ironic if he got elected that way.

Should be an interesting mayoral race in 2013, probably offering residents a stark choice of two pretty different visions for the future of the city.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

And So It Begins ...

I'm still trying to digest what went on at tonight's school committee meeting. Earlier today, I was reading this blog from Education Week. The big takeaway to me was that successful schools need courageous leadership in tackling fundamental issues. Tonight's school committee meeting makes me really question whether or not we have that leadership in place. I've said to more than one person that I wondered how long it would be before our shortsighted leadership would attempt to tear down the schools that show any level of success. That attack began a while ago with the school assignment policy, where our better schools (I wouldn't call any of them "good") were attacked for their student bodies. The goal was to bring down Witchcraft Heights and Saltonstall, rather than to try to duplicate their success. That attack continued in earnest tonight.

I'll admit that I was only half paying attention when the subject of approving the Salem Schools and separately the Saltonstall School calendar came up on the agenda. Below is how the two action items were worded.

c.      Deliberation on the approval of the Salem Public Schools calendar for the 2012-13 School Year

d.      Deliberation on the approval of the Saltonstall School calendar for the 2012-13 School Year

They sound routine, and have appeared annually for several years. However, the full frontal attack on Saltonstall has begun. Somehow that proposal was amended to make the Saltonstall school follow the calendar of the rest of the schools. Janet Crane stated unequivocally that she would not vote to approve a different calendar for Saltonstall, because it's not fair. I'm not particularly interested in whether or not it's fair. My question is, does it work? It at least appears to. Wouldn't it make more sense to emulate the things that work? That takes more creative thinking and strong leadership. (See first paragraph.)

Crane cited ongoing negotiations with the teachers' union as a good reason to scrap Saltonstall's schedule at this point. Go back to the blog post referenced above. Ongoing negotiations would be a great time for our leadership to be bold, and demand that the teacher layoff system be based on evaluations rather than seniority, and that increased pay for increased days and hours be based on increased performance. But that would take bold leadership. We seem to want to go for the timid approach. It's worked so well up to now.

The school committee claims to want parental involvement, the action that almost took place tonight, because, according to Crane, it was privately discussed during a budget retreat at some point in the past, would make that claim of wanting parental involvement seem at least bipolar. I'm not sure how Dr. Crane can think it's appropriate to move on such a huge change like this without allowing parents any chance to provide feedback, but it appeared that she believed that was entirely appropriate. She took great offense to the mayor's assertion that this was coming from left field. Read the agenda items again. Does that sound like the possibility of scrapping the Saltonstall model was on the agenda? One could almost argue that the open meeting law had been violated if such action had taken place. What are we, Wenham? Do you think the crowd would have been bigger if the agenda item was "Move Saltonstall schedule to match the rest of the system?" I'm thinking yes.

I wasn't the only one who thought so. The following were all posted on Twitter during the meeting.

Listen. I don't have a Saltonstall kid. I have no dog in the fight, and I don't claim to know what's best. But there's a right way to have the conversation, and it involves actually having the conversation, instead of trying to sneak it in, and that is what almost happened, whether it offends Dr. Crane or not. The issue was finally tabled, but it's sure to be back.

Killing the Saltonstall model is the type of move that may or may not push the Salem Education Foundation too far. Janine Matho, the president of SEF, certainly seems to have the qualifications necessary to lead a Salem Education Foundation charter school, no? Maybe it's time for SEF to really step up big time and show the rest of us how it's done. I'd enroll my future kindergartener with them. I can't imagine that doing away with the extended day/extended year model will sit well with SEF.

We thought that the drama was over at that point, but then Dr. Walsh proposed a resolution filled with vitriol towards the MCAS system. I wish I had the exact words, and may update later this week for it. It rang of excuse making, and blame gaming. Dr. Lavoie called him out for the tone of it, at which point he admitted that it was filled with anger. He may have had a point, but when your district is the one who is failing the standardized testing, you can't be the one arguing that it's a bad assessment tool. It seems like Dr. Walsh is a broken record at this point. It's always, "we can't, we can't, we can't." Tonight he compared the Salem schools to a greyhound on the dog track. He said something to the effect of "we're always chasing the rabbit but we're never going to catch it." Is that really the attitude you want in your school leadership?

This was a rough night for the mayor. I'm used to this mayor. Tonight, the mayor seemed to waver between flustered and shell-shocked. Seriously, check out the look after she adjourned the meeting. The issue of Saltonstall is a tough one for her, as head of the school committee, mayor, and Saltonstall parent, she's pretty much damned any way she goes here. I think she knows it, too. She clearly wasn't expecting it to come up as an issue the way that it did.

On the frivolous side, the subject of school uniforms was brought up during the Assistant Superintendent's report. He reported glowingly that the majority of Salem parents supported uniforms in every school. In reality, I think it sounded like the majority didn't do any such thing in any of the schools. Setting aside the utterly biased survey, that has already been thoroughly dissected by Rick Johnson here,  let's look at Bates. It was reported that 55% of Bates parents supported uniforms. I believe the number listed was about 115. Of course, that assumes that those who didn't respond would break the same way. I think Bates has over 300 students. That means that a third of parents responded to the school's biased push for uniforms with a yes. Two thirds said no, or didn't care enough to say anything. Of course the plan is to move ahead forming a uniform committee in each school. By my math, with incomplete info (hasn't been published), one school got up to about 48% of parents to respond with a yes, to a very biased survey. Good thing we're focusing on such important, enforceable (LOL!) stuff. The rest of the school committee should actually listen to Dr. Walsh on this one, as he made clear that a uniform policy was no panacea.

In other news that we can hopefully put into the proper perspective now (you're excused, councilor Furey), new rules and voting members were adopted for the Salem High School Sports Hall of Fame near the beginning of the meeting. And that's enough about that.

Jim Fleming was absent from the meeting. Again.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bad Lawyering?

From today's Salem News.

Lawyers Rebecca Whitehill and Joseph Collins argued that Nolan had no justification for a search.
Collins said Gray-Santana does maintenance for the building where both men live and that they were simply heading to Home Depot to buy paint for Cruz's apartment.

Here's the article.

So let me get this straight. Two criminals, who live on Palmer Street, were driving to Home Depot for paint (without a valid license), and they were on Cabot Street in Beverly? That's about as plausible as the story that he was delivering pizza in his pizza-less, dog-filled car.

When I inevitably get arrested, and let's face it, it's only a matter of time, I won't be calling those two.

Here it is in pictures.

The lightbulb represents where the alleged perps live. The red circles are the two closest Home Depots. The ? is Cabot Street, where the arrest occurred. I go to Home Depot a lot. Never by Cabot Street.

See what I mean? Maybe they should have stuck with the pizza delivery story. At least then they'd only be caught in one lie.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Predictable Schools "Solution"

I've been suffering from Salem fatigue. Nothing going on in town has interested me enough to write about it. There have been several things I've commented on and discussed via Twitter here, and Facebook here, but nothing that got me to write a blog post. I've been following the school situation, waiting for the time to be right to weigh in. I think the time is now. Also, I broke my tailbone recently and I'm crankier than usual. So here it is.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Boston Subway Puncher has Salem Roots

You may have seen this story on Channel 7 News in the last day or two.

Watch the original video of the beating, which I saw on a Salem someone's Facebook page, with the comment "This lady was on my train a few days ago doing the same thing." Guess she hasn't learned.

So what made me put two and two together that this young lady has some Salem ties? I read this Salem Patch police log account: 11:36 a.m. — A Gardner Street resident reported a news crew was harassing her. The woman said the crew from Channel 7 was at her house and would not leave. Police told the woman the crew had the right to stay in the public way. Police spoke with a woman from Channel 7, and told her she could stay in the public way, but she could not go on the property. The crew was on scene for an incident in Boston involving a woman who resides at the residence, but wasn't there at the time.

I decided to take a look at the Channel 7 web site, and searched for Salem, finding nothing current. I recognized this story from the earlier Facebook post, and learned this young lady's name. I then googled her last name, and Gardner St, Salem, MA. Not surprisingly, there is a household that shares that last name on the street. Ms. Cote has been listed as homeless, or in the snooze police log a while back, as address unknown, so she may not even live at that address. They may not even be related. [UPDATED: Ms. Cote confirmed to me that those are her parents.] If she is homeless, though, where are police going to send that summons?

I then searched for Ms. Cote herself, and found her interesting Twitter stream, which says that she's from Salem. She confirmed that it's her, with this tweet.

Melissa says she'd like to be famous, but for her music. Here's some of that.

So what do you think? Does she have a future in music?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A history lesson, Salem ed style, and the rest of the DESE report

In light of the DESE report, it's interesting to take a look back at old news articles about the Salem schools.

About 15 months ago, the Salem News had this little tidbit. In hindsight, right on, Nelson. How does a school's program change without the principal or superintendent knowing about it? Mismanagement and lack of leadership?

Just over a year ago, one month before the DESE visits that the report is based on, the Salem School Committee gave Dr. Cameron a glowing review. They praised his vision and his relationship with the board and administrators. The DESE couldn't find any evidence of either.

"I see both a short-term and a long-term vision for the district that I've been impressed with," School Committee member Kevin Carr, as quoted by the Salem News on 12/7/10. Again, that was a little over a month before DESE visited the district and couldn't find anything near a short-term or long-term vision. This isn't to pick on Carr, who now serves as a city councilor, but to point out that maybe our school committee doesn't know much about what's going on in our schools. The fact that the level 4 designation, and publishing of the DESE report, didn't come out prior to the recent city council election was certainly to Carr's benefit. The DESE site visits were early in 2011. They didn't find what Carr says he saw. His quote above would certainly have been election fodder. Could he have turned level 4 into a city council seat?

Monday, January 9, 2012

The State of the Salem Schools: Read DESE's take

Every Salemite should read the DESE draft report on the Salem Schools. So why isn't it available? I'm told that the report will be released later this week. However, before it is, the city/superintendent will be given an opportunity to edit/remove some of the information contained in the draft report. I'll be very interested to see what they remove.

The basic gist is that teachers get very little direction from principals, and principals aren't on the same page with each other, because they've received little direction/mission from the school administration. The report paints the picture of a district-wide problem of direction, not just a problem with the Bentley School, as the superintendent would have you believe in a recent Patch article.

Who is to blame? I'll go with everyone for now. The former superintendent takes a lot of lumps the way this reads to me. Reading the report, you'll be glad he's gone. The school committee, led by the mayor, is responsible for selecting the superintendent, and evaluating his job performance. If the report is accurate, they failed to ensure that everyone was rowing in the same direction, and that Dr. Cameron effectively carried out his job duties.

All non-Asian Salem student groups underperform the state.

Let me address the fallacy that the problem with Salem MCAS results is in the LEP (Limited English Proficiency) and FLEP (Former Limited English Proficiency) populations. As you'll see above, it's true that LEP and FLEP students underperform their LEP and FLEP peers across the state. That said, so does every other grouping of students, except for Asian students. The only group growing achievement faster than the state average is African-American students. A district-wide problem is also a population-wide problem.

I've been trying to come up with a way to share this report with all of you, and am not having a lot of luck getting it to embed in the blog. Blogger don't play that. I was given this report by someone who had a copy, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I took it to a copy center and had a PDF made. Unfortunately, the report was long enough that the scanner split it into two files. I've uploaded the first PDF here. You'll have to stay tuned for the second file soon.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fun from the Snooze, and only in Government

A few interesting tidbits in the Salem News this now yesterday, morning.

First, a mother on Lafayette Street asked Salem Police to arrest her 15- and 16-year-old children, because she is unable to handle their bickering. Nice. Shockingly, "none of the children's fathers seemed to be involved, according to police."

Second, the news published a letter from Steve Pinto today yesterday. Interesting that now they're willing to print his exact words, with no twisting. Mission accomplished already, Nelson? Pinto's proposal deserves a full examination. I still disagree with his unwillingness to guarantee us some short term cost savings, but after having coffee with him recently, I have a much better idea where he's coming from on the issue. I think we'll see more public commentary from Councilor Pinto now that he's not in a political position. I look forward to it.

Anyone want to bet that Nelson creamed himself a little when he was able to add at the bottom of the letter, "(Editor's note: Steven Pinto is a former councilor-at-large in Salem.)?"

Finally, almost every time I see the name of Salem Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley, I end up cringing at his seemingly asinine decisions. His most recent Mori-esque call is reducing the bail of a criminal who has jumped bail twice already, including last month. Feeley did this despite the fact that the accused recently received enough cash to post the now-lowered bail and disappear again. Apparently the term "flight risk" is foreign to Judge Feeley

There may be a reason that Feeley is known as Judge free-thee.


The MBTA is really a piece of work. Only a government entity would propose that they provide you with less than before, while charging you significantly more for it. That's what the new proposal from the T boils down to.

One scenario nearly eliminates all Salem bus service, and does eliminate any bus service north and west of Salem depot. The other scenario only reduces Salem bus service, while still eliminating any bus service north and of Salem. Service to the malls is eliminated in both proposals.

For you commuter rail users, both proposals eliminate weekend service completely, as well as any weekday service after 10 PM. You won't be using the commuter rail for Celtics, Bruins, or Red Sox games any more. I guess this would mean the end of the game day Patriots game as well.

In return for only being able to use the train 5 days instead of 7, and only until 10 PM. you'll see your monthly pass price increase from the current $163 per month, to either $219 or $234. Try that with your boss. Tell him to pay you 43% more, and you're going to take two days a week that you currently work off. Good luck with that.

No way these scenarios are specifically designed to create outrage and scare the crap out of users to get them to go after their elected officials for more state funding for the T, right? Worked the last time.