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.


  1. Is Salem Academy's student population really that similar to the Salem public schools?

    First Language not English - 28.2%
    Limited English Proficiency - 2.9%
    Low Income - 44.5%

    They also seem to have an attrition problem - 35 10th graders became 22 students a year later.

    Instead of the divisive commentary on how much better the charter school does than the public school which also causes problems - why not talk about the actual curricular and instruction differences that may helpful to the particular struggling Salem populations?

    The reason the charter debate has been so polarizing is because we have moved away from thinking about the reasons that their students may score higher with the idea of implementing similar things in the traditional public school. The focus has been that they do score higher as a way of demonizing the public school system which in fact have completely different demographics and challenges with which to contend. Collaboration should be key if the goal is to improve education for all students.

    The "look at how much better 'x' charter school does" rhetoric is not constructive.

  2. My point was that it's not nearly as different as Dr. Walsh would have you believe. I've long touted the concept of collaboration, while he speaks of an unfair competition. Looking at similar subgroups in the two schools (like economically disadvantaged students), the charter school outperforms our public school. Dr. Walsh would have you believe that they don't have poor kids over there.


Don't forget, keep it klassy!