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Year In Review 2008

2008: Year of Change and Challenge By Ray Lamont EditoR “Change” was a magic word across the nation in 2008. So was “challenge,” as the U.S. economic plunge produced a ripple effect that has left virtually no one untouched in some way, Those words also captured the legacy of 2008 in Gloucester and across the towns of Cape Ann — and they are themes carried out throughout the year’s top stories as chosen by the staff at the Gloucester Daily Times. The No. 1 news story as voted by the Times and was the one that pushed Gloucester into the national and global media spotlight this summer — and one that still poses a variety of challenges for Gloucester officials and residents alike. The spike in pregnancies within Gloucester High School from a norm of four to a total of 18 during the past school year, the assertion by then-Principal Joseph Sullivan that many of the pregnancies were intentional — first reported in the Times in March — and then a June 19 Time magazine story indicating that at least some of the students had formed a “pact” to get pregnant, not only thrust Gloucester into an unwanted side of the global spotlight for several days. It also put the city front and center in a renewed regional and national debate on teen pregnancy, it triggered the resignations of medical personnel within the school’s clinic, it led to Sullivan’s exit after 10 years as head of the school, and even touched off a brief and failed effort to recall Mayor Carolyn Kirk. It also led to both a new policy regarding the distribution of contraceptives within the high school, and the affirmation of the school’s controversial day-care center within the school. For the rest of the top 10 stories of the year, see the numbered list lower on this Web page. Other stories of note The top 10 stories, of course, were hardly the only items of note that have had an impact in Gloucester and Cape Ann life over the past 12 months. Hollywood found its way back to Cape Ann more than once, with some of the industry’s biggest names paying a visit. This year’s guests included Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, who were here to film, “The Proposal”; Mel Gibson, who was filming his “Edge of Darkness”; and Wade Williams who’s starring in “Hatteras Hotel,” which was filming in Rockport this month. The most dramatic of those ventures, for a variety of reasons, proved to be “The Proposal,” which converted downtown Rockport into a movie version of Sitka, Alaska, for more than a week — and briefly thrust Gloucester and Cape Ann into the global media spotlight when a vehicle carrying Bullock and her husband, TV reality star Jesse James, was hit by a drunk driver the night of April 19 on East Main Street. Similarly, Gloucester’s Mayor Kirk was hardly the only new face on the scene in terms of Cape Ann leadership. Rockport welcomed a new superintendent of schools in Dr, Susan King, who took the reins this summer. King, who signed a three-year contract formerly served as an administrator in the Triton Regional School District, returned to the North Shore after a stint as superintendent in Montvale, N.J. She succeeded Rosemary DiTullio — who became one of several community leaders besides GHS Principal Sullivan and state Rep. Verga to bow out in 2008. The highest-profile departure came through a change at the top of Northeast Health System, the parent company of Addison Gilbert Hospital and Beverly Hospital. After votes of no-confidence earlier in the year by both the doctors and nursing units, Laverty officially stepped down in November amid another Northeast controversy, the discovery of stolen artworks — including at least one piece by a Rockport painter that once hung in Addison Gilbert Hospital — at the Groveland home of a former Northeast employee. Others who stepped aside this past year did so under far better circumstances. Nancy Schwoyer, a founder of the Wellspring House organization, stepped aside as its executive director after 25 years at the helm; Kay Nordstrom announced last week she was leaving after 20 years as head of the Cape Ann Transportation Operating Co. to take a federal transit administration post in Washington; and Michael Costello, announced in September his yearend retirement as executive director of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce — a position he has held for the last 30 years. In his brief speech at a lateNovember testimonial dinner, Costello emphasized the need to look forward, not back. Speaking to nearly 300 business and community leaders at Cruiseport Gloucester, Costello encouraged all to continue working for economic growth and Cape Ann’s future. And as the pages of the calendar turn this week, many of the stories from 2008 continue to move forward as well. If 2008 was a year of challenges and change, Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester and Essex residents can continue to look for more of the same in 2009. A plan for the future of Gloucester Harbor is very much a work in progress, as will be the construction and other developments around Gloucester Crossing and its environs. Manchester Essex officials are hoping that the opening of their new school will be coming in September — already making that one of the potential top stories of 2009. And, lest we forget, Gloucester will be holding another city election in November, after Cape Ann’s towns carry out those exercises in the Spring. Stay tuned. ¢¢¢ Ray Lamont can be reached at

Top 10 Stories
of the Year

1. Gloucester High School teen pregnancies

It first surfaced at a March meeting of the Gloucester School Committee, when questions were raised regarding an “issue” with the day-care center run by Pathways for Children within Gloucester High School. The issue? The facility was licensed to handle seven children, but there were 10 girls currently pregnant within GHS. By Memorial Day weekend, the number of pregnant girls had risen to an apparent 17. On June 19, a Time magazine reporter sent to Gloucester, wrote of a “pregnancy pact,” at GHS – and the national and worldwide media pounced on the story, storming the city from literally all corners of the globe. It was, quite simply, the biggest local news story of a very newsy year. Read More...

2. Mayor Kirk's
ascension to office

Mayor Kirk's ascension to office in the first days of 2008 led to her efforts to launch a series of reforms and take a lead role on a variety of development efforts throughout the year. While taking the lead on the Gloucester Crossing Project and the controversial rezoning of the Fort, Kirk also kept residents in the loop through two state of the city reports and a series of harbor "listening posts." Read More...

By Richard Gaines —
January 2, 2008

3. Ferrante ousts Verga for 5th Essex House District seat

Voters in the 5th Essex House District chose Ann-Margaret Ferrante over state Rep. Anthony Verga in a Sept, 16 Democratic Primary vote that ousted Verga — a member of the State House leadership term — from his House seat after seven terms and 14 years.

By Richard Gaines —
September 17, 2008

4. City approves tax break for Sam Park's Gloucester Crossing Project

One of several that remains ongoing as the year draws to a close — was the often fierce debate but ultimate approval of a city tax break for developer Sam Park and his Gloucester Crossing project, one of several key steps for what promises to be Gloucester’s largest-ever shopping center. Read More...

By Richard Gaines —
December 4, 2008

5. Gloucester police department under fire

This story also remains ongoing: the clouds hanging over the Gloucester Police Department through the charges of a broadcast threat made by Lt. Michael O’Hanley, the complaints and shutdown of the police firing range in West Gloucester, and a push by some officials to force the chief’s position out from under civil service protections. Read More...

By Patrick Anderson —
December 3, 2008

6. Community's response to the Middle Street Fire

This story also relates to public safety; the community’s heartwarming response in the aftermath of the December 2007 Middle Street fire, the flurry of lawsuits involving the Lorraine apartments building and burned-out tenants, and even a new piece of legislation named for Robert Taylor, who died in the blaze. Read More...

7. City's battle to revitalize Gloucester Harbor

Revitalizing Gloucester Harbor hasn't been easy, it's included a heated battle between the city and residents over plans to rezone the Fort to allow construction of a downtown hotel. Read More...

By Richard Gaines —
December 16, 2008

8. Reformation of the Gloucester school system

A series of moves to reform the Gloucester school system — first through a redistricting and the shutdown of Fuller School, then an application to create a charter school, continues to draw intense community debate. Read More...

By Patrick Anderson —
December 12, 2008

9. Extortion charges filed against Stevan Goldin

The Times staff poll produced a tie for the No. 9 spot between the attempted extortion charges filed, then later thrown out, against environmental activist Stevan Goldin and developments within the fishing industry — which first received $13 million in federal aid, yet faces new regulatory changes as well. Read More...

By Richard Gaines —
October 22, 2008

10. Rockport getting a $17.5M performance hall

There was also a tie in the No. 10 slot — between the April settlement that cleared the way for a $17.5-million, privately-funded performance hall for the Rockport Chamber Music Festival, and developments in the area’s single largest current building, the $49-million construction of a new Manchester Essex High School/Middle School.

By Jonathan L'Ecuyer —
April 5, 2008

Top 5 Sports Stories of the Year

1. Manchester Essex football team wins the Division 4 Super Bowl

The Hornets capped off a dominant 2008 season with a 36-6 victory over Tri-County in the Division 4 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 6. Manchester Essex won the Commonwealth Conference Small and finished the season 13-0. The Hornets averaged over 37 points per game en route to their first title since 1999. Read More...

By Richard Slate — December 8, 2008

2. Gloucester High football team goes to a second consecutive Super Bowl

The Fishermen didn't end the season how they had hoped, with a 46-26 loss to Duxbury in the Division 2A Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 6. But it was still quite an accomplishment to get to the Super Bowl for a second straight year. Gloucester finished 11-2 and won the Northeastern Conference Large once again. This followed up last year's 13-0 campaign and Super Bowl title. Not a bad two year run. Read More...

By Matt Langone — December 8, 2008

3. Manchester Essex girls hoops enjoys magical run to state championship

After qualifying for the Division 4 state tournament playing in the always-tough Cape Ann League, the Hornets advanced all the way to the state championship game at TD Banknorth Garden on March 11. However, the magical run ended with Manchester Essex falling to Cohasset, 44-36, in an overtime thriller. The Hornets defeated Mount Alvernia, 59-56, in OT in the Division 4 North finals to punch their ticket to the Garden. They finished the year 16-9. Read More...

By Matt Langone — December 8, 2008

4. Essex's Ferriero helps guide BC to a men's hockey national title

The third time was indeed a charm for Essex's Benn Ferriero and his Boston College men's hockey team. After losing in the national title game in each of the previous two years, the Eagles finally broke through and captured their third national title in school history on April 12 with a 4-1 victory over Notre Dame at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Boston College (25-11-8) won the national title for the first time since 2001.
Ferriero, a junior right wing, tallied an assist on BC's third goal in the championship game. The Governor Dummer graduate finished the season as the Eagles' fourth-leading scorer with 17 goals and 25 assists. This winter, Ferriero is a captain for the Eagles. Read More...

By Nick Curcuru — February 13, 2008

5. Gloucester cheerleaders win national championship

When the Gloucester High School co-ed Cheerleading team left home for Orlando, Fla. in March and the Cheerleaders of America Ultimate Nationals, they left as a pretty accomplished team. The Fishermen had already won the Northeastern Conference and finished second at the Massachusetts Regionals, as well as the State and New England Championships. However, when the team returned home, they came back as National Champions. The Fishermen defeated Miami Killian High School by just .15 points to win their third national title under head coach Eric Bichao. Ironically, Miami Killian defeated Gloucester in the COA Ultimate Nationals the year before. Read More...

By Nick Curcuru — March 25, 2008

Strangest Stories of the Year

Restaurant owner has ham slam for prosciutto thief

The story of what happened to local restaurant owner Joe Scola last March 12 doesn’t quite fit the bill as one of the year’s biggest news stories, But no one can argue it wasn’t one of the most colorful. Scola was the restaurateur who not only chased down an unidentified man who was trying to make off with two bags of meat taken from Scola’s Pleasant Street shop; when the thief, confronted by Scola, raised a stick of prosciutto to use as a weapon, Scola reached into the other bag, pulled out a frozen ham – and whacked the thief in the face with it, knocking him to the ground, and causing him to flee. The story of Scola and his “ham slam” wasn’t the only story over the past year that was, well, a little off the beaten path. It grew out of a routine check of police reports, and the notation that, in a weapons-assault investigation, the alleged weapon was a “stick of prosciutto.” Read More...

By Kristen Grieco — March 14, 2008

Quite literally a star-studded collision

Cape Ann residents were happy to see “America’s sweetheart” Sandra Bullock in town to film “The Proposal” in April, but when an SUV carrying her and her husband, Jesse James, was hit by a Gloucester drunk driver the night of April 19, the incident put Gloucester in the tabloid media spotlight as well. Neither Bullock — whose career has included the films “Crash” and “Speed” — nor James were hurt. The accident was indeed head-on, but at a speed of some 20 mph. None-the-less, the accident plunged Gloucester into the media limelight, a scenario that would be dwarfed by the pregnancy scandal two months later. Read More...

By Richard Gaines — April 21, 2008

The case of the Rockport ninja

The police news in Rockport took a turn toward the absurd Oct, 8, when authorities filed drug and weapons charges against a local man and found several samurai swords and Chinese throwing stars at his home. According to the police report, the man allegedly would spy on kids while dressed in a “ninja” outfit that indeed held handcuffs, throwing stars, and an earpiece connected to a police scanner. It was perhaps the strangest single arrest of the year. Read More...

By Jonathan L'Ecuyer — October 9, 2008

One lucky dog

When the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce hosted October’s annual $25,000 Game raffle, there was more than the usual level of astonishment when the winner was drawn for the $10,000 grand prize. The winning ticket belonged to none other than Madison B. — a jet-black pug owned by the fiancee of Tony Talliadoros’ son. Talliadoros, who co-chaired the raffle, had sold all but one of the 50 tickets, and came up with the idea of signing Madison’s name when he bought the last ticket himself. Sure enough, that proved to be the winner. Word has it that Madison is living high on the dog food hog these days. Read More...

By Amanda Flitter — October 9, 2008

What, no duck sauce?

A Gloucester police report earlier this month didn’t lead to an arrest, but featured an incident that literally provided food for thought. A local woman called police to report that someone had thrown one or more objects through her window. Police responding to the scene found two barbecue pork ribs in the room; the officers combed the neighborhood for someone carrying Chinese food, but found no suspects. The lingering question? Whose ribs are heavy enough to crash through windows?
Add that to the list of questions to be answered in 2009. Read More...

November 20, 2008

Gloucester Daily Times Polls — Weigh in on the best of 2008