Election guide Pt. 3: School Committee
Don't even think about voting for Soucy
All right folks, it’s less than a week out from the election and I need my people voting voting VOTING lest we allow a few scary candidates ride a wave of right-wing resentment to turn our city even further backward! It’s not good, folks! Tuesday! Let’s go!
In this edition of my election guide we look at the School Committee race where we have one of those candidates hiding in plain sight for the most part which is insane to me. Her name is Shanel Soucy and her views on the queer community writ large are horrifyingly backward. Homosexuality is a lifestyle and she doesn’t agree with it! People need to try to be less gay!
Nevertheless, she’s secured some high profile endorsements, such as the Central Mass AFL–CIO, and she was even invited to speak at South High just a few weeks ago as part of a package of motivational speakers, which begs two questions: who offered a school committee candidate the opportunity given the obvious ethical problems, and also what was her motivational speech, “Do combat to the gay demons in your mind”?
Soucy is a key organizer in the “opt-out” movement here in Worcester, a religious and reactionary right-wing moralizing backlash to the city’s decision to finally, after years and years, offer comprehensive sex education. You probably know them by their “opt out” lawn signs in the style of the PornHub logo which is the sort of thing that makes you think hmmm if you’re so pious where’d that idea come from?
As I’ve covered before, Soucy’s comments on the matter betray that she does not feel children should be taught consent, personal agency or how to navigate the confusing and, for some, traumatizing process of growing into sexual and gender identity. She describes the curriculum as brainwashing and compares it, in a negative light, to “critical race theory,” a right-wing buzzword that has over the past year been watered down to near meaninglessness unless you’re a person like Soucy. Then all you have to do is hear it and it flips the Fox News switch in your head and wave of directionless greivance washes over you. Let’s go Brandon!!!
In a Facebook comment that now lives in infamy, Soucy wrote “I do not support homosexual behavior… never have never will… some of my closest friends, clients and more practice this lifestyle and I have always been clear about my beliefs about it. I do not support it any more than I do sex before marriage, which I’ve had plenty of. Whether these behaviors come from demonic influence or the evils that lie in our own hearts, or both, is not up for me to decide for anyone else. But I do know they come from only one of those two places.”
Someone who believes demons cause homosexuality is running for public office in Massachusetts in 2021. Someone who doesn’t agree with the homosexual “lifestyle” was endorsed by the local chapter of the AFL–CIO. Someone who conflates sex out of marriage with being gay and thinks both are caused by the evil in our hearts was invited to speak at South High.
All this to say there are a host of competent and smart candidates in the School Committee race whose service would be a credit to our city. Soucy is not one of them.
More than any of the good candidates could continue to steer the school district in the right direction, Soucy’s election would severely curtail the board’s ability to take on issues as they relate to a safe and equitable environment for Worcester Public Schools students. We simply need to make sure she is not elected, and I’m afraid that without a really good turnout, she will be.
So the TL:DR version of this post is this: Vote for anyone but Shanel Soucy and vote twice.
More on the good candidates later, but for now, The Good Ones: Tracy Novick, Jermoh Kamara, Jermaine Johnson, Sue Mailman.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ List: Laura Clancey, Molly McCullough
Absolutely Fuckin Not list: Dianna Biancheria, Shanel Soucy
Biancheria goes on the AFN list because of her track record of only dimly understanding the issues and even more dimly articulating her position. She’s also the product of nepotism and the old boys’ network controlled by Superintendent Maureen Binienda, former mayor Ray Mariano and others. The whole of her politics boils down to maintaining her crew’s status as the power brokers of the public school bureaucracy.
Soucy’s candidacy is much more dangerous—so dangerous, in fact, that a coalition of the local LGBTQIA+ community came out earlier this week with an entire press conference dedicated to her candidacy. From the press conference:
Rev. Aaron Payson, a leader in Worcester’s faith community, spoke on the topic of religious abuse. “When you call families evil or demonize the people in our community because of their sexual orientation, their gender identity or expression, you are engaging in religious abuse.” He continued, “It is horrific in the 21st century that any of us should be subjected to religious abuse.”
And this, from a parent of WPS children:
Jules Trobaugh, an LGBTQ+ parent with children in the Worcester Public Schools called for accountability and attention to the issue of anti-LGBTQ+ hate addressing candidates directly saying, “We're not just here and queer, but we're here, queer, and we were watching you. Don't be a disappointment to Worcester.” She continued, “Comprehensive sex ed is teaching about families, teaching about friendships, teaching our children independence. You send kids to school so that they will become independent, rational adults. To be against comprehensive sex ed is simply irrational.”
A candidate that inspires this sort of outrage from our queer community before even taking office is not a candidate that deserves, in any sane or just world, the bully pulpit of the position.
Now, let’s look at The Good Ones.
Tracy Novick, as I’ve said before, is an expert’s expert on education. We’re lucky to have her and we’re lucky she didn’t throw her hands in the air and say “who freakin’ cares” after she was put through the absolute wringer by Binienda & Company in 2015. It’s rare to find a public servant so well versed in policy and with such a moral compass. I say this having covered my fair share of school committees and city councils and selectboards. After a while you can spot the ones who actually care. The School Committee’s number one objective in 2022 is hiring a new superintendent—a good one, after a national search—and there’s perhaps no one in the city I would trust more to spearhead that process.
Jermoh Kamara, a relatively recent product of Worcester Public Schools, has run a strong, progressive campaign. She supports sex education and wants to expand both diversity among the ranks of WPS staff and access to the technology needed for a 21st-century education to students whose families may not be able to afford it. Kamara showed her mettle on the campaign trail when she called for the non-renewal of Superintendent Maureen’s Bineinda’s contract and in enduring the subsequent racially-tinged paternalism from Binienda and others in response. If you’ll remember, Binienda suggested that Kamara must have been coached to say that because she could never on her own take such a position. Crappy stuff!
Sue Mailman is strongly committed to unions and unionization which is useful given how many unions the School District negotiates with. Her main focus is creating pipelines between the district and the trades, which is a good thing. And she’s well suited to do that having served as chair of Worcester Tech’s advisory board. As far as I can see, she doesn’t have a policy position I would flag as problematic.
Jermaine Johnson’s campaign is based on the fundamentals and he’s approaching it from the right angle: an increased investment in mental health services, safe, healthy, and well ventilated buildings, an increased investment in arts and civics education and more youth programming. That’s all good stuff.
With this roster of candidates, there’s a chance to push the board into a much, much more progressive direction. Importantly, the dual retirements of longtime members John Monfredo and Jack Foley offer an opportunity for a progressive coalition that we haven’t seen in my time following Worcester and probably a lot longer than that.
Foley was One Of The Good Ones and Monfredo was perhaps the worst one of all. If Soucy is allowed to assume Monfredo’s seat, we’ve traded a well-connected and powerful evil person with a less connected but perhaps equally evil person, at least in terms of ideology. If we trade Foley and Monfredo for two of the three challengers listed above, our board is in better shape. We knock off Biancheria? Even better. But bumping Biancheria off would be a tall order. Let’s take a look at last election’s results.
Biancheria came in third, behind Foley and Monfredo. With Foley and Monfredo stepping down, it stands to reason she would be the top vote-getter this year. But the School Committee numbers are more chaotic election-to-election than the City Council. In 2017, Biancheria placed way down the list.
She just narrowly beat out Donna Colorio for a sixth-place finish. Dumb and Dumber voice: so you’re saying there’s a chance.
Looking back up at 2019’s results, you’ll see that Kamara mounted a strong challenge, fetching 5,840 votes in her first race. First timers don’t tend to do very well in Worcester elections given the low turnout, so that’s impressive. Considering that the 8,700 votes for Foley will likely be spread out among the more progressive candidates, there’s a good chance Kamara could get the boost she needs for a winning finish.
Conversely, the 7,000 votes for Monfredo will likely be spread out between Soucy and Biancheria, so that’s worrisome. But it’s important to keep in mind that coalitions and political ideologies in a low-turnout city election are not the only deciding factors. Many voters, especially your older townie types, are going to vote more based on “I know that guy he’s a good guy” than they are on anything expressly political. In fact it’s not unreasonable to assume that your average School Committee voter is only dimly aware of the role and responsibilities of the School Committee. This year, there are far less known names on the ballot than in years past, but Molly McCullough and Laura Clancy stand to take a lot of those types of votes based on the very Old Worcester nature of their last names and familial relations.
So bottom line, vote for Tracy Novick, Jermoh Kamara, Jermaine Johnson and Sue Mailman. Do not vote for anyone else.
Hoped you liked part three of this election guide and I hope it informed your decision!! Show up Nov. 2 or else!!
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The last—and juiciest—edition of this election guide will cover the district races. There’s three of them and each is incredibly interesting in its own way. Save the best for last!!
But as a little treat for now, take a look at this revelation I was able to make with the help of a public records request.
Cipro is running in D1 against Sean Rose and if you’re not sure whether you’re in D1 you can check here.
I for one would very much not like a guy who broke into an innocent person’s home, trained a gun on them while they were naked and holding their crying children, ransacked their apartment and subsequently showed no remorse to hold public office. Do you?
Thank you again to Chelsea Zona for the header art!!! You can find her work on IG @chelsea_zona.
On Tuesday me and the Wootenanny boys will be Twitch streaming the election results starting at about 8 p.m. You can find the stream 8 p.m. Tuesday at twitch.tv/wootenannycomedy
Last night I did a Roky Erickson Halloween cover set with some pals at Ralph’s and it was a ton of fun! Made my psych rock dreams come true.
Ok bye bye happy voting!!!! Happy Hallow’s Eve!! It’s the Night of the Vampire!!