New compostable lunch trays increase cost

Terrific article by 10th grade Gloucester High School student Willa Brosnihan

The Gillnetter


On January 1st, a ban on plastic bags and polystyrene serving-containers proposed by Councilor at Large Melissa Cox took effect in restaurants, supermarkets, and businesses across Gloucester. Because the trays used in Gloucester public school cafeterias are made of polystyrene and used to serve food, they will not be exempt from the ban, and will be eliminated from use by the end of February.

Food Service Director Martha Jo Fleming expects to see an increase in lunch tray costs. “The cost of the actual trays was 3 cents each for the polystyrene, and the compostable are nine, so a six cent difference,” said Fleming. “The total cost of the compostable trays we figure will come in at $25,563. The cost of the foam was $9,973.” That is a $15,590 increase this year.

According to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Richard Safier, any deficit incurred due to the change will be picked up by the school committee. “What the school committee usually does with its budget is create what I consider to be a relatively small contingency account. Usually the contingency account has about $200,000,” said Safier. “If the food service account can’t afford to pay for all of the compostable tray increase, we would take money from the contingency.”

The Gloucester High School cafeteria has already switched to the biodegradable trays, which are made of recycled paper. Head of Cafeteria Staff Patty Thibodeau says that the budget strain is affecting other aspects of her job. “Our silverware– knives, forks, spoons– when people bring their home lunch they want to use them, but the trays are so expensive that we can’t just give out silverware.”

Councilor at Large Melissa Cox believes that the benefits from the ban outweigh its financial effects. “Protecting the environment and the ocean from debris that is not recyclable or biodegradable is definitely the motivation,” said Cox. “The more cities and towns that pass the ban, the more companies will start producing alternative products, and I think once more people start buying alternative products, the cost is going to go down.”

Dr. Safier is similarly convinced that balancing environmental and economic concerns is the key to pushing environmentally friendly products into the mainstream. “We’ve got an administration that denies there’s climate change,” said Dr. Safier. “Now I imagine that they believe that there is climate change, but for political reasons they’re not willing to admit it. What ultimately needs to happen is to find ways that the environmentally friendly can be reasonably profitable at the same time, so companies that need to make money are making the money, but they are doing it in the ways that are environmentally safe and sound.”

Currently the trays are being disposed of in the trash. The trays will eventually be composted by a private company, but first the city has to weigh the price of the service, and evaluate how a switch to composting will impact janitorial staff. “The custodians may suggest that this is a change in working conditions,” said Safier. “In all likelihood it will involve negotiations between the city and the custodians, with respect to what exactly is expected of them in the process of taking the compostable trays and preparing them so that an outside agency can pick them up.”

West Parish Elementary School already has a composting program organized by parents in partnership with the local composting company Black Earth Compost. Composting will not be implemented district wide until next year.

Willa Brosnihan, Staff Writer

Willa Brosnihan is a 10th grade student at Gloucester High school. She has placed in top three of her category in the Sawyer Free Library’s “Poetry…


“Climate Change, Capitalism, and The Worldwide Symbiote” by Gloucester High Student Willa Brosnihan

The Gillnetter

The student news site of Gloucester High School in Gloucester, MA


I am not a tree hugger. I do not always remember to switch off the lights when I leave the room, and sometimes I turn the heat up too high in the winter. I don’t spend my days saving injured birds or picking up trash off the beach. But after the climate report issued by the International Panel on Climate Change, I started to feel guilty about how little I’ve been doing.

The report said that the highest temperature increase that the planet can safely reach in comparison to pre-industrial global temperatures is 1.5 degrees Celsius. In 2017, NASA placed us at a .9 degree Celsius increase, and according to the IPCC report, we are expected to reach that 1.5 degrees “between 2030 and 2052.”

The effect of this change to our planet’s climate would be catastrophic. Sea level rise from melting ice caps would worsen the flooding caused by the increasing numbers of hurricanes, typhoons, and blizzards that could be expected. Arid regions and land already damaged by deforestation would become completely un-farmable. Poor communities would be the most drastically and immediately affected.

Here on the coast, where our high school parking lot already fills with ocean water after a big storm, we should be worrying about what our little city will look like for our children and grandchildren.


Stephanie Benenson HARBOR VOICES light show #GloucesterMA | immigration, conversation & acts of generosity manifest as public art

Stephanie Benenson, artist studio, discussing 2017 Harbor Lights 20171122_091510

Stephanie Benenson, artist studio, discussing Harbor Lights, GIF 1122091429
from a studio visit with Stephanie Benenson Nov 2017

You can join in Stephanie Benenson’s fascinating big vision, Harbor Voices, a public art and cultural piece that’s made from light, sound and community participation. Part of the project is a  large-scale and temporary LIVE light & sound installation which will happen on ten minute loops from 4-8pm on Friday December 8th, and Saturday December 9th, one of many featured events for the 2017 Middle Street Walk. Harbor Voices will be held inside the Kyrouz Auditorium in City Hall , 9 Dale Avenue, Gloucester, MA.

Come experience a sweeping ocean of sound, stories and light, drawn by the voices and acts of generosity of neighbors and friends.

Benenson, a Rockport native and North Shore based fine artist, received a prestigious and competitive RISD grant to create Harbor Voices. Benenson collected over 100 stories in eight languages of recent and ancestral immigration to Cape Ann. For the past year she led (and continues to lead) practical and creative storytelling sessions and workshops at area schools like Veteran’s Memorial and Gloucester High School,  as well as community organizations and centers such as Sandy Bay Historical Society. Students talked with Benenson about “their ancestors* and families bringing cultural heritage to Cape Ann.” She said that kids mentioned “family members that started businesses here (like Jalapenos, Sclafanis, and other cultural destinations on Cape Ann)…and how meangingful that was to them…and people that they had deep respect and admiration for…” They discussed “family recipes, music, food and how immigration historically has made American art and culture come alive.”  Mayor Romeo Theken was the first story collected. Other Cape Ann storytellers outside of the schools and non profit partners include: Jean Testaverde (Portuguese fishing ancestry), Ingrid Swan (Swedith quarrying ancestry), Heather Lovett (descendent of Roger Babson), Sal Zerilli (Awesome Gloucester and Rockport), Jan Bell, Buddy Woods, Susannah Natti (Finnish and descendent of Folly Cove designer), Rich Francis (GHS teacher), and Celestino Basille (GHS teacher).

Depending upon age and preference, stories were written, recorded, or drawn. All were mixed into materials and audio that will choreograph connections directly into the light installation, and an enlarging community. At first, Benenson thought the light might guide any audio. Instead voices continue to guide the light.

Every story and act of generosity is linked to the installation and transformed into light.

Blurring the lines between public art and social sculpture, LIVE happening and virtual action, Harbor Voices emblematically presents stories, shared connections and actions. Participants of all ages are encouraged to interact with the project and its installation– to bathe so to speak in a community of vibrancy and waves of interconnectedness and support.  Benenson adds that from 4-6PM during the two days of this installation iteration, “children will be offered a small flashlight to engage with this artwork, allowing them a tangible moment to consider their part in this interconnected network of community and local history by creating their own beam of light.” Also, before the installation opens to the public, one hundred Gloucester High School students –including some who have already added into the piece– will come to City Hall to experience Harbor Voices.

Benenson’s promotion for Harbor Voices launched in September. Leveraging attention for this remarkably ambitious project is an essential component as more involvement means more impact. Straight away it fostered community and brought opportunities. For example, Benenson spoke about the project and shared audio of the stories with Rose Baker seniors, Gloucester Rotary and the Cape Ann Museum’s Red Cottage Society. Someone from Beverly has already underwrittten  support for a class at Veteran’s Memorial Elementary School. She spoke about the project with Joey as part of GMG podcast #253

As a third generation Cape Ann artist, Benenson is especially excited to “create art and conversations around our cultural heritage and our contributions to the vibrant mix of people that live on Cape Ann.”

See more pictures and read more about the artist

Continue reading “Stephanie Benenson HARBOR VOICES light show #GloucesterMA | immigration, conversation & acts of generosity manifest as public art”



Rachel Rex Photo

(From left) Jarrod Martin, Joao Ramalho, Tyler Parisi, Gabi Goszczynska , Macaella Oliver, Katie Nugent, Lexi Ciolino, Chrissy Nugent, Sophia Pata, and Sierra Rudolph practice their gardening skills

The Gillnetter

MARIA KOTOB, Staff Writer, Editor

Growing your own food and understanding nature may seem ancient in today’s high-tech society, but it is a lot more important to the environment than you may think. Food requires an abundant amount of resources to transport, a concept many do not consider when grocery shopping.  GHS’s environmental science students are learning how gardening can help offset some of the consequences of a mass produced food supply.

The Environmental Issues course is for seniors who are a part of the dual-enrollment program with Endicott College. Taught by science teacher Rachel Rex, the class studies the environment and the big issues that affect it, such as pollution, loss of biodiversity, and the loss of natural resources.

“We had a lot of experience interacting with the environment, learning how to make it a better place. Ms. Rex is a good teacher, she’s taught us a lot. It’s a good class,” said senior Bridget Stevens.

The class is partnered with Backyard Growers, a nonprofit organization based in Gloucester whose mission is to provide affordable renewable food and teach the community how to garden.

“It’s a really nice tie in and it includes biology, chemistry, and number of sciences. It fits really well under the umbrella of environmental issues,” said Rex.


Caroline Enos writes about the Civil War Coat for The Gillnetter

Everyone in Gloucester should read the  The Gillnetter, the Gloucester High School newspaper. Let’s give the young journalists finding their voice some readers. It’s good.

What’s it like to write for a high school paper nowadays? This one has embraced the digital world so it’s earth-friendly. It’s a beauty with a very easy layout. I dove in for one story but stuck around. There are editorials such as this one about the high school bathrooms needing attention by Rachel Alexander with original art by Rachel Nearis; actionable information; unexpected topics; and lots of local news  likethis inspiring report by Hanna Zuidema or this one  “pizza lovers of Gloucester Have Spoken”  by Corynn Ulrich. Did you know The Gillnetter journalists were invited to the Boston Globe?

Gloucester The Gillnetter homepage MA

What brought my attention to The Gillnetter was anticipation for a story about the Civil War coat from students at the high school. Caroline Enos interviewed George and Charles before April school vacation. We hoped she’d come to Awesome Gloucester pitch night to support them and hang out. That she did. Thanks to her open notebook and scoop we have a record of a lovely testimonial delivered by Russell Hobbs. You can read Caroline Enos’ article here.