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!!EXCLUSIVE!! THE SCAM IS REVEALED: THE PLANET DISSECTS THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT BUDGET USING THE DEPARTMENTS OWN FIGURES … plus, Big Base-Running Blunder Ends Colonials’ Win Streak at 7

By DAN VALENTI

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, Wednesday, June 22, 2011) — It’s getting to crunch time with the municipal budgets, plural, and THE PLANET can predict another disaster for bedraggled taxpayers. Mayor Jimmy Ruberto’s fattened-calf spending plan will escape with nary a scratch after the council’s pathetic gumming of the document.

The taxpayers needed councilors with teeth filed into sharp point to bite out the chunks of fat. Instead, it got an aggregate gum job after our Right Honorable Good Friends on the dais forgot to put in their teeth.

Two Inconvenient Facts About the School Department that the Apologists Conveniently Ignore

We said “budgets” above because the council gets a sign off on two documents: the municipal portion — $78,852,967 — and the school part — $52,484,497 — for a total of $129,337,464. In short, we have a spending plan filed under “H” for “Highway Robbery.” We should also indict the Pittsfield School Committee, which shows every sign of caving in again to union demands.

In focusing on the school budget, two prominent facts become apparent. Remember, school apologists, facts consist of information that does not change, even as their source changes. Thus, you must agree. Yes, to apologists, facts have the inconvenience of unwanted food shoved down their throats. We ask them: “Ya ready to swallow?”

Fact #1: The school budget as submitted by Ruberto is 68.29208% of what it costs to run the city.

Fact #2: That number is a fraud, cheating taxpayers on the high side. The reason for this is that the health and benefits granted to employees of the school department are folded into the “Workers Compensation” part of the CITY’S budget.

Such compensation appears nowhere in the alleged $52.48 million officially listed run the school. The $52.48 million also does not include school transportation costs, which appears elsewhere. Thus, the actual cost to run the bloated school department is a deliberately hidden figure. We can estimate the true cost by extrapolating the school Compensation and transportation cost from the municipal budget. That figure weighs in as about $74 million.

When you subtract that amount from city side and add it to schools, only then does the TRUE COST of running the Pittsfield School Department become clear. It costs about $55.3 million to run the city and $74 million to run the schools. Something’s drastically wrong with that picture.

Planned Confusion, or How School Department Status Quo-types Keep Taxpayers in the Dark

The School Department and its enablers — a cast of usual suspects from administrators, unions, city administration, councilors, and vendors with fat deals to service the schools — never want taxpayers to understand how the budget works. The last thing in the world they want We The People to know is that the school department budget is 134.5% LARGER than the city budget. That information might activate people politically so that they might wrest power from the hands of the abusers and put it back where it belongs, which is right into their own mitts.

From the school department budget, we learn there are 6,016 students enrolled. This yields a per-capita cost of $12,300. Taxpayers foot the bill of $12,300 for each student. When you measure that against both objective and anecdotal reports of declining performance, ask yourselves: Is the money being well spent? Employer who hire graduates say no. Colleges that have to provide remedial work in writing, reading, and math say no. The parents who withdrew their children out of Pittsfield Schools, taking $3 million with them, say no.

Nonetheless, in the closed-loop system that is the School Department Administration, the School Committee, the Teachers’ Union, and the City Council, there is no accountability. “I’m OK, You’re OK, and Everything is OK” — except it isn’t.

72% of Pittsfield Students are from Poor Households or Have Special Needs: The Bomb is Ticking

If you delve into the reams of data, a shocking reality emerges about the 6,016 pupils enrolled in Pittsfield Public School: 54.7% are from low-income families and 17% are enrolled in wickedly expensive Special Education. Consequently, almost 72% of the city’s students population consists of a handicapped population.

That 72% of students represents two populations that historically do not learn well or employ well. This reflects a city rotting from the core. There are few good jobs, fewer qualified workers, massive social and familial breakdowns, and an influx of crime and criminals. Still, the city refuses to acknowledge the seriousness of the issue, let alone propose solutions. When you project these young people into the city’s future, the problems snowballs.

The fact that the Pittsfield School Department serves a student population we more associate with Appalachia than the toney Berkshires means that all sorts of state comes comes rushing to the city, from free lunches (in Pittsfield, there is such a thing) to “learning assistance” funds. This provides a disincentive for positive change and an incentive for the status quo. The sad part is that the largest portion of Pittsfield’s education dollar never hits the classroom. THAT’s why there isn’t the money for textbooks. The money’s there but its been channeled to fatten the hogs.

Half the Students, Twice the Staff: What’s Wrong with that Picture?

The school department’s support staff has grown to gargantuan levels. Isn’t it odd that with half the pupils it once had, the schools have has doubled staff. Strange but true: Pittsfield once had double the current student population and provided them with a superior education with half the current staff totals.

The “MORE taxpayer $$$$$$$” politicians provide to make it look like they are “doing something” about the horrible situation doesn’t go into the classroom. The bucks pay for such luxuries as a Superintendent ($130,467), a Deputy Superintendent ($100,701), an Assistant Superintendent of Personnel (not yet funded, salary TBD), an Assistant Superintendant of CVTE ($101,092), and an Assistant Superintendant of Business and Finance ($132,454, yes, more than the Super!). To these salaries, add about 30% for benefits, courtesy of taxpayers. We’ll stop there. The Hit Parade goes on and on.

Taxpayers, the Pittsfield School Department — with its many well-intentioned people and a handful not so — runs a scam. The apologists for this situation have convinced themselves of the righteousness of their cause, and the politicians — who live only for the next election cycle — don’t dare step in. No one is telling you, for example, that the School Department’s own figures predict an cost increase to city taxpayers of 16.69% in FY13.

THE PLANET is here to warn everyone running for office in 2011 in the city of Pittsfield to address this burning issue. If you offer solutions, THE PLANET will endorse you. If you tap dance or try to defend the indefensible, we will rip your arguments apart and cost some of you your election.

What’s right is right.

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FATSE’S BASE-RUNNING BLUNDER SINKS C’s; WIN STREAK ENDS AT 7

By JOSH CUTLER

PLANET VALENTI Sports

(PITTSFIELD, JUNE 21, 2011) — Aggressiveness has been the hallmark of the Pittsfield Colonials ballclub over the past two seasons. 

While relentless base running has often paid off handsomely for the C’s, a ninth-inning blunder on a blooper to left turned into a double play and ended Pittsfield’s rally. As a reslt, the first-place Quebec Nordiques hung on for a 2-1 victory before 504 fans at Historic Wahconah Park.

Fatse’s Blunder Costs Pittsfield Chance to Tie in 9th

After being shut down by Capitales pitching all night long, Pittsfield finally began to bust out against closer TJ Stanton in the 9th. After putting runners on first and second, Scott Knazek’s RBI single made it a 2-1 ballgame and put the winning run on first base. Rafael Cabreja was then lifted in favor of pinch hitter Quentin Davis, who hump-backed a fastball to left center. Peter Fatse, on second, left on contact thinking that Davis’ ball was going to fall safely in, but left fielder Robert Wagner charged in to make the catch and easily doubled off Fatse to end the ballgame.

Colonials Manager Jamie Keefe felt that the aggressiveness by his right fielder on the base paths was understandable in that game situation: “It’s a little blooper. If it’s in, you score and you’re a hero. He was halfway and he wasn’t going to get back anyway. He threw a dart and he got him. But that’s how we play. If you make plays, you beat us”.

Flores Draws Short End of Straw Again

Pittsfield starter Miguel Flores (0-4, 2.86 ERA) was once again effective, allowing only two runs on five hits in seven plus innings of work, walking one and striking out six on 120 pitches, 77 for strikes. He also continued his hard-luck-loser pattern on the season.

However, Flores’ only two mistakes proved to be fatal. Seth Henry deposited his third homer of the year to left field in the first inning, and Robert Wagner launched a no-doubter over everything in right field to lead off the 8th.

Keefe was disappointed in the fact that Flores continues to pitch well but hasn’t been rewarded yet for his efforts: “We haven’t gotten him a lot of runs. He’ll be fine. He could be 4-0 for us right now, but that’s just one of those things.”

Quebec starter Bryan Rembisz (2-1, 2.25 ERA) was impressive in his five innings of work, allowing only four hits to Colonials batters while walking one and striking out three.

Wagner went 2-4 for the Capitales, and reliever Jeff Duda protected the lead with 2.2 scoreless innings. Danny Bomback chipped in two hits for Pittsfield, and Mike Zenko backed up Flores with two scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 1.10 on the season.

COLONIALS NOTES: Lefty Eric Katzman will make his second start for the C’s Wednesday night, while Quebec will counter with righty Dan Sausville (2-0, 4.44 ERA). Katzman pitched four scoreless innings in his debut Friday night in a Pittsfield victory against New York…Due to continued issues involving the center field lighting, Tuesday’s game began at 6:30 PM, and Wednesday and Thursday’s game times have been pushed back to 5:00 PM. The lighting issues are expected to be resolved by the City of Pittsfield Maintenance department on Friday, when the Colonials head out of town for a weekend series in Worcester.

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IT APPEARS AS IF OUR SERVER PROBLEMS ARE FINALLY BEHIND US. STAY TUNED LATER FOR MORE ON THE PLANET, INCLUDING JOSH CUTLER’s GAME STORY FROM BELOVED WAHCONAH PARK, WHERE THE COLONIALS TAKE ON FIRST-PLACE QUEBEC IN A 5 P.M. START.

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE”

LOVE TO ALL.

25 Responses to “!!EXCLUSIVE!! THE SCAM IS REVEALED: THE PLANET DISSECTS THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT BUDGET USING THE DEPARTMENTS OWN FIGURES … plus, Big Base-Running Blunder Ends Colonials’ Win Streak at 7”

  1. kman
    June 22, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    great expose, planet! have sort of followed this progression for yeras and its been demoralizing. i’m one of the “bedraggled taxpayers” you refer to.

  2. Still wondering
    June 22, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    i am amazed at how people refuse to pay attention.

  3. beezer
    June 22, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    I agree with Dan, the Guru when it comes to the facts. You have to truly read into this piece. It says it all when soliciting the voting block in this City and that is the Unions. Where else would it cost so much to run the schools vs the city, and the numbers speak for themselves. I would really like to know where the students are achieving such improved scores also. Did the little thieves at the pre prom shananigans do the math. Another unrelated thought, am pleasantly surprised at the hiring of Greg Yon replacing Ernie Fortini and am glad the City hired him, he has a sense of humor and has done his homework.

  4. Carol
    June 22, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    I usually am in agreement with much that you say, but am shaking my head at today’s column. I agree that the school budget is huge, but find calling students from poverty and special education uneducable is very offensive. Special education is a broad category that includes dyslexia, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders (a huge category including Asperger’s syndrome), vision problems. speech issues, etc. In fact, 80 per cent of students in Special Ed in MA do not have cognitive issues. The district is obligated by Federal law (IDEA) to provide accomodations and educations to these kids. Blaming Sopecial Ed costs for inflated school budgets seems to be the new trend. Many of these kids will end up successful because of accomodations in school.

  5. Tim Bartini
    June 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    Dan, My Daughter is one of your “wickedly expensive” special Ed students who historiclly do not learn well or employ well. As a profoundly deaf person who got her start in the Pittsfield school system she has only been the only deaf student at Miss Halls School, graduated from MCLA this year [Magna sume laude] and will be getting her masters degree from Smith college starting this summer. Good thing she takes after her mother! Dan I know you write things just to get a rise out of people,but some times your rants are very hurtful . Perhaps if you had a child who was handicaped you wouldn’t be so vile with your writing. PS My daughter has worked every summer and fall since she was 16yrs old. The last 4 as a councilor at the Lenox Community center.

    • Carol
      June 22, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

      Tim,
      Congratulations to your daughter! She has done well! I think Dan, like many people, has no idea that Special Eduacation is such a broad category. My daughter has an autism spectrum disorder (similar to Asperger’s) and is considered Special Ed. Her only accomodations are a social group once a week, a scribe for MCAS, and having her teachers write her assignments in her planner. She maintains an a/B average in regular classes. She learns well and will be employable in the future. I think blaming Special Ed costs for rising school costs is the trend right now.

  6. kman
    June 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    Special education has its place but this article, wihout getting into the details hints at how special ed has been overbroadened to include a huge # of children who don’t belong there but are there because they can’t compete in a fair game. Special ed for too many students is the booster stool but it doesn’t prepare them well. Some it does but that\s my point, the schools have lost teh abilty to discriminate on a basis that makes fiscal sense .

  7. Concern
    June 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Tim daughter is truly a special education student like so many more. As a taxpayer I have no problem with them. However the way the law is everyone with a problem is lumped into this program and it cost a ton to support. Get the people that should not be in the program out and the cost would be reduced by a ton

    • danvalenti
      June 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

      Yes, that’s the point. A deaf student should have the tools necessary for her success. No one argues that point. However, much of what gets lumped under the rubric of Special Education doesn’t belong there. These students should not be in the program, which eventually will help sink the finances of the city unless reform is made.

  8. Joetaxpayer
    June 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Enrollment should go up with the start of the FREE ($210,000) Full day pre-school at Conte and Morningside.Must get them prepared for that grueling full day kindergarden.Whats next full day pre-pre school.Public schools are big bussiness.

    • Carol
      June 22, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

      I’d rather invest the money in preschool than in welfare, incarceration, etc. The reality is, whether or not you believe they are worth it, students from poverty and in special ed are part of our school system. I’d rather have these kids in school learning rather than at home watching tv or playing video games. One of the goals of the school district (nationwidee too) is to have all students reading profeciently by third grade. Early intervention is key to helping many students reach this goal. Many of these students would be attending child care on state vouchers. I’d rather invest my money into a great preschool instead of a possibly sub-par childcare experience.

      • Joetaxpayer
        June 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

        We already do its called head start and has been working for sometime now.Would probally be cheaper to give vouchers to the poor.

        • danvalenti
          June 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

          JOE
          Yes. Vouchers and charter school increase competition. That’s ALWAYS healthy, since it either drives improved performance or it hampers schools and districts providing sub-service. Why is it that $3 million worth of students have been yanked out of the Pittsfield schools by concerned parents? It’s not because they are please with the education their children are getting.

      • danvalenti
        June 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

        CAROL
        Excellent points.

      • Tim Bartini
        June 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

        Carol You make a great point! Invest early instead of when its too late. Good luck to your daughter Im sure she will prosper.

  9. beezer
    June 22, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    Poor Dan.

  10. Jeffrey Turner
    June 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Oh my. Education can’t be outsourced, miniaturized or mechanized (or turned over to undocumented immigrants), so it keeps getting relatively more expensive. Whoever is subsidizing the Double-A Dropouts who play at Wahcohnah (to the tune of $600,000 a year) obviously has more money than sense and should be taxed more heavily to pay for the schools.

  11. CONCERNED
    June 22, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    Unless the taxpayers stand up to whats going on in our school system, this society will go broke, then what happens to our children education. The school system is broken and the biggest problem is the unions, our elected official, and the administrators Right from the Federal level to the local level

  12. Taylor
    June 22, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    As a newly minted Berkshirite, I must say The Planet has honestly addressed a controversial issue: school spending. Notice how what he calls “the apologists” try to turn this around into a debate on special education, which Dan does not put down, BTW. Good job here! This is journalism that would make the top media sites in NYC.

  13. Dusty
    June 22, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    Many people are choosing to send their children out of the city of Pittsfield with good reason. and many others are packing their families up and leaving Pittsfield altogether. I hope to soon be one of those leaving forever. The place is cancerous with political corruption including the school system

  14. CONCERNED
    June 22, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

    Dusty

    Many other places or no better than here, some my friend are far worst Remember corrupt people live everywhere, and the Federal Government is everywhere.

    • Dusty
      June 23, 2011 at 1:49 am #

      I am well aware that greedy corrupt people are everywhere. But I feel that Pittsfield is in a stage four infectious category. And because of fiscal mismanagement, the only way to keep this sinking ship afloat any longer is to keep hitting the taxpayers with increasingly larger tax hits. It will drive all blue collar types into poverty…including me who is heading there fast.

      Picture water swirling out the bottom of a toilet bowl. This is Pittsfield financially. The floating stools, struggling to get out of the vortex, are the taxpayers and the odds are not with them.

      • Jeffrey Turner
        June 24, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

        All the dumbest stools seem to follow Dan religiously.

        • danvalenti
          June 24, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

          JEFF
          What an interesting comment, since you are one of my biggest followers!

  15. beezer
    June 23, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    Never pictured it quite that way Dusty. Nice graphics!