FOUR SCHOOL DEPARTMENT ‘SCANDALS’ HAVE ONE THING IN COMMON: THERE IS NO ACCOUNTABILITY FOR FAILURE AND NO CONSEQUENCES FOR MISTAKES
By DAN VALENTI
Four recent developments concerning the Pittsfield school department have cost the city’s taxpayers almost $6 million. They are:
* The grand theft of $10,000 from a locked teacher’s desk, the caper known as PromGate.
* $1 million dollars in raises for teachers as a result of the new contract between them and the city.
* Nearly $2 million net (cost after trade in) the city will be paying to lease a fleet of new busses for five years.
* More than $3 million lost because of parents opting out of Pittsfield schools under school choice laws.
$6 Million in Needless Expense — No Big Deal in Pittsfield Schools
The interesting thing is that the school department and the school committee apparently think this stuff is chump change, not worth investigating and not worth trying to save. Let’s take these four point by point:
* PromGate — The $10,000 theft occurred after the principal and vice principal of PHS gave PPD officer Russ Quetti permission to let nearly 200 people into the building after hours on “prank night.” Vandals flooded hallways. Partygoers drank booze and used drugs (on school property; the state law decrees this to be a felonious action). And someone heisted $10Gs by using a master key to get into the classroom and forcing the desk drawer lock. Since then incident, there have been no arrests, no public inquiries on the progress of the investigation, and no consequences for PHS principal Trevor Benson.
* $1 million in raises, while justified in the short term because of previously agreed-upon contractual matters, reflect the long-term failure of the school committee to fairly represent taxpayers. The only solution is to elect fiscal conservatives to the committee who will watch over every public dollar with a careful, responsible eye.
* Busses — Suffice it to say that after five years, the city is replacing its current fleet. That fleet was brand new in 2007 and now, apparently, the fleet is as worn out as Mother Hubbard. That suggests a combination of poor driving and poor maintenance, both of which are preventable with proper oversight and training.
* School choice — School committee candidate Terry Kinnas has tackled this issue head on. Kinnas was the only member of the public to attend to school budget hearing. That alone deserves support for his bid for the school committee. Kinnas isn’t afraid to ask tough questions, and he does due diligence in bringing facts to the table. Among the points he raised:
* As the city’s population decreases, it loses proportionately more students each year to school choice.
* $3 million+ lost this past school year represents approximately a full dollar on the residential tax rate.
The two VITAL questions stand out like a sharp stick ready to poke your eye out:
(1) Why do people choose other schools for their children? Is anyone asking this question — honestly, we mean — in the school department administration or on the school committee? If so, what conclusions have they reached. If not, why not?
(2) Where is the accountability for this loss of $3 million? This second question gets to the heart of our matter today. LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY is the common denominator for each of the four issues mentioned. In Pittsfield and in local GOB politics overall, there are few consequences for failure. Case in point: Chris “No Show” Speranzo. Ah, but we digress.
A principal allows access to a building by strangers, and they steal $10 grand. No accountability. The school committee, year after year, fails taxpayers at negotiation time. The keep getting re-elected from apathy (in other words, they win elections because of the people who DON’T vote). The city runs a fleet of new busses into the ground in a mere five years. No problem. Just get a new fleet. Three million+ dollars are lost to school choice. Oh well, that’s life. Get over it, taxpayers.
Actions Used to Have Consequences. No More
My good friends, as long as city officials can operate without consequences to their actions, taxpayers and Little Guys of all types will continue to get crushed. The problem is easily solved by high turnout in public affairs. Saying that, though, we understand that the problem likely will not go away any time too soon, because all signs point to the fact that representative democracy — on many levels, including at the municipal level in Pittsfield — is dead.
The largest portion of the electorate doesn’t vote, either from disgust, apathy, or their own brand of irresponsibility. Sadly, as popular culture continues to dumb-down even larger segments of the public and as technology continues to fragment people’s lives into shards and nano-seconds, We the People are getting more stupid and ignorant. Trying talking to a young man who’s wearing his pants down to the ass crack. Look into the vacant, no-one-home eyes. Try to convince him that, at age 21, he needs to grow up and become a stable adult.
You get the point. Don’t let it poke your eye out, though. We need all the visionaries we can get!
LATER TONIGHT, MORE CONTENT. STAY TUNED.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.