A HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL, FROM THE PLANET … plus … OUR CONTINUING EXPOSE OF ‘THE GAME’ BEING PLAYED IN THE NAME OF PUBLIC EDUCATION (CLUE: ‘It’s not about ‘The children’ … It’s about ‘the money’).
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, DAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING, NOV. 23, 2011) — First item of business is to wish everyone reading this website a happy, healthy Thanksgiving Day. On the air this morning at “Good Morning, Pittsfield” with my Rt. Hon. Good Friend John Krol (unanimous winner in his unopposed bid to remain Ward 6 councilor), THE PLANET said Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday, because it’s the one that the money hawks haven’t succeeded in fully commercializing.
Quit the “Eternal Hurry,” At Least for One Day
We love the notion of taking a day off from the “eternal hurry” of our lives, pausing, and “giving thanks.” An attitude of gratitude leads us into the wider perspective on and of our lives. A spirit of thanks for the events, places, people, objects, and circumstances in our lives can get us out of own heads, where the whirlwinds of difficulty often swirl with but not escape. They need an outlet. They need pause.
They need thanksgiving — not so much the formal day but the inner sense of spirit. As the late- great Peter Arlos used to say, “It’s over in a flash.” It gets no faster or slower in thanks, but it does get much more fulfilling, which is to our way of thinking, the basis for peace of mind.
Enjoy the day. Enjoy the life.
What’s Wrong with ‘The Scam’ of Public Education in Pittsfield
THE PLANET struck quite a nerve with yesterday’s posting on the Pittsfield School Department. The horror stories abound — some made on this site, others shared in private. Pittsfield schools are sick, and it’s not for lack of money. One could more easily argue the opposite: They are sick because of the largesse of taxpayers, who fund a dysfunctional system to the tune of $82 million a year, which accounts for two out of every three dollars spent in the city of Pittsfield.
The great divide occurs in middle school. Pittsfield grammar schools seem to be performing reasonably well by several measures, including objective test scores and more anecdotal indicators. In middle schools, which THS principal John Vosburgh calls “out of control,” it seems that the insidious onslaught of smart phones, texting, and other technologies are doing their damage.
Kids are not “growing up” faster, they are losing their childhoods faster. Technology permits helicopter parenting techniques whose end result seems to be a generation more foul-mouthed, less disciplined, more out-of-control, less couth, dumber, more technologically savvy, and more cynical than any of its middle school predecessors.
These are the kids who are beginning to enter high school. There, the drop in performance off the face of the earth is complete. As we have seen, seven out of every 10 students in city high schools is either called a “special ed” student or from what it euphemistically called “the low income stratum.” That’s not a performance issue, you say? Wrong. The schools turn this majority sub-population into an excuse to expect less, dumb it down, and look the other way while the kids largely do what they want in a series of “F— yous” to teachers, administrators, and taxpayers.
The Gimme Group: Handouts are a Way of Life Courtesy of Taxpayers)
It used to be low-income carried a stigma. Welfare was designed to give a hand up, not a hand out. Today, “low income” has become for far too many a way of life whose disciples have an entitlement mentality and a “gimme” mindset.
These irresponsible parents breed in excessive numbers “for the money.” They love it because, for example, teen moms with kids out of wedlock climb aboard the gravy train. The schools love it, because they have another cash cow, which is how they see “special ed” pupils,” who generate state and federal money to be used to fund excessive pay/benefits packages for administration and teachers.
The state loves it, too, because in being able to shuffle off these low lifes — generalizing: the Sec. 8 crowd, the relatives of people serving time in the county jail, the drug users and sellers — the Commonwealth can practice social engineering. What, do you think the excessive number of group homes and welfare cases of one sort of another in Pittsfield happen by themselves? The state can move these populations out of more “desirable” communities into cities like Pittsfield, a move that has great political benefits. The city receives money and the GOB tried hard to hide to provisos.
This creates a culture we see on full display in the city’s middle and high schools. For example, How else could $9,000 in prom money be stolen in class night, with no accountability? How could the building be vandalized that night with alleged drinking and drug use in PHS without an administrator, teacher, or someone being held responsible?
In fact, the vice principal of PHS at the time of the theft, a man who we hear personally co-approved the opening of school doors after hours for pranks, got promoted into a $94,000 position as an assistant superintendent.
Where is Accountability in Pittsfield’s Public Schools?
Accountability involves justification for every dollar spent and every action taken or not taken on the taxpayers’ behalf involving public education. That department should have a bullseye on it for Mayor-elect Dan Bianchi and the incoming council and school committee, for the simple reason of its gigantic share (2/3) of the entire municipal budget.
THE PLANET recommends the implementation of a forensic audit of the entire department by an independent company as the first step of the new government. This will determine if the books add up, where the spending is achieving its goals, and where it is not. To refresh your memory (from the Oct. 31, 2011 PLANET):
Are these things happening in the Pittsfield public schools? No one can honestly answer the question. Supt. Jake Eberwein can’t nor can the junior-most employee. The only way taxpayers can begin pressuring public officials into results for the public education dollar is to determine the benchmark. Where do things stand now with the $82 million of yearly expense (not too long ago,$82 million would have funded the ENTIRE CITY BUDGET!)?
A Forensic Audit of the School Department: The First Step in an Action Plan of Performance
No one can reasonably object to forensic audit (different than the simply “check the math” audit currently done by the city). If the books and practices are on the up-and-up, this will give taxpayers a sense of relief and increase their trust on a system sorely skirting thin ice in this regard — at least according to perception. If, however, we turn up problems such as Springfield’s, we will find out the where, the when, the who, and the how … and for once, insist on accountability. Reward performance, punish failure. Simple as that.
The problem with public education in Pittsfield (not exclusive to Pittsfield, to be sure) is how political “the schools” and “the children” have become. Teachers unions have all but destroyed the ability of honest administrators to run an equitable ship (the strictures imposed by tenure and seniority rules, for instance). Milquetoast administrators, on the other hand, worrying about their performance reviews, have incentive to paint unrealistically rosy pictures and, time and time again, refuse to back teachers who do insist on high performance and behavioral standards for their pupils.
The Massachusetts Democratic Party has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Massachusetts Teachers Unions in the same way that the local politicians cower before and cave in to the city teachers’ group. The playing field is “public education.” The score is “money.” The rulebook is “politics” in the worse sense of that word.
Who Will Step Forward?
Who will have the courage to buck the system? Who will have the care in public service to fight for taxpayers and tell local public education that a new system of accountability, transparency, and performance will be expected? Will it be Dan Bianchi? Terry Kinnas? Barry Clairmont? Which of the “new guys” will push the old into their true responsibilities?
Who will put the hard questions to the school administration when it tries to stampede Pittsfield into a school building construction and/or upgrade binge when, according to the state, the Pittsfield School Department did not include the public in its plans and showed them squat before submitting documents to the state? Who will finally say, “Enough! This isn’t good enough!”
When will the hard questions be put to fear-based claims we hear during each budget cycle, designed to panic parents, students, and politicians into giving the schools more and more, though they produce less and less (unless the product is bureaucracy)? Example of a fear-based claim, to date unsupported: “Our high schools are aged and worn, risk losing accreditation, and do not support current and future educational needs of students.”
That claim was made, and accepted unquestioned, by School Superintendent Jake Eberwein. Who asked him the simple question: Why do you claim the current high schools “do not support the current and future educational needs of our students” when you know, or should know, that this is a curriculum problem, a teaching problem, and a discipline problem and not a bricks-and-mortar problem?
Eberwein told the council on Oct. 11, 2011, “The quality of public schools can make states and localities more economically competitive.” He’s right. They can. In saying this, though, one sees the ruse at work: Implied, that the schools are NOT doing this now, because there has been little to no economic growth in Pittsfield. Answer: More money. Eberwein’s Oct. 11 propaganda effort was an exercise in the “create fear so as to get more money” game.
No one called him on it.
Here’s another question: If it is true that great schools create economic growth, and if it is true that Pittsfield has seen no vibrant economic influx, then the schools must be doing a bad job. Each of these statements is true. For $82 million, for eating up two of every three dollars Mark Jane and Joe Kapanski must pay up to run the city, the Pittsfield public schools have done, are doing, and — if left alone — will continue to do a lousy job for We The People and for the community. Left alone in the bubble bath of the status quo, the school department will continue to exist as a separate kingdom, designed to enrich its administrators and vassals while using kids as political pawns.
Who will step up and say, “Fellas, the gig is over. You’re going to start singing for your supper?” Who?
HAPPY THANKSGIVING ALL. THERE WILL BE NO PLANET IN HONOR OF THE DAY, BUT WE SHALL RETURN ON FRIDAY WITH MORE EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE ON THE ITEMS, EVENTS, AND PEOPLE OF THE DAY.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.