PLANET !!EXCLUSIVE!! … STATE’S SHOCKING LETTER REVEALS DOUBLE-DEALING OF PITTSFIELD’S SCHOOL BUILDING NEEDS COMMISSION … YOU WON’T READ ABOUT THIS IN THE BB!
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, NOV. 14, 2011) — John Krol, Sally Douglas, Paul Raverta, Carmen Massimiano, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Lou Costi, Peter Marchetti, Floriana Fitzgerald, Patrick Mele Jr., Cheryl Bethel, John barber, Ernie Fortini, Kathleen Amuso, Jake Eberwein, Lisa Buchinski, JoAnne Soules, Keith Babuszczak, Frank LaRagione, Guy Pannesco, Jessica Moon, Stephanie VanBramer, Warren Dews, and (drumroll please) Barry Clairmont.
These are the members of the School Building Needs Commission (SBNC), a group so vital that the membership list hasn’t been updated in 17 months. The terms of four members on the “current list” (TFB, Massimiano, Costi, and Bethel) have expired. Ten members of the commission (every name from Fortini to VanBramer in the list above), the city’s website tells us, “serve as long as qualified.” Of course, this being the city of Pittsfield’s website, it doesn’t specify what the “qualifications” entail. We think chief among them are political campaign contributions to the “right” candidates and showing up to all the “right” GOB events. An ability to “see, hear, or speak no evil” is highly desirable.
AN ASIDE: You will also note that on the city’s official website, you can’t find e-mail addresses for any city officials other than councilors. Apparently, the city thinks it’s best for We The People not be have easy access to the employees WHO WORK FOR THEM. NOTE TO MAYOR-ELECT DAN BIANCHI: REDESIGN THIS NEARLY USELESS SITE TO INCLUDE E-MAILS OF ALL CITY EMPLOYEES.
A Roster of Special Interest Types and GOB Operatives
From the discussion so far, we’ve established that the commission, as constituted, is loaded with special interest types and well-known GOB operatives. Its doubtful this commission could produce work actually mindful of the true needs of bedraggled taxpayers. Or let’s put it this way: Do you feel this group will put the taxpayers first or the Powers That Be?
This past July, councilors Melissa Mazzeo and Joe Nichols introduced a reasonable petition calling for an advisory ballot question that You The People would have voted for (or against) on Nov. 8. The ballot initiative would have measured public support (or not) for a new school building. Mazzeo’s initiative bore the signatures of 46 registered voters. It addressed the reality that voters felt the SBNC kept them in the dark about its plans (as you will soon read below, taxpayers weren’t the only ones left in the dark). Naturally, the other nine of my Right Honorable Good Friends on the council loudly complained about the ballot initiative.
They said it would confuse voters. In their answer, they mouthed their lines from the script their GOB masters sent them.
“I don’t think the superintendent needs to apologize in any way, shape, or form about the information that’s been sent out by the School Building Needs Commission,” boomed Mayor Jimmy Ruberto at that July council meeting. “I think that nine councilors at the last meeting certainly demonstrated their support for all that the School Committee, and the Building Needs group has done.”
Krol, Marchetti, and the others parroted the mayor’s remarks.
Of course, that was six week before Mayor Ruberto received a letter on Sept. 7, 2011. No, you won’t read about this letter in the Boring Broadsheet. Why? Because the GOB has been hiding this letter since then. THE PLANET obtained a copy of this super-secret document, and we find this a perfect time to release it.
State School Building Commission Gives City a Grade of “F”
The letter to the mayor is one the letterhead of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, Steve Grossman, chairman, state treasurer, and Katherine Craven, executive director. The first paragraph acknowledges receipt of draft copies from the SBNC on plans for Taconic and Pittsfield high schools as well as “the Preliminary Overview of the Pittsfield and Berkshire County Labor Market Study dated June 26, 2011.”
What, you didn’t know about that study? Of course you didn’t. They didn’t want you to know. After a few formalities, the letter gets down to the business at hand. It asks questions and makes comments on the quality of the material the city sent to the state. These were many of the same questions that would have been asked, and should have been asked, by the public via their representatives — only nine reps were afraid to speak out.
THE PLANET presents a digest of the state’s eight key points:
(1) The state notes that the education plan for forth THS and PHS “have not been shared with the public or school staff. What is the timetable for doing this”? [PLANET's italics]
COMMENT: Speaks for itself, doesn’t it? The SBNC did not deem the taxpaying public — that’s only paying for $82 million for the boondoggle that is public education in Pittsfield — worthy of seeing the material. So much for all the claims by the apologists for the sub-standard performance of this urine-poor commission. THEY LEFT YOU, THE TAXPAYERS, OUT OF THE DISCUSSION.
(2) Information on programs in the plan “are not described or tied to the … the labor market analysis,” the state says.
COMMENT: How could these details be left out? Where was the oversight? Where was “the education representative,” TFB, who appointed herself de facto chair of the SBNC? Where was SBNC member Barry Claimont, with all his CPA expertise? Why didn’t Clairmont raise these questions before the taxpaying public had to be humiliated in the eyes of the state with such shoddy work? Where was Peter Marchetti, who had visions of mayoral sugar plum fairies dancing in his head? Where was John Krol, who prides himself on his concern for the schools?
(3) The THS plan “refers to Music/Performing Art Programs at that facility, although it has been our understanding that all liberal arts programs will be relocated to PHS.Please comment on the District’s intent to relocate Music/Performing Arts to PHS.”
COMMENT: This is the state’s polite way of saying, “Geesh, you knuckleheads. You told us one thing prior, and now your documents tell us something completely different. What’s up”?
(4) “There is no specific description of how electronic technology in the proposed facilities will affect the program.”
COMMENT: This egregious lack of specificity exemplifies what many have feared about the SBNC: It’s more about political than about doing what’s best for pupils, students, parents, and taxpayers. The commission needs more independent voices, such as former member Pam Malumphy, who resigned in a flourish from the commission early last year. The SBNC, thank you Barry Clairmont et. al., have been bluffing. They have been “Bly Skying” us. We hope mayor-elect Bianchi calls the SBNC in and reads them the riot act, because if such terrible work continues, Pittsfield’s dysfunctional public education system will condemn the city to a lifetime of misery.
(5) Regarding the labor market analysis, upon which rests everything the city is asking from the state, the work of the SBNC again failed even minimal standards. The state asks, “How is the number of students proposed for each program supported by the Labor Market Analysis?”
COMMENT: The city does not answer this important question in the letter, nor do we know if it has subsequently moved to address this point.
(6) The state notes that the SBNC did not project the number of students in programs at both high schools. It asks, “Do the results of the labor market analysis support these programs or will the programs be adjusted”?
COMMENT: Again, the city failed to provide this information. How could that happen, on a board with so many allegedly astute members? Why did it happen is probably the more important question.
(7) The state notes that the city failed to provide “[d]ata regarding numbers of required classes, elective classes, or vocational programs.”
COMMENT: Any reasonable person would have expected such specificity to be a key element in the city’s presentation. It wasn’t, and this may explain why the mayor, the SBNC, and nine councilors didn’t want the public getting a sniff of what they were doing in the taxpayersd’ name. This not only smells fishy, it stinks to high Nirvana.
(8) The city fails to “describe how the student populations at both high schools will be divided (to what extent and based on what criteria).
COMMENT: No, we’re not kidding. The city didn’t provide this essential data in its package to the state.
The state then tells the mayor to “let us know when you expect to have completed your review of these programs and the Labor Market Study with the DESE so that we may schedule a meeting to review your findings.”
The letter is signed by Mary Pichetti, Director of Capital Planning. the “cc” list includes Sen. Ben Downing, Rep. Paul Mark, Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, councilor Sherman, city deputy purchsging agent Kristen Harrington, school committee chairwoman Kathleen Amuso, school superintendent Jake Eberwein, Skanska USA Building owner Paul Kneedler, and SBNC member TFB.
An $82 million Rip-off
Ladies and gentlemen, fraud has been committed in you name by the SBNC. It’s fraud of a moral variety. You likely couldn’t prosecute this in court, but taxpayers should know that the $82 million they fund for Pittsfield public schools — two-thirds of the entire city budget — is being handled by … what should we call them? Amateurs? Incompetents? Political “players;” bunglers? Non-professionals? The unqualified?
We single out my Right Honorable Good Friend-elect, at-large-to-be Barry Clairmont , because he epitomizes the state’s first complaint [FROM ABOVE] — “The state notes that the education plan for forth THS and PHS ‘have not been shared with the public’ or school staff. What is the timetable for doing this”? Clairmont, you recall, mimicked his work on the SBNC in miniature for THE PLANET. He does not want to share with the public via this address. He only wants to talk to the friendly staffers at the BB. Only if they live in Pittsfield.
Throughout his campaign for council, Clairmont touted his 25 years of accounting experience. He bragged how he would put those skills to use for the city of Pittsfield. Too bad people didn’t realize that when he said “city of Pittsfield,” he didn’t mean Joe and Mary Jane Kapanski. He meant the GOBs. Clairmont’s term on the SBNC expires on May 1, 2012. At that time, we hope Mayor Bianchi presents him with his certificate of service, a handshake, and a boot in the rear on the way out.
Clairmont has unwittingly come to symbolize everything good citizens of the city have come to distrust about their government.
NOW YOU KNOW WHY THE BB DIDN’T RUN THIS THIS STORY.
TOMORROW, WE SHARE THE DETAILS OF AN INCIDENT THAT TOOK PLACE AT THE VICTORY CELEBRATION OF BIANCHI AND MELISSA MAZZEO. IT INVOLVED A LITTLE CHAT MAZZEO’S HUSBAND HAD WITH CLAIRMONT, KROL, AND OTHERS. THE BB WON’T TELL YOU, BUT WE WILL.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LVOE TO ALL.