TWO PLANET EXCLUSIVES!! WE BEGIN A LINE-EDIT OF THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT’s ANNUAL REPORT … plus … MORE QUESTIONS SWIRL IN A HAZE OF METH: PETITION ON CLINIC RAISES SERIOUS QUESTIONS
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 30, 2011) — At the invitation of Pittsfield superintendent of schools, Howard “Jake” Eberwein, THE PLANET went online to review the latest posted annual report. It’s a 76-page document, full of interesting facts, suppositions, and assertions. As a way of continuing to put the spotlight on a department that accounts for an astounding three of every four dollars spent in the city ($89 million out of $120 million), THE PLANET presents our digest here, with commentary. This will be the first in a series of posts that goes through the document, highlighting and annotating.
* LOFTY GOAL — In its preface remarks, the report — which bears Eberwein’s name as author — makes this promise to Pittsfield taxpayers and citizens: “[W]e will prepare every student for postsecondary and a career that will lead to lifelong economic, social, and civic success” (p. 2). A couple pages later, Eberwein formally makes “The Pittsfield Promise.” The promise lists five goals, with the first being the apex and the umbrella: “100% of students are prepared for postsecondary education.”
Comment: Ask yourself, as neutrally and as objectively as possible: Is “every student” that gets a sheepskin from PHS or THS ready for college or higher learning? Remember, the promise is for “100% prepared.” The answer, obviously is “no.” Just one kid who’s not ready violates the promise and there are plenty more than one. We bring this up not with the expectation that the Pittsfield schools will produce perfection, but it is THEY who have promised “a Don Larsen” and not THE PLANET.
ELEMENTS OF A HOLLOW PROMISE — In light of the “promise” of perfection, the report then gets into the elements out of which “100%” is supposed to materialize: the student population. Check these demographics: First language not English — 5.6; Limited English Proficiency — 3.8 percent; Low Income — 49.7%; Special Education — 16.3 percent. These are figures from the 2009-10 school year, the most recent posted. These percentages are most likely higher now.
Comment — Taken as an aggregate, these four “selected populations,” whose learning deficiencies are well documented, comprise 75.4% of the Pittsfield school population of 6,072 or 4,578 students. How, in light of this cold water in the demographic face, can the school department seriously promise a 100% success rate, when it’s more likely that more than half will be unable to complete in college, hold down a meaningful job, or take advanced professional training after high school?
NUMBERS — FYI, Pittsfield High School had 972 students and Taconic 946 for the 09-10 school year. These numbers will surely come into play in any future discussion of the high school in Pittsfield. There are 509 teachers employed (average yearly compensation $72,000). There is a student to teacher ratio in the system of 11.9 to 1.
Comment — The numbers of teachers has nearly doubled in less than a generation. The number of students has been more than halved. Teacher-to-student-ratio is triple what it was, and yet we still get anecdotal reports of kids out of control and teachers who have lost the ability to maintain the disciplined atmosphere necessary not just for outstanding learning but sufficient learning. Apologists for the schools (“More money” for “The Children”) argue for smaller class sizes. Do we have to draw you a map, or can you see the problem with this picture based on the data?
NUMBERS II — The report publishes trends that show the number of white students decreasing by 7% by the beginning of 2012, with Hispanics rising by 48%, Asians by 156%, and blacks increasing by 4%. Low-income students by the end of this year will have increased 35%, free lunch students by 42% (of course, there is no such thing as a “free lunch.” It’s paid for by the taxpayers), special education will rise by 2%, “first language not English” will increase 26%, and “limited English proficient” will jump 17%.
Comment — For the department’s claims of 100% success, either standards will have to be dumbed down to the least common denominator or Dr. Eberwein and his staff will have to invent smart pills to turn every student into educable and proficient. Which of these two do you think is more likely?
WHEN A PROMISE GETS CUT DOWN TO AN ASPIRATION — On p. 14, Eberwein et al repeat the “Overarching Aspiration” that “100% of students will be prepared for postsecondary training.” Comment: The “Promise” of page 2 becomes the “Aspiration” of page 14.
Comment — A promise is a declaration of assurance that something will occur or get done. An aspiration is the hope of achieving something. Using the department’s own words, then, within 14 pages of the 76-page report, they have already downsized the promise of proficiency to the hope of proficiency.
THE PLANET shall stop our digest of the school report here. We shall resume on pg. 15 tomorrow. We invite your comments.
Methadone Clinic and Objecting Petition: THE PLANET Raises Pertinent Points and Ask the Tough Questions the BB and Others Ignore
Yesterday, we covered Ward 6 councilor John Krol’s petition to keep methadone clinics out of Pittsfield. THE PLANET is pursuing several angles on this story, and we invite readers’ contributions. We presented the pros and cons of the case, based on our research.
One reader noted that Krol — who is currently employed by Sweetwood of Williamstown, an assisted living facility, as its director — formerly worked at Berkshire Healthcare Systems (BHCS). Yesterday, Krol confirmed his stint at BHCS. That much is established, then.
What is the relationship between BHCS and Berkshire Health Systems? It appears that BHCS is a subsidiary of parent company BHS. This may — THE PLANET only says “may” — shed light on Krol’s petition trying to keep a methadone clinic out of downtown Pittsfield. Spectrum Health Systems wants to put a meth clinic on Summer Street in the Berkshire Nautilus Building. Krol has filed a petition that would ban such clinics from the downtown arts and business district and require a special permit anywhere else in the city. Considering how Spectrum and BHCS via BHS are competitors in healthcare, can Krol’s actions be construed as acting on behalf of a former employer? This is a question? We don’t know the answer?
In an interview yesterday, Krol dismissed any allegations that he was working on behalf of his former employer or anyone else. He said he introduced his petition to address a gap in the zoning regulations, which presently do not have a specific designation for a methadone clinic. Krol said the language in the petition is his own, solely, which he cleared with the office of the city solicitor.
Anyone who lives in the area also know the gravitational pull BHS has on Pittsfield politics. It’s one of the region’s largest employers. It makes a hefty contribution to the city in lieu of taxes from its non-profit status. It’s management and directors are part of what is generally considered by observers as the GOB network. How this all plays in, and out, of the Spectrum petition is an open question.
THE PLANET doesn’t shy away from honest questions. We leave that the the Boring Broadsheet and the rest of the local mainstream media.
BHS Owns BHCS, Where Councilor Krol Used to Work, Who Wrote the Petition …
THE PLANET’s investigation of Spectrum suggests it is a sophisticated healthcare company. They are in business to make a profit. They have five methadone facilities in Massachusetts. They appear to be a thorough company, and in deciding they wanted to immediately set up shop in Pittsfield, the evidence suggests they know there is money to be made here treating those addicted to opiates, what the street calls junkies.In short, we can be reasonably certain that Spectrum had completed a rigorous due-diligence study of the Pittsfield market before deciding to open a methadone clinic on Summer Street,
* QUESTION: Did Spectrum’s pre-emtive strike upset plans of either BHS, BHCS, the Brien Center, or any other local healthcare provider to enter the lucrative business of opiate addictions?
* QUESTION: Is Krol’s petition in any way related to a perceived market threat by any Pittsfield company, including the transportation company that allegedly has an lucrative and exclusive contract to transport Pittsfield addicts to Holyoke. Some place the contract as high as $1.4 million a year? Krol says no.
* QUESTION: Why is the city, through Krol’s petition, only acting now to define what a methadone clinic is for zoning purposes?
Annual Report Reveals a Couple Interesting Names
A related document is the Annual Report filed by Berkshire Healthcare Systems Inc., 75 North Street, Suite 210, on Nov. 1, 2011. The report lists David Phelps as president of the company, William Jones as treasurer, Lynn Murphy as clerk, and it is signed by Jones. Contact person is listed as Kathryn Hassett (413) 395-7847.
The filing lists BHCS Board of Trustees: 12 people are named, including:
* Clifford Nilan, 72 Winesap Road, Pittsfield, and
* Carmen Massimiano, 274 Appleton Ave., Pittsfield.
These two names speak for themselves in GOB legend and lore. The fact that such men are on the Board at BHCS, Krol’s former company, raises a fair question of both the timing and the motivations behind his sudden petition on methadone clinics. Once again, we repeat: It raises the question. It doesn’t answer the question.
BHS and BHCS: The Doublemint Twins
Is Berkshire Healthcare Systems the same as, or in the same corporate family as Berkshire Health Systems? The question is relevant. If so, does it mean that Krol, as a one-time employee of the former, should have disclosed his professional relationship with BHCS and that company’s relationship to BHS? THE PLANET thinks as much.
Here, also uncovered by THE PLANET’s Secret Squadron, is a news article on BHCS. What’s more important than the article is the note that at the end, where contact information is given. The article (from Vocus/PR Web) lists as contact berkshirehealthsystems.org. In sum: The article on BHCS lists BHS as the contact. Clearly they are related, more like the Doublemint Twins than distant cousins.
Here is that article. PAY PARTICULAR ATTENTION TO THE CONTACT ADDRESS AT THE END.
Berkshire Healthcare Systems Dramatically Improves Skilled Nursing Facility Census Performance with the Referral Management System
Patient Admissions up 25%, Additional 70 Admissions per Month on Average, Referral Volumes up 7.4%
The two — BHCS and BHS — are one, it seems … John Krol shold have revealed the connection. We have a situation where his former employer is Berkshire Healthcare Systems. This former employer is probably the most politically connected and influential company in the city. Spectrum Heath Systems, a competitor, wants to move into the city — BHS/BHCS turf — and set up what would appear to be a lucrative business.
Did Spectrum catch BHS/BHCS off guard and snatch a lucrative methadone treatment business out from under their noses? Again, this is just a question.
THE PLANET believes questions are good, unlike much of “official” Pittsfield.
THE PLANET invites your thoughts. Remember, keep on topic, keep the discussion moving, contribute your ideas, but don’t get stupid on us.
MOVING ON INTO THE DAY, WE SKIP SOWN THE PATH OF LIFE, SMILING, MAN …
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.