PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, MAY 2, 2012) — How much does your school district keep you, the taxpayer, informed? Do they share all that they need to share for you, We The People, to run your own government?

True, the question smacks of idealism, since we know in the United States, in Massachusetts, in Berkshire County, and in Pittsfield, republican democracy is dead. We say this because of the paltry turnouts in elections, routinely under 50 percent and in some cases such as prelims and primaries, in the single digits.

THE PLANET has long advocated for the cancellation of any election that does not have 50% + 1 of the electorate show up at the polls. This will create a host of other problems, of course, but all of them solvable and preferable to the current electoral process, where incumbents have a vested interest in discouraging new blood from running for office suppressing turnout. We ask this question given the cloudy state of affairs in the $89 million school department in Pittsfield.

How Much Money as School Department Spent on Hidden, Out-of-Court Settlements? Who in the Schools wants to Step Forward and Answer?

The $89 million PSD — having been hijacked by politics, banal administrators, and the big shots that run the local teachers’ union — has a well-earned reputation for hiding its skeletons and keeping the dirty linen deeply buried in the basement. This action is not exclusive to Pittsfield, of course, as seen by a case you may have missed.

In Ramsey, N.J., the school district there has agreed to pay $4.2 million to settle a lawsuit out of court. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the district, settling on a bullying suit, reached agreement with the family in the case two months ago. For those two months, it hid the settlement from taxpayers. How many times has this been done in Pittsfield? At least in the Ramsey case, the info came to light. How many cases has PSD settled out of court and hid, and how many millions of dollars has this cost Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski?

In Ramsey, the suit involved the school district and the family of Sawyer Rosenstein. AP reports: “The family’s lawsuit alleged school officials knew or should have known the boy’s attacker had violent tendencies and failed to comply with a state anti-bullying law, said the Rosensteins’ attorney, Jeffrey Youngman. The boy had punched another student in the face on a school bus a year earlier, but the school kept no record of it or other attacks and the attacker was not subjected to escalating discipline, the suit said.”

A few weeks ago, we shared the case of a bullied Taconic High School student who pleas via himself and his family were all but ignored by the school and the district. That student is finishing out his high school career off campus by taking classes at BCC. The case reveals the hypocritical nature of the PSD anti-bullying efforts: Window dressing, hot air, and little else.

As in the Pittsfield case, the Ramsey school district ignored the Rosensteins. In fact, three months before the boy was punched, he sent an e-mail to school officials asking for help. He was 12 at the time (2006).

His Pleas for Help Were Ignored

Sawyer Rosenstein wrote this to his guidance counselor:

“I would like to let you know that the bullying has increased. I would like to figure out some coping mechanisms to deal with these situations, and I would just like to put this on file so if something happens again, we can show that there was past bullying situations.”

Sawyer was punched in the abdomen at school on May 16, 2006, dropping him to his knees. When he came home that day he complained of pain in his back but otherwise felt fine, his father, Joel Rosenstein, told The Record of Woodland Park.

Two days later, the seventh-grader let out a scream in his bedroom.

“We picked him up and called an ambulance,” the father told the newspaper. “He hasn’t walked since.”

The blow had caused a clot in a major artery that supplies blood to his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down from what his attorney described as an “incredibly rare” injury.

School District Does the Backstroke in an ‘Farina Statement’

By settling out of court, the Ramsey school district keeps hidden the record. The public won’t get to see their actions and inactions in the multimillion dollar case. Official Pittsfield, given its love of secrecy and keeping citizens in the dark, must find this tactic mighty appealing. This, in turn, leads to many crack lawsuits — deadbeats looking to get rich on the taxpayers dollar and the schools all too quick to settle to avoid the discovery process.

The Ramsey Board of Education released a CYA statement that “did not include any admission of liability or fault on the part of the district,” according to AP. They ain’t saying, in other words. Read for yourself the board’s bland words, as tasty as a bowl of cold farina:

“The district’s character education and harassment/intimidation/bullying initiatives and reporting practices are leading edge,” the statement said.” All programs in this area far exceed all of the criteria established by the state of New Jersey.”

Right: “Leading edge.” It’s anti-bullying programs “far exceed” state regulations. That’s why it agree to pay $2.5 million to the Rosensteins and hide that from taxpayers for two months.

We add a small footnote of particular interest to THE PLANET: Sawyer Rosenstein is now 18. He’s a freshman at Syracuse University, majoring in communication at the country’s leading journalism school, the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at SU (where THE PLANET got our master’s degree).

Our challenge to the Pittsfield School Department and the city school board: Tell us (a) how much money has been paid out to settle lawsuits of out court within the past 20 years and (b) how many cases against the Pittsfield schools are pending in the courts. We’re hearing all kinds of numbers, especially on (a). On behalf of the Kapanskis, we petition the PSD to come clean.

Taxpayers have a right to know.

Folks, if they ignore this request, you can take it as bad news — a likely fortune having been blown on  scenario (a) due to a combination of school negligence and too easily settling nuisance suits out of court to keep the records hidden.









  1. spectator
    May 2, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    this is great and all, but I think a great number of readers here are more eager to learn of the outcome of the court visit for the notoriously infamous GOB-u-spawn, since you’re the only media outlet in the Berks who’s got the spine to talk about it.

    • Scott
      May 3, 2012 at 4:32 am #

      Today’s Eagle has a piece on it. I guess a guy threatened them and here’s what the mother has to say about it.

      Lynne Nilan told the police that she and her family have been “afraid for quite a long time because of the things that have been posted about my daughter and our family on the Internet. These calls have put a voice to the terrible things that have been said and written.” I don’t think I recall anyone on here saying anything threatening harm to anyone in that family maybe on topix.

      • spectator
        May 3, 2012 at 10:53 am #

        I agree with other posters that the person who made these calls is an idiot, and should not have done that. But at the same time, what do the Nilan’s expect after having committed heinous crimes and then trying to abuse their authorities to try and get out of it? How interesting is it that the BB makes a big deal of out this….making the Nilan’s look like the victims? Really? The so called threat, verifyable or not, as explained in the BB, seemed pretty innocuous and didn’t really make any specific claims. And just like everything else that’s come out of the Nilan camp regarding this incident, the mothers recounting of what was allegedly said is probably a lie too.

        • Bull Durham
          May 3, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

          You’re right, spectator, that he is an idiot, you’re right that he should not have done that. You lose me after that. There is no, no, no, repeat, NO excuse for someone making threatening phone calls. As to your comment about “the mother’s recounting what was allegedly said is probably a lie, too.” You have no proof to back that up, and the Nilans and police do have phone records to back up the fact that he did make the calls.

          I fully agree that Meredith Nilan has to be held accountable and Peter deserves to see justice done, but excusing an act like making threatening calls is just not right.

        • Max
          May 3, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

          I agree – the guy was an idiot for doing that and should be punished – there is no excuse for doing that! And I hope he is punished severely. But I’m surprised that she engaged in “conversation” (if you can call it that) with him – why not just hang up the phone and the next phone call is to the telephone company to change the number? I also agree that the Berkshire Eagle article made it look like the Nilan’s are the victims here! And that made me angry! It is Peter Moore who is the victim, and although receiving telephone threats like that is certainly terrible, it can’t even begin to compare to what was done to Peter Moore AND his family! They are the victims!

          • levitan
            May 4, 2012 at 6:04 am #

            Peter Moore is a victim of hit and run and terrible injuries.

            Now, members of the Nilan family are victims of threats and harrassment.

            So, there are two unrelated court cases, and oddly, I am sympathetic to both plaintiffs.

          • Max
            May 4, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

            They are not two “unrelated” cases – they are very much related. If Meredeath didn’t run down Peter Moore and leave him there so as to protect herself, then these telephone calls never would’ve happened. I’m not condoning these threatening calls at all but just stating that the two cases are very much related. And the Berkshire Eagle article made it sound like the Nilan’s are the victim in this “mess” – they are the creators of this mess.

          • levitan
            May 5, 2012 at 7:50 am #


            You are ridiculous.

          • Max
            May 5, 2012 at 8:55 am #

            Oh OK – then you MUST be correct and he wasn’t calling and making threats that if the legal system doesn’t come through with the Nilan/Moore case, he will…

            That is MY opinion — isn’t that what this wonderful is for? Why would attack me and call me ridiculous for having and stating my opinion? That is riduculous, levitan…

  2. levitan
    May 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    Congrats to the Rosenstein family, and I hope the son’s future is brighter than what has passed.

    Think $4.2 million is too much? Confinement to a chair will cause a lifetime of complications, not to mention loss of quality.

    Too bad the bully’s family don’t get to chip in for the payout.

  3. Observer
    May 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    What happened today in the Nilan hit and run case? We thought you were abducted by the GOBs

    • danvalenti
      May 3, 2012 at 8:48 am #

      Nah, nothing that serious. We were in The Big Town making money.

  4. taxmano
    May 2, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

    Jake has answered in this column in the past. I’m sure this time will be no different. He can tell more about all the lawsuits we all know about…

    • danvalenti
      May 3, 2012 at 8:47 am #

      Has he answered the specific questions here about lawsuits and out-of-court settlements, and has there been independent confirmation from an objective third party?

      • Steve Wade
        May 3, 2012 at 10:11 am #

        Dan The city has insurance that covers these type of issues. Im sure they settle most cases because its cheaper to settle than to fighta court case.

        • Max
          May 3, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

          That’s true. But I would still like to know how many times a settlement was reached! And for each lawsuit, the cost of the insurance usually goes WAY up!

          • Cousin O
            May 6, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

            That’s the point. They don’t reach court, they don’t reach the public. I’m thinking there are many of these cases quietly settled. Planet asks a vital Q. How much $$ has been wasted this way?

      • taxmano
        May 4, 2012 at 3:07 am #

        I’ll admit, I was being ironic. I doubt you’ll hear from the outgoing super, an arrogant, self-serving climber who has spent far more energy on PR and spin during his reign then actualy doing anything. I wonder where he’ll turn up next? Any ideas?
        As for lawsuits, I heard under his watch there were numerous suits involving unlawful firings due to age and/or sex and other grounds that won’t hold up because of their obvious capriciousness or lack of ethics. The current head of the JRC (Jake’s dad) was also found guilt of sexual harrassment charges while he was SPED director.So they found him a new high paying job. This was years ago, but no one sees a conflict of interest?!?

  5. Scott
    May 3, 2012 at 4:25 am #

    I think there’s enough corruption around we don’t have to try and invent it.

  6. Teecha Teecha
    May 3, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    Girl drives drunk, hits man… misdemeanor and little eagle coverage

    Man calls and threatens girl… article within days with lots of details and probably felony charges

    This is a sad day for the justice system. An even worse day if her charges are dropped.

    • Bull Durham
      May 3, 2012 at 6:39 am #

      This is not a sad day for the justice system. I firmly believe Meredith Nilan needs to be held accountable, in a fair and open hearing, but what this man did with these calls is just plain wrong, and it needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And that is the case whether he only meant it as a prank or a real threat – either way this can’t be allowed to happen without consequence.

      Peter’s case is now in the courts, where it belongs, and hopefully the judge will allow it to go forward to a full hearing or trial. That’s proper and right. Making threatening phone calls to the Nilan family is not right, under any circumstances.

    • levitan
      May 3, 2012 at 6:54 am #

      Felony charges and charges pertaining to illegal use of telecommunications systems and who knows what else ought to be bare minimum for this guy.

      You are confusing Berkshire Eagle newsroom editors with the Police Department and Court system.

      • Scott
        May 3, 2012 at 7:12 am #

        It amazes me how stupid people are for twenty bucks you could buy a throw away phone make the calls (if that’s what you so desire.) and throw it away. I think Mrs. Nilian was right in assuming this clown is a cellar dweller.

        Levitan on another note “Uncle Veto” on Pix106 (a NY radio station I’m sure you’re familiar with.) said “this just in New yorkers have changed the turning signal from a blinking light to the middle finger!”

        • levitan
          May 3, 2012 at 8:04 am #

          You’re just saying that because you want me to try those hand signals out at Canal Street.

          • Scott
            May 3, 2012 at 10:05 am #

            No really it made me think of our conversation. I also delved deeper into thought on social behavior as a society and realized we are not kind or considerate enough to one another. The point is rudeness is now expected and kindness takes us by surprise.

          • levitan
            May 3, 2012 at 10:40 am #

            Oh, it’s not that bad. I got stranded on the road months ago in the snow; several people stopped to help.

            Now then, back to badgering and bashing.

    • Andrew
      May 3, 2012 at 10:35 am #

      I’m sorry where has it been said that she was drunk? Maybe you’ve confused people speculating with facts.

      • spectator
        May 3, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

        How many sober drivers do you know Andrew who swerve clear across the oncoming traffic lane, and strike pedestrians with their cars? Hmmm?

        • levitan
          May 3, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

          No information on the sobriety of the driver. How she wound up in the wrong lane is unknown. I can think of at three explanations, none involving alcohol.

        • Scott
          May 3, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

          Lot’s you ever see these fruit cakes driving around with their face jammed in a mobile device?

          • levitan
            May 4, 2012 at 6:07 am #

            “…faces jammed in a mobile device”

            There’s one for you. Or disciplining a pet in back seat, or reading a book, playing a musical instrument.

            All equally weird things to do while driving.

        • Andrew
          May 4, 2012 at 12:30 am #

          There are no “lanes” on Winesap. It’s a fairly narrow residential street where most drivers usually stay closer to the middle of the street. Aside from that, there’s absolutely no proof she was drunk.

          • levitan
            May 4, 2012 at 6:08 am #

            If it’s wide enough for two cars, then surely drivers there assume two lanes.

          • spectator
            May 4, 2012 at 6:39 am #

            So it’s the roads fault now? That’s a good one….You must be a comedian.

            If she had not BROKEN THE LAW and left the scene there may be that smoking gun. Unfortunately, when she broke the law and left the scene, she opened the door wide open to speculation, reasonable doubt.

            It sounds like you support the breaking of laws Andrew.

            Or perhaps you can share your version of the events to disprove the speculators?

          • Molly
            May 5, 2012 at 9:00 am #

            Andrew – you are correct in that there is no evidence at all that she was drunk and so stating that as fact shouldn’t happen. But because there was so much effort by her father, Cliff, to make sure that the police didn’t talk with her night, it does raise suspicions that she was drunk!!! Or high!!!

          • Max
            May 5, 2012 at 9:02 am #

            she was drunk and we all suspect it that’s why cliff nilan made the call to police about his daughter possibly hitting a dog or a deer and gave the wrong location we are not all stupd

          • Max
            May 5, 2012 at 9:04 am #

            Max – suspecting it and being able to prove it are two very different things! There is absolutely no proof that she was, even if we all suspect it!!!

          • Jz
            May 5, 2012 at 11:43 am #

            Max- looks like you forgot to change screen names before responding to yourself. Hilarious

  7. Cousin O
    May 3, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    Great coverage about the bullying case. This is an issue which I’m personally familiar with, and it makes me angry to hear how schools have the big anti-bullying Pr up front but when you need them to confront the bullies, often nothing happens. Terrible terrible terrible. Thanks DV for publishing and no I don’t think you’re “inventing” a scandal since all you did was ask the question about what’s going on in Pittsfield schools.

    • Scott
      May 3, 2012 at 10:07 am #

      He’s making a suggestive statement. This area is too small we’d know about already if that was the case.

  8. Concern
    May 3, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    Whoever this idiot that threaten the Nilan family should be charged. Also on a above blog, There is no proof of her drunk driving. Again my advice to Ms Nilan tell your lawyer to plead you out and get on with your life. All this crap will then stop.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:41 am #


      This will all be over? Really?
      Is a plea deal going to help Mr. Moore recover from his injuries?
      I think you are confusing who the victim is.

      • Steve Wade
        May 3, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

        The plea deal will get this over so life can go on, then the insurance companys and lawyers will settle the financial side of how much Mr. Moore deserves for his pain and suffering. We all know Mr Moore is the victim and Im not saying Ms Nilan should get a slap on the hand but there is no proof she was drunk. She left the scene of a accident and should be charged my guess she will lose her liecense for a few years and do probation

        • Scott
          May 3, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

          She’ll keep her licence.

        • Max
          May 3, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

          Without knowing the Moore’s at all but knowing how I would feel if it were me, I’d want this to be over with quickly, and I’m sure the Moore’s must too! It is NOT the Moore’s who are delaying anything! Why is anyone concerned about Ms. Nilan? She is NOT the victim here! Rather, she is the one who left a man bleeding from his head to die!!!

        • Max
          May 3, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

          And where will she do probation? From the office of her father? Should we expect it to be similar to Angelo’s probation? I’d say so…

    • spectator
      May 3, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

      Nor is there proof that she was sober. If she didn’t have anything to hide, ie sobriety, then why did she leave the scene of the accident, and not visit with the police that night, instead of the next morning?

      • Max
        May 3, 2012 at 9:45 pm #


    May 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    Just Saying. If you read my past comments I was one of the biggest critics of the Nilans, I always knew who the victim was and wrote many times to the Moores wishing them well etc. So to tell me I don’t know who the victim is nonsense. My comment today was to her to get it over with.

  10. tito
    May 3, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    Maybe the poor girl was singing Xmas carols and got caught up in the moment.

  11. too tall
    May 4, 2012 at 3:14 am #

    I keep hearing this crazy rumor that Cliff was driving the car that night and she took the rap because He had a lit of D U I s from the past. Sounds a little farfetched, but who knows?

  12. Judy
    May 4, 2012 at 3:53 am #

    Sounds like Meridith Nylan took a page out of Teddy Kennedy’s play book. It worked for him.

    • levitan
      May 4, 2012 at 6:13 am #


      Can’t you resist the urge to frame the argument in terms of the history of the battle between the Parties?

      Are you suggesting that Mr. Moore was a passenger in Nilan’s car?

    • levitan
      May 4, 2012 at 6:18 am #


      For the Moore family, I am glad their case is now being heard in court, and wish them whatever normalcy is possible in the courts.

  13. teecha teecha
    May 4, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    tell me… how many 20 year olds leave an event that is based around alcohol sober? How many sober people mistake a man and his dog for a deer after it crashes through your windshield.

    I see a potential jury pool here, indeed.

    • spectator
      May 4, 2012 at 10:27 am #


  14. ambrose
    May 5, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    sturg got fired

    • joetaxpayer
      May 6, 2012 at 10:08 am #

      The fat man is out?

  15. Ted Bundy
    May 6, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    And I’ll bet a lot that DV is the new replacement…

  16. Kristen Gilbert
    May 6, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    Nah – he has stated numerous times that he’s “been there, done that” and would never do it again.

  17. dusty
    May 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    That job is reserved for a GOB sympathizer and has been for quite some time

    You might see Krol take it over…no one likes to hear himself talk more than he does …unless it is Sturge

    • Jim Gleason
      May 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

      Could be Krol. He lost his job at the nursing home recently and has no gig. He needs a job to pay for his big house off West St. but I don’t know if WBRK pays so well.

      • Hilly Billy in Ward 4
        May 7, 2012 at 4:53 am #

        Krolly lost his Nursing home gig Jimmy? WHen was that? What the heck happened so soon?

  18. Gene
    May 6, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    Sturg got railroaded. I know this as a long-time advertiser who has sources at the station. We will soon be taking our business to Vox after our contract is up. Chip Hodgkins is scared of his own shadow when it comes to local radio. He wants a GOB kiss-up and not a genuine host. Chip sees a lawsuit in everything the GOB doesn’t like, and they order him around as they do the boring broadsheet but a lot more easily. Waht a shame. I know forone I would prefer hearing canned satellite stuff rather than a shill for “everything is hunky dory.”

    • Jim Gleason
      May 6, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

      How much more GOB can you get than Sturgeon? He slobbered all over the GOB’s when they were on his show to the point of being pathetic. I stopped listening about two months ago after an argument with the “host” over his bashing of Terry Kinnas on a daily basis.He says in the BB article that he weeded out the bad callers and I bet that includes me. I guess you were a bad caller if your opinion differed with his.I just hope they don’t put the giggle girl on in his place.

    May 6, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Maybe Jim should take it over. No one was on more than him I’m told. Just joking with ya Jim

  20. dusty
    May 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    Do not rule out Barrett. He needs to start his Pittsfield mayoral campaign early. He is willing to be a schill for the GOB if the price is right. And as with Ruberto they were willing to pay top dollar to get him in.

    A nightmare you say? The wheels are turning behind closed doors be assured. And if he gets in you might see the Doyle, Grunin, Kerwood crowd around a lot more.

  21. Jim Gleason
    May 6, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Barrett is on the North Adams city council and not a citizen of Pittsfield, making your scenario impossible. @Steve wad, or whoever you are, I don’t slobber over anyone. I’ve had more hot girls at the same time than you’ve had in your life, dumbass.Go away.

    • Steve Wade
      May 7, 2012 at 4:42 am #


      • Jim Gleason
        May 7, 2012 at 5:14 am #

        Buzz off, gnat.

        • Hilly Billy in Ward 4
          May 7, 2012 at 6:48 am #

          What happened to Krolly at the Nursing home Jimmy?

          • Jim Gleason
            May 7, 2012 at 7:02 am #

            I was told (by a very good source)that he was fired.

      • Steve Wade
        May 7, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

        Dan How come I get redacted but Jimmy the jerk gets to say his totally insane opinion? What gives?

        • danvalenti
          May 7, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

          WEBMASTER says you provoked it. I’ll go by what she say, and she has leeway to administer the site. If you add to the conversation, you get to stay up. If you take personal shots, you go. Simple as that. You are out of second and third chances. All you gotta do is behave.

  22. Jim Gleason
    May 7, 2012 at 7:31 am #

    Krol and his GOB buddy Clairmont were on the propaganda hour on WTBR this morning bashing Mayor Bianchi on everything from Third Thursday being cancelled to Hancock Rd. beinng paved instead of Mountain Drive to his removing Butch Pisani from the licensing board. I think maybe they should concentrate on more important things like Krol returning constituent calls and the crime rate in his ward and Clairmont losing his attitude of bashing everything this mayor wants to do.Krol should resign from the council and become Third Thursday manager with Clairmont as his gopher.They’d both get along with Eva Braun (Deanna) and Krol is looking for work after all.Mayor Bianchi is right to cancel Third Thursday as there is paving going on and ditches and barrels all over North St.If someone is injured at something like this look at the liability to the city.Pisani has a clear conflict being on the board at the A and should’ve been removed years ago but ruberto didn’t have the balls or care enough to do it.Hancock Rd. needs paving desperately and has for years and the richie riches on Mountain Drive can wait their turn. Why didn’t their buddy Squiggy pave it if it needed paving so badly? Two hacks bashing a good man.

    • levitan
      May 7, 2012 at 8:42 am #


      I agree on every point.

      I’m impressed by the skillful manner Bianchi is addressing the decades of entrenchment that this city is enduring, and to my opinion, he will not be anybody’s fool.

      • Jim Gleason
        May 7, 2012 at 11:16 am #


        Thanks. It’s hard to listen to Krol spewing nonsense and not being able to call and dispute it. Just mad Marchetti lost and they aren’t told of every decision before it happens so they can pre-determine their votes.Sour grapes.