SCHOOL COMMITTEEMAN KINNAS RESPONDS WITH POINTS OF CLARIFICATION … SOURCES PROVIDING MORE PIECES FOR THE PUZZLE … WORDS OF THE OPPRESSED WITHIN THE PPS … plus … A FLY ON THE WALL GIVES A GLIMPSE AT WHAT’S HAPPENING INSIDE MERCER (SCHOOL DEPT. HQ)
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2012) — THE PLANET will lead today with star billing to the lone school committee member who has to date commented directly to this site on the incendiary discussion that’s been raging at this site this week concerning the Pittsfield School Department.
We speak, of course, of Terry Kinnas. In the first five months of Pittsfield’s “new” government, Kinnas has been by far the most effective public official. He is hands-on favorite for MVP balloting, and if the vote were taken today, he would win.
Kinnas responded with points of clarification to various items in the Schools debate that shall be familiar with most of our readers. Kinnas wrote:
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Points of clarification:
1. The director and field representative of MASC are not
lawyers. The director is a registered lobbyist.
2. I did ask other school committee people, not from Pittsfield,
before the meeting about their local policy on access to
schools. Paraphrased: the schools would like a call but stop in
any time except during MCAS testing.
3. The school committee must hire the superintendent and
selected staff, has direct line item control of all line items.
and up to this point, direct control of all curriculum including
4. The superintendent did show the 82 million plus in spending
that the school department is responsible for.
5. What was not included was 3.2 plus million for school choice
and charter school fund sent to other communities. Note: we
do net out to about 2.5 million. We, the taxpayers of Pittsfield
send 2.5 million to other communities and get no return.
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Allow us to briefly comment on each of these:
1. This puts to rest the discussion of the MASC opinion on whether a school committeeman or woman can enter a school building unannounced. THE PLANET would never accept an advisory opinion blindly, least of all one coming from a lobbyist. To claim there is no direct provision in the law allowing a school committeeman greater access to schools as a reason to limit access is absurd. First, we could as easily say “There is no provision in the law that limits greater and freer access to the schools of a school committee member.” Second, there is no provision defining greater access in the same way that there is no law that allows a teacher greater access to the schools. Why? Because that law is unneeded. Of course teachers are allowed greater access. They work there, although there is no law that specifically grants them greater access. The same with a school board member. That person is every bit an employee of the school department as a teacher or a principal. In fact, you could state they are “more so” because of their higher ranking. The superintendent — the top dog in the school department — reports to the school committee. That makes Terry Kinnas — and his six board colleagues — the superintendent’s boss. This is a crucial point, and it should end all reasonable discussion on the point of “free access” to the schools. THE PLANET would want school board members to have unfettered access. That certain members of the board and PSD are so violently opposed again begs the familiar question: “WHAT ARE THEY HIDING?” Slowly, we are getting pieces to the puzzle, and they are beginning to form a picture. It’s not a pretty picture.
2. Other districts have no problem with unannounced school visits. Pittsfield has a huge problem. Conclusion: What is PPS hiding? and How bad is it?
3. As we wrote, the superintendent reports to the school committee. It’s not the other way around. Terry Kinnas is Jake Eberwein III‘s boss. O, ye of little faith: Let this sink in.
4. Superintendent finally has come around to declaring the actual school cost ($82.7 million), not the fake one ($54 million, the one the Boring Broadsheet still obediently uses).
5. Taxpayers are getting soaked $2.5 million by the lack of competitiveness of the PPS.
THE PLANET thanks Kinnas for his clarifications.
SOURCES, EXPOSES, TIGERS, AND BEARS, OH MY!
In the course of ferreting out stories, most usually come our way with a phone call, an e-mail, a tweet, a smoke signal, or a person-to-person meeting in a secret parking garage (trench coats and fedoras optional). Stories find us. That’s what happens when you’re open for business in a city with the rampant corruption of the type that’s going on in Pittsfield. Yes, yes, apologists, there’s corruption everywhere. It’s the human gene. Fine excuse, though, for accepting it in your own back yard. Pittsfield’s corruption, though, being so inbred and parochial, begs to be punctured, slashed, harassed, and exposed.
Dog Catchers in Podunk
THE PLANET has worked as a newsman in some tough places and dealt eye-to-eye with lots of tough guys, but even in mob-run towns, there was a certain code of honor in place (as anyone knows who has watched The Sopranos). In Pittsfield, you have too many politicians and public officials who are the equivalent of dog catcher in Podunk acting as if they’re Santos Trafficante in The Flamingo.
Its comical, except for the fact that a full generation of GOB crud has barnacled a once-fine city and reduced it to what you see today: an economic backwater, with a dysfunctional school system, dispirited public servants, bedraggled and put-upon citizens, few good jobs, and a cozy home for every gold-bricker, slacker, gimme-gal, moocher, bum, deadbeat, druggie, pusher, and the like, who begin receiving all manner of public welfare the moment they step foot in town (Pittsfield, of course, has no residency requirements to qualify for “assistance.”) That’s why decent people are, on the whole, wary about going downtown, especially after dark, when the “children of the night” come out from under their rocks.
After having probed the inner mysteries of a Machine whose own corruption today seems to be taking it down, we have developed many sources in more places than you would care to know. It’s to the point where our sources have sources. There are not many public offices where THE PLANET does not have at least one reliable source. The skeletons who resting plots we don’t know of are known by those we know.
Sources, Information, and the Time Factor
In the old days, working for what is now the dinosaur process of “the printed page,” stories were vetted forever, seemingly, and the ensuing time-gap between news and the events behind the news lent a sanitation to most stories that either robbed them of their teeth or their balls, depending on the individual news outlet. Newspapers with nervous and spineless editors caved in to the slightest pressure not to run stories.
Most newspapers, who grew to depend solely on a small handful of influential advertisers, got co-opted. That’s one of the reasons we got out of full-time-employed, daily journalism. Most papers, consequently, sold out. That wasn’t our style. We broke off on our own, a rogue journalist who went fearless and freelance.
A literal case in point of a co-opted, cowed, and now cowardly newspaper would be the once proud and accomplished Berkshire Eagle morphing into the sorry excuse for the murder of innocent trees known as the Boring Broadsheet. It continues to waste more good talent on fluff, feathers, and fudge, but that is a two-way street. Veterans of the paper, who kept their mouths shut and took humiliation after humiliation meekly and quietly only have themselves to blame for the humble pie they now must eat on a daily basis. They aren’t even allowed to throw up, except on their own time and out of sight of BB management.
The BB is not our focus here. We make the point that this new medium of cyberspace never sleeps and always exists in “now.” Like God’s experience of “time,” there is no past, present, or future in cyberspace. An hour is as a thousand years. A thousand years is as an hour. The time-bound mortals among us, which includes THE PLANET, must daily wrangle with this new beast. We find the challenge stimulating.
THE PLANET: Slowly Changing the ‘Rules’ of ‘The Game’
When you combine our rich harvest from myriad sources with the availability to publish instantaneously and often, it changes “The Game” of so-called democracy, a condition of government that today exists in quotes and only as an allegation. This combination has the explosive power to bring The Establishment, the Vested Interests, to their knees with a few keystrokes. Case in point would be the revolutions that have toppled regimes (e.g., Libya and Egypt) and mobilized the masses overnight (the Occupy movement).
Locally, THE PLANET has provided The Little Guy with a fairer version of The Game as its practiced in Berkshire County, especially in the county seat and seat of power. We’ve done this through ownership of the press. We didn’t need $100 million to start and run a daily newspaper. We needed a few simple fees for electronic expertise, our wits, and we have PLANET VALENTI. Through this vehicle, we have taken control of the information away from the exclusive and greedy grasp of the GOB. They can no longer control the information flow. Today, anyone with access to a computer can inform outlets such as ourselves on anything happening anywhere.
The Pittsfield Public Schools: A Story with Legs
The information produces a lot of duds and dead ends, and even the good tips won’t all see the light of day, since — in our case — we have many other professional tasks to which we must attend. When we get a story with legs and that piques our interest, that story tends to find favor here. Such is the case for our recent explorations into the dysfunction of one of the GOB most cherished and impregnable strongholds: The Pittsfield Public Schools.
Little by little, we are helping Joe and Mary Jane Kapanski to wrest control of the money from the grubby avariciousness of the GOB and slowly putting it back in their taxpaying hands.
Everyone must be patient, however, and “keep their powder dry.” This we must stress.
Not to give the oppressed fruitless hopes of a false spring, we frankly inform you that it will take some time before “They” have been tossed from the picture. We make this claim barring the unforeseen, which each day becomes gradually more likely (bankruptcy for the city or a major scandal bringing a halt to the “normal” functioning of local government, for instance).
One example: The negotiating between taxpayers and teachers now ongoing promises to produce another beating for Joe and Mary Jane and another win for teachers, who on average make $70,000 for a half-year of work and find that reason to bitch and moan. We are getting bits and pieces of the negotiations, and we don’t like what we’re hearing. Prediction: The school committee and the city will cave in to the teachers once more. Taxes will go up to pay for it, and parents will continue to pull their children out of the decay that they find in Pittsfield schools.
What. Do you honestly think The Little Guys’ representatives in talks with the teachers, politicians all, will dare stand up to the United Educators of Pittsfield? That won’t happen. But gradually, the rot that have been eating away at the schools from within is coming into full view.
View From the Trenches in Mercer
We have been triangulating information from several key sources who sit in Mercer (the former Mercer School on the corner of First and Orchard streets that serves as HQ for Jake Eberwein III and the rest of the administration), in school administration, and in the classrooms. We have also heard many stories from parents, who fear for their children’s education and safety.
People know stuff, and they know they have an outlet in the People-friendly PLANET. That tends to generate lots of information. A lot of it is read and dismissed or read and not used. Through triangulation, we can vet what we receive and, to the best of our limited ability, try in good faith to bring you a true and objective picture of what’s happening at this crucial time, for a district with a lame-duck Super.
Here’s what we have learned this week based on what our sources are saying. We cannot vouch for the iron-clad reliability of every one of these claims, but we present them with the assurance that — given what we know about the operation of Pittsfield’s public schools — a reasonable third-party observer would have to consider them sober and accurate reflections.
Things on the ground in the schools are getting “mighty tense,” sources say. The atmosphere in Mercer since is frosty, to put it mildly. This week, according to a source, the Arctic condition “has been one of the worst I have seen yet. Things are so tense downtown in Mercer that some officers with several staff operating in the same space are operating in silence. The earth has been rumbling under foot for these administrators for some time now, and they do not know what [to do] or to whom they should hitch their ships.”
THE PLANET’s call for people with information to step forward has produced results. In the schools, we hear that “teachers are divided by unwritten codes that have always been there but are now very close to the surface. In my opinion,” one source says, “there are those teachers who have aligned themselves with the GOB network via long-time family ties [or via politics] because they saw a long time ago the advantage of hitching their wagon to the GOB. These folks are trying to maintain the status quo, as they have the most to lose and because their long-ago bet and unquestioning support of the GOB bobble heads in our schools is now crumbling before their eyes. They are getting anxious and at times are lashing out at those that they believe are in any way contributing to this slow crumbling of the GOB. This camp is mainly made up of older and more senior staff who have the most power and authority. You can imagine the unspoken tension this creates, as many of these folks try to maintain ‘an order’ that has been in place for so long.”
“Dan, your post could not have come at a better time. It will help to spur on the ‘little people’, who have had to endure this farce, this insult to the public that Jake and the school committee have to too long portrayed.” Another source puts it this way: “Your coverage of the schools has been the most uplifting and encouraging thing to happen around here [in Mercer, among the administration] in a long time. The people owe you a debt of gratitude.”
“Many thanks to the voice you give us, Dan. There are many of us who really do care about educating kids. This task, in the best of circumstances, is challenging, but with the million-ton GOB elephant, and the Jake elephant in our classrooms, it has been stressful, sad, and so exhausting. Many of us believe that your posts will free up and encourage more folks to speak out.” Another source, a teacher a one of the middle schools, spoke of a “siege like mentality you have to have for working in this building. Kids are out of control, and the use of [smart phones] is classrooms is blatant. I enforced those rules, took some phones away, and the parents complained [to the administration]. I was the one reprimanded. The rules are totally ignored. Let me tell you, Dan, you’ve got a ton of support for all the good employees in [the PPS].”
The picture isn’t pretty, ladies and gentlemen, but Pittsfield is fast-approaching a moment of truth with its public schools. It will hire a new superintendent. It will be approving a new budget. Through strong action and political will, the representatives of We The People can wrest control over this crucial aspect of civic health (or illness) out of the greedy, grubby hands of the GOB … or … they can roll over and play dead, as they have done in the past. The difference is this: PPS is on life-support. One more victory for greed will signal the death knell not just for the schools but for the city itself.
Voters will pay attention. Politicians and public officials, in the name of We The People, be warned: Vote with us and live, or vote against us and …
BUT YET THE CAUSE AND THE ROOT OF ALL OUR ILL, INWARD CORRUPTION AND INFECTED SIN, NOT PURGED OR HEALED WILL BEHIND REMAIN STILL. OUR MIGHTY JOY YET RANKLES WITHIN!!
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE”
LOVE TO ALL.