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:

—– 00 —–

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
all texts.
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.

—– 00 —–

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.



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 …







  1. Craig
    May 17, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Dan you are right on about the Eagle.

    If you get a copy of today’s paper May 17th, there is a letter to the editor about Voting For Fuller in Becket. It is signed by
    U. Richard Noggins which roughly translates to You Dick Heads! They have since removed it but I have a screen shot if you want it. How messed up does a paper have to be that it lets that slip through? With all that staff and resource it made it to print no less, makes you wonder what else they are missing while asleep at the switch.

    • levitan
      May 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

      It was a good letter and makes a worthy model.

  2. Plush Roll and Role
    May 17, 2012 at 10:46 am #


    Thank you for your voice of the tax payer in this town. We have been so buzy busting our tails and so exausted trying to raise famlies and put bread on the table , that we took on good faith that our elected officails would act with our  interests at heart.  Not to say we’re naive in anyway. There is always a level of corruption, even in a perfect world.

    There is a drop  of blame that can be spread amoung the ‘common folk ‘ in this city.  In our daily hast to make ends meet we could be guilty of dozing off at the the wheel. How could we not  have not dozed off from to time, with all we have to do and all in the school dept we financially  carry on our backs.
      But the real blame, that lies at the feet of the  officials in the school dept. We now  find we have been very, very dooped. 

    This whole school dept issue has woken me up and made me take closer look at what stinks in this town. I am no longer going to take a back seat and I don’t care how annoying they find Terry K . He can ask  what color toilet paper they used today while at work and how many sheets they used for all I care.  

    I would politley ask these jerks to remember from now on ….ever time you put your hand in your pocket to buy a new roll of T.P  iIt is our dime you use. The days of the triple layer, Angel Soft cushy ROLLS and ROLEs  is long over. We are tired of wiping our crying teachers runny nose and eyes and paying out of our pocket to wipe their tears dry with our dollar bills. Meanwhile our kids have to at times .. go with out. Not to mention all the ways we now find they are being ‘short changed’ in school. 

    The days of you fools gorging yourselves at ‘Spice’ while we run on North street to pick a Liberty Pizza  with a coupon to try feed our families is long over. We are tired of looking in and being on the wrong side of the window watching you have so much fun as you complain to the waitress. ( the waitress who really pays your tab )

    Indeed, truth be told we are watching now from every window in the city. As some one said, a cell phone is all we need to report you. 

    Next time you go to your bathroom . Do a quick  ROLL count ‘cos the 
    Angel Soft days are over. You have had your spoils and we don’t feel like being your angels any more. It s Scott’s for you all now ….And Terry K.  ask as many questions as you want, as we have now discovered ..If We Don’t Ask … They won’t tell us. 

  3. Swen
    May 17, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Thanks Dan for telling it like it is and has been. How many more students are we going to loose to other school systems in Berkshire County with school choice with PPS in this mess?

    • Wilson
      May 17, 2012 at 11:05 am #

      Should run the numbers and see if it’s cheaper to send all of them out of the district

      • Just a Thought !
        May 17, 2012 at 11:25 am #

        That’s a great idea , we could send all the staff with them too. A package deal.

  4. Just a Thought !
    May 17, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    You are right Swen.,, there is going to be a mass exidous of kids for sure. Just think, with the teacher contract we will be paying higher teacher salaries while less kids attending our schools. Then when the kids enroll in an other towns schools. So now we will be paying those towns teachers salaries too.

    In the meantime the School Dept , or School Comm’ has not made any officail statement yet or gone on the record.

    What do they care, Jake and Malkas have already cashed our checks, packed the last couple if boxes , and are jumping in the U Haul.

    The fact that no answers come forth , tells us all we need to know, guess we are only worthy of paying the bills , but not worthy if been heard when we ask questions.

    Can someone call the disbatcher at the police dept and ask him to tip off the School dept and comm. Maybe he can clue them in.

    Message to tip off the GOB… Hurry scurry , We are coming , we are moving closer, we are asking questions , we want to be heard.

    what is so amazing to me

  5. Home Run
    May 17, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    Any sightings of ‘ Howard ‘ on the Planet today. He had so much to tell us yesterday. Now where is he? Must have lost his tounge like the rest if the school dept.

    • Pittsfield Pete
      May 17, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

      No ! Little Howard moved some money from a grant to buy Big Howard a ticket to Florida.  

      Someone fool told the Howie boys that Dan was down there at the Red Sox game.Last we heard  he was still looking for Dan it was bottom of the 8th. 

      I hope he finds him, would hate to waste all that money and have notting to show for it. 

  6. tito
    May 17, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    I’ll make a prediction, this topic will NOT get one hundred responses, and I’m always right!

  7. Jim Gleason
    May 17, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    From Captain Dredlocks at PHS to Captain Underpants at Reid, from what I understand both are running all or most of the good, energetic young teachers, especial;ly women at PHS . out of the schools. The blatant incompetence of both of these principals in overwhelming and should NOT be tolerated. When will this end? When Howard the third is gone maybe, but if a new incompetent hired to replace the old one then it will continue. The hiring of a professional instead of a hack, like Pittsfield had the chance to at least check out last week was stopped by the timid school committee, save Kinnas and Mayor Bianchi. Pittsfield needs to get rid of hacks and bring in people who are the best we can find, not a settle job like we’ve had the last two or three times we hired a superintendent. With GOB’s on the School Committee and on the city council we face an uphill battle though.We’ve won uphill battles before, let’s hope we can win this one.

    • Pittsfield Pete
      May 17, 2012 at 12:47 pm #


      We will win. Look at what’s been won already. We have a Mayor Who won office on accountability. Terry, he so on transparency. Then Dan, he wins everyday by keeping us informed.

      For sure we are winning, we have a ways to go but we will win.

      There is no way Terry and the Mayor will let some GOBbe put in as the new Super’ and by the time they get to pick the full time and not Intrem Super’ we ll have driven so many of those smucks out of Town.

      Don’t forget our voice is getting stronger by the day. There already showing huge signs of weakness with the no show of a statement from the school comm and school dept.

  8. Magic
    May 17, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    Very sad to know so many people take their children out of our school district. Voters pay attention there is a reason for that and it isn’t good.

    • Scott
      May 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

      The reason’s sure aren’t related to the administration more so the social atmosphere they’re exposed to. That will not change over night.

  9. bobbyd
    May 17, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    Thanks for your show-stopping, common sense argument. Simply stunning!

    Other districts have no problem with unannounced school visits. Pittsfield has a huge problem. Conclusion: What is PPS hiding? and How bad is it?

    We don’t think Pittsfield does, either. As far as we know, no council member has ever been denied access to any building, even when unannounced. Moreover, as we wrote yesterday, even if other districts have no more problem with it in practice than does Pittsfield, every published policy we could find had language almost identical to the Pittsfield policy which leads us to believe they probably come from a common source. Furthermore, if we remember correctly, the policy recently adopted made it easier for school committee members to visit schools by permitting them to contact principals directly rather than requiring them to go through the superintendent’s office.

    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.

    Terry is not anybody’s boss. He is but one member of a governing body. By himself, Terry cannot hire, fire, or reprimand any school personnel, from the superintendent on
    down. He could try, but they would probably pay even less attention to him than usual.

    • levitan
      May 17, 2012 at 6:48 pm #


      I like what you say, and I also enjoy that I can read what you say as so much of what is generally written seems to be in some strange phonetic based system reflecting an odd dialect.

      ja eenfalooyaanz…”

      But here is what makes me mad. You go to a school committee meeting and for four hours here is what delights the mind. Alf, Terry, and Yon are having a conversation. The other damned wastes of space can contribute no brains or even have the decency to stay awake or otherwise look credible. Alf presents a motion. Yon explains that so much has already been wasted pursuing it we might as well just waste more just to make the original cost look small. Terry comes back swinging. Then a vote is cast with everyone else waking up to vote her way.

      Maybe its the advantage of a nasal voice. Maybe its love. Whatever it is, you should be grateful that you have TK there willing to suffer those idiots, otherwise what would you have?

  10. Just a Thought !
    May 17, 2012 at 12:26 pm #


    Didn’t we explain to you last night how you should use logic when making an argument and how not to blabber on so much.

    We don’t want you going off the deep end again and again holding a philabuster with yourself in the library.

    • bobbyd
      May 17, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

      That’s honestly the best you can do?

      To which point exactly do you take exception?

  11. Just a thought !
    May 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    The point I take to exception is …. You Don’t have a Point . You just blabber on mindlessly.

    Now if you excuse me, I have to get back talking to the folks here who are interested in trying to save our schools and how to clear our our school dept from self important idiots like you.

    I am trying to be kind… But your waiting our time at this point.

    • bobbyd
      May 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

      We thought the points were very clear.

      First, the school committee has not been denied access to the schools.

      Second, school committee members have no individual authority.

      These are not conjectures. They are simply facts.

      As for your implication that we are an impediment to improving the state of education in our fair city, ask around.

  12. Just a thought !
    May 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    To the serious workers abd tax payers here trying to help our city!

    Let’s just lock bobby up alone in virtual cyber space some where in. ‘ ‘ The Planet’ . That way he can talk all he wants .. We don’t have to listen or answer . And we Can get in wuth business. It’s a win win for us as then we can deal with ther serious matters at hand here.

    • Andrew
      May 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

      I’m giving this round to bobby as he’s able to form coherent thoughts without rambling on. What specifically is he wrong about?

      • GEE Whiz
        May 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

        Of course you would. You have nothing in the chamber and fire blanks. I an giving it to Just a Thought. Bobbys trying to wheezle out of getting caught with his pants down. The Planet demolished his statements on school access, and now hes basically agreeing with everything DV and the rest of us said. Hurts to be on the losing side, Andrew but youre a big boy ..I think.

        • bobbyd
          May 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm #


          I still have seen nothing substantive regarding special access for school committee members or an admission that they have never been denied access. Nor have I seen any recognition that it is NOT unique to Pittsfield and that there is no concerted effort to hide schools from school committee mmmbers. I also have not seen any agreement with the fact that individual school committee members have no independent authority. We don’t agree at all!

  13. Tricia
    May 17, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    These teacher salaries are unbelievable. $70,000.00? Now I know why someone I know, who is a Pittsfield teacher, always has the latest electronic gadgets not to mention a brand new car and lives in a great house. I always wondered how they afforded all of this on a teachers salary. Now I know. Teachers salaries, at least in this city, are almost as good as being the Mayor of the City. Maybe the Mayor doesn’t even earn this much.

    Like everything else in this City, who you know is the key to getting a decent job. Nowadays they try to pretty it up by calling it “Social Networking”. I played this game, however, and as Dan Valenti has recognized, you can talk all you want to people at these social networking events, but in the end the person who actually gets the job is someone who has a family member or GOB in a key position who gets the jobs for them. The Pittsfield School system is notorious for this kind of hiring process.

  14. Andrew
    May 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    Now while I’m sure people will respond with snarky retorts riddled with sarcasm and spelling errors while sadly lacking substance, I feel somewhat compelled to offer up to those deeply concerned about the state of Pittsfield’s education some much needed perspective. This isn’t a defense of any one person or policy, it’s just I grow weary hearing (certainly not just on this site) about how bad our schools are.

    To those people I always say: “In comparison to whom?”

    Let’s go beyond Pittsfield for a moment and look at the state of education in our Commonwealth. Year after year Massachusetts is ranked at the top of all 50 states as having the best education. Whether it be NAEP testing, SAT/ACT scores, literacy rates, college admissions, or dropout rates, Massachusetts is at or near the top. This is something to be proud of.

    Many of you aren’t that familiar with what a true failing school or struggling school district looks like. You haven’t seen how schools are run in rural Mississippi and Arkansas or inner city Atlanta or even in Hartford or New Haven. I can confidently tell you that the worst Pittsfield School on its worst day looks nothing like the schools in those areas.

    A 2011 Harvard Study reaffirms this. While reading proficiency in Mississippi is comparable to Russia or Bulgaria, Massachusetts performs more like Singapore, Japan, or South Korea. Massachusetts students rank fifth in the world in reading, lapping Singapore and Japan as well as every state in the Union. In math, Massachusetts slots in a global ninth, ahead of both Japan and Germany.

    As somebody who is very familiar with standardized tests as well as curricula, the MCAS is one of the best written in the country. While I abhor the concept of “teaching to the test”, if one can do well on the MCAS I believe that it’s a reasonably accurate assessment of a student’s academic achievements. Flawed but accurate.

    So now that we’ve established that there isn’t a single other state (and few other countries) with a better educational system than that of Massachusetts, let’s look at Pittsfield.

    A simple glance at the 2011 MCAS scores show that, compared to the rest of the state, we’re generally right in the middle. Our two best elementary schools (Williams and Egremont) are in the top quartile in MA while the others are in the middle or lower quartiles. You can almost trace the levels of academic achievement by schools by the economic statuses of their neighborhoods. This is no different than literally every other part of the state. A state, I remind you, that is top in both the country and the world.

    Both middle schools perform around the average for schools in MA. In some grades and subjects they’re better while in other’s they’re worse. Our high schools perform below the average, yet neither are close to being the worst. Depending on the subject matter and grade there are between 50-200 high schools in the commonwealth that perform worse than Pittsfield.

    So let’s review. The Pittsfield Public School District is essentially an average-performing district in the state with the toughest standards and highest achievements. To be average in the best state is not something to cause wailing or gnashing of teeth. While some parents might send their children to Lenox (it’s gotta be tough for a school district whose mascot is “The Millionaires”) the Pittsfield School District is an absolutely fine place to get an education and will continue to be in the future.

    Now of course there are people who want to shake everything up and shout “reform!” to the rooftops. Those people often have few substantive ideas beyond some trite and weak concepts of what “good” schools are; concepts that are often rooted in some nostalgia-induced myopic vision of how their childhood schools were supposedly run. While people should also want to push their communities forward and better the futures of our children, let’s not let hyperbole be the enemy of reality. Could Pittsfield Public Schools be better? Of course. Is it currently bad? Not even close.

    • levitan
      May 17, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

      From the Articles I Didn’t Finish Reading Dept:

      “A 2011 Harvard Study reaffirms this. While reading proficiency in Mississippi is comparable to Russia or Bulgaria, Massachusetts performs more like Singapore, Japan, or South Korea”

      Someone at Harvard compares Massachusetts to Russia? So we would then have to compare Pittsfield School District to Moscow? And Hancock would be compared to Novgorod?

      Andrew, I generally agree with your arguments so don’t take it personally, but globals may conform downwards, but the small doesn’t often find its mirror reflection in the grand.

      • levitan
        May 17, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

        From the Articles I Didn’t Finish Reading Dept:

        “A 2011 Harvard Study reaffirms this. While reading proficiency in Mississippi is comparable to Russia or Bulgaria, Massachusetts performs more like Singapore, Japan, or South Korea”

        Someone at Harvard compares Massachusetts to Russia? So we would then have to compare Pittsfield School District to Moscow? And Hancock would be compared to Novgorod?

        Andrew, I generally agree with your arguments so don’t take it personally, but globals may conform downwards, but the small doesn’t often find its mirror reflection in the grand.

      • Andrew
        May 17, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

        Can you read? The study compared global scores and compared Massachusetts to Singapore, Japan and South Korea while comparing Mississippi to Russia. Those three Asian nations have some of the best educational systems in the world.

        Please comprehend what I actually wrote before you bother to respond again. It’s getting tiresome seeing vague and awkwardly worded comments to things I never wrote.

        • levitan
          May 18, 2012 at 6:42 am #

          an you read?….Please comprehend what I actually wrote before you bother to respond again.”

          Now then Andrew, you can’t on one hand accuse others of abusing sarcasm and snarky comments and then go ahead and do that yourself. Show some class, and then you can go on to show some substance.

          I will not accept a study comparing Russia to any state of the US, nor should you. As they say, you have lies, damned lies, and then you have statistics.

    • Home Run
      May 17, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

      ATTENTION … As LITTLE folk on The Planet. We are making in roads in being heard. There have been several sighting is GOB scouts seen landing on The Planet.

      They are generally GOB admin minions sent here to calm the natives before the withdraw all kids and parent with kids storming other such districts in the county.

      Top 2 possible minions


      Thought to be armed with thoughts to pat you on the head and assure you all is well in the schools.

      Little folks … Don’t drink the cool aid … Progress IS being made but don’t settle for AVERAGE when we pay so dearly.

      Message over and out

      • Pittsfield Pete
        May 17, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

        Yip.. Planet Folk , I just spotted another GOB admin minion in West Pittsfield.

        The clue… Some one mentioned Terry Kinnas by name. The admin minion chocked on his coffee and slipped on a banana peel as he tried to get back in his school building and lock all the doors. Guess he thought Kinnas was going to try enter the school building.

        A miscreant from the public attempted to give him CPR, but the minion could not take accecpt hi offer unless the miscreant Was a good speller and could use grammar correctly.

        The miscreant told the minion he graduated from PHS. At which point the minion went in to greater distress and died.

        Now if that is not Karma I don’t know what is… As it turns out that minion was the one who called Terry a miscreant.

        Oh well !

      • bobbyd
        May 17, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

        LOL! Average is not good enough for us. We’re shooting for excellence.

        We don’t trust the GOB and we don’t trust the union. We don’t trust DV or The Planet, either. We will settle for nothing less than truth and reason. These can’t be replaced by sleeze peddling and rumormongering any more than they can by evasion and obfuscation.

        • Pittsfield Pete
          May 17, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

          LOL! Average is not good enough for us. We’re shooting for excellence.

          Will some tell Bobby he missed. Way off, so far off we can’t even find the basketball.

          • danvalenti
            May 17, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

            Yeah, Bobby has been shooting up airballs.

    • Pittsfield Pete
      May 17, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

      ‘While some parents might send their children to Lenox (it’s gotta be tough for a school district whose mascot is “The Millionaires”)’

      I am with Andrew , at least we have good mascots The Generals and The Braves.

      I vote to change them to. Pittsfield Home To The Generals and Braves And the Millionaire School System..

      Like you said Andrew, It’s gotta be tough on the PUBLIC with a mascot like that. Especially, when in return you get An Average school and the only guy with the b-lls to ask questions gets called a miscreant on here.

  15. Just a thought !
    May 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    So really Andrew it is with so much relif that you can assure us that are schools are prividing a fine education. You make sure a convincing and eloquent case, and we are so thrill to have someone so versed educational studies from around the world.

    However, to us poor humle folks who are so flawed we misspell words.

    I ask this simple, question-

    Why in the world or even where in the world would anybody be content with –

    An Average Educational System For A Millionaire Price?

    Pray tell can you gather some data from some country or other state that supports that.

    • Andrew
      May 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

      Hey look! The kind of snarky retort riddle with grammatical errors and substance-less sarcasm I predicted. That was quick.

      I was simply offering a perspective you seem so intent on ignoring. My point was that we don’t have an average educational system. We have a great educational system if you were to compare it to the rest of the country.

      Nowhere did I say we shouldn’t be concerned about funding issues or be continually pushing for the betterment of the district. But the tone and language of some on this site is closer to hysterical outrage rather than reasonable concern. As for an average educational system for a millionaire price? I take it that you mean that somehow the total education budget for PPS is the same as that of a community of equal population but with greater wealth. Maybe you could explain the logic behind that statement or provide proof that Pittsfield spends more comparatively on its schools than that of a school district of equal size and wealth. I’ll wait.

      • GEE Whiz
        May 17, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

        Andrew nice try but no cigar. I like the way you start. You “feel somewhat compelled.” Somewhat. So that means you arent compelled except partically and weakly. You compare Pittsfield public schools to one-tooth Mississsippi or Gums, Arkansas. That’s a ringing endorsement. Just a Thought got you: For a multi-millionaire price we get an “average” school system. For you that’s good enough. Not for us though we are fed up with the scam thats running called public education in the Pitts. Divide 90 million dollars into 6000. Thats what it costs to send kids to school. And reread the comments from Dvs school sources, espec. the middle school teacher on cell phones. Wake up, sleepy head!!

        • Andrew
          May 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

          Again, you clearly don’t understand what I wrote. I’ve reread it and it doesn’t say what you think it says.

          By the way, if you think ranting on a website is going to change things, it’s you who has to wake up. If you think Terry Kinnas and Dan Valenti somehow have the solutions to improve Pittsfield’s educational system, it’s you who has to wake up. I

          • ambrose
            May 17, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

            Andrew, if you wrestle with pigs you get all muddy. The pig likes it. I worked with Terry Kinnas. I could tell you plenty and so could anyone who knows him. But, why bother, Dan loves him because he makes good copy. Do you think that anybody comes to this site to read good thing about anything? Dan’s info comes from unhappy people within the system. He will never tell you how long its been since he’sbeen in a public school to view what’s going on first hand.

          • GEE Whiz
            May 17, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

            I HAVE understood you, Bobby, and that’s what bothers you. You make big talk about “facts and reason” yet you violate both. DV caught you red-handed in your remarks about access to schools. Admit it, and then I can respect you

        • bobbyd
          May 17, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

          You make a lot of bold assertions with no evidence. In fact, you don’t want be bothered with evidence.

          Is education expensive? It sure is! Does it make up a huge portion of local budgets? You bet! That’s true everywhere, not just here.

          Do we need budgetary reform? We need it at all levels of government. Everyone should know how public money is being spent and how taxation affects the economy. On those issues we do not disagree at all.

          I will pay attention to factual evidence and well-reasoned arguments. I just get pissed when I see half truths and innuendo. There is a lot being done to increase the quality of the education here in Pittsfield, and a lot more can be done. People who generate a ton of heat and no light are part of the problem, not the solution.

          • GEE Whiz
            May 17, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

            This is your weakest reply yet. Look at it, you, even you, admit here: education is expensive and it need budget reform. You are agreeing with me and with most of us here. OK Bobbyd you want “facts” give us “facts” on “a lot” thats being done to increase ed quality in Pitts. What specifically, and more imp, what are the results? without comparing up to One-Tooth, Appalachia so we look good by comparison. Are we getting 90 million $$ worth of education results? Why are you and the apologists for a failed system so afarid?

          • bobbyd
            May 17, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

            Gee Wiz: Yes, there are probably a lot of things we agree on. In fact, we probably agree on more than we don’t. Where we seem to differ is that we don’t see the value in using energy solving non-existent problems when there are enough real problems to keep us busy.

            BTW, in the future, try to keep the issue of the rights and roles of school committee members separate from the issue of budgets and taxation. Two separate issues entirely.

          • danvalenti
            May 17, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

            Thank you. Good post.

          • Pittsfield Pete
            May 17, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

            Shhhh. Any one hear that noise? Sounds like someone talking. Oh It’s only bobby out there in virtual cyber space lock up. LOL

            He is till on about Terry’s rights and lack of rights to walk down a school’s hallway.

      • Pittsfield Pete
        May 17, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

        You got that right Andrew… It is outrage rather than just ‘reasonable concern’

        In fact, I am outraged that you are not out raged. The idea that there has been no response from someone in the school dept to address the issues at hand is indeed outrageous.Then someone from the schools tells us to pipe down, all is ok, our schools are average.

        Your need to term this matter as reasonable concern was lost on me a long time ago.

        Let’s face it you have a vested interest in keeping me calm .

        • Andrew
          May 17, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

          I have no interest in your calmness or any other emotion you may inclined to feel. Just because people have alternative points of view does not mean they have devious interests. I have no conflict of interest in the Pittsfield Public Schools but I can certainly claim more experience and knowledge in the matter of public education than most here.

          • Just a Thought !
            May 17, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

            Question. What is your experience and track record like in – accountability and transparency?

            Answer – zero

            Why ! you even get mad just being asked about it .

  16. tito
    May 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    Tell em ANdy!

  17. joe blow
    May 17, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    Dan, any news on the police, the firemen and the county corrections officers caught in the sting?

  18. Scott
    May 17, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    How come no one ever discusses the importance of a secure family home life and parental involvement in your children s education? If you leave it all up to the system and use entitlement based on “your tax dollars” the system will fail your children 60% of the time.

    • danvalenti
      May 17, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

      Superb insight, here. If the parents eschew their responsibilities, the schools have little chance.

      • Scott
        May 18, 2012 at 4:25 am #

        My son goes to a small private school with less then 20 kids and we’re still heavily involved we help with his home work go on all school trips and even do lunch at the school for everyone once a month. If he get’s behind on his work for whatever reason we go into the school meet with the teacher get all his work and makes sure that he understands it and gets it caught up. Parental involvement is key if your kids have to deal with public school life and have no security when they get home they don’t stand a chance. We should all be investing in our children’s education.

  19. dusty
    May 18, 2012 at 2:26 am #

    I would like to ask Andrew if he thinks the people are entitled to ask Alf questions? And get answers. Like, why are the school committee minutes so outdated? Is this for some reason a tall mountain to climb? It seems to me that if Alf cannot or will not push to get this seemedly simple task done then he is telling the public to piss off….that he does not care what people think about his job performance.

    This school committee, if it were a board of trustees for a fortune 500 company, would run the company into the ground within a year and the people on it should be ashamed of themselves that they pretend to be there to facilitate children’s education.

    That is my opinion Andrew.

  20. taxmano
    May 18, 2012 at 3:09 am #

    I’m losing track..what is the issue everone wants the school dept. to comment on? The alleged affair of Jake with a principal? The misuse of federal funds? Other?

  21. mercadee
    May 18, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    The only article that voters failed to pass asked the Select Board to request that the Central Berkshire Regional School Committee designate the appropriate schools for the town’s vocational students starting in the 2013-14 academic year, Kokindo said.