PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, NOV. 20, 2012) — When the business keeps losing money, when its product continues to decline in quality, when its customers lose confidence in its line, and when all this occurs in a recession, you would never see the employees of that business receive a 10% to 16% pay raise over three years, especially when those employees had to work only a half a year and made $70,000 a year in average compensation. …

… unless, of course, that “business” is the Pittsfield Public Schools, which once again held a gun to the head of politicians (who caved, naturally) and fleeced taxpayers for a double-digit rectal.

It would be one thing if the district were the shining star of the east, but when it comes contiguous with a damning state audit that essentially says the major systemic flaws identified six years ago were never fixed, the situation makes the sausage pop out of the skin.

The Pittsfield Schools lost $3 million due to school choice (parents taking their kids out of a sinking district). Test scores are down. The interim superintendent, Dr. Gordon Noseworthy, admitted to wide “achievement gaps.” Moreover, the teachers, according to Noseworthy’s own words, are afraid of extra work and are in it only for themselves.

Schools Consume 70% of the City Budget

The Pittsfield School Department eats up 70% of a $132 million municipal budget. It would seem logical that if there is to be any reform to save the city from financial collapse prior to 2020, it would have to start there. School department employees make the highest salaries, eat up the largest portion of taxpayer funded benefits, work the fewest hours, and underperform every other city department.

THE PLANET has in previous columns outlined sensible reform (first step: School uniforms for pupils). We won’t take that path today. We will, however, remind everyone that once again, since the greener pastures lured the sad sack superintendent Jake Eberwein III out of the district, Pittsfield Public School Department is still searching for a Jake’s replacement. Jake, who on his last day gave his secretary a $5,000 bonus (6/29/12), gave taxpayers an equivalent and opposite “kiss”: He left them with a broken down district that has but one talent: To eat up money faster than taxpayers can cough it up.

In the school committee notes from Oct. 12, we have interesting insights into the superintendent search. You’ll recall how the school committee under Alf Barbalunga‘s leadership embarrassed itself in its first (failed) search. Is the process heading the same way again?

Send in the Experts … But for What?

On Oct. 12, a gentleman named Bill Garr thanked the committee for choosing Future Management Systems Inc. Garr works for Future Management. He thus came to kiss the goose that would begin laying golden eggs for his company.

Isn’t it interesting that with all the manpower available locally, both on the school committee and in the business community, Alf and the Gang would have to rely on outside experts. THE PLANET identifies that as part of the problem. Outside consultants have no stake in the process. There is no reason whatsoever to employ outside consultants again. They tried that last year, and you see where that got you, taxpayers.

Education has become so rule-bound, so proscribed, so out of the purview of local communities that school boards panic at every major decision, such as choosing a new super. Rather than “man up” and take responsibility, they would rather hire an outside firm of so-called “experts” to tell them what to do. If the management consultant’s recommendations work out, the school board can take the glory. If not, the school board can shrug off the blame. It’s a wimped-out way to make as important a decision as choosing the next superintendent.

Bad Decision Right from the Get Go on Communication

Garr gave school board members a handout with a timeline for the hiring process — like the school board couldn’t come up with that on their own. Garr asked that the school committee communicate with his firm through Chairman Barbalunga. Bad move: This assures that most of the communication from the board to Future Management will come distilled, edited, and second hand.

Then Garr said something startling in its obviousness. From the minutes: “[Garr] reiterated the search process will be driven by the [school] Committee.” Why would he have to say that? Or put it this way: If that is the case, why did the school committee need to hire a consultant, if it will be doing the driving? Amazing. Thus, officials will blow another large sum of taxpayer money (the consultant’s hefty fee, which we could not find listed anywhere publically).

Next, Garr asked that the school committee create a search committee consisting of one to two of its own members “as well as other members of the greater Pittsfield community.” Oh golly, gosh, jeepers: You know what that last phrase, the one in quotes, means. It gives the chairman carte blanche to load the committee with GOBs. Since when was the last time a senior official (Barbalunga) defined “members of the greater Pittsfield community” as anything other than GOBs. And how much do  you want to bet school committeeman Terry Kinnas is not on the search committee.

Pittsfield Needed a Veddy Expensive Consultant to Tell them This?

The search committee (not Future Management) will start with a pool of 30 to 40 candidates and recommend finalists to the school committee, Garr said on Oct. 12.

In the words of Sylvester the Cat: You gotta be spitting me. The school committee needed a high-powered, veddy expensive management firm to tell them this??

The Oct. 12 minutes go on: “The School Committee will then interview those candidates and could ask the Search Committee to recommend others. In Mr. Garr’s experience, the School Committee has never been displeased with the candidates that were recommended to them.”

Read that last sentence again.

“Never” is an absolute term, and perhaps that explains why Pittsfield has a talent for coming up with losers for the superintendent’s job, people like Dr. Darlington and Jake Eberwein. Perhaps the committee should begin to be displeased with the candidates recommended to them.

A GOB-Driven Search will Want Someone with One Major Quality: To Ability to Look the Other Way and ‘Play Ball’

Since this search will be like the others — that is, GOB driven — the first and foremost quality school officials will want in its ideal candidate will be compliance. They will want a high paid monkey that will see no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil. The last thing they will want, because the GOB doesn’t want it for them, will be a reformer. They will not want a person who will come in and clean house. They will not want a crusader who will reveal the cesspool of corruption that has bled taxpayers dry and is best exemplified by the events such as the $9,000 theft of prom money at PHS (a crime that has never been solved or prosecuted) and  Contractgate.

Naturally, this being a taxpayer-funded enterprise and our form of government being a “democracy,” Garr told the committee that “confidentiality is of utmost importance. If there are leaks, candidates could be lost as they are typically sitting Superintendents employed by other districts.” In other, Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, butt out. You have no need to know. Just shut the hell up and pay for the whole damn thing.

The First Search Committee Failed, So Let’s Use that One Again

Committee member Kathy Amuso told Garr that the search committee assembled last year for the failed search “was a very diverse group. In order to save time and effort, the School Committee might consider the same group for this search.” Can’t you see it coming?

Why on earth would you want to go with the same group that failed its mission the first time? Terry Kinnas supplied the answer. He noted that of the 17 members on last year’s inept school committee, most of them were school department employees. THAT is why.

The GOB doesn’t want outside views. It doesn’t want more people from the private sector. It doesn’t want seniors. It doesn’t want taxpayers who do not have children in the school system. Those three groups, by the way, should and would dominate the serach committee if this was a fair, objective process.

But this is Pittsfield.

Garr then told the committee it needs to:

* Create a Leadership Profile — The minutes indicate that Garr did not define this, nor did any of the school committee members ask.

* Develop a Job Description — Consisting of “a list of tasks that the Committee would like the Superintendent to accomplish.”

* Define Comps and a Salary Level — This is where they will again give away the store. The more unqualified, the higher the compensation, as long as the successful candidate has the smarts to “play ball” and preserve the status quo, decaying though it may be. Garr said the salary should be in the $150,000-$170,000 range for Pittsfield. In other words, the higher the salary, the more likely it will be to lure a mercenary, someone who’s only interested in the money and who won’t mind rolling over and playing dead in the face of the rot and decay in the district.

From the minutes: “Regarding salary, Chair Barbalunga noted that he would prefer to see a higher salary but offer less perks and other forms of compensation. Mr. Garr agreed this was sound, noting that he cautions against annuities, providing a vehicle, etc. He recommends putting as much as possible into salary and letting the candidate decide where to put the money.”

Well, maybe Mary Jane and Joe can tell the new superintendent “where to put the money” … for instance, someplace where the sun doesn’t shine.

For the record, the school committee approved 5-1 a motion by James Conant, seconded by Kathy Yon, “that the school committee … offer a salary in the range of $150,000-$170,000.”

Ladies and gentleman, it’s about to happen again.












  1. taxmano
    November 20, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    You say that
    ” the greener pastures lured the sad sack superintendent Jake Eberwein III out of the district.”
    From that, it sounds like Jake simply decided to leave.
    I heard differently. So did a lot of people. Was anything ever confirmed about his sudden departure?

  2. Deb S
    November 20, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    I know my solution is simple but we need to get rid of most of the administration…there is way too many of them.

  3. Banjo
    November 20, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    The ‘greener pastures’ that got rid of Jake were an offer he couldn’t refuse. As was the case with Jake’s old man in GOB Pittsfield when you screw up bigtime you end up being rewarded.

  4. Ron Kitterman
    November 20, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    Good jobs at good wages exactly how to turn this economy around, I’d have to agree with you I don’t think Terry will see any envelopes in his mail box with the city of Pittsfield letterhead in the near future.

  5. Dave
    November 20, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Every time that we have a search for a new anything, especially a superintendent, it is always mentioned how we need to pay more to get the “right talent”. So we raise the salary and still hire either a local insider or someone with no experience anyway. Why don’t we ever hear that we have the lowest water rates, property tax rate, garbage pickup included in our taxes when we set a salary? We only hear of these wonderful things when we are asked to pay a little more! I think this will be a very fast process this time because it seems Dr? Noseworthy is not the Dr? Brownnoseworthy that they had hoped.

    • danvalenti
      November 20, 2012 at 10:56 am #

      i give Dr. Noseworthy credit. He seems to be trying to do right by the city and its citizens. One has to applaud his calling out of the teachers union for shooting down the application for the $20 million federal grant.

      • Ole Jack
        November 20, 2012 at 11:31 am #

        Actually, the debacle of the blown grant was a failure of leadership on Noseworthy’s part. The grant was supposed to be written with input from the various stakeholders, not presented to the only people accountable for its terms (the teachers) after the fact!

        • danvalenti
          November 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

          We respectfully disagree. The teachers were informed of the process by the superintendent. He provided UEP president Gail Yates with an executive summary of the 195-page grant application. Yates response was to claim she was being pressured by Noseworthy.Yates claimed the state required member support. That is not the case. Noseworthy said “the state did not mandate anything.” Either Yates or Noseworthy is lying. Noseworthy involved UEP all along. Yates refused to cooperate. I would submit that the leadership failure can be laid to Yates.

          • ambrose
            November 20, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

            . I would submit that the leadership failure can be laid to Yates

            Of course you would.

          • danvalenti
            November 20, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

            Yes, AMBY, of course I would, and I presented my reasoning behind this and why mine is the only logical interpretation when were looking for who failed the leadership test. Dr. Noseworthy did all he could to inform the teachers union via Ms. Yates. She responded with a cynical, short-sighted, and selfish position based on the input of a tiny handful of disgruntled teachers. I have many friends in the UEP. They are deeply disappointed in Yates’ “leadership.”

  6. FPR
    November 20, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    Wow Dan,

    70% ??? I figured about 50% of the budget but 70%.

    That would mean that if everyone pulled their children out of the schools and the entire school system shut down, the people would only have to pay 30% of what they pay now in taxes.

    That is mind boggling.

    Do you realize that a child can learn more in 2 hours of home school than in all 6 or so hours in public school?

    A parent has the child’s best interest at heart. There would be no better teacher. Most babies/children come into this world with arms wide open, and then hand them off to the system.

    “Well I don’t know if I’m ready
    To be the man I have to be
    I’ll take a breath, I’ll take her by my side
    We stand in awe, we’ve created life

    With arms wide open
    Under the sunlight
    Welcome to this place
    I’ll show you everything…………”
    – Creed

    • danvalenti
      November 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

      Yes, 70%. The budget includes the operating aspect (52 million) plus health care, maintenance, and transportation costs of the schools, which are, for some inexplicable reason, hidden within the city-side budget. THE PLANET has led the way in getting the $82 million+ budget as the actual figure, and we are pleased that the school department and school committee use this figure in their budgetary documents.

      • dusty
        November 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

        I would be curious to know how that 70% stacks up against other cities Pittsfields size. Across the country. It sounds ludicrous. What was the percentage 20 years ago? My guess is that there has been gross administrative theft going on for years.

        • danvalenti
          November 20, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

          70% is exorbitantly high, off the scales, in fact.

      • Ole Jack
        November 21, 2012 at 3:57 am #

        I don’t want to belabor the point, but yours is not the only “logical” conclusion about the blown grant. I think you are too biased against the union to be objective. As Scott Eldridge pointed out in the Eagle:
        “The RTTT-D grant required the inclusion of the local Association as a partner in crafting the grant. This inclusion would have precluded many of the concerns voiced by UEP members at a general membership meeting. Unfortunately, Dr. Noseworthy did not include association input until the grant had been written.”
        I stand by my original, logical conclusion. Union rights must be respected, even when unpopular.

        • danvalenti
          November 21, 2012 at 7:50 am #

          Well expressed. I would argue that Dr. Noseworthy DID include the association with his submissions to and contact with Ms. Yates of the union. That being said, I should point out that I am a member of not one, not two, but three teachers unions, including the National Education Assn. and the Mass. Teachers Assn. I respect your well-stated point of view, which means we shall agree to disagree.

  7. NBI
    November 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    Taking the focus off the Pitt for a sec … Did anyone see the Channel 13 news report from Lee last night? The FBI, State Police and District Attorney’s office apparently pulled some sort of raid on the Lee Police HQ. Dan, that seems like a juicy story for you to sink your teeth into. Happy Turkey Day to all.

    • Joe Blow
      November 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

      also a house in Pittsfield..

  8. tito
    November 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    And in other news, a new suspect in the O j Simpson murders is being questioned.

    • Dave
      November 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

      deflection by tito!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

      all his posts deflect!!!!!!!!!!
      King of the Swamp Award to tito for bringing up a non-issue again to deflect conversation of relevant issues!

  9. Dave
    November 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    or he is just an ass!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    you decide

  10. Dave
    November 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    I vote ASSSSSSS
    1-0 ASSSSSS

    • Bain hater
      November 20, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

      SorryDave. You seem to be a douche.

  11. tito
    November 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    Why are you dissing the good Doctor, moron.

  12. tito
    November 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    Darlington wasn’t from this area, who’s the ass Dave?

    • Dave
      November 22, 2012 at 7:05 am #

      she had no experience as a superintendent though, and was paid more than her predecessor despite this fact.

      • Dave
        November 22, 2012 at 7:06 am #

        And I never said I wasn’t an ass also!

        • Dave
          November 22, 2012 at 7:09 am #

          Sorry tito, was having a bad day.

  13. tito
    November 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    Bianchi and Doyle are chuckling at the Charter Review Committee, In the immortal words of Jack Buck, I can’t believe what I just saw.

  14. Gene
    November 20, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    Dave I like your posts but geez, tito can bring up a new topic, can’t he? I would hope you fellas can keep it straight and clean. The Lee PD was raided by the FBI. House in Pittsfield that was searched I believe was that of the Lee police chief, who lives in the city. You interested in this on DV?

    • danvalenti
      November 20, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

      I just got in, and I would say you got it right. Tito, Dave, and anyone else is free to change the subject. There’s no need to get into name calling, as Dave and Bain Hater did. As you says, “Fellows, let’s keep it straight and clean.” Thanks for refereeing.

    • Scott
      November 21, 2012 at 5:34 am #

      The police chief doesn’t own a house in Pittsfield according to mass land records.

  15. Joe Pinhead
    November 20, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    Dan, If only this great search and steering committee could find someone to tell us exactly how much we need to spend to deliver a stellar education. We all know the answer is more money and less working hours for the staff (evidenced by the last contract) In that contract we Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski outlined what we would pay in terms of dollars as well as health care benefits etc and the amount of hours to be worked in terms of hours, days etc. when do we get a contract from the UEP that says in exchange for said terms we will raise the level of education by a factor of XX? Or the leadership of the UEP in conjunction with the Administration will be working towards net school spending and will attain this goal by year XX?
    The whole thing like most things in Pittsfield is a top down driven process, why on earth can’t we use a bottom up driven process? We have an interim Super at this point why not get representation from all areas of the City in proportion to the demographics. If the City has 30% senior population than we should strive for 30 percent senior representation on the search committee and so on- This can’t be that difficult to comprehend can it? If we want to bring business into the City we must ensure the small and large businesses are equally represented in these community decisions.
    The Super search is just an example of how we need to ensure all are being represented and heard. Might I be as bold to suggest to your right good friends on the Counsel to start looking at Participatory Budgeting? PB as it is referred to is a very interesting tool that could be used to ensure the right mix in the budget for services and it could also be used to see if the non profits are fulfilling their mission based upon their own consumers of the service etc.

    Just sayin

    • danvalenti
      November 20, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

      Once again, you are wisdom incarnate. I’m just glad you’re on the side of the law. You are amazing!

    November 20, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    Valenti, the so called Voice of The People. He has turned into a politician. He plans to run for mayor in 2013?This would be the ultimate travesty and insult to the good people of Pittsfield. Valenti is the destroyer not of worlds but of people, he rules by fear, he bullies his way in, he intimidates. If he runs, he will be destroyed.

    • Scott
      November 21, 2012 at 5:31 am #

      I’ll vote for him.

      • danvalenti
        November 21, 2012 at 7:48 am #

        Thanks, SCOTT.

    • FPR
      November 21, 2012 at 5:51 am #

      The GOB network would surely do all in their power to “destroy” (a word you like to use) Dan.

      The Eagle would probably run stories everyday about him.

      However, should Dan Valenti be elected mayor of the City of Pittsfield, it is the GOB network that will be “destroyed”.

      • danvalenti
        November 21, 2012 at 7:48 am #

        FPR, BANJO, and OTHERS who have supported my thus-far phantom campaign for mayor, thank you much for your words of support. I would not run against anyone but for The People, if it should come about.

    • danvalenti
      November 21, 2012 at 7:50 am #

      Happy Thanksgiving to you, PB!

  17. Banjo
    November 21, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    I live in Pittsfield, not only would I vote for Dan VAlenti I’d work for him and my wife and I would contribute to the campaign, PB. There are many more us us that of you PB.