TAXPAYERS, BEND OVER … IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN — THE $$ “EXPERTS” HAVE COME IN, AND THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE IS SEARCHING FOR A NEW SUPERINTENDENT. THE NEW SALARY: BETWEEN $150,000 and $170,000 plus BENNIES
By DAN VALENTI
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.
TOMORROW ON THE PLANET: WE ANNOUNCE OUR FIRST TURKEY OF THE YEAR AWARD. THIS WILL BE YOUR CHANCE TO SELECT 2012′s “TURKEY.” WILL TELL YOU HOW TOMORROW. A STAKE, A FABULOUS PRIZE!!
LET THE BIRD OF LOUDEST LAY
ON THE SOLE MAPLE TREE
HERALD SAD AND TRUMPET BE
TO WHOSE SOUND CHASTE WINGS OBEY.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.