PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, JAN. 10, 2013) — Did you receive a 26% boost in wages in the fives years from 2005 to 2011? Is your average salary, including compensation for benefits, $74,298.75? Does your work year consist of six months? Do you have six months off? If so, you must be a Pittsfield teacher.

The $74,298.75 average compensation does not include the recent 16% pay raise given to the 600 or so teachers in the recent contract signed by Mayor Dan Bianchi and the Pittsfield School Committee with the United Educators of Pittsfield. It means that at the end of the 2014-15 school year, the average compensation will be around $86,200.

Two Types of “Teachers” in the UEP

Most of the teachers in the United Educators of Pittsfield work hard, earn their keep, and are grateful for the generosity afforded to them by taxpayers. They are the silent ones, who will not speak out against union leadership for fear of retribution. You can spell “heart” without that kind of “teacher.” THE PLANET speaks for them. A fraction of the unionistas, however, are of “the world owes me a living” variety. They are the loud ones. They complain about their lot, and, while you pay them close to $80,000 this year, also want you to feel sorry for them. They are the few bad eggs that control politicians and spoil the rest of the batch. You can spell “treacherous” without this type of “teacher.”

This latter type of “fiscal prudence,” which has become a speciality under Mayor Dan Bianchi, drips with the juice that spills upon it from the Gravy Train, a sauce made from the moldings of taxpayer wallets and purses. Financially, the School Department has become the single-most problematic issue for the city of Pittsfield at this juncture, the beginning of a municipal election year. In one generation, the city doubled the number of teachers, tripled the number of administrators, halved the number of students, exponentially raised the compensation packages, and did all this while presiding over a severe decline in quality, achievement, and performance.

The School Department:

* Now eats up 70% of a $133,000,000 municipal budget.

* Has an unsustainably high level of compensation for both teachers and administrators.

* Occupies sainted status in the moribund politics of the city. It’s the Sacred Cow. “Can’t Touch This” is its theme song.

* Allows out-of-control children to run its classrooms.

* Rewards failure.

* Fails to prepare far too many  young men and women for life after high school.

* Bears a large responsibility for keeping jobs out of Pittsfield by (a) failing to produce an educated work force and (b) throwing cold water on the aspirations of any company that might want to consider moving to the city. Companies research school departments thoroughly before making a move. They don’t rely on the rosy bromides provided by the Vested Interests.

* Has an inept  School Committee that worries more about masturbatory politics than it does about kids’ educations.

* FAils to acknowledge the seriousness of its problems.

THE PLANET points this information out because as this election year progresses, the GOB will once again rev up the Propaganda Machine, and tell us how swimmingly peachy things are in the classrooms.



Speaking of Peachy Keen, did you love the Boring Broadsheet‘s fawning coverage of Elizabeth “Granny Clampett” Warren‘s visit to Pittsfield.

“Senator Elizabeth Warren generates optimism in trip to Pittsfield” boasts the headline. The derelicts wet themselves, we bet, as they covered themselves with a BB blanket from their perch in Persip Park.

You’ll have to read scribe Jim Therrien‘s political correct fluffernutter yourself to get an idea the gagging sweetness of the story. Warning: Diabetics should not read.

“I’m so Glad You Won Exclamation Point”

We are told that as Granny Warren walked with Mayor Bianchi, state lawmakers, supporters, and assorted other coat carriers and bum kissers, she heard shouts such as “I’m so glad you won!” and “We were rooting so much for you!” Exclamation point, exclamation point!! North Adams Mayor Dick “Do Right” Alcombright chipped in with this gem: “I’m so glad to call you our senator.” As opposed to what: our grand goomah? Our halitosic ‘ho? Our playmate of the second?

Warren shocked the world in a brief press conference at City Hall. Stop the Presses!! Astounding Announcements! She says she is for — are ya’ sittin’ down? — improving education (like the rest of us are not), wants more training (of what? The suckups who did not scrape and bow low enough for her regal tastes?), wants to “address infrastructure needs,” and — can you believe this — is in “favor of economic development that would benefit the middle class.” She’s a regular Joan of Spark, this one.

Bianchi and Alcombright, hitting their cues beautifully, also favored “infrastructure and education funding, economic development, and job creation.” The parrot must have gotten loose again in Pittsfield. As they said this, Warren drank a glass of water. Good Gosh.

Why doesn’t someone, for once, tell one of these Boston big shots to leave us the hell alone. Then, maybe, they will realize how seedy things have become in the city of Pittsfield.

State Reps. Gail “School Marm” Cariddi, D-Exasperation, expressed that she has “every confidence” in Sen. Granny. To do what? Continue to tax the middle class out of existence? Continue to spend our money like the Mayan calendar was a month off?

Leaving city hall, Warren smiled in approval as State Rep. Tricia Farley Bouvier Kennedy Onassis Schlossberg, D-My Kids Don’t Go To Pittsfield Schools, and state Sen. Ben Downing, D-To Be Married Soon, bobbed their heads up and down, in unison, to the beat of, “Funky Town.” Bianchi did a jig with Sherrif Tom Bowler after Warren said she would not only build a new police station for Pittsfield, but would send the city a Monopoly game that replaced all the Chance and Community Chest cards with “Get thrown into Jail Free” cards.

“We’re all in this together,” Warren gushed as her limo pulled out of Palookaville. Another daze. Another of your dollars.



‘Warren and What Is NOT the Source of Optimism


The front page article [in the Berkshire Eagle] on the optimism generated by  Elizabeth Warren’s visit to Pittsfield is very instructive. The optimism is about the new senator’s willingness to spend other people’s money. The list in the article is: 
1. education
2. job funding
3. life sciences
4. internet access
5. solar power
6. police headquarters
7. infrastructure (unspecified)
8. economic development

Notice what is not the source of optimism. There is no demand for her to support economic freedom, or fiscal responsibility, or even just stable taxes. There is no demand for her to keep Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid solvent. There is only a demand to use money from others in far away, irrelevant places (for people in the Berkshires)  like Indiana, for local goodies. Fortunately not every public official is evaluated solely based on the benefits they can extract from other parts of the country. Some actually have to respond to the interests of all Americans, if not the world.

Charles Trzcinka

James and Virginia Cozad Professor of Finance

Kelley School of Business

Indiana University

THE PLANET thanks Prof. Trzcinka for his commentary.



Hold on to your wallets, Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski. School board member Kathy Yon, who chairs the board’s superintendent search screening committee, has delivered the bad news: She, Kool and the Gang, and the others have whittled down to six the number of candidates vying to become the committee’s next Head Partner in Crime, otherwise known as “superintendent.”

In Pittsfield, the superintendent must learn to pad the payroll with buddies; see, hear, and speak no truth; and look the other way when an associate superintendent greases his secretary with a free new house. It also helps to cover up when $9,000 in prom money is stolen from a teacher’s desk. Wait long enough, and — Poof! — it just goes away.

Status Quo Plays Well with These Jokers

What? You don’t think for a second that the School Committee would ever let anyone survive who actually wanted to come in here and put a stop to the Robbery Done in the name of “The Children”, do you? There’s too much money at stake ($90 million and rising) to get a reformer in Dodge.

Now if this super search was on the level, the best procedure might be to throw out the screening committee’s six finalists and instead to with the dozen that the committee chose to bypass. You know if the Dirty Dozen weren’t good enough for the screening committee, they probably showed too much independence and smarts. Better yet, they could take the short cut and just hire Christine Canning Wilson, a track-proven reformer who knows how to get the job done.

But no. This is Pittsfield.

Ms. Yon and the others: Here are some suggested questions for the superintendent candidates:

* What is your view of robbery? (a) Robbery of taxpayers? (b) Robbery of prom money?

* Do you wear bow ties?

* Do you know the meaning of the Latin phrase, “Aliam excute, quercum“?

* What do you get when you cross a slush fund with a fib?



Did you hear the one about the City Council and the School Department?

No? Count your blessings.

At the council meeting Tuesday night, our Right Honorable Good Friends tried again with the Ivory Tower Folks. You might recall the council unanimously voted to get interin supt. Gordon Noseworthy and the head of the United Educators of Pittsfield (whose escape names me) to explain why the teachers put the skids on $20 million in federal money. Naturally, the teachers having just been granted by the council the extra funds needed for their 16% pay raise, told councilors to fudge themselves.

Only they didn’t say fudge. They said what John Boehner said to Harry Reid. Noseworthy pretended not to hear.

So what are the odds that school officials will actually present themselves to councilors to explain school budgets?

Councilor Barry Clairmont pointed out that councilors do not have line-item review of the school budget, and this is true. Nonetheless, he and his colleagues know that the council controls the overall, bottom line number. They could easily vote on any given mayoral budget to throw the school department’s bottom line number and say, “Nope. Not this time. We want 10% taken off here. Let the school department find the cuts. If they can’t, we will.”

Away, away! with these self-lving lads, whom Cupid’s arrows never glads.







  1. Teecha teecha
    January 10, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    I’m definitely working in the wrong school system. We are top 10 ranked in the state and the average salary is around $65-70 after 20 years of service. Wow Pittsfield, just… Wow

    • bobbyd
      January 10, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

      Just curious, what system do younwork for? And are you speaking of cash salary or entire compensation package?

      • danvalenti
        January 10, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

        The figures used here are for total compensation.

        • bobbyd
          January 10, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

          Yours were, yes. I was curious about the figures used by Teecha.

  2. Still wondering
    January 10, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    Dan, you hit it right on the head regarding Granny’s visit to Pittsfield. It was a gag producing, GOB wallowing preenfest for our rookie politicians. (Her included).
    How could Massachusetts be so gullible to elect a far left academic to one of the most important positions in the country? The mind reels.

    • danvalenti
      January 10, 2013 at 11:45 am #

      “Preenfest.” Great word.

    • Scott
      January 10, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

      I voted for her because aside form gun control she made sense when she talked about wall street and small business so let’s give her a chance to see if she really does anything. Up until I was on my way to the voting booth in the car Brown had my vote. The truth is though no politician can be trusted to do what they say when their looking for a job.

      • Scott
        January 10, 2013 at 1:23 pm #


        • joetaxpayer
          January 10, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

          Scott Brown help close the loophole in Congressional insider trading law. He has also aged pretty well too .

          • joetaxpayer
            January 10, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

            Also did you give Scott Brown a chance, he never got to finish a full term.

      January 10, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

      What should they have done, ignore her? That would have showed some class.

    • Blind Justice
      January 12, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

      Think Lia-whatha Warren will be back for the pow pow in Lanesboro , dressed in full traditional regalia of her “indian heritage”.

  3. joetaxpayer
    January 10, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Wondering what cuts Mr Mayor will come up with to pay for these raises. Just don’t think he has the balls to do anything, besides raise tax’s. Nice to see Chief Spitting Bull visiting Pittsfield maybe we can get some more useless pork projects going in the City.

    • danvalenti
      January 10, 2013 at 11:39 am #

      Cuts? I know you’re being facetious, Joe. Cuts? How about cutting the grass on his front lawn? That’s about it.

  4. Tim Bartini
    January 10, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    Dan you say your not a Howie Carr wanna be yet you lower yourself to calling the Senator “Granny”. Very mature Dan. Every day you seem to sink lower and lower.

    • Scott
      January 10, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

      I think as far as that’s concerned she’s aged gracefully.

    • ambrose
      January 10, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

      That’s what they teach at the Newhouse School of Communication, call names, then you’ve got ’em. A professor once didn’t teach Dan, once you get them calling names you’ve won your point.

  5. tito
    January 10, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    next year will be the year they cut taxes, it always is……

  6. joetaxpayer
    January 10, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    We need to make major cuts just to keep the budget from bloating beyond belief. With the new Taconic renovated PHS, new police station and raises for employees. Not to mention we have to start to put money towards the unfunded liability. Not to mention are so called free cash will be drying up. What’s wrong with granny Warren, he was nice enough not to call her for what she is a fake Indian.

    • danvalenti
      January 10, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

      “Cherokee people. Cherokee tribe. So proud to live. Too proud to die.”

      • ambrose
        January 10, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

        Dan, you wrote for and did all you could to help Scott Brown. He lost, So now you make fun of her.

        • joetaxpayer
          January 10, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

          No Ambrose, We the people lost. God willing we will be found, when Scott is re-elected.

  7. bobbyd
    January 10, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Dan, I truly appreciate your kind words about the majority of teachers that work in Pittsfield. Most of us do work hard, putting in extra hours at night, on weekends, and during the summer to do our best by students.

    Nine years ago I went back to school to get my teaching license, my sole desire being to work in Pittsfield. I feel privileged to be able to do so and do appreciate the opportunity extended to me by the city’s taxpayers. And I do feel that they have been very generous.

    I can honestly say that I have always done my best to earn my pay and endevored to make whatever school I have worked in a better, more effective place. I would like to think I have accomplished that at least in some small measure.

    We may not always see eye to eye on issues in spite of the fact that we likely share similar political and social philosophies. Even so, I’m glad you recognize there are people in the system who work with integrity and authenticity to make it the best system it can be.

    • danvalenti
      January 10, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

      Those remarks were sincere and well-intended. Believe me, I do realize the tough job teachers have, and I do appreciate those teachers, such as yourself, who fit that hard-working, honorable description. It’s men and women like you who give us some hope that with proper reform, the public school system can turn around and become a force for good. Thank you for your service. Consider THE PLANET one of your fans.

  8. Spitting Bull
    January 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    Warren is a proven liar, hypocrite and fraud. The only thing she’s gonna do is toe the party line and spend us into oblivion. The voters of MA. have no critical thinking skills and as a result people like her get elected.

  9. Dave
    January 10, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    bobbyd, I have another tab going from youtube playing the world’s smallest violin as I reread your post. I fought back the tears aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, shit one tear got stuck between the a and s sorry….I think you you might finally realize that we do not have a problem with paying GOOD teachers. We have a problem with the virtually no accountability for the bad ones. You have to admit, in every proffession there are good employees and bad. I think the best thing the PPS could do is offer an early retirement program that gives teachers who don’t really want to continue(and I am sure there would be some) a way out with a little bonus. This money would easily be recooped with the difference in pay between the steps involved with hiring a new, younger, more impassioned fresh face, and an older disheartened, only still in it for the paycheck hack, probabaly at the highest step wage available. The new younger teacher would also not need as much training to keep up with the newer technology. Just a thought!!!

    • bobbyd
      January 10, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

      I know good teachers, both young and old, and have seen firsthand how hard it is to get rid of ineffective teachers, both young and old. I’m hoping the state’s new review system will be a step in the right direction. It offers support for educators who need it, but also provides a mechanism that facilitates weeding out poor ones.

      Like you, I am all for fixing what needs fixing. But I also strongly believe in recognizing and building upon what’s working. It’s helpful to know that people do realize that there are good teachers in the system and that effective reform is possible. A lot of positive changes have taken place at my school over the past few years, and I hope some of what we do catches on in other places.

      FWIW, there’s no need for the tears or the violin, I love what I do and plan to be there for as long as I’m allowed.

      • Dave
        January 10, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

        bobbyd, “states new review system” does not give me any confidence that things will change. Wasn’t one of the main reasons the UEP did not want to sign on to the $20 million grant was the accountability aspects? My feeling is you are one of the “good” teachers, even though I don’t know you, and my remarks have always included an attempt at humor along with my views. “Snide” was not my intention, and since it wasn’t you who made that remark. I feel you get it. I enjoy reading your opinions, especially when it pertains to the educational system.

        • bobbyd
          January 10, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

          It’s all good.

          I can only give you my impressions about the grant.

          Let me begin by saying that even if we received the grant, it probably would not have been $20 million. The grant amounts for districts from 5,000-10,000 students was $10 to $20 million. Since our district is on the lower end of that range, we would likely have received closer to the lower limit of funding. Still, that is rather a minor point.

          As for accountability, all grants come with accountability, manly from the administrative end. Strict records need to be kept to prove fiscal responsibility and to show effectiveness.

          The new educator accountability system of which I was speaking is part of the obligation the state took on when it initially accepted Race-to-the-Top. It was passed into regulation last year. While some parts of it are subject to collective bargaining, the regulations are pretty tight, and any substantive changes to the language have to be approved by the DESE. Those regulations and the model language are well worth a read.

          Now, turning specifically to the RTTT-D grant.

          The terms of the grant specify that teachers need to be involved in the process from the beginning, because they are primarily responsible for implementation. Before the money can be allocated, there has to be a guarantee that the level of involvement would be sufficient to meet the terms of the grant and that the district could keep its promises.

          Absolute Priority #1 of the grant is the formation of “Personalized Learning Environments.” They are an interesting if unproven idea, well worth a Google! Setting up and operating them properly requires a HUGE investment in technological infrastructure, one that would not be sustainable. Our district struggles with maintaining the tech infrastructure they already have. Moreover, reformulating curriculum and recording around infrastructure with an uncertain future is … troublesome. Pittsfield teachers had been burned by that once before.

          Furthermore, getting this initiative up and running would also have required a massive investment in new administrative personnel, which would also have been unsustainable.

          Year one of the grant would have been a training year, during which teachers would have been trained how to setup and use these personalized learning environments. There was no indication what years 2 to 4 would look like at all. IMO, there was just too much uncertainty.

          Keep in mind that these are just my impressions. YMMV.

      • dusty
        January 10, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

        bobbyd, do you have an opinion on the Pittsfield School Committee? I feel like it is actually a roadblock to improving the system because their focus seems misdirected away from actual education of the children. Except for Kinnas I would unload the whole bunch of them and start over.

        Also, do you feel that many teachers are just afraid to speak out for fear of retribution?

        • bobbyd
          January 10, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

          My 16-year-old LOVES watching the school committee. He finds it more entertaining than wrestling.

          The role of the school committee is essentially policy-making. They don’t directly hire and fire personnel except for the superintendent, so I don’t think most teachers opinion’s about the school committee are of any more gravity or significantly different from that of my son.

          IMO, the best the school committee could do is take their responsibility to hire a superintendent very seriously. We need a leader with a clear vision for the future.

          We need to decide as a community what it is we want from our educational system, then hire a leader that shares that vision, can articulate it clearly, and make it happen.

          My focus over the past few years has been to increase student achievement. Honestly, and perhaps selfishly, I would like a leader for whom that is a priority.

          I am not entirely sure what Pittsfield wants out of their educational system. There is a sort of amorphous desire to “fix it” or “make it better,” but there are too many competing ideas out there about exactly what that means. That’s the conversation that really needs to happen.

  10. joetaxpayer
    January 10, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    Bobby thank you for your honesty and input, Dave you really had some good ideas no need for snide remarks. I think we all realise that we need some serious reform in our education system. It unfortunately will not happen with the strangle hold the unions have on Washington.

    • bobbyd
      January 10, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

      Part of the struggle is the notion that there is such a thing as an educational system. In reality, that is a relatively new construct.

      Until the 1950s, education was largely a local enterprise. With the rise of the “Red Menace”, the Eisenhower administration began exerting influence, advocating the importance of the sciences in keeping America strong. (A lot of what drove ed reform at the time sounded eerily similar to what we hear today.)

      The federal government began to exert even more control—and perhaps rightly so—with the rise of the civil rights movement. Federal influence was finally and firmly secured with the formation of the Department of Education as a cabinet-level department during the Carter administration.

      The modern idea of education reform began to take hold in the 80s, and education became a political football. In the 90s, outcome-/standards-based education became prominent, and states were directed by the federal department to implement state educational standards and assessment. As a result, control of education became more centralized. The federal department used the obvious educational inequities between states as the impetus to encourage states to adopt the Common Core, centralizing control even more. A national curriculum cannot be far behind.

      Many positives have resulted from modern ed reform—along with a number of unintended negatives. A good rule of thumb is that education always serves the interests of whoever controls it. When it was a community-based effort, it served local interests. Now that we are approaching a true system of education, I am curious just whose interests it will serve and what those interests will be.

  11. Pat
    January 10, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    Dan, I agree that the Pittsfield School system turns out kids who don’t have the skills to fill the few jobs there are locally. Not the fault of the kids, but of the system itself which worries more about teacher compensation than about actually preparing kids for the future. Another reason why people who can afford to will send their children to private schools including many of the GOB’s in the area, the same ones who keep throwing more money at the Pittsfield schools.

    I know there are many older workers here in Berkshire County who are fearful of the younger workers, well because they are younger, and the older ones know how scarce jobs are here in Berkshire County and the older workers will guard their jobs very fiercely. It’s the sad state of affairs job-wise here in Berkshire County.

  12. Gene
    January 10, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    Another great post, DV, for stimulating another great discussion. I also enjoyed Prof. Trczinka’s letter.

  13. Silence Dogood
    January 10, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    What was the final determnation on Fauxcahontas and the law license?

  14. Silence Dogood
    January 10, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

  15. Richard
    January 11, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    What in the world made the council think the school dept. would accept an invite to answer questions at a city council meeting. I ember one pass member of the school comity said that they were the ones that new how to take care of the schools and every one else should stay out. This is not an exact quote but that is the basic of what was said, and I think that kind of attitude still exist today. Most of the teachers I talk to say they are very well paid for what they do. So I ask you when it is enough. I who works with the handy cap would be happy if we could get a good cost of living pay increase but all we can get is a few dollars and then city taxes take that and more,

  16. Teecha teecha
    January 12, 2013 at 5:58 am #


    You and others make it clear your disdain for the unions, excessive pay raises, etc. im curious as to peoples thoughts on the MTEL testing required to be teachers in this lovely state. Worth it, or just another way of dipping into teachers pockets?