PEOPLE WANT COMPETITION FOR BROKEN & MORIBUND PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM … JULIA BOWEN, BArT HEAD, COMMENTS ON COVERAGE … STOCKWELL GREAT CHOICE FOR LICENSING BOARD … plus … CHARTER COMMISSION OFF TO SHAKY START
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, JAN. 7, 2013) — The discussion we have stimulated about public education highlights one simple fact: citizens want competition when it comes to public education. Competition forces the players to strive for continuous improvement and offers the “consumer” (a word we cannot use without quotes) the best chance at qualify and value.
Clearly, the current monopoly “enjoyed” by the current public educational establishment, to the torture of taxpayers, has produced a prohibitively expensive educational disaster. The diminishing returns, in the face of countless millions and billions of dollars thrown at the problem, speak to this point. “Thrown at” also explains why money has not been (and will not be) the answer for public education. You can’t simply pour money into a problem without a strategy.
Wanted: More Competition in Public Education
Competition: Parents wants it, taxpayers want it. The only ones who oppose more competition? The teachers’ union and the administration. Let us here make a distinction between “teachers union” and “teachers.” Most teachers, if you did a secret poll, would favor competition as well, which tells us that the union, while it may speak on behalf of its member, does not speak for their best interests in a representative way.
THE PLANET has long known this. For the past 20 years, we have been paying dues to not one, not two, but three teachers unions: the National Education Association, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, and the Massachusetts Council on Community College. We have been privy to the lugubrious effects of union politicization of education and have witnessed first-hand how public employee unions have turned politicians into marionettes.
Our affiliations have brought us into contact with many members of the United Educators of Pittsfield. In the UEP, members have much disdain for their leadership. These are good teachers who feel caught between a complacent administration and union bosses out for their own interests. Coming in for the late hit is the Pittsfield School Committee, the Ship of Fools that remains adrift, directionless with a broken rudder on an ocean of self-absorption, petty power plays, and the glory of seeing their names on the letterhead.
Why wouldn’t the administration be complacent? The superintendent of schools in Pittsfield makes more money per year than the governor of the Commonwealth. Why would he or his many overpaid honchos want to change anything? Why would union bosses want to change? They control a huge pool of money that buys, among other favors, political power.
The System is Corrupt
The system is corrupt in that it does not act in the best interest of young people. THE PLANET has presented many solutions and alternatives to the hidebound nature of the Pittsfield Public School System. None will occur or become actualized until We The People elect a more courageous school committee committed to excellence rather than running water for the local GOB. Pittsfield needs more qualified citizens to run for school committee, more people with backbone, such as Terry Kinnas.
Kinnas has riled the right people by asking questions that no one else in power dares to ask. His candid approach to government has assured Kinnas of re-election, should he decide to reup.
BArT EXEC JULIA BOWEN RESPONDS TO OUR STORY
THE PLANET received a note of appreciation from Julia Bowen, executive director of BArT. She writes:
Thank you for sending this my way, and for covering us! One of our parents also sent me the link today.
Fingers crossed on Pittsfield’s inclusion in our charter. Only correction to your story – we don’t intend to open a building in Pittsfield; we simply want to be able to continue to have the same number of students from Pittsfield (or more), given the demonstrated interest. The law changed in 2010 to say we had to limit ourselves to 20% of our students outside of our chartered region. This year, 35% of our students are from Pittsfield (and 4% from other non-charter towns).
This clarification make it even more imperative that the state Department of Education allow BArT to accept more Pittsfield students. BArT will not be looking for bricks and mortar to “invade” Pittsfield, the way one school administrator dissed the proposed action. BArT simple wishes to add more students from the city. More competition = Better results.
Bowen also sent this to THE PLANET, in response to the many comments made on the site:
|@Insider and SI: Thank you for explaining that we do, in fact, serve all students at BART. Your assessment is spot on. Our student demographics should speak for themselves.
@Terry: We sent a copy of the request to include Pittsfield in our charter to Alf Barbalunga, Gordon Noseworthy and Mayor Bianchi. I met personally with Noseworthy and Bianchi.
@ BobbyD: It is a mistake to only look at achievement levels when assessing performance; you must also look at growth of students over time, using the state’s student growth percentile model. This is especially true when evaluating a school like ours, that starts at 6th grade (not kindergarten) and draws from a number of districts. Using a combination of these metrics, the state has deemed BART to be a “level 1″ school – within the top 25% of districts statewide.
@Everyone: Please – call us to visit the school. We would love to give you a tour so you can assess BART for yourself. We also have many volunteer opportunities – from one-time events to regular roles in the school. We’d be happy to have you involved!
Julia Bowen is the type of educator desperately needed in today’s public school system. In addition to her leadership at BArT, Bowen is a member of the Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council at the state Department of Education. She is also a member of the Berkshire Compact for Higher Education. Her past experience includes the directorship of the Massachusetts Center for Charter Public School Excellence. She was educated at Dartmouth College.
We thank Bowen for her commitment to young people. THE PLANET has long been a proponent of Bowen. We had her on our radio show before BArT had opened for its first class. “The Dan Valenti Show,” in fact, broke the story of BArT. We have been a friend of the school all along.
DICK STOCKWELL: SOLID CHOICE FOR LICENSING BOARD
Speaking of friends, THE PLANET applauds Mayor Dan Bianchi for his selection of a nominee to succeed Butch Pisani on the Pittsfield Licensing Board.
Bianchi has nominated Dick Stockwell to succeed Albert Pisani on the board. News of this sort can hardly be considered earth-shaking, but anything involving the larger-than-life Stockwell can invoke thunder — a good kind of thunder.
THE PLANET goes back a long time with Stockwell, an imposing, Andre-the-Giant type of figure who never lost his thick Boston accent. He used to be the day manager at Nel’s Restaurant downstairs in what is now space occupied by the juvenile courts. What a downgrade of space, literally going as it has from soup to nuts: Aunt Rose‘s homemade soups and sauces to the nut jobs that try the times and clog our youngin’ court system. THE PLANET whiled away many a lunch hour downing Aunt’s Rose’s spaghetti and Stockwell’s stories.
Stockwell is kin to (and rather resembles) the late, great American League umpire Bill Summers. Yes, that is the same Bill Summers who called Jackie Robinson safe on a steal of home in Game One of the 1955 World Series. To this day, Yogi Berra insists he slapped the tag on Robinson in time to get the out. Google the film of this famous play, and you will see the meaning of steadfastness in the midst of pressurized rage.
Stockwell has a long history of volunteer public service. THE PLANET endorses this selection for the Licensing Board. We know our right honorable good friends on the city council will unanimously approve.
GETTING THAT ‘UH-OH’ FEELING FROM THE PITTSFIELD CHARTER COMMISSION
Even as we speak, in Pittsfield, there is a collection of well-meaning citizens who have volunteered to sit on a committee.
That’s our first clue to be on alert. “Well meaning” and “committee” are two terms THE PLANET has come to abhor. “Well meaning” often is used as a euphemism for incompetence, ejecting common sense the way a pumped Winchester tosses out a cartridge after squeezing off a round. “Committee” too often in Pittsfield indicates a collection of timid acolytes that debate, deliberate, discuss, and gum the issue at hand before arriving on a solution characterized by its love of the least common denominator and its willingness to please the reigning GOBs. Such committee’s in fact, often feature a blend of GOBs and GOB-wannabes.
Be clear: THE PLANET does not yet ascribe this characterization to Pittsfield’s Charter Review Study Committee, though the early returns lean that way. FInd our more on tomorrow’s PLANET.
“WAS HE FREE? WAS HE HAPPY? THE QUESTION IS ABSURD: HAD ANYTHING BEEN WRONG, WE CERTAINLY SHOULD HAVE HEARD.” — W.H. AUDEN, CLOSING LINES TO HIS GREAT POEM ON CIVICS, “THE UNKNOWN CITIZEN.”
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.