Article

WHAT’S SO HARD FOR THE PITTSFIELD SCHOOL COMMITTEE TO SEE? or THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE … MEANWHILE, SCHOOL DEPT. VULTURES IN LENOX, LEE FOLLOW SUIT, SWOOPING DOWN TO STEAL MORE TAXPAYER $$

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, JAN. 16, 2013) — How far out of tough is the Pittsfield School Depeartment? Before THE PLANET answers that question, let us clarify that by “School Department” we include administration, School Committee (the Frozen Chozen), and the United Educators of Pittsfield.

How far out of touch? Consider a few numbers. These numbers are not opinions or emotions. They aren’t feelings or any other subjective numerator. Data is neutral. When something is spoken, it’s the facts, speaking for themselves.

1983

Student population: approximately 12,000

Number of teachers: about 300

Number of administrators and support staff: About 40

Budget: About $42,000,000

2013

Student population: About 6,000

Number of teachers/instructional staff:  750 (the actual number from the revised 2013FY budget is 749.30 … don’t ask what the .30 means)

Number of Administrators and support staff: About 180

Budget: More than $90,000,000 (included cost of health insurance, school maintenance, and transportation).

Notice that the number of administrators has increased by five-fold, with half the number of students. Un-bee-lee-va-bull!!

Another number to keep in mind is the city of Pittsfield’s population, which has decreased from nearly 60,000 to about 40,000, or a drop of one-third. Moreover, in this time, the tax base of the city has shrunk by between 40 and 50%. The number of people on welfare of some sort has probably tripled in that time.

Despite all this, year after year, the city of Pittsfield continues to grow government. Taxes continues to rise for both homeowners and businesspeople, the cost of government goes up yearly by millions, and the school department — powered by an utterly incompetent school committee — keeps handing out money to teachers and administrators like they were giving out popcorn balls on Halloween.

Can you see the problem? If you’re Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, you see it only too clearly. At the head of the list of porkers is the PSD. Despite the shrinking population of the city, despite the shrinking number of students, despite the shrinking tax base, and despite its own misuse and abuse of fistfuls of dollars, the PSD keeps coming back for more, with its sob stories of “The Children,” and if it only had more money, we would usher in a new era of bliss.

THE PLANET has just given you the clues to determine THE singlemost important issue in Campaign 2013 in Pittsfield: The Budget. Every other issue stems from the fact that taxpayers have lost control of the budget due to the actions of a phat phew, who do the bidding of an even phatter phew. Apathy is the GOB’s main weapon. As long as We The People stay away from the polls, they can control the outcomes.

Pittsfield needs a new type of candidate. This “new type” would not be a member of the GOB but know it thoroughly. He or she would be independently financed, to equal out the dollar discrepancies that have made alternative candidates in the past little more than tokens. He or she would be well organized throughout each of the 14 precincts. This person would be a dynamic speaker and a riveting presence, a truth-teller whose performance on the stump would generate excitement, enthusiasm, and involvement of new blood in city politics. He or she would have a varied background in a number of fields, including business experience and a knowledge of economics. If this person were able to generate a double-digit increase in voter turnout, and we believe this is realistic, this person would win.

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LENOXOLOGY & OTHER ABSURDITIES

To make a long and boring story short and boring (there is no other way when discussing the Land of the Millionaires), the Town of Lenox has reviewed its finances. After town manager Greg Federspiel‘s presentation on anticipated revenues and expenses, the Great Minds have determined there will about $300,000 in new bucks available to the town this year.

That’s all well and good, but don’t start celebrating yet, Mary Jane and Joe.

On cue, like a vulture lifting off of its perch as the poor bastard takes his “raffling last breath, with deep-sea dover sounds” on the desert floor, the Lenox school Committee swooped down to feast on the corpse. It went for the eyes first. It did so in the form of school committee chairman Don Fitzgerald. He laid his bear-greased paws on $186,000 of it. That’s about 62% of the money.

MORAL OF THE STORY: PUBLIC EDUCATION THE LAND OVER IS BROKEN. MOST OF THE PEOPLE WHO PAY THE STICK-UP FOR “THE CHILDREN” in public schools DO NOT HAVE KIDS IN THE SYSTEM. Talk about poor bastards.

Sixty-two percent of the stinking money, before Lenox Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski can even begin to think of a penny to fall their way off the table.

Oh, but wait!! There’s more!!

This just in: The school department also gets another $14,000 due to Medicaid increase. That brings in the vultures’ haul to $200,000 of the $300,000, or 67%. That’s more like it, as it gets Lenox into a more Pittsfieldian figure (in Pittsfield, taxpaying suckers get soaked for more than 70% of every red and blue cent the city takes in, forfeiting that much to “The Children”). Another way of saying it: Don Fitzgerald is Lenox’s Alf Barbalunga.

Meanwhile, chairwoman of the Lenox Finance Committee, Lucy “In the Sky with Dollar Signs” Kennedy, told the town Big Shots that long-term forecasting is a good thing. Lucy told onlookers, with Federspiel mouthing the words, the extra good news: the unfunded liabilities that taxpayers must assume for public employees has from from 10% of the town’s budget to more than 20%.

“Everyone on the school committee finance subcommittee is onboard with this,” thus spake Jo Ann Magee of the school committee and bunko squad. We bet they are, Jo-Jo. We just bet they are.

“Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!”

Meanwhile, in the Town of Lee, the school department there wants $120,720 in extra spending for the upcoming school year. The figure doesn’t — REPEAT, DOES NOT — include capital spending. Unlike Lenox, the bad news was delivered not by the school committee chair but by the superintendent, who happens to be Jason McCandless.

The Super had all sorts of excuses for the extra money Lee taxpayers have to cough up and forego — new textbooks, new computers, new this, new that.

The Lee School Committee will meet on Jan. 22 to talk money.

Gimme, gimme, gimme, the greedy bastards sing in chorus.

What, you expected someone to be “for us?”

So continnue with your shameless play for our money, you bastards, 

And while you speak, make sure you bore us.

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“NULLI SAPERE CASU OBTIGIT.”

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

40 Responses to “WHAT’S SO HARD FOR THE PITTSFIELD SCHOOL COMMITTEE TO SEE? or THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE … MEANWHILE, SCHOOL DEPT. VULTURES IN LENOX, LEE FOLLOW SUIT, SWOOPING DOWN TO STEAL MORE TAXPAYER $$”

  1. FPR
    January 16, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    Hey Dan,

    Wow, when you take a look at those figures it becomes crystal clear what’s going on.

    However, its all about the education of “the children”.

    Pittsfield is producing geniuses right? The unruly ones are now on Ritalin, Prozac, Zoloft, and Lithium – problem solved.

    The very high grades these children get makes all this money they take from the people all worth it, right?

    Ask the state to educate your children and this is the outcome.

    • danvalenti
      January 16, 2013 at 9:39 am #

      Excellent point, FPR. When you lay out the information this way, as you say, there’s no hiding what’s going on. Isn’t that what Mayor Bianchi promised? Transparency? Well, he won’t give it. The school department won’t give it. The mainstream local media won’t give it. Only THE PLANET is telling it like it is.

      • FPR
        January 16, 2013 at 10:11 am #

        Yes Dan, the way you laid it out does indeed paint a picture. Its a Picasso. Has some depth to it. Excellent!

        We’ve asked the state to teach our children and they do. In good ole Communist fashion, they make everyone pay for it instead of those who have children. That’s fair.

        Your figures speak volumes as the efficiency of good use of the people’s tax dollars. Hey they’ve even taken more taxes than they need and give the teachers a raise and make it even more efficient.

        We’ve asked the state to deliver our mail. Don’t they do a wonderful job? Very efficient use of your money also.

        Now the “baby boom” generation of WWII is retiring. More people will be retired than working. Along comes ObamaCare. We’ve asked the state to take care of our elderly. The efficiency of which remains to be seen. How do you think this will all turn out?

        Something tells me there will be a future article someday on the efficiency of ObamaCare and the nursing home care of our elderly.

        • danvalenti
          January 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

          FPR
          Thank you. I can’t say it’s a Picasso, but a Remington, maybe. Our tax dollars are wasted to a criminal degree by all levels of government. To some extent (and sadly) we expect to get hosed from the feds and the state. But when local government does it, that’s when We The People need to step up and splatter a grapefruit in their face.

  2. Blind Justice
    January 16, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Lenox, why is dead wood Federspiel getting an assistant to take care of his incompetence for a > $100K paycheck?

    Lenoxology?

  3. Blind Justice
    January 16, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    PS Dan,

    It’s NOT the teachers, it’s the OVERPAID and TOO numerous AdminisTRAITORS . Start with the mis-Manager

    • danvalenti
      January 16, 2013 at 9:38 am #

      BJ
      Administration first, teachers second. The taxpayers cannot keep giving giving giving for performance that keeps losing losing losing.

      • Blind Justice
        January 16, 2013 at 10:05 am #

        I agree, look at the ratio of Administrators, on ALL levels of GOOBERment, compared to workers.

        They suck the funds and produce next to NOTHING.

        Look at the Lenox mis-Manager for example

      • ambrose
        January 17, 2013 at 6:13 am #

        How about going back to the good old days of the 50′s when Ed Russell was superintendent and Albertine FitzGerald, his secretary ran the whole thing.. The teachers were knocking down $3500 with 35 kids in the classrooms. There was plenty of room for the special ed kids in the basements of Hibbard, Mercer, Pomeroy, Plunkett, Pontoosuc and all the other elementary schools.

  4. outfox
    January 16, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    The.30 may be for part time and /or paraprofessionals? Just a guess.

    • danvalenti
      January 16, 2013 at 9:36 am #

      Yes. it’s an indication of a part-time position.

  5. Scott
    January 16, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    the PSD keeps coming back for more, with its sob stories of “The Children,” and if it only had more money, we would usher in a new era of bliss.

    Excellent writing Dan.

    • echo
      January 16, 2013 at 11:28 am #

      I agree scott~
      A student is a learner, or someone who attends an educational institution. , while a schoolchild under the age of eighteen is called a pupil .
      note to school departments “they are not your children..but you are their teachers”

  6. Berkshire Girl
    January 16, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    OFF TOPIC:

    Can we get a follow up to tailgategate? Does silence mean acquiescence? Did the THS coaching staff walk scott free while the students that told the truth suffer and watch their lying peers bask in the sunshine?

    Inquiring minds…

    • danvalenti
      January 16, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

      B GIRL
      We hope to have a snippet on this on THE PLANET, tomorrow or Friday. Stay tuned.

  7. Scott
    January 16, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    At least in Lee and Lenox the schools are better. As far as management, parental involvement and help for kids who need it.

  8. Still wondering
    January 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    I dated a Pittsfield Middle school teacher for a while a few years ago. She would spend the first 20 minutes of a date loudly proclaiming how much she hated her job. After a couple of these performances I asked her if she hated her job so much, why keep doing it? She wouldn’t consider the alternative of a job in the dreaded private sector for one minute and became angry that I asked the question. Yes, it was the last date.

  9. tito
    January 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    Ida been on second base in the first 20 minutes,stilly.

  10. C. Trzcinka
    January 16, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    Dan,

    You might also include test scores such as SAT scores. I’m guessing that they haven’t improved. One caveat is that at least some of the increase in administrators and the budget is probably due to state and Federal requirements which are more numerous in 2013 than in 1982. But the difference in the numbers is stunning…

  11. Bull Durham
    January 16, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    While I am not doubting your employment numbers, if you are using ‘actual’ budget dollars for 1983 of 42 million unadjusted, and have not factored in the equivalent in today’s dollar value, you should know that in 1983 dollars 42 million would today be 97 million, accounting for inflation and ‘buying power.’ If you didn’t make that adjustment, then actually they have somehow ‘reduced’ the budget while inflating the employment. If you did factor that in, the difference is obviously monumental. If you want to look for yourself, here is the website I used for conversion…

    http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm

    • Dave
      January 16, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

      “somehow reduced the budget”? Did you see the increased numbers in employees? Conversion/subversion or try to distort the facts. Did you account for all the benefits and pensions for all the extra employees in your scenario? Just asking.

      • Bull Durham
        January 17, 2013 at 7:28 am #

        My comment was not trying to subvert anything. Dan said data is neutral, when in fact, it is not in this case. You can’t make a direct dollar comparison to something 40 years ago without converting it to current dollar value. The average price of a new car in 1983 was $10,500. Today it’s over $25,000, or two and a half times greater in actual dollars.

        In 1983 there were clearly fewer employees, that’s no doubt. But in 1983 school systems also paid for everything – sports programs 100%, theater 100%, uniforms 100%, food for travel games 100%, and many other programs that are today mostly funded through booster clubs and parents. I’m not defending the school budget, just pointing out a financial fact. If you convert those 1983 dollars to today’s value, it’s 97 million, which is five million more than what the department is budgeted for right now.

    • FPR
      January 17, 2013 at 8:20 am #

      In 1983, I made $13.00 an hour. Using that calculator in 2012, I need to be making $30.06 per hour, just to stay even.

      I wish that were true but in the real world its not.

      Be nice if that calculator was good guide.

      • Bull Durham
        January 17, 2013 at 9:59 am #

        Calculator was only provided to show conversion of dollar values, not meant in any way to comment on validity of the overall issue or your own salary, FPR. Your current salary also doesn’t allow you as much buying power for that new car as it did in 1983, but it doesn’t mean the numbers aren’t valid. I think the main point of this story is population. Why do we need such a large budget when the population numbers are so much lower than in 1983? That’s a very legitimate question. Even accounting for the dollar value being somewhat equal, it just highlights that Pittsfield is spending much more per capita than it was in 1983.

  12. spagirldslater
    January 16, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    As if all this is not bad enough, I watched the presentation on Vocational Programs presented to the Pittsfield School Committee last night (January 15)….every single one of them… to a person was over their head…..Embarrassment!

    • Joe Blow
      January 16, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

      I agree and what is up with all of the mumbling on open mics when others have the floor

  13. Ron Kitterman
    January 16, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    Wasn’t it Ross Perot who coined the term “ giant sucking sound” sounds like it should apply here too ….

  14. Mr. X
    January 16, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    BGIRL

    Pretty sure all the THS football coaches, except for the one who is a teacher, were relieved of their duties.

  15. joetaxpayer
    January 16, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    Sad thing about the number is students our counted full for pre-k and k .Back in the day those students were half day. Of course some egg heads got together and decided that the litttle ones needed a whole day of education to make something of themselfs. You know that extra snack ,nap and storytiime might make the difference.

  16. Andrew
    January 16, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

    Once he gets past the barrage of typos and grammatical disaster areas, and inquiring mind would ask to provide your sources for the 1983 Pittsfield School Budget. Providing sources is only professional.

    And Bull Durham is correct. Comparing $42,000,000 from 1983 to 90,000,000 in 2012 without accounting for inflation is just misleading.

    But beyond all this is your inability, due to either hapless ignorance or willful intent, to actually analyze data in any comprehensive or useful manner other than to purposefully make indendiary suggestions and implications.

    Once again, it’s amateur hour here on planetvalenti.com

    • danvalenti
      January 17, 2013 at 7:20 am #

      ANG
      Do you mean typos such as “and inquiring mind.” Or is that a “grammatical disaster? We won’t address the fragments. Inflation is factored in. “Indendiary.” Do you mean, “incendiary”? If so, we can only say: “Now you’re getting it, big guy!” Glad we have provoked you into a response, albeit it weak one. Try again, though. Maybe you won’t always be the little engine that couldn’t.

      • Bull Durham
        January 17, 2013 at 10:02 am #

        Dan, if you did factor in the inflation in the 1983 figure, then what was the ‘actual’ dollar figure in 1983?

  17. Pat Diefendorf
    January 16, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    Dan I have followed you over the years and respect your abilities as a thinker and a writer. As such I would like you to tell me why teacher bashing has become a national pastime? Is it because all Americans attend school and have that common experience and as such believe it is an easy job and that they could do it better? Is it because MCAS scores are lower than expected? (Most people don’t know that to score proficient on the 10th grade test a student needs to get 50% of the questions right, at the other levels students need to get 70% of the questions right – maybe that is why the elementary and middle levels don’t make their AYP.)
    If teaching is so easy (overpaid and under worked) why aren’t people flocking to become teachers? Take a look at the new teacher evaluation rubrics on the DOE website – who is going to want to go in to teaching with that system to evaluate their job performance? There is an unreasonable expectation that teachers be perfect in every area – 17 of them on the state’s rubric.
    I have taught public school in Massachusetts well over 25 years. I work a 60* hour week, take classes each summer, plan lessons and assessments, buy my own supplies, etc. I rarely receive public praise, support, or thanks. However, I am grateful I have a job and that after 25+ years and many graduate credits – am paid well in my district. How am I a vulture?

    • danvalenti
      January 17, 2013 at 7:16 am #

      PAT
      Thank you for this thoughtful comment. You are not a vulture. As I have long stated, the majority of teachers are like you: hard working, in it for the right reasons, and honestly caring about the kids. Our focus is the out-of-control spending spurred by scared politicians, muddled bureaucrats, and greedy union leaders. We loathe MCAS and much of what is foisted upon localities by the federal and state departments of education. The answer isn’t more money. The answer is more teachers like you and local control of school districts. Municipal and town budgets will never come into reality until school departments budgets are confronted with honesty and truth.

    • Ole Jack
      January 17, 2013 at 7:23 am #

      @ Pat,

      You’ re not a vulture. Thank goodness for teachers like you.

      I suspect the primary reason for teacher-bashing is that many people (nationally and on this site, too) had many unsuccessful experiences in their own schooling and are venting. Others didn’t measure up to the stringent requirements needed to be teachers themselves. So they are embittered, and lash out, too. I’m sure we will see many objections to this analysis, but sometimes the truth hurts, and people cannot always see their motivations objectively.

      • Gene
        January 17, 2013 at 10:21 am #

        I don’t see how anything written on this site could be called “teacher bashing.” Why can’t you see that what people are angry about is the cost of public schools in light of the awful results. Thanks DV for your analysis and this website. As OJ says, “sometimes the truth hurts” and that is why people like him feel the need to “lash out.”

        • Ole Jack
          January 17, 2013 at 11:59 am #

          Weak, Gene, weak. . .

          And “teacher bashing” was a term I borrowed from Pat, and I agree with her point that there is clearly teacher bashing here at times. Also, a more skillful reader would be able to discern that the tone in my previous post could not be construed as “lashing out.” Good job incorporating quotes into your sentences, though.

  18. dusty
    January 17, 2013 at 2:49 am #

    I would love to see Bianchi and his numbers people on the council, as well as “still wanting to give back to the city Marchetti”, sit for a publicly broadcast discussion on the data you mention about school budget inflation. I would like to see them justify it because I mean… Holy Shit man!!!

    How long would any company survive this kind of nepotism?

    • Scott
      January 17, 2013 at 3:18 am #

      Not long. I have to be careful not to bleed myself dry and I’m a sole proprietorship.

  19. tito
    January 17, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    What about the dollar value as it pertains to inflation for the ordinary taxpayer, who has to pay for all this frivolity. People are turning thermostats down during the day just to be able to pay her heating bill.