AMUSO, BIANCHI QUICK TO GRAB THE CREDIT, BUT IT WAS TERRY KINNAS WHO GOT THE THS BALL ROLLING WITH COMMUNITY POLLING … plus … NEW SUPT. McCEE SHOWS SHADES OF THINGS TO COME WITH FINAL LEE DISTRICT BUDGET
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, APRIL 5, 2013) — In putting together the application to the state to begin a $1.3 million “feasibility study” of Taconic High School’s razing or refurbishing, Pittsfield school committeewoman Kathleen Amuso boasted about taking two months to visit businesses and “publics” [THE PLANET’s quotes] in the community. As if …
“[The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education] expected us to have the conversations we had,” Amuso said. “We want to do what’s right for the community; we want to do what’s right for students.” Yeah, sure. Do they all.
Mayor Dan Bianchi echoed the remarks: “We were told by the DESE it has to be a thorough community discussion.” Your definition of “thorough” and Bianchi’s definition may not disagree, and we’re not talking Henry David Thoreau, either.
Taking the Credit without Doing the Work
All well and good, taking this blather about community involvement at face value, except that neither Amuso nor Bianchi credited the person who actually prompted the “thorough community discussion.” They didn’t mind grabbing the glory for themselves and ignoring the stellar work of Terry Kinnas. To look for a motive, all you have to do is go back to the December Kinnas Kangaroo Kourt fiasco, wherein Amuso helped to preside into a railroading of the only member of the school committee who has been consistently on the side of truth, justice, and the American Way. Bianchi conveniently skipped town on that night, a cowardly act of “no mas” that he has yet to explain. Kinnas, to spell it out, has riled the status quo bureaucrats such as Amuso and Bianchi.
You may recall how the school committee failed to agree on a vocational education plan, floating ideas in the dark, as it were, including eliminating auto body and metal fabrication. Only Kinnas took the trouble to survey local businesses in the community, and he discovered a groundswell of support for keeping these two programs.
If Kinnas had not done that, the committee would have continued to fly blind without instruments. It was on its way to the inevitable crash landing, when a local shops flooded the school committee meeting with pressure to save the programs. Only then, it would appear, well after the fact, did Amuso, Bianchi, Catherine Yon, and other “me too” committee members bother to do the work Kinnas has done, one his own and standing alone. Kinnas saved their bacon, but they didn’t invite him to the feast.
Amuso’s self-laudatory verbiage comes as the DESE evaluates Pittsfield’s plans for THS. The city has been oddly unable to solve the relatively simple problem of renovation or tear-down. THE PLANET believes there’s enough local talent to make such a decision, but there’s a dearth of political will, and that translates into timorous, faint-hearted “leadership” of the kind Amuso, Yon, and Bianchi have brought to the table. The result will hit Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski in the pocketbook hard. Pittsfield will waste $1.3 million of taxpayer money to study the THS question because it doesn’t have the leadership to instill the confidence that it could perform this due diligence in house.
An Inept, Do-Nothing Board
What the state makes of this mousy approach remains to be seen. Assuming the DESE approves Pittsfield’s application, the matter then heads to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. If that agency gives the OK, then hold on to your hats, pants, and wallets, ladies and gentlemen. At that point, Pittsfield’s School Building Needs Commission, one of the most political, inept, and do-nothing boards, gets its hands on the plan. Amuso and Yon serve on that commission, along with a hydra known as Nuff Ced.
As THE PLANET has pointed out, the commission has already estimated that simply to study what to do about THS, it will need to spend $1.3 million, as we revealed and broke down (project manager gets $400,000; architect gets $800,000 — the nationwide search is already advancing!). As we first reported, that’s $1.3 million out the window before one brick gets moved.
Perhaps it’s time to consider a one-member school board consisting only of Terry Kinnas. Maybe then the most important constituency of all — one that Amuso, Yon, Bianchi, and the like rarely if ever mention — might have a fighting chance. We speak, of course, of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, The Taxpayers. Actually, if you simply asked them in a referendum what they wanted in a high school, they would probably say: One. With half the students in the Pittsfield school system than when Taconic first went up, there’s no longer a need for two separate campuses.
Pittsfield population is shrinking. Its tax base is shrinking. Its high school population is shrinking. Shockingly, except for Kinnas and Dan Elias, no one on the school committee wants to admit this truth. They are still wasting taxpayer money as if GE was back rocking and rolling and employing 14,000 workers.
NEW $200G SUPT. SHOWING COSTLY SIGNS OF THINGS TO COME
Ah, but what’s reckless spending in the vast scheme of things? Get used to it, Pittsfield. The incoming
new superintendent, Jason McCandless, will take the helm on July 1. He will get a $50,000 raise from the paltry $108,000 he’s making in Lee. Totaling it all up, McCee will be pulling down $200 Large. Are there tea leaves to be read in reviewing McCandless’ final budget in Lee? In overseeing his last budget for the Lee schools, McCee shepherded $8,705,175 in spending, a 3.25 percent increase over FY13.
Here’s what he said about the increase: “If it were possible, we would absolutely come in at zero. I really think this 3.25 percent represents what we need to continue marching forward as we have been.” Re-read that, carefully.
In other words, McCandless judges it impossible to come in at flat spending, this, when the average citizen has had to cut back in order to make ends meet. Most of the Lee increase, by the way, will not provide anything new in the classroom. It’s for across-the-board salary increases for the school department’s 150 employees.
In Pittsfield, there’s no telling what the FY14 damage will be. All voters can do is remember that this is an election year. They can vote against those who want to keep expanding the size and cost of government while crippling service.
“In the green water, clear and warm, / Susanna lay. / She searched / The tough of springs, / And found / Concealed imaginings. / She sighed, / For so much melody.” — from Peter Quince at the Clavier by Wallace Stevens
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.