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 …

TERRY KINNAS: The credit properly goes to him.

“[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.

KATHY AMUSO (seen here with Andy Nuciforo): ‘Self-laudatory verbiage.’

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.



Ah, but what’s reckless spending in the vast scheme of things? Get used to it, Pittsfield. The incoming

‘”and away goes trouble, down the drain.” “Money,” we mean.

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 






  1. Scott
    April 5, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    That’s just what “they” need a super who could do the math in their favor I’m sure a lot of people will be ecstatic with the budget next year.

  2. tito
    April 5, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    It’s ironic that the first increase the budget will see is the hiring of the new (Mccee) superintendent.

  3. Ron Kitterman
    April 5, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    Don’t forget the 5 yr contract too, hopefully the charter review committee will recommend a 4 yr term for Mayor too, so we can plan when to move to Texas.

  4. Evian
    April 5, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    Great coverage today DV. Do you know if the five year contract with Supt McCee has an out?

    • danvalenti
      April 5, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

      Thanks, EV. I will have to check on the “out” clause. There is the annual performance review, but as for an actual cancellation clause, I don’t know.

  5. tito
    April 5, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Wonder if he has a Kinnas clause?

    • danvalenti
      April 5, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

      If he does, we give him credit for a visionary thinker.

  6. dusty
    April 5, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

    Does the 1.3 million feasibility study include payola? Or is it all payola?

    • danvalenti
      April 5, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

      B.) It is all payola

  7. billy
    April 6, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    you have to look up Khan academy. it is on you tube,He was a hedge fund manger and was teaching his nephew and niece via you tube then it took off on you tube. the academy has the support of Microsoft and Google..He has 2200 lessons ,a million views a month and has been viewed by 30 million people world wide. Watch his talk about flipping the classroom,which means the students read the lesson at home and do homework in school with the supervision of the teacher and the help of their peers who have a good grasp of the lesson.Please watch it and the 60 minutes episode about it . It is where we have to go education wise,the rest of the world is already there. Dan use your soap box to stop the madness and reckless spending on education They say” its for the children”lmao they are bankrupting their own children who cant find work due to massive Federal ,State Local spending..

  8. billy
    April 6, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    I also Applaud Rham Emmanuel The mayor of Chicago who tried to work With the teachers union telling them they had work with him to get the huge deficit caused by mostly school fire and police pensions and their obligations under control.He got beat up for it.I heard this week that he closed 50 schools.He sees what this city refuses to see which is that we have to spend are money more wisely, Pay for performance and have the educators be tested for competence in their subject matter.The superintendent is going to get a 57000 raise and he hasn’t proven anything to earn it yet. The city will be on the hook for 80 percent 0f that salary when he retires here.Do you think a city of 42000 thousand can keep paying this?The elected officials who don’t face fiscal realities should and be ashamed of themselves for their lack of leadership and fiscal responsibility for the next generation that will bear this burden

  9. Gene
    April 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    I echo billy’s points here. The business of giving out endless pay raises to teachers and administrators, when they retire at 80percent of the total, cannot be sustained. Like billy said, use your soapbox, Planet, and try to stop the madness. I appreciate your efforts.

    • dusty
      April 7, 2013 at 3:12 am #

      i would be curious to know what the percentage of the ginormous school budget is for personnel. How much for all the teachers, principals, assistant principals, secretaries, janitors and whomever. And as a separate percentage of that percentage how much does the Mercer building crowd rake in?

      Because that increasingly loud sucking sound you hear is not a coming tornado. It is the parasitic school budget devouring the working population of the city.

      • danvalenti
        April 7, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

        Off the top of our heads, we don’t know, but we would guess between 85 and 90%.

  10. Tom Verizer
    April 7, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    “Parasitic” is a good adjective to use in conncetion with the Pittsfield school dept. I am a Pittsfield taxpayer, do not have kids in city schools (both in college) andyet I must pay higher taxes every year mostly because of the waste in that dept. Lack of accountability has been there since “Ed Reform.” Some reform. We’re getting killed yet Bianchi, School Committee, and council keep approving more of our money even though performance keeps going down.

    Stay on them Planet.

    • danvalenti
      April 7, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

      We shall try, TV, but THE PLANET can’t do this alone. People must get involved and begin showing up at school committee meetings, council meetings, and let “Them” know that you, the taxpayers, won’t be taking this kind of crud too much longer.

  11. University mom
    April 7, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    I spoke with a teacher who just got hired by PHS. She says the lack of respect is out of control. She will turn her back for a moment to write something on the board, ask a question, point to a student to answer and is literally told “I wasn’t listening. You’ll have to repeat it.”
    Students are allowed in BOTH high schools to have their I-pads, pods and cells on all the time. I don’t understand why there is no accountability for any of this. In my day, if a student pulled any of this crap they’d be sent to the principal’s office and given detention for being disrespectful.
    This all starts at home, of course. And I understand the frustration for the teachers, but they are still rewarded with raise after raise and nothing at ALL has improved. It boggles the mind.

    • danvalenti
      April 7, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

      Thank you for this information. We have heard much of the same from other (beyond)frustrated teachers, who report how out of control their classrooms have become. When they try to discipline, the kids just laugh in their faces, because they know the administration won’t do anything about it. As you say, “it boggles the mind.” The time has come for a crackdown in the public schools, beginning with a new policy on technology, one that severely restricts use of iPads, iPods, and cell phones by students.

      • University mom
        April 7, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

        You got in trouble for passing a note to your friend. Technology should be treated no differently. Either leave the stuff at home or in your locker until the end of the day. Parents complain that they might have to get a hold of their kid. Well, my mother NEVER needed to contact me while I was in school. Nothing was so important, and if it was, a phone call to the office and a note sent to your classroom would suffice. Number one, technology needs to be curtailed so at least the students would at least have a better chance at paying attention.
        That’s my two cents!
        Thank you for the forum, Dan.

        • danvalenti
          April 7, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

          Than YOU, U-MOM.