YAZ’s FIRST HIT AND THE ROM OF THE MIND … EGREMONT SCHOOL COUNCIL ASKS EXPLOSIVE QUESTION OF PITTSFIELD SCHOOL COMMITTEE … COUNCIL WANTS AUDIT TO EXAMINE POSSIBLE SHORT-CHANGING OF TAXPAYER MONEY
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, APRIL 11, 2013) — On this day in 1961, Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox got the first hit of his Hall of Fame career, a single off of Ray Herbert of the Kansas City A’s.
THE PLANET remembers that day, sunny and brisk, because we were listening to the radio broadcast of the game on a small transistor radio that some kid had with him at Deming Park. We were involved in our own game of baseball, on Deming’s “junk diamond,” the first diamond you see when you enter the park from Lyman Street. In fact, when Yaz got that hit, I was on second base after just having doubled off the serves of Robby Massetti.
Such remembrances make up the clutter of a writer’s mind. Why should we remember that particular day and moment out of so many? For that, we shall employ an analogy. Such a memory is like an island that juts the surface of the ocean. Beneath is actually a submerged mountain. Only the peak sticks above the surface. Well, some events become those peaks. As we now know through brain research, literally everything that happens to us gets recorded in our memory. To avoid mental overload, most of that material gets stored in a “READ ONLY” section of the magnificent mind.
You Life, There to Flash Before You
It’s there, but not consciously there, except in unusual situations, such as a close call, as, for example, a near death experience, where, invariably, the person later refers to his or her “life flashing before me.” What the person is seeing in such a moment is a replay of the brain’s “READ ONLY” memory. The interesting thing about the mind and the memory is that through certain practices, training, and discipline, the ROM can consciously be accessed, a process akin to, but not to be mistaken for, hallucination.
A hallucination is seeing things that aren’t there or that have never happened. A delusion is seeing things that are there or have happened but misinterpreting their meaning. This ROM recollection is seeing something that isn’t there but has happened. It’s as real as “reality.” In the course of their working journeys into creativity, artists (in the inclusive sense to embrace all disciplines) somehow find their way into some of the stores of their internal ROM.
EGREMONT SCHOOL COUNCIL ASKS AN EXPLOSIVE QUESTION
With more than $90 million to play with, have you ever wondered upon what basis does the Pittsfield School Department send and spend money at its different campuses?
The Egremont School Council (ESC) wonders, and it’s not getting answers.
Straightforward Question but No Straightforward Answer or Business As Usual For School Administration
Recently, the ESC sent a letter to the Pittsfield School Committee to bring to the board’s attention what it calls “an inequity in the amount of per-pupil funding that is currently being sent to Egremont School via the Pittsfield School Department.” This sounds like a reasonable request, but guess what? It seems that no one on the school committee or in the PSD administration can provide a straight answer.
For your information, the Egremont School Council consists of Denis Guyer, parent; Maria Martin-Arenas; Susan Mooney, parent; Tom Simon, parent; Glenn Wheeler, parent; Laura Groves, parent; Sandi Keen, teacher; Michele LaDouceur, teacher; Gary LeVante, Berkshire Bank business partner; and Judy Rush, principal.
The ESC charges that “resources not funded at Egremont are available at other schools in the district. Class sizes in other district schools are in some cases a fraction of what they currently are at Egremont. With all of this in mind,” the letter continues, “we began to ask questions of administration officials directly responsible for the disbursement of taxpayers funds throughout our elementary schools to learn if the amount that Egremont is receiving per pupil is in line with what other schools receive. … The initial and possibly incomplete information that we received seems to confirm that a large inequity does exist in the amount of local and state funding (non-grant, non-federal) being spent per child at Egremont.”
Let’s stop the film here. It’s apparent that upon being asked to address this matter, the school department administration blew smoke. It provided “initial and possibly incomplete information” about a figure that one of the many superintendents, with their six-figure salaries, should be able to share with the ESC in one line of an e-mail or a one-minute phone call. Talking later with a member of the school department and also an Egremont parent (not a member of the ESC), THE PLANET learned that the ESC’s letter set off fire alarms in the administrative offices at Mercer on the corner of First and Orchard.
Why should this be? Why all the concern over a straight-forward request? Later on, the ESC demands an “audit.” Uh oh, the “A” word.
The letter then shares a stunning fact: 50% of the students at Egremont qualify for free or reduced lunches. In other words, there’s a lot of poor folks sending their kids to the school. One doesn’t at first think of Egremont, located in the city’s posh southeast, having to give out free food, but the demographics in the area are changing.
“We have become greatly concerned about this vulnerable population,” the letter tells the school committee. “With the specific educational challenges that children of poverty face, we are concerned that Pittsfield’s funding formula may not allow us to provide an equitable education to these children. The student population of Egremont also has one of, if not the highest number of children on 504 plans of any school in the district.”
Stop film again. The ESC refers here to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. This section prohibits the exclusion of anyone with a disability (physical impairments, communicable diseases, chronic conditions, allergies, diabetes, etc.) from participating in federally funded programs or activities. We can debate the common sense of this later. For now, 504 is the law.
The ‘Action’ Part of the Letter Wants an Audit
In the “action” part of the letter, the ESC asks the school committee “to review, audit, and investigate what the Pittsfield School Department disperses to its elementary schools in local taxpayer and Chapter 70 funding, in particular to determine if a disparity exists.”
At the word “audit,” the school committee and its bosses in the administration gasped the way Maynard G. Krebs, resident beatnik on The Dobie Gillis Show, used to do when he heard the word “work.” You can be sure the last thing the administration wants is ANY kind of independent audit of the money trail — which is why, of course, the school committee has a duty-bound requirement to go in and open up the books. Let’s pay close attention to the seven “profiles in courage” on the school committee and see which one of them has the political will to grant the ESC’s reasonable request.
While they’re at it, perhaps they should take some of the $1.3 million to “study” what to do about Taconic High School and order an independent forensic audit of the school department finances.
‘Trust Us’: An Invitation to Body Gynmastics
It’s either that, or we rely on the usual “trust us” reports the school administration sends to the school committee and to our Right Honorable Friends on the Pittsfield City Council.
We know too well that “trust us” is simply the school department telling the taxpayers to perform an anatomical impossibility on themselves.
The school committee has the perfect excuse (the ESC letter) to bring about this audit. It also has the perfect time, since the FY14 budget looms large on the tilted horizon.
THE PLANET urges them: Do it.
“She walks in beauty, like the night / Of cloudless climes and starry skies; / And all that’s best of dark and bright / Meet in her aspect and her eyes; / Thus mellowed to that tender light / Which heaven to gaudy day denies.” — George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron)
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.