PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

” …for each school committee, there are two agendas, not one. The first agenda is the one the public and press see. … The public never gets a view of the second, secret GOB agenda.”

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, MAY 10, 2013) — Keep this in mind as the Pittsfield School Department presents its budget: The outcomes are rigged. Taxpayers find themselves in a game of three-card monte. The dice are loaded. The cards are marked. The butcher has his finger on the scale.

Da Man, he tells you: “Just shut up and pay your taxes, which are going up again this year, chump.”

THE PLANET now offers compelling evidence of the rampant scamming going on in what poses as the deliberative actions of democracy within, with, for, and about the school department. We found it on the agendas of the “Regular Meeting[s] of the Pittsfield School Committee.” You’ve heard of crooked businesses keeping two sets of books? In this case, the school department keeps two sets of agendas, one for viewing, one for the players.

Double-Dealing on School Committee Agendas

Let’s begin by discussing agendas. Do agendas serve a good purpose? Yes, we believe, assuming that the meetings for which they are generated are deemed valuable if not necessary. Once circumstances require a meeting, agendas serve as check lists for points of order, establishing as they do the chronology of presentations during any given official deliberation. Long ago, early in our career in the Dreaded Private Sector, we made it a rule to walk out of any meeting that did not have a written agenda. If the meeting is necessary, the agenda will make that clear. No agenda was almost always a sure sign of a meaningless waste of time.

Agendas presage the flow of the meeting, give a quick look at the gathering’s logic, provide evidence of the thought behind the meeting, help define purpose, help attendees prepare, and, while a meeting progresses, supply a compass to help the chair keep the gathering on target. THE PLANET likes agendas.

THE PLANET does not, however, like the agendas the way the Pittsfield School Committee and the School Administration use them. We don’t like the double dealing, literally — for we have discovered that for each school committee, there are two agendas, not one. The first agenda is the one the public and press see. It lists meeting items, and that’s it. Properly so, the public agendas do not take position on issues. For example, if the item reads, “Appointment of School Nurse,” it will not include a recommendation. The public never gets a view of the second, secret GOB agenda. The second agenda is a stew cooked up between the administration the the school committee.

In the secret agenda, each item includes a “recommendation” from the school department administration to the school committee. For “recommendation,” read “marching orders.”

Serious Business with Taxpayer Dollars

Let’s spell this out for anyone who fails to see the seriousness: The second, secret agenda, which only school committee members and school administrators see, includes the actions the administration dictates to the school committee. In other words, the secret agendas list administrative positions on the various issues, so there will be no doubt when committee members vote that they will be counted “fer” or “agin” the administration. If you want to stay officially in the “inner circle” in Pittsfield, you had better vote the way the recommendation tells you to vote.

To show you how this dishonest process works, consider the agenda of the Wednesday, Jan. 23 meeting of the school committee, selected at random. There were six items for action. Each came with a “recommendation.” For example, item IV A.

“Superintendent Search Update.

Recommended Action

That the School Committee accept the Superintendent Search Update, as presented by Bill Garr.”

The school committee voted as ordered.

The word “recommendation” may seem innocuous, but what if committee members disagree with what they are told to do? In that case, even before a meeting began, they would already be at odds with what the Establishment wanted. If they followed through on their convictions, a rare thing for members of the school committee to do save for Terry Kinnas and on occasion Dan Elias, they would have to bear the brand of “heretic” after acting upon their objections. Since they receive agendas prior to the actual meetings, this would encourage pre-meeting consultations to iron-out positions, something that would violate the state’s Open Meeting Laws.

On that same Jan. 23 agenda, Item V, C “recommends that the committee approve the revised FY13 school system operating budget.” With tens of millions of dollars — roughly $92 million — on the line, the “recommendation” is not only presumptuous but borderline illegal. Again, the committee did as told

Taking a Dive for the Short-End Money

The “recommendations” are the equivalent of getting to a boxer before the fight and convincing him to take a dive for the short-end money. They also are kissing cousins of illegal deliberations, since they imply pre-consultative actions involving the committee, through its chair or otherwise, and the administration. How else could the secret agenda be printed with the “recommendations?”

As you have probably put together by now, the school administration’s “recommendations” to the school committee are that in name only. THE PLANET has analyzed several months worth of school committee agendas, comparing the public and hidden versions. In virtually every case, the school committee voted in tandem with the administration. The “recommendations” are actually orders.

The committee followed orders in almost every case where a “recommendation” was made. Such conformity undermines the legitimacy of the relationship between the committee and administration, which should be one of checks and balances. The school committee serves as the collective boss of the administration, but in Pittsfield, it’s the other way around. The proper relationship should be an employer/employee (committee/administration) relationship, the same as you have with your boss at work. As the dictated actions on the secret agenda reveal, though, the administration runs the asylum. What the GOB wants via the school department administration, it gets.

A School Committee on both ‘The Take’ and the Short Leash of Noseworthy-Behnke

Bluntly put, the Pittsfield School Committee is on the take — for what reason or for what gain, THE PLANET cannot say. We can say that the school administration has this group in its pocket, and this year’s school committee election may give voters a chance to give the Conformists the boot and elect quality candidates who won’t put up with this puppet-master relationship.

Don’t be fooled by the stage play presently being enacted by Mayor Dan Bianchi (as opposed to school committeeman Dan Bianchi) and the Noseworthy-Behnke tandem that presently the obscenely bloated, $100 million school department request, which the N-B Team under-handedly calls a $57 million request by leaving out the cost of transportation, maintenance, and benefit packages (all neatly hidden away on the city side of the ledger). This “fight” is being waged for show, so that, when a fake compromise is reached, politics will be served. Bianchi will claim he lowered the budget, when all he did was limit the increase. The school administration will point to its sacrifice as a team player. When the bull gives way to silence, of course, Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski will again be looking at another round of tax hikes.

The blame for this regrettable situation rests with School Supt., interim, Gordon Noseworthy and with every member of the school committee that has gone along with the Double Agenda practice. Now that THE PLANET has exposed the ruse, we call upon Alf Barbalunga, Kathy Yon, Kathy Amuso, Dan Elias, Dan Bianchi, Jim Conant, and Kinnas to cease accepting agendas with Administration orders. THE PLANET calls upon Mayor Bianchi, specifically, to condemn the practice of agendas with “recommendations.” We would like to see Bianchi and chairman Barbalunga issues a joint public statement to that effect. Again, Noseworthy and his crew can call them “recommendations,” but in effect they constitute orders.

The practice should stop, immediately.

As the the final budget, tax hikes will be inevitable until and unless a firebrand steps forward to organize and harness the anger of common, good, tax-paying citizens, turning then into political activists who will march in vast numbers to city hall and attend the upcoming budget deliberations, demanding a stop to the games.


 “Ye who believe in affection that hopes, and endures, and is / patient , / Ye who believe in the beauty and strength of woman’s / devotion, / List to the mournful tradition, still sung by the pines of the / forest; / List to a tale of love in Acadie, home of the happy.” — Pittsfield’s Henry Wadsworth Longfellow




  1. In the know
    May 10, 2013 at 9:25 am #


  2. GMHeller
    May 10, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Mr. Valenti,
    Do you mean to say that the Pittsfield School Committee chaired by Alfred Barbalunga, Jr. is rigged?

    Shocking, SHOCKING!
    Who would have thunk it?
    That such a paragon of virtue like ‘No-Show’ Barbalunga should be involved in such underhanded dealings is hard to believe — an epiphany for the ages.
    It’s the end of an era!
    Will the Berkshire Young Professionals — for whom ‘Alf’ is BYP’er #1 — ever recover from seeing its fearless leader fall off his pedestal?

  3. Jonathan Melle
    May 10, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    Pittsfield politics is a business! Pittsfield’s city government is the single largest employer of thousands of people in Pittsfield. Tens of millions of dollars comes to Pittsfield from the state and federal government. Without the city government, there would be no Pittsfield economy.

  4. FPR
    May 10, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    Wow Dan, Powerful.

    The bright side is that when you’ve paid all you can pay in taxes into this corrupt city government and get old and can’t pay anymore, they have a solution. You can work off your taxes for minimum wage.

    The brilliant folks running the city perhaps can get you a job at a DD DT near you. Maybe the members of the city council can get dressed up in leathers and use a whip to make you work until all your taxes are paid up.

    After all, its for “the children”.

  5. Scott
    May 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm #


  6. Joe Blow
    May 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    Dan, will you post scans of the “secret” agenda documents?

    • danvalenti
      May 10, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

      Well, I could do that, but all you’ll see is the regular agenda with the “recommendation” printed underneath. I have given you the exact wording of two of them. That’s how all of them look.

      • In the know
        May 11, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

        So that means you don’t have anything worth posting? Just a bunch of your malarkey .

  7. Rivetor
    May 10, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    Great coverage. Why wasn’t this in the Eagle?

    • danvalenti
      May 10, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

      Thanks, RIV. The answer to your question: Because they are too busy producing a “newspaper” that acts more as a cheerleader for the Chamber of Commerce. The sinful school spending is off limits at the Eagle, a sacred cow, because of the advertising dollars the paper gets.

    • in the know
      May 11, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

      Dan why didn’t Mr. Kinnas report this ? Isn’t he the school committee watch dog…….Because this is a non issue. What did they get in return for being on the take? Dan making a mountain out of a mole hill !

  8. Joe Blow
    May 10, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”

    – Albert Shanker, United Federation of Teachers

    • danvalenti
      May 10, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

      Sad but true. The school unions have destroyed public education in America.

      • in the know
        May 11, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

        Dan why do you belong to 3 unions if they are so bad?

        • danvalenti
          May 11, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

          The simple answer to that, my good friend, is that in order to be allowed by the sate to teach at the college, the agreement between the union and the administration requires un ion membership. It’s not by choice. It’s by a subtle form of coercion. It proves a belief I’ve long seen to be true: You can get anybody to do anything provided you give them a worse alternative. The alternative to joining the NEA, the MTA, and the MCCC is to pay what is called an “agency fee.” This fee costs more and is more of a hassle.

          • In the know
            May 12, 2013 at 6:33 am #

            Sorry Dan your wrong, agency fees can not be more than union dues. Your against unions yet you except the Benefits the union bargains for .

          • danvalenti
            May 12, 2013 at 9:12 am #

            Of course I accept the benefits. I am a dues paying member, silly man.

  9. Dave
    May 10, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Dan, are these recomendations from sub-committees, like when something goes to say ordinance and rules on the city side and comes to the council with a recommendation for approval or not?

    • danvalenti
      May 10, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

      No. As I understand it, they are orders, called “recommendations” that come directly to the school committee from the superintendent’s office. Proof that they are orders can be seen in the uniformity with which the school committee follows through on whatever the administration “recommends.” The proper relationship between the SC and the administration should be adversarial and of a watch-dog nature. The SC is voted in to insist on accountability from the schools. As it’s practiced in Pittsfield, the administration uses the SC to implement its ex$pen$ive wish lists.

      • dusty
        May 11, 2013 at 1:18 am #

        And someone “recommended” that we pay these school committee members to vote on these recommendations. How is that for irony? Are they more likely to vote the way it was recommended if they are paid?

        A little grease on the wheel perhaps?

  10. MrG1188
    May 11, 2013 at 7:18 am #

    This really is a shock to me Dan. I served on a school committee locally (NOT Pittsfield) for quite a number of years and think perhaps the worst part of this news is that it taints, simply by association, all those school committees who run honestly, openly and properly. I think everyone, no matter where one lives, thinks the school committee is fixed and that all matters are decided in the proverbial smoke-filled room, behind closed doors. I was SO pleasantly surprised to find that not to be the case. We NEVER met privately, never e-mailed each other…and never, never, never had recommendations made by the administration. The School Committee is the BOSS of the administration…not vice-versa. It’s set up that way for a reason. The administration is supposed to answer to the committee which is representing the people! Debate is supposed to be debate; a time where the administration can, and should, make its positions & preferences clear. The committee should then openly discuss, come to their own conclusions and vote their conscience. Wow…to do anything else is unconscionable and should be illegal. The secret agendas, if correlated back with votes over time, should be judged a violation of open meeting laws since all decisions appear to be made in advance rendering the meeting meaningless. Wow. Thanks Dan

    • danvalenti
      May 11, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

      MR G
      Thank you for this tremendous information. THE PLANET only wishes it could get more like you on the Pittsfield School Committee. You have picked up entirely why this is an important issue. This issue also conveys the nature, the sense, and the flavor of how Pittsfield handles its politics.

      • Joe Pinhead
        May 12, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

        It either proves the point or begs the question do the committee members understand the role that they play in the community? One is left to wonder if they govern the administration and understand both the short term and long term goals and direction of the schools why would someone from administration need to tell them what to do? Does Administration provide any back up support? Ex. Item 99 on the agenda will bolster the committee’s directive XXXX in the following way? Or further enhance our ability to blah blah?
        Or one must consider that they are clueless and wish only to see themselves on TV and really don’t understand the impacts of the votes cast. Would not the voting public be better informed if there was a vibrant debate on items?
        I can’t wait until the new Super writes the performance appraisal for each committee member.

        just sayin
        but then again “its for the children”

        • danvalenti
          May 12, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

          You raise, once again, pertinent and vital questions. My guess is that this school committee does not understand its role. The proper role of the PSC is to be the employer, the boss, of the administration — the representative of citizens, constituents, and taxpayers, that is, Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, proverbially known as The Little Guy.

  11. FPR
    May 11, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    Hey Dan,

    Could this happen in Pittsfield?:

    or rather, should this happen in Pittsfield?

  12. GMHeller
    May 12, 2013 at 12:12 am #

    Mr. Valenti,
    Your revelations beg the question:
    If Pittsfield citizens do not like the representation they get on the Pittsfield School Committee, then why does the citizenry keep electing hacks who rubber-stamp the agenda of the school administration?
    Valenti, you also make no mention of just which political party dominates the PSC.
    Elections do have consequences.

    • danvalenti
      May 12, 2013 at 9:11 am #

      For years, the school committee races have been ignored and have drawn only incumbents. Not much of a choice if all six are up for re-election, is there. The better question is: Why have so many people dropped out of the political process. Also, Heller, of what use would it be to mention the political party. Everyone knows the answer. You must get over your hatred of anything “liberal” or “Democrat.” It severely impedes your effectiveness.

      • GMHeller
        May 12, 2013 at 9:37 am #

        You write, “Also, Heller, of what use would it be to mention the political party. Everyone knows the answer. You must get over your hatred of anything “liberal” or “Democrat.” It severely impedes your effectiveness.”

        Hardly, it just goes to prove the point.
        And your knee-jerk reaction reinforces that which is ever more obvious.
        If you want to maintain the status quo and if you want insider deals that reek of crooked politics and if you want your taxes to go ever higher, then go ahead and vote for your local Liberal Democrat and your wishes will all be fulfilled.

        • MrG1188
          May 13, 2013 at 6:28 am #

          GM…2 points; party affiliation has little or no influence in local races and I don’t see any Republicans or Conservatives lining up to oppose those currently in power. From my experience, there are really only two types of School Committee members; responsible and irresponsible. The SC has only 2 real responsibilities; the hiring, management and evaluation of the Superintendent (I believe the Business Manager also falls under their purview) and the approval of the budget. I believe at the local level the “budget management” stuff is (or at least should be) much less about your macro-economic philosophies (Conservative, Liberal, etc.) and much more about providing the best education to the children of the community that the community can afford. Affordability has to be the guiding principle otherwise the committee, the district and the process, loses all credibility with the community. Sounds like that’s where we are in Pittsfield

          • GMHeller
            May 13, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

            Your “Hear no evil; See no evil” interpretation of the Pittsfield School Committee’s actions do not explain the secret agendas now exposed by Valenti, nor the SC’s recent signing-off on a sweetheart deal which allowed the Superintendent’s secretary to have her house constructed by students at a cost savings of at least $160,000.

            Nothing to see here, folks, keep moving.

  13. Mac C. Mckenzie
    May 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Quite a bit going on in local schools this week, most notably a visit by Lt. Governor Murray to PHS Thursday, in which local officials mildly pressed the Lieutenant on the sometimes frustrating slow process of school building planning… meanwhile, PHS’s principal spent some time this week addressing a parent’s complaint to media about the style of safe sex flyers around the school, and a new subcommittee of Reid educators finished dispensing with an open meeting complaint filed against it by city school committee member Terry Kinnas. On a brighter note, 488 local 3rd graders received colorful new dictionaries as part of an annual literacy initiative by the Rotary Club. Ongoing discussion of vocational programming at Taconic HS since last week’s school committee meeting will continue this coming Wednesday, when the public will have another opportunity to address the future of such programs as auto body and metal fabrication at the committee’s Dec. 12 meeting- though in the grand tradition of mudlike online transparency, no agenda has yet been posted to the school department’s website , and the meeting is not even listed on the main city calendar [UPDATE: Agenda was posted by end of day Monday 12/10].

  14. Margaret Burnett
    May 19, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    The issuing of secret “recommendations” implies previous communications between the committee and the superintendent or his deputies. This would be a clear violation of the open meeting laws. It is also likely a violation of the law to have two separate agendas for the same public meeting, with one of them being hidden from the public and available only to the meeting’s insiders. The school committee must issue an agenda for its meetings, but if the administration wants to convey its recommendations in policy items, it must do so in a separate document or in the meeting itself, each time in public and out in the open, not in the windowless back room.