SMARTGATE CONCLUSION: SIX OF SEVEN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEMBERS RESPOND, ALL BUT MUM BIANCHI … SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION IGNORES ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ … CHAIRMAN BARBALUNGA VOWS ACTION … ELIAS, OTHERS ADMIT SCHOOLS DO NOT ENFORCE ‘SMART’ POLICY … HALF OF PPS CLASSROOMS DUMBED DOWN BY ‘SMART’ STUDENTS
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY—MONDAY, MAY 24-27, 2013) — First, before THE PLANET get to the conclusion of our story on “Smartgate” in the Pittsfield Public School system, we give you this update on those who took out nomination papers. New names from last week are highlights in bold face, underline.
City Clerk: Linda M. Tyer (86 Ventura Avenue)
Council At Large:
Edward J. Carmel (99 Second Street, Apt. 109)
Barry J. Clairmont (12 Lillybrook Road)
Churchill Cotton (15 Donovan Street)
Mark C. Miller (300 Williams Street)
Ward 1 Councilor
Chris Yon, incumbent
Tammy Ives (62 Sadler Avenue)
Lisa I. Tully (58 Oak Hill Road)
Ward 2 Councilor Kevin J. Morandi (19 South Carolina Avenue)
Ward 3 Councilor Paul J. Capitanio (106 Parkside Avenue)
Ward 4 Councilor Christopher J. Connell (105 Dawes Avenue)
Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop (18 Willow Lane)
Ward 6 Councilor Joseph C. Nichols (39 Cascade Street)
Ward 7 Councilor Tony Simonelli, incumbent
Kathy Yon, incumbent
Alfred E. Barbalunga (32 Brookside Drive) incumbent
Daniel C. Elias (201 Mohegan Street) incumbent
As you can see, the season is still slow, and no one, as yet, has taken out papers for mayor.
BARBALUNGA PROMISES ACTION ON ‘SMARTGATE’; BIANCHI, SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION NO-SHOWS IN RESPONDING TO THE PUBLIC … WHAT ARE THEY AFRAID OF?
Since THE PLANET revealed — in an exclusive — the abuse in the classrooms of so-called “smart” portable, personal technology by students (iPad, iPod, Kindle, Nook, etc.), there has been growing concern on the part of the public, and maybe, just maybe, the school committee will act.
Most tellingly, six of the seven school committee members responded in some fashion to our inquiries into the situation. Of the school committee, only Dan Bianchi, who also is mayor, once again ignored THE PLANET entreaties. THE PLANET would remind BIanchi that ignoring us has not worked out well for his predecessors. Only mayor Jimmy Ruberto kept the lines of communication open. Only Jimmy Ruberto had a tough enough skin to deal with THE PLANET, and we shall remind those of weak memory that we took Ruberto into the boards as roughly or rougher than anyone.
Ruberto, a smart politician, won four straight terms. Sara Hathaway, Gerry Doyle, and Ed Reilly all at some point in their terms not only cut us off (and cutting off their noses to spite their kissable mugs) but also, after they each lost re-election or resigned knowing they could not win another term, blamed poor, little PLANET for their respective demises. They under-estimated the strength of our following, and when they stopped talking to us, We The People took it as a personal insult.
We night add that THE PLANET has another inquiry into the mayor on a separate matter. It has to do with allegations leveled against Bianchi by a member of the press. We wanted to sit down with the mayor to get his side of the remarkable story before we went ahead with what he have learned. We even offered lunch. We have heard nothing but Simon and Garfunkle, that is, “The Sounds of Silence.” When the phone doesn’t ring, I’ll know it’s the mayor not calling.
The school committee, as a whole, comes off with honesty and openness by comparison. With six out of seven responses, they are batting .857. The school department administration, however, logs in at a pathetic 0-for-4 at .000. Not one of the top four brass — interim supt. Gordon Noseworthy or deputy superintendents N. Tracy Crowe, Kristen Behnke, or Frank Cote — answered our questions. Only Cote gets a pass, since he is recovering from illness. In snubbing Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, the school department administration only confirms their haughty, “how-dare-you-question-what-we-do” attitude. Come budget time, these mercenaries, in the name of The Children, will once again attempt (and likely succeed) in picking taxpayers’ pockets for more of the latter’s precious little money, but when it comes to responsiveness to the “customer,” Noseworthy and his gang would rather tell you to shove it.
Here are the responses we received, as we received them:
CHAIRMAN ALF BARBALUNGA
PITTSFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS
.c1.SECURE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT POLICY
The first responsibility of a school system is to ensure students and their parents of an orderly safe environment in which effective teaching and learning can take place. Toward this end, the following process is effective immediately.
1. Portable Communications Devices
The School Committee recognizes that cell phones and other kinds of portable communication devices (PCDs) may play an important part in the safety as well as the convenience of students. Cell phones and PCDs are defined here as products of current and emerging technology that are wireless, and that send or receive electronic communications, including pictures, text, graphics, and sound, by means of analog, digital, or other format of data transmission. The School Committee establishes the following rules for students’ use of cell phones and other kinds of PCDs.
A. Students may carry or otherwise possess cell phones and other kinds of PCDs on school grounds and at school-sponsored or school-related events or activities; except that students shall keep any such devices turned off and shall not use or operate any such device during the instructional day, or at any other time during any school-sponsored activity or program, or in any location, when their use would reasonably be expected to disrupt or interfere with instructional activities or the academic climate of the school or its programs or services.
B. The term “instructional day” as used in paragraph A, above, means the times established for regular academic instruction. The term “instructional day” shall also refer to activities or programs that occur outside the time when regular academic instruction is provided and when students are obliged to be in attendance, such as for Saturday detention, in which case the restriction on the use or operation of cell phones or other kinds of PCDs shall apply to the students involved in such activities or program.
C. No cell phone or other kind of PCD shall be used at any time during or in conjunction with any school-sponsored activity for the purpose of, or in a manner that facilitates cheating, plagiarism, sexual or other harassment or discrimination, bullying or demeaning acts, violation of any person’s privacy, interference with or disruption of any Pittsfield Public Schools activity, violation of a criminal or other statute, or otherwise in a manner that violates a Pittsfield Public Schools policy or rule of conduct for students.
D. A student who violates the restrictions set forth in this policy on the use of cell phones or other kinds of PCDs may face disciplinary action. Absent a circumstance that exacerbates the offense, such as the use of a cell phone or other kind of PCD in violation of paragraph C, above, violation of the restrictions set forth in this policy shall be deemed insubordination under the student rules of conduct, and shall be treated as such in taking disciplinary action. A second violation of said restrictions shall result in denial for 60 school days of the rights set forth in paragraph A, above. A third violation of said restrictions, or a violation of a provision of paragraph C, above, shall result in denial for 180 school days of the rights set forth in paragraph A, above. Any further violation of said restrictions shall result in permanent loss of the rights set forth in paragraph A, above.
E. School officials, including classroom teachers, may confiscate a cell phone or other kind of PCD that is used by a student in violation of the restrictions set forth in this policy. The student’s parent or guardian shall be notified of the infraction and advised that he/she may claim the confiscated device at the school.
F. Although the Pittsfield Public Schools shall make a reasonable effort to ensure the security of any cell phone or other kind of PCD confiscated pursuant to the preceding paragraph, it shall be the responsibility of the student’s parent or guardian to claim any such confiscated device in a timely way, thereby ensuring that the device is in the safekeeping of the parent or guardian as soon as possible.
G. Electronic devices lost or stolen while at school are not the responsibility of the Pittsfield Public Schools.
H. The principal or his/her designee may, at his/her sole discretion, grant exceptions to the prohibition on the use of cell phones and other kinds of PCDs. The principal or his/her designee may require suitable documentation of a critical need for such an exemption before granting the exemption.
PLANET RESPONDS: Note that Barbalunga admitted that the school committee was not aware of the extent of this problem. THE PLANET applauds the chairman for this frank and honest, open admission. We also will support him 100% in his actions to get the matter of Smartgate on a future school committee agenda.
Hi, DanWould you please have Soccer Mom contact me directly. I would be happy to discuss this with her.Thank you.KathyPLANET COMMENTS: We wrote back to Amuso and told her we would let Varsity Mom (not “Soccer Mom”) know that she, Amuso, would talk to her. We also reiterated that we wanted her views as well, which she cleverly avoided giving. She wrote back:DanThe school committee approved a policy a while ago that we sought input from the administrators and teachers on the use of technology in the schools. If It were followed, I believe it would alleviate quite a few of the concerns Soccer [sic] Mom has. I know I had to go to Herberg several years ago to retrieve a device that was taken away from my son. So, there are some teachers that do enforce the policy.KathyPLANET: Amuso is correct. There is a policy. It is not being enforced. If it was being enforced, there would not be a problem. There would be no Smartgate, but that’s just hte [sic] point. Half or more of the teachers ignore the policy. Too much work? can’t be bothered? We don’t know. THE PLANET only knows that the school committee must haul Noseworthy and his crew in before the McDonald French Fry lights, and let them know they EXPECT action on the enforcement of policy.
Hope all is well. It is my understanding the PPS policy is that students are able to carry with them cell phones that are turned off in the class room. Students are allowed to use them between classes and at lunch time. It is my understanding the Internet has a security code in each building that only allows a connection if you have permission to log on. In my visits to the high schools, I have not seen class room instruction interrupted by student cell or I-pad use age.
THE PLANET wrote back to Conant:
Many thanks for your response.
My followup question would be: Is the administration enforcing its policy? From what I’m hearing from concerned parents and students, the answer seems to be no. Would you favor some kind of policy audit that would look into this question? Do you agree that, if its happening, its a serious impediment to learning?
Keep up the good work,
One never knows for sure, however I would think that the administration/principle would carry out the phone/I-pad policy as directed by SC. If a audit is needed, then the school Superintendent should convey that to SC. I will investigate further, how ever based on what I hear this is an issue with a small group of students that have no respect for others or them self.
Dan, just a little reminder that when the ipads were brought in over my strong objections I gave research articles from MIT and Stanford University (Calif.) as well as the Newsweek articles that you mentioned on the blog in July of last year. I gave examples similar issues to those of “Varsity Mom” as well as what students can transmit from one class to another using cell phones. There was to be an evaluation in January of 13 of the ipad program, but the Chairman never put it on the agenda – secret (Administrative Memorandum) or regular. More on the AM later. The school department does have rules on the use of cell phones. Are they enforced? You could put a signal zapper in a building, some stores have done it to stop price comparison. Some schools have them also.
PLANET RESPONDS: Kinnas did indeed bring up the potential problems, and he was ignored. We would remind him, though, that his chairman has pledged, finally, to put this on the agenda.
I would be happy to speak to “Varsity Mom” about this. My number is 499-1278.
PLANET COMMENTS: Not nearly good enough. These 13 words plus a phone number were all Yon could muster. Note that she did not respond to any of our questions. She also did not respond to our request, a second time. We will add that Varsity Mom did not want to speak with Yon because of fear that the information, as well as her identity, would be passed along to the school department, and that her child would face retaliation.
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That concludes our series on a huge problem that has crippled learning in the PPS. It’s a problem easily fixed — not needing more money. It only needs a school department administration to begin to care about The Children, not in the fake, selfish sense that it has shown in the past at budget time but in terms of their education, learning, and well being. If the school department will not act on this, and there’s nothing that tell us they will, the school committee must do its job and hold the administration: Noseworthy, the incoming new superintendent, Crowe, Behnke, and Cote personally responsible. If the Gang of Four doesn’t fix this problem by September 2013, there should be repercussions, and serious ones.
It is, you see, for “The Children.”
“Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after / And the poetry he invented was easy to understand; / He knew human folly like the back of his hand, / And was greatly interested in armies and fleets; / When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter, / And when he cried the little children died in the streets.” — W. H. Auden, “Epitaph on a Tyrant.”
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.