SO FAR, FOUR OUT OF 11 SCHOOL OFFICIALS HAVE COMMENTED ON “SMART” GATE, INCLUDING A BOMBSHELL REVELATION BY A SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEMBER … BLOCKING TECHNOLOGY IS AN ANSWER TO KIDS’ MISUSE & ABUSE OF “SMART” DEVICES IN THE CLASSROOM; SO IS CONFISCATION … plus … WILL PITTSFIELD BE GETTING ANOTHER HILL 78? THE EPA SAYS IT ‘COULD HAPPEN’
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, MAY 22, 2013) — Thus far, four from the following list of 11 school department officials have responded to THE PLANET‘s request for a statement on the disruptive use of personal “smart” technology by students in the Pittsfield Public School System:
Alf Barbalunga, Jim Conant, Terry Kinnas, Dan Elias, Kathy Yon, Kathy Amuso, Dan Bianchi, Gordon Noseworthy, N. Tracy Crowe, Kristen Behnke, and Frank Cote.
The four are Conant, Elias, Kinnas, and Amuso. The responses include a blockbuster admission from one of the four. We shall be sharing it tomorrow or Friday. Four-for-11 results in a batting average of .363. That would lead the league in major league baseball, but in this league, anything less than 1.000 shall be considered substandard. THE PLANET has done our part by polling the members. Now each of them, elected and appointed, has an obligation to respond.
A Practical, Cost-Efficient Solution Exists, Now and Today
THE PLANET — on behalf of We The People, Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, and taxpayers — reiterates our expectation that each of these persons will comment. They are the experts. They have been entrusted by the people the keys to the $90 million car. If it is their position that the “smart” problem with increasingly dumb students is a non-issue, they should provide their reasoning and evidence. Perhaps they can convince us. If they agree the situation is problematic and getting worse by the day, they should share with the public what they intend to do about it.
There are two practical solutions to the “smart” problem (dare we call it “Smartgate”?)
1. Confiscation. The Pittsfield Public Schools already do this, as PLANET correspondent Giacometti adroitly points out, at the Juvenile Resource Center, formerly known as Carmen’s Holiday Ranch for Young Baddies. When kids enter for class, they must surrender all personal technology. Giacometti also correctly notes that the JRC also enforces a strict dress code. Inappropriately dressed students must put on prison garb. It is but an easy extension to include all of Pittsfield’s public school students in this policy regarding technology and proper attire. This would be the preferred option, and it would not cost taxpayers one penny.
2. The second practical solution we have seen is use of mobile phone jammers, which effectively scramble or block cell phone signals. The devices have a limited range, perfect for zapping small, isolated spaces such as classrooms. The technology has come a long way in effectiveness and practicality since first being developed for police and military use to block communications among criminals and terrorists. Along the way, the cost has fallen drastically.
The jammers are gaining growing support from a number of constituencies, including schools. In the classroom, the devices not only prevent students from accessing personal “smart” devices but also can help control academic cheating, another huge problem washed into schools by the rising high tide of technology. The sad reality of new technology — It gives kids the upper hand over adults. Now it’s time for PPS to employ a device-blocking technology that wrestles back control of the classroom.
THE PLANET won’t get into how these jammers work, but, in layman’s terms, they broadcast radio signals using the same frequencies as smart and cell phones use to contact cell towers. An oscillator generates a radio signal. A tuner adjusts the frequency. A generator produces “noise” in the selected frequency to block the signal. An amp boosts the power of the signal as required.
As the popularity of this technology becomes more known, it is certain that the nation’s schools will employ it to stop students from texting and surfing the net when they should be paying attention in class. The current Federal Communications Act dates back to 1934. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 contains provisions that schools could use to safely and legally use these devices.
Think of the opportunity for the city of Pittsfield. The PPS could become a trailblazer in the use of academic jammers. This technology is no longer a “protected” or illegal item. There is a growing market, and the devices are being sold online. Manufacturers have sniffed out this emerging market, resulting in an array of new devices in a wide variety of price-competitive costs. If the PPS dared to take up this challenge, it would give the department, and the city, at long last, an authentic, genuine, and true reason to boast.
THE PLANET’s question to all the “players” on the above list: Will you work together, form a consensus, develop a more exacting, rigorous new policy governing the use of portable “smart” devices such as cell phones and Kindles? Will you step forward, for once of a real way, for “The Children?”
EPA SPOKESMAN SAYS AREA COULD END UP WITH ANOTHER HILL 78
Late last week , at a meeting between the public, the GE-Housatonic Citizens Coordinating Council, the EPA, and environmental officials from Massachusetts and Connecticut, the EPA dropped a bomb. It told the public that the agency couldn’t rule out building a new PCB toxic dump somewhere in the Berkshires.
The EPA’s shocking admission despite categorical assurances given to Berkshire County residents by the state DEP that county residents would not once again be shafted by General Electric‘s toxic legacy. In fact, DEP commissioner Kenneth Kimmell has given an absolute promise that such a toxic dump would not be allowed anywhere in the state.
At the meeting, EPA mouthpiece Jim Murphy said that while the EPA “intends” to dump the poisons out of the Berkshires, the agency hasn’t made a final decision on that. Asked point blank if some town in the Berkshires could be hosting a PCB dump, the EPA flack said it “could happen.”
When GE began the “clean-up of first two miles of the Housatonic River beginning in Pittsfield, the poisons were trucked to the infamous Hill 78 in Pittsfield, located literally next to a grammar school. Hill 78, an Everest of industrial contamination, was part of the “great deal” Pittsfield struck with GE in the Consent Agreement. Its lofty mounds, five stories high, continue to mock official Pittsfield. They loom as an spiked and laced indictment to every city official who stood by, silent, while the city signed away its economic soul. Hill 78 and all the rest of the poisons left in the ground, air, and water after GE blew town have prevented economic development by scaring off companies who might otherwise want to make a move to the city.
Now, another “Hill 78” could be in the future of any city, town, or village in the county. We have not heard a peep of protest from our state representatives — Cariddi, Mark, Farley-Bouvier, Pignatelli and Downing. We have not heard one syllable of concern from Pittsfield mayor Dan Bianchi or anyone from his office. We have not heard a breath in opposition from any of our Right Honorable Good Friends on the Pittsfield city council. Likewise, the city school committee and the school department, in their eternal concern for “The Children,” have been mute on the idea of another toxic dump being located next to another city school.
Another Hill 78 anywhere in Berkshire County is a total non-starter. Every official in the county should go on record saying as much. Immediately, if not sooner.
“Take thought: / I have weathered the storm. / I have beaten out my exile.” — Ezra Pound, “The Rest.”
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.