PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, DATE, 2013) — Alf Barbalunga‘s decision not to seek re-election to the school committee, of which he was chair, or any other city position, could have dramatic impact on the Pittsfield School Department. It “could,” we say. This being Pittsfield, it also easily “could not.”

ALF BARBALUNGA: Out of ’13 race.

Thus the upheaval in the slumping PSD, which has gone through three superintendents (Jake Eberwein III, interim Gordon Noseworthy, and newbie Jake McCandless), continues. The two Jakes separated by a Nose, a departing committee chairman, two other current committee persons leaving to run for at-large council: Add it all up, and it certainly doesn’t spell r-e-l-i-e-f. It spells at the moment c-h-a-o-s, a free-for-all, and a power vacuum. What happens next will be determined by the election.

The wise guys in Vegas will lay odds that, this being Pittsfield, the city will again screw it up.

JAKE McCANDLESS — New Super less than “super” on his first hire.

The new Jake, McCandless, got off the a crashing start when he named Henry Duvall, the once and former social studies teacher at Taconic High School. to be the new vice principal of Pittsfield High School. THE PLANET wonders: Does that mean he will be in charge of the vice?

After leaving THS, Duvall entered Rug Row via an administrative post, becoming vice principal at Cheshire’s Hoosac Valley High School in 2001. In 2004, he became Hoosac’s principal, where he stayed until last year, when he was mysteriously demoted to vice principal again. Now the downward arc of this anti-meteoric career resumes its course at PHS.

Duvall publicly complained about being “tied to a desk” at Hoosac. Hmmmm. He goes from VP to P back to VP again, then makes a lateral move to another VP position, one that will presumably have the same amount of paperwork as the Hoosac job? Duvall moaned about the amounts of paperwork being required of him as VP at Hoosac, having to complete state, regional, and local reports; dealing with teacher evaluations; and performing managerial tasks. So what? He expects he won’t be doing that in Pittsfield? Something doesn’t add up here.

We don’t know why, but we think of George C. Scott‘s great line in Stanley Kubrick‘s Dr. Strangelove: “Mister President, I’m beginning to smell a big, fat Commie rat!”

McCandless decision to bring back a retread like Duvall reveals a weak, unimaginative move that will likely do little or nothing to stem the academic-social-cultural slide now being experienced at PHS. Speaking of the recent plunge into the depths at PHS, we present this comment, sent to THE PLANET by one of the PPS’ recent victims, who calls himself Honors Student:

—– 00 —–

Right on as usual, DV. Pittsfield is headed down the same path, though on a smaller scale, as Detroit. Enormous unfunded pention liabilities coupled with a decreasing and changing (not for the better) population base.

Off topic, but I know it is one you enjoy discussing — I am a product of the PPS, graduated a few years back and enrolled in a top 100 liberal arts college, not the very best but pretty good. I must say I was unprepared for a college classroom despite being an honors student and taking the most rigorous classes in High School! It wasn’t that I hadn’t studied the right material; rather it was that until college, I had never been in a competitive academic culture or in a classroom that did not have at least a few students with discipline issues. Quite an eye-opener to say the least.

—– 00 —–

Let us return now to Barbalunga’s decision not to run this year. It means there will be a new school committee chairman. With Kathy Amuso and Jim Conant off to city side (and the $8,000 stipend should they win at-large council seats), there will be a new make-up of this key committee. Assuming they are re-elected, the new chair would come from among Kathy Yon, Dan Elias, and Terry Kinnas. Only Kinnas has expressed a strong desire to be chair.

Kinnas would make an ideal chair.

TERRY KINNAS: School committee’s new chair?

With Kinnas in the chair working with a new superintendent, citizens of Pittsfield would have that rarest of Pittsfield political opportunities, which would be two office holders who might actually understand the key role taxpayers’ play in the school process — we know Kinnas does, and in spite of McCandless’ decision to bring back Duvall, in all fairness, we haven’t seen any of his budget moves yet. Most of those taxpayers, by the way, do not have children in public schools. They only foot the bill for nearly $17,000 per pupil per Little Darlin’.  They do have a stake, of course, beyond taxes, since their city to some extent lives or dies on the strength of the education it offers.

For at least a generation, the product of Pittsfield public schools has been in a steady decline. Since the superintendencies of “Do-Nothing” Darlington and “Nothing Doing” Eberwein, that decline has accelerated into a free fall. Do you think it’s merely a coincidence that as Pittsfield’s schools have declined despite record-setting spending each year, Pittsfield has been unable to attract any meaningful new businesses? Economic development depends on an educated work force. If you want that, you had better stay away from Pittsfield. This is to say nothing of the roadblocks, land mines, and razor wire that the city and its so-called “economic development” offices put in the way of entrepreneurs, businesses, and others in the Dreaded Private Sector who make inquiries into moving to the Berkshires.

Kinnas has proven himself as a tireless watchdog for the overall public good. Through his dogged and often solitary fights against the archaic, politically corrupt practices that have become the norm in the PSD (anyone remember the Frank “Free House” Cote escapade?), some progress has been made to stem the dishonorable tide. If not for Kinnas, THE PLANET doubts whether our right Honorable Good Friend councilor-at-large Barry Clairmont would have taken up his painstaking review of the PSD shell-game finances, a con run beautifully by school department budget chief Kristen Behnke.

JOE NICHOLS: The anti-Krol? Krol’s anti-taxpayer vote on school department budget will play role in Ward 6 race.

Moreover, Clairmont certainly would not have received the six votes from his fellow councilors needed to pass the token “cut” of $200,000 from the school budget. [EDITOR’S NOTE: The word “cut” must be placed in quotes. Though the GOB says the school budget was “cut,” it actually received nearly $2 million more from bedraggled taxpayers as compared to last year’s fattened budget]. Ward 6 councilor John Krol by the way, did not support the “cut.” Krol voted the way his GOB “bosses” wanted him to vote, “ta hell wit da peepul,” as Jimmy Durante would say. Based on his prior track record as Ward 7 councilor, Krol’s current opponent, Joe Nichols, would have supported the cut, giving Clairmont, Kinnas, and We The People seven votes for good government.

It would be both riveting and hopeful to see Clairmont and Kinnas continue their city side-school side partnership, this time with Clairmont with a full term under his belt and Kinnas as school committee chair.


“Strange blessings never in Paradise / Fall from these beclouded skies.”Edwin Muir, last lines of “One Foot in Eden,” 1956.





  1. dusty
    July 23, 2013 at 12:57 am #

    If someone were planning to run for a higher office they may not want the baggage of being head of a failing school committee on their recent record. The people need time to forget the further backwards steps taken during Alf’s reign.

    and I hope Conant and Yon just disappear… least from important jobs that affect real people who depend on effective representation from the people they elect

  2. Scott
    July 23, 2013 at 5:26 am #

    I have been very satisfied with Lee schools. Based on my experience with both public and private schools Lee has been the most well rounded so far. I met the new Jake in Lee lets hope he brings the same level and quality of educational environment as is practiced in Lee but let’s face it the dynamics are totally different in Pittsfield a challenge for the most seasoned administrators.

  3. debbie
    July 23, 2013 at 5:39 am #

    Bye Bye Hitler!! You sucked anyways. Maybe you should consider leaving your Court position also!….talk about system suckers, that would be you Alf!. The People will wait to see what position your Daddy buys you next!….

  4. B. Clairmont
    July 23, 2013 at 8:44 am #


    Terry Kinnas had nothing to do with my decision to pursue the cuts. I looked into the finances closer based on the departments reluctance to meet with the council’s finance committee.


    • Dave
      July 23, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

      Sorry Barry, If for the last 20 months Mr. Kinnas did not challenge the spending in the school department on a variety of different issues you wouldn’t even have started looking into the obvious over spending. Thanks for the token effort, but if it wasn’t for the going away present by Alf (his speech that night at the council meeting) your motion would have failed. You did not cut the budget, you cut the increase-symantics I know, but more could have been done. Thanks Barry and more thanks to Terry.

  5. Ron Kitterman
    July 23, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Hey don’t be raggin on Jimmy Durant he would be saying that Pittsfield politics is a ” COLOSSAL, GIGANTIC, MAGNANIMOUS, and last but not first, AURORA BOREALIS. Four little words that make a sentence—and a sentence that will eventually get me six months…”

  6. Dave
    July 23, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    Four months until the election and I haven’t heard or read one press release by any candidate as to how they are going to change the stagnation that has become Pittsfield. No seat should be unchallenged. Scott has said he will run for Mayor, now we need one person from each uncontested ward race, a couple at-large, and a couple for school committee(be warned you will win by default so be prepared to actually serve). We will run on the 1Planet platform(the 1Pittsfield platform didn’t work for Marchetti but the 2nd time is a charm–or is it 3rd?) Each incumbent should have to defend their votes on the issues of the past two years in a debate forum, where they cannot just not answer or dodge the questions. Votes on the school budget, the Plunkett building, another tax increase on both the residential and business side, ……………… If there is no debate, there will be no accountability or change— maybe we feel everything is rosy and change isn’t needed, and if so I respect your opinion but I wholeheartedly disagree. I am not smart enough to have all the answers, but I am smart enough to know that change is needed- we have been fed the line for how many years that fix downtown and support the arts and the jobs will follow- how has that worked so far?

  7. Two Cents
    July 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    Alf not running again -In the immortal words of Jimmy Ruberto…”It’s a great day for the City of Pittsfield!”

    • debbie
      July 23, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

      Maybe Alf’s Daddy will buy him Cliff Nilan’s position! Its always been a power trip of Alf’s to be in Superior Court….Stay turn for as our stomach turns.

  8. Pat
    July 23, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    Does anybody know if the Burger King in PIttsfield has or will open soon? I can’t even get a working phone number for the one in Lenox. DId that close already? Nothing about it in the BB as usual.

    HELP. Very curious to know.

    • jlo
      July 24, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

      The Lenox and Pittsfield location on First Street are open, only the Merrill Road site remains closed. The Merrill Road site was bought by a land speculator it appears, as there is a For Sale sign on the property, with no discernable activity there.

      • Pat
        July 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

        Thank you. I didn’t remember reading anything about the Pittsfield opening of Burger King in the newspaper, but maybe I just missed it. I know there was a story when the Lenox one opened. I will definitely be going to the one in Pittsfield as it is closer to me.

      • danvalenti
        July 24, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

        Thanks, J-LO

    July 23, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    Have to agree with Dave, if Terry didn’t soften them up for 20 months, pounding away pounding away, practically alone, Clairmont’s motion on the 200 grand wouldn’t have passed. That and Alf’s infamous speech that swayed Tony Simonelli. Barry we appreciate what you did but be real. Hope you and Terry can keep working together .