BARBALUNGA’S DECISION NOT TO RE-UP COULD HAVE DRAMATIC IMPACT ON DIRECTION OF PITTSFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS … KINNAS INTERESTED IN SCHOOL COMMITTEE CHAIR … PROMISING NEW PARTNERSHIPS — DARE ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ HOPE?
By DAN VALENTI
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.”
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.
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:
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.