PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY AND THROUGH THE WEEKEND, AUG. 2-7, 2013) — Looking for a job? Don’t want to flip hamburgers or butter popcorn for $8 an hour, which pretty much sums up the economy in Pittsfield, Mass., Dreaded Private Sector Division? Do you want to start in at the bottom of the pay scale at, say, anywhere $35.41 (Step 1) to $52.26 (Step 5)? How about an opening pay of $62,844?

If you want such riches, wrangle a beginner’s job teaching in the Pittsfield Public School System. Talent is good, but it is not a necessary attribute. “Knowing Someone” definitely helps. Whoever said America was the land of opportunity must have had Pittsfield public schools in mind. Just make sure that in the exchange, you’re on the taking side and not on the taxpayer side.

If you get a master’s degree and work yourself up to Step 17, you will pull down $83.84 an hour — this in a profession where the practitioners are constantly complaining that they are undervalued, unappreciated, and underpaid. To exemplify this point, we only remind you of the various work-to-rule actions and the mass storming of budget meetings over the year by the teachers’ union, accompanied by The Children, aimed to scare the bejeezus out of panty-waist politicians.

The late, great Aging Greek God Peter Arlos kept warning about the “pyramid of benefits” being built up contract after contract by the teachers, and few would listen. Scared and complicit politicians, having been bought off in some way, shape, or form, were only too happy to trade their integrity for block votes. In hindsight, they created a beautiful public swindle that hinged upon the installation of public apathy, which grew year after year and could be measured by dwindling turnout for elections and the appalling lack of talent in the public-office candidate pool. We are seeing it again, in checkered fashion, in Campaign ’13. Donna Todd Rivers, for citywide office? We mean, really!

School committeeman Terry Kinnas pulled the figures we are about to present out of PPS budget data that were approved by the administration, the school committee, the mayor, and the city council with nary a bang and only the faintest of whimpers (e.g., the $200,000 “cut” in a budget that saw an overall increase of $1.66 million — kudos, Councilor Clairmont.).

These figures are based on the hours in a typical school week for 185 work days. It’s the first time anyone, anywhere has published a per-hour breakdown of the PPS teacher pay scale.

THE PLANET presents this information, which went duly ignored by officials and the local mainstream media, to help put into perspective the PPS pay scale and how it compares to the Dreaded Private Sector, which, in Pittsfield, consists mainly of minimum-wage service-sector jobs. These figures represent the same data presented by the PPS to the public, only broken down in a more tangible way. The only difference is that they are analyzed in common sense form, allowing Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski to estimate the true nature of compensation for the teaching talent in the Pittsfield Public School system.

Watch Out for that First Step, Taxpayers: It’s a Lulu

At Step 1, a new hire coming in with a bachelor’s degree makes an average of $37,056, or $30.82 an hour. If that person elects to receive taxpayer-funded health insurance, which almost all of them do, the hourly rates zoom skyward. With health insurance, the new hire will make $40 an hour for single coverage and $52.26 for family. Total compensation for the greenest of rookie teachers on the family plan insurance is $37,056 + $25,788 = $62,844. You get the idea. On and on it goes, through the various teacher pay steps. Remember, taxpayers furnish all but 15% of the health insurance costs. Taxpayers, they’re skinning you alive.

Here are the rates of compensation for teachers at Steps 5, 10, and 17 with a bachelor’s degree:

* Step 5 — Annual salary, $43,503, or $36.18 an hour. With health insurance, the hourly rates advance to $45.36 single and $57.62 family. Total compensation $43,503 + $25,788 = $68,291

* Step 10 — Annual salary, $51,565 or $42.88 an hour. With health insurance $52.06 single, $64.33 family. Total compensation, $51,565 + $25,788 = $77,353

* Step 17 — Annual salary, $63,914 or $53.15 an hour. With health insurance single $62.33, family $74.60. Total compensation $63,914 + $25,788 = $89,702

Hourly compensation, Master’s Degree

* Step 1 — Annual salary, $41,000, hourly rate $34.10. With health insurance single $43.28, family $55.54. Total compensation $41,000 + $25,788 = $66,788

* Step 5 — Annual salary, $48,130, hourly rate $40.02. With health insurance single $49.21, family $61.47. Total compensation $48,130 + $25,788 = $73,910

* Step 10 — Annual salary, $57,045, hourly rate $47.44. With health insurance single $56.62, family $68.88. Total compensation $57,075 + $25,788 = $82,863

* Step 17 — Annual salary, $75,028, hourly rate $62.39. With health insurance $71.57 single, $83.84, family.  Total compensation $75,028 + $25,788 (family) = $100,816

The average total compensation for a teacher (salary plus health insurance) in Pittsfield is $74,547.50 for someone with a BA and $81,094.25 for a master’s degree.

It’s no wonder when Kinnas presented these figures to the school committee, chairman Alf Barbalunga and the others, including Mayor Dan Bianchi, tried to get him off topic ASAP. Bianchi wanted no part of it, in the same way he conveniently found it “necessary” to be absent when Kinnas was put on trial on the PPS school committee’s version of the Scopes Money Trial. For those who do not understand the reference, Google “Spencer Tracy.”

When Kinnas presented these figures, the room went silent. Fortunately, THE PLANET understands that the noise of quiet is only heard by those who are willing, just for the moment, to be deaf.

The last thing Barbalunga, the remainder of the school committee, the school administration, and Bianchi wanted was for these figures to see the light of day. No one paid attention at the school committee meeting. Perhaps they will here.

Clearly, with an annual budget approaching $100 million in total costs (school costs, operating budget, transportation, health insurance, maintenance, and other post-employment benefits) and a continuing drop in performance, the Pittsfield School Department has become a money eater offering taxpayers little of benefit in return.

Now we can present these objective, omniscient analyses until we are yellow, green, or blue in the gills, but it is up to the voting public to do something about it — or not. “Not” has been the apathetic response as of late. THE PLANET, though, having published these figures, can at least say “We told you so” when Pittsfield goes belly up down the roa, which will surely happen unless there is serious budget, compensation, and pension reform. What’s more, we will have the numbers to back up our prediction. We are not in the prophet or the profit business here on THE PLANET. We are here to give We The People information in an attempt, in vain or otherwise, to take back control of their government.


PS — Thank you, Mother Russia, for granting asylum to Edward Snowden. Kudos to Vladimir Putin and his government for having the courage to stand up to the clumsy bullying efforts of President Barack Obama and the United States and to grant a year’s asylum to Snowden, a man who, along with Jullian Assange, goes down in the annals of liberty.


“And now, while the trees stand, watching still / The unequal battle rages there. / The killing beast that cannot kill / Swells and swells in his fury till / You’d almost think it was despair.”Edwin Muir, last stanza, “The Combat.” (1949)





  1. Giacometti
    August 1, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

    The other side of the salary issue is that the teachers at the Juvenile Resource Center ( JRC ) which is run by the Sheriff
    Department, are paid on average $ 17.00 per hour.( $ 30,000 a year ) It doesn’t matter if they have a Bachelor or Masters Degree they get the same pay rate for teaching the worse students in the School System BECAUSE they are not represented by any union. So while the regular classroom teacher gets the top salary with steps the teachers who teach their worse students get very little with no steps in the salaries
    …you start out at the same teaching salary that you end up with ( $ 30,000.00 ) no matter how many years you teach.

    Why is it that the teachers with the worse students in the system are paid the worse salaries ?

  2. dusty
    August 2, 2013 at 12:59 am #

    I also thank Russia. They probably did it for all the wrong reasons but Snowden is a hero of sorts in my eyes.

    The truth about the school budget, with respect to any taxpayer not getting special discounts, is that it is not going to change any time soon. And so if you live in Pittsfield, Mass, and are a homeowner, you are probably caught up in this little money vacuuming tornado which over the years is going to suck the financial future out of you and your family.

    And it is not going to get fixed any time soon. In fact, with the retirement debacle on the horizon it will inevitably get worse. One option is to find another more ethical town to live in. Many, who understand numbers, dollars and investment in the future have read the tea leaves and left town. Many others who are now beginning to see the forest through the trees, are looking at their options. I am one of them. Truthfully, I can’t wait to get out of Pittsfield. There are worse places than Pittsfield and there are place just as bad, but there are also much better places I am sure.

  3. tito
    August 2, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    ,,,,,don’t forget the other’ benefit,,,,,,,,,teacher’s free cash fund’,,,,,,,gotta luv it….

  4. Wilson
    August 2, 2013 at 6:09 am #

    And what’s the value of the pension and retirement health insurance? To replicate that kind of return with private investments would require some serious annual contributions.

  5. The Kraken
    August 2, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    Dan, thank you for providing the teacher’s salary information. Proves they and their union have be lying all along. Underworked and overpayed/over-benefitted is the real truth. If I was payed that, and only worked 9 months a year, my company would get rid of me in a heartbeat.

  6. MrG1188
    August 2, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    20 years or so ago teachers were woefully underpaid. Unfortunately the unions have done an extraordinary job catching them up and continue to beat the same “underpaid” drum very successfully. It is time someone called BS on this whole thing. You will find similar numbers in every district in the county and Wilson is right, add in the pension value for the 30+ years of retirement and you’re talking REAL money! For the uninitiated, the “steps” are roughly equivalent to years of service. Step 17 is probably at or near the top, which means it takes 17 years in the system to make that kind of money ($100K+ with benefits). Those who are there longer than 17 years CONTINUE to receive off-step pay raises every year commensurate with the increases of the other steps until they retire. Now think for a second; you Mr./Ms. Teacher got your bachelor’s degree at 22, jumped into the school system at 23 or 24, the district PAID for you to get your masters in 2 years so at 26 you’re already at Masters Step 5 or so ($73k or so as above) by the time you are 50…you are at the top of the payscale and at 55 you are eligible for retirement at/above the top of the payscale!! 55 yo, great pay and insurance for the rest of my life…free and clear. How many people do you know anymore who could even think of retirement at 55? Even at 70 it looks unlikely for many.

  7. The Kraken
    August 2, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    Another point is that someone getting their master’s degree does not make them a better teacher. So why do they get raises when they get one? When employees in the private sector get their master’s, do they automatically get a huge raise? I think not. It may open you up for other jobs within the company, but that’s all. There’s some retired teachers living in my neighborhood and none of them worked until age 65, yet all have these beautiful houses.
    What a scam.

  8. Mike Ward
    August 2, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    Assuming you want good teachers, and given the fact that there are multiple school districts within a reasonable commute from Pittsfield, aren’t teacher salaries going to be determined by market forces?

    • The Kraken
      August 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

      Mike, not at all. They are determined by the unions and the policticians and how much money can be sucked out of the taxpayers.
      Public sector job salaries are not determined by market forces.
      Higher teacher’s pay does not equate to higher teaching quality. Never has been, that’s a big part of the problem.
      Sorry, but you are way off on this one.

    • joetaxpayer
      August 2, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

      Every year there are a fresh young crop of teachers coming out of college. Money doesn’t guarantee a good teacher or good District. I wish it was that easy. Many of the state’s that perform at the bottom are at the top in spending.

  9. Magic
    August 2, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    Mr. G

    I’m 70 this year, collect social security and work full time. I am a widow with a mortgage. Can’t even think of retiring unless I want to just never do anything or go anywhere.

  10. Jonathan Melle
    August 2, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    I have explained Pittsfield politics many times over on Dan Valenti’s blog. The first thing you have to know is that the single largest employer in Pittsfield is the City of Pittsfield. Thousands of people depend on taxpayers for their financial security. If you want to be a Pittsfield politician, you work for the city’s unions or you won’t get re-elected. The second thing you need to know is that Pittsfield receives many millions of dollars from the federal and state governments for the public school system. It is not about educating Pittsfield’s youth for $8 per hour service jobs. Rather, it is about Pittsfield receiving many millions of dollars from the state government for its public schools. Where does all the money Pittsfield receives go? Well, the biggest expense of a business is its employees’ benefits. That means the money goes to administrators and teachers.
    I feel that Pittsfield gets rewarded for its social problems. The more teen pregnancies and welfare caseloads means more federal and state government dollars that go to Pittsfield. The more crime, the more money for police and the county jail in Pittsfield. The more state lottery sales, the more money Pittsfield receives in lottery aid.
    Pittsfield has no private sector! Pittsfield’s economy is ran on public workers and non-profit workers. That is where a great majority of Pittsfield workers work. They depend on the taxpayer for their livelihood.
    Doesn’t Dan Valenti get it?

  11. MrG1188
    August 2, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    For Mike Ward: That’s an interesting question. The answer is – not really. WHen salary negotiations are done between the teachers’ Unions and School Committees both sides have comps for salary. Pittsfield is probably, from Dan’s numbers, in the mid to mid-low range! Bear in mind that it’s the same union (MTA) and same rep usually doing negotiations across all districts in the county. When there are “market factors” at work, it is usually on the low end. That is, a district can have trouble filling some jobs if their pay rate is too low because the same people can go elsewhere. Teachers can and do go elsewhere as well and districts are pretty mindful of the county range so they don’t necessarily lose good teachers. So basically, the market condition is effectively parity. By the way, the steps are relatively interchangeable between districts too. In other words, if you’ve been a teacher in district X for 5 years and go to district Y…you’ll likely come in at level 6

  12. Sally
    August 2, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    Off Topic – The City Clerk’s office hasn’t issued any nomination papers today, yet. The signatures must be in by Tuesday. Anyone who wants papers has until 4pm to get them.

  13. Rivetor
    August 2, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    @ Mike Ward, market forces do not play any role. Union politics and the fear on the part of politicians are not market forces yet they determine the total compensation which DV publishes here. I knew the numbers were bad but that bad I had no idea. If the Eagle published stories like this it might be gaining circulation instead of losing it.

  14. Dave
    August 2, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    Just heard a good one that fits Pittsfield and MA— I would spell jobs j-o-b-f-s but there is no f in jobs.

  15. irvin corey
    August 2, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    Mike Ward, when Unions are involved in the public sector it’s all politics….market forces play no part what so ever

  16. irvin corey
    August 2, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    Mike Ward, when Unions are involved in the public sector it’s all politics….market forces play no part what so ever

    • danvalenti
      August 4, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

      Have to agree with the good Professor here.

  17. Mike Ward
    August 3, 2013 at 7:52 am #

    But Pittsfield has lost teachers to neighboring districts because of pay. Call it what you want, I’m calling that market forces.

    • joetaxpayer
      August 3, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      Mike, I respect your views, always voted for you. Just think there is more to teachers leaving than money. Yes it is a factor, but think that job environment , and working closer to home and same district as my kids, plays a major factor.

    • dc
      August 5, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      Why is losing teachers to neighboring districts a bad thing? We can’t assume that the best teachers are leaving. Perhaps the highest paid and least effective ones are leaving. Also, there are many recent grads that apply every year for teaching positions. Shouldn’t they be allowed to work? Can’t we assume that some of them will become the best teachers and will likely come on at a much lower salary than the person they are replacing? I think we can assume that they’ll be younger, healthier, more in tune with technology and teaching techniques more suitable for the day.

      I’d be happy to see veteran teachers move on to neighboring districts. The same applies to police, fire, and ALL other municipal employees. If they think the grass is greener on the other side, go…make room for the thousands of people that would love to have their job!

  18. tito
    August 3, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    ,, what’s tour point Mike,,,you can say that about any profession,,,,,even the new Super,,,….????.,,,,

  19. Jethro Bodine
    August 3, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    Planet this from one of your secret agents working at Mercer-The new super, JIVe, is already on vacation. One month on the job and then weeks of vacation. Must be nice! And boy did you ever nail it with JIVe.

    • danvalenti
      August 4, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

      Thanks. We shall attempt to confirm this info.

  20. tito
    August 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    ,,, Dave came up with Jive,,,,,,,give credit where credit is due,,,,,,,

    • danvalenti
      August 4, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

      Right you are, T. Dave created “Jive.”

  21. billy
    August 3, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Mike competition determineWhat the market will pay teachers. I believe if charter schoolsWe’re allowed to be formed That the monopoly held by Public education would cease to exist. Pittsfield has lost enough students to fill two elementary schools,not only because of no competition to keep them on top of their game. But because the budget doesnt have the proper mix. Of maintaining schools and other city buildings which these small towns don’t have in comparison to Pittsfield.We. Can offer an education but if we are so salary heavy that toilets can’t be fixed or air units dont work because there no money left without a tax increase, than that explains why parents are sick of paying more and getting less for their money.

    • danvalenti
      August 4, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

      When teachers complain that they have to buy their own supplies and other such non-sequiturs, it’s because of the problem you mention: The PSD is “salary heavy.” It’s a perfect set-up: They extract these salaries, then they get to complain that the basic needs of The Children aren’t being met, so “give us more money.”

  22. billy
    August 4, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    Dan, Sundays Eagle cover story was the biggest example of what’s wrong with the corner office in Pittsfield.the mayor was blowing his own horn.really? How pathetic is that,if he moves mountains like he claims to. Shouldn’t the eagle have ran a half page article of friend and former foe singing his praises, the mayor must have even lone cheerleader in his squad in high school.please Dan help me Understand what he has accomplished.What kind of skill d oes it take to give a bloated department more money. The skill comes knowing when we have a house of cards that are ready to fall in our unfunded pension system and have the leadership qualities to have the fiduciary responsibility to the city,that he is patting himself on the back over

  23. billy
    August 4, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    Meant. BeenThe lone cheerleader

    • danvalenti
      August 4, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

      He has accomplished squat. THE PLANET shall be addressing the pathetic comments of the mayor this week. Thanks, Billy, for your insights.

  24. Charles Trzcinka
    August 5, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    The pay rates are very high relative to the median household income of $36,000 in Pittsfield. But the right way to compare salary data is to look across communities. You can use for the distribution of salaries. The median total compensation in PPS is $76,900. On this website Pittsfield has the lowest median compensation in Massachusetts. Of course if you look across the US you can find lower numbers. In Bloomington Indiana, where I happen to live, total compensation is $69,100. We also have a union but the state has the most aggressive school voucher program in the nation and we have a very good school of education at Indiana University (in town) which increases the supply of teachers every year. Yet our total compensation is only 11% lower than yours. Pittsfield does not seem that far out of line but results are also important. Maybe your test scores and graduation rates are low…

    • danvalenti
      August 5, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

      Good points, CHUCK. I would only add that in terms of discretionary income and ability to pay, Pittsfield taxpayers are near the bottom.

  25. tito
    August 6, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    Riello will win by default, what a bunch of retreads for city council and school committee,,,,,,,thought the Planet was the answer, guess not,,,,,,,,,,,,,,