PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEEKEND EDITION, FRIDAY, MARCH 7, 2014) — Despite the fact that the population of city schools has dropped from more than 12,000 to just under 6,000 … despite the fact that the administrative staff has more than quadrupled. Despite the fact that there are double the number of teachers … and despite the fact that the long, gray line of superintendent, assistant superintendent, associate superintendent, deputy superintendent, assistant associate deputy superintendent, ad infinitum ad nauseum — each packing salaries and benefits well in excess of six figures — has helped push the city of Pittsfield closer to the financial edge, there is no sign of halting the mad dash to the cliff.

As they say, watch out for that first step. It’s a doozy.

As a case in point, consider the contract of the assistant superintendent for vocational, workforce, and college readiness. Yes, that’s the actual title, indicating the position is “make work” with more multisyllabic adjectives than accountability. The lottery winner who landed this pact is none other than Frank “Free House” Cote. It was signed by his cozy good bud, the former superintendent Jake Eberwein III — not that they ever got kicked out of a bar around Christmas time. THE PLANET would claim that story whatsoever.

The Hurts Driver’s Seat

Cote has had an illustrious academic career and the stellar credentials to go with it. After his buddy picked him off of the culinary scrap heap, Cote landed in the Hertz driver’s seat as vice principal of Pittsfield High School under the redoubtable Trevor Benson. For taxpayers, the move turned into the Hurts driver’s seat. As you may recall, it was while those two administrators held their positions at PHS that the infamous and never solved or prosecuted theft of $10,000 in prom money from a teacher’s desk occurred.

That incident resulted in Benson resigning to “pursue other opportunities.” Free House got kicked upstairs as assistant superintendent. What a country!

Anyway, THE PLANET has obtained a copy of the contract Cote signed with the Pittsfield School Committee on Sept. 1, 2011. The terms are enlightening, and they provide evidence for the proposition that, in the name of “The Children,” taxpayers are getting hosed. Salaries are up, accountability is down, and there’s no sign the gravy train will be stopping any time soon.

Cote’s contract runs for three years. It will end on June 30, 2014. As a friendly recommendation on behalf of taxpayers, may we recommend to our Right Honorable Good Friends on the PSC that they let Cote become a free agent as of July 1 — you know, let him go Benson’s way to “pursue other career opportunities.” We would secondarily appeal to Mayor Dan Bianchi, since he is (a) a member of the PSC and (b) the man who submits the budget, including the bottom line for the schools. Mr. Mayor, it would be an easy way to save taxpayers $100 grand a year plus bennies.

Of course, we realize that in appealing to Mayor Dolittle, we’ve just guaranteed Cote another three years! We won’t even ask for a kickback.

Contract Particulars

Let’s look at the particulars, shall we?

Article III. Compensation

“1. The Employee shall be paid a salary of $87,500 for the year July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012 …”

For the “Salary for July 1, 2012 — June 30, 2014,” the contract says the salary “shall be subject to negotiations.” Then there’s this beauty: “The parties further agree that the salary for the above contract years shall not be less than the prior contract year [THE PLANET’s underlines here and later].” Yup, no matter how lousy this guy screws up, he can’t receive a pay cut.

As if the point isn’t clear enough, paragraph three in Article III further states that “The salary of the Employee shall not be reduced during the life of this Agreement.”

Great, isn’t it? With this provision, the school committee, acting on behalf of taxpayers, guarantees that Cote shall never have to take a pay decrease, irrespective of performance! Do you have such a provision in your job? We thought not.

Wait! It gets better.

“4. No provision of this Agreement shall be construed as precluding the award from  time to time by the Committee to the Employee of a merit pay cash bonus.” How often is “from time to time.” How many bonuses has Cote received?

Who decides on the bonuses? We learn that “such a cash bonus shall be awarded on a basis an in a sum the determination of which shall be solely at the discretion of the Superintendent.” Yes, Free House’s best bud, Jake, was given sole privilege to give money away. Note that there are no provisions or criteria upon which such a “cash bonus” would be awarded.

The next clause of the contract awards full benefits: “health insurance, term life insurance, withholding to tax-sheltered annuity contributions, and all other benefits that are available to other employees of the Pittsfield Public Schools.”

After specifying in Article V that Free House’s work year “shall be a full year,” Article VI has this incredible qualification: “The length of the Employee’s work day shall be whatever time is necessary for the Employee to perform satisfactorily the duties and responsibilities of the position …” In other words, under the contract, Cote can work as long or as little as he chooses! If he’s of such vast brilliance that he can get his work done in 10 minutes, that’s his work day!

As for accountability, Article VII specifies that Cote “shall be evaluated at least annually by …” Guess who? ” … by the Superintendent.” Yes, his buddy Jake again.

And the hits just keep coming. Article VIII addresses “Leave.” Under the deal, Cote receives 25 paid vacation days each year, 20 paid sick leave days, paid bereavement and jury-duty leave, and an unspecified (therefore, unlimited) number of “personal leave days.” These personal days shall be given “as the Employee shall reasonably require and as shall be granted by the Superintendent.” The word “reasonably” is not defined.

Have $$, Will Travel

Cote gets reimbursed “for all professional travel,” travel not covered by stipend and “all other reasonable expenses” associated with his job. I”Reasonable expenses” are not defined. In addition, Cote gets “a mileage stipend of One Hundred Twenty Five Dollars and No Cents ($125.00) per month for each month” of his employment. The purpose of that giveaway “shall be to compensate the Employee for routine travel within the boundaries of the City of Pittsfield in the performance of her/his duties.” In this politically correct age of LBTG & Elemenopee, we shall leave the “her/his” without comment, except to say we read it as contractual boilerplate. Oh yeah: Cote also gets reimbursed for all “in-service or professional development programs” he may take.

In the case “the Employee’s” actions result in “financial loss from any proceeding, claim, suit, or judgment by reason of alleged negligence or other conduct resulting in bodily or other injury to any person, of damage to the property of any person” while Free House is on the job, taxpayers (through the school committee) “shall provide legal counsel and shall indemnify the Employee.”

Folks, re-read this clause. And we though that only James Bond and Sean Connery had a license to kill.

Article XIII. Other Work

The contract allows Free House to “undertake other work, with … remuneration, as long as such activities do not interfere, in the opinion of the Superintendent, with the full and faithful discharge of the Employee’s responsibilities and duties as specified herein.”

” … in the opinion of the Superintendent.” That’s a bit subjective, isn’t it?


The remainder of the contract includes the usual boilerplate, but it does have a gem or two. If Cote wishes to leave his job, resign, or retire and he gives the Superintendent “early notice,” the school committee — faithful guardians of the public’s money — agrees to pay him $5,750. The contract them say that if this $5,750 payout is given, it “shall be irrevocable.”

THE PLANET shall spare you any further distress or suffering, but at least now you are armed. You know the type of work the school committee has done to rob out of your rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the city of Pittsfield — for that’s exactly what overtaxation without competent representation represents.

Please spread the word, and when budget time comes around, how ’bout We The People matching 2-for-1 the parade when the Vested Interests organize their masses — including The Children as human shields — to pack the rooms when the school committee and city council take up the budget.

The gravy train must be derailed, or The Suits will run Pittsfield right off the edge of the cliff.

They will, of course, by that time have gotten theirs.


“Well I think it’s fine, building jumbo trains. Taking a ride, on a cosmic train. I know we’ve come a long ways, with changes from day to day, but tell me, where will The Children play?”Cat Stevens, Where Will the Children Play,” 1972.





  1. amandaWell
    March 7, 2014 at 5:10 am #

    Who the hell drew up this contract. Big Papi’s agent?

    • Pothole
      March 12, 2014 at 6:47 am #

      The percentage of the local tax dollars being spent on the school department budget is high, but I for one wouldn’t mind if we were getting our moneys worth. The number of administrator positions is outrageous. More people doing less work each for more money. The number of students and taxpayers has decreased and is forecast to continue but despite this, the anticipated costs keep skyrocketing. We need a common sense solution that will turn this trend around. If we all needed to trim our expenditures by 5% and had to work a tiny bit harder to do it, we could. So could the school department. Maybe if they spent as much time doing their actual jobs instead of figuring out a way to hide increases in departments that are impossible to track and in contracts that would not be available to an employee without the backing of the school system there would be more accomplished for the greater good. I am fed up and sick of paying more in taxes every year as the “norm” and getting no increased benefits for the dollars spent. Have any of you looked at the back of PHS? It looks like there has been no maintenance in twenty years. how many dollars have gone to the system in twenty years? There hasn’t been enough money in that amount of time to repair the sidewalk or the courtyard? How depressing it must be to be a student. Give it to the kids and their futures.

  2. Pat
    March 7, 2014 at 5:21 am #

    His contract makes it sound like he is someone very special indeed. Unbelievable that the clause about never lowering his salary under any circumstances would be in his job contract not to mention all the time off and other goodies.

    As for overtaxation without proper representation this would apply to the entire state of Massachusetts. Since there is no opposing party in this state to provide a counter balance to corruption, corruption is all you get. If the city goes bankrupt, these people who are continually taking from taxpayers will have enough of a safety net built up that they can easily leave the city and start over somewhere else. The rest of us will not be so fortunate.

    Berkshire County has been “easy pickings” for taking from the taxpayers because you have a largely apathetic group of people in the area who do not vote. These are the people who are the recipients of all the social service agencies in the area which by the way wouldn’t be needed if the wealth was spread out more evenly such as good paying jobs for all of the citizens. Those who do vote are the ones who are getting all the goodies and they make sure they get to the polls for every election to insure the “gravy train” as Dan calls it, will continue. Local politicians have little interest in helping the middle class, but put all of their efforts into helping two groups, the already well connected or the extremely low income by providing more social services to offset the lack of opportunity in the area. The opportunities for good jobs in the area are being gobbled up by the well connected. It’s a completely dysfunctional system that only benefits those who are allowed to keep taking from the taxpayers.

    • Wilson
      March 7, 2014 at 8:01 am #

      Well the whole point of a contract is to guarantee salary and employment term. Of course these people are of zero if not negative value and don’t deserve any kind of guarantee. But there is no accountability on any level, it’s just a bunch of thieves taking money by force.

  3. billy
    March 7, 2014 at 5:29 am #

    We have multiple layers of management which we don’t need. The school system has to get off the public pension system like Chicago is doing and heading towards charter schools .I read a article in the Eagle a while ago about the School Department has 32 people that handle absentee students with a tab of about a million dollars,the article joked that with all those people the still couldn’t get it together. This incredible lack of doing just what morally right and fiscally responsible is unforgivable. The city needs to do their fuduciary responsibility.. We can’t do basic things in this city cause of this of .common sense.the setup does not invite competition cause all involved get to gorge at the troth .We are already way over our head with retirement benefits in that department. Wje celebrate mediocrity not reward excellence

  4. billy
    March 7, 2014 at 5:32 am #

    lack of common sense i

  5. billy
    March 7, 2014 at 5:32 am #

    I meant

  6. Pat
    March 7, 2014 at 5:47 am #

    This would also mean that remaining within budget by cutting salaries for school employees would be completely out of the question what with the “special clauses” in their contracts. Do we really believe that Frank Cote is the only school employee with this “special clause” in his contract?

    I have applied for numerous jobs that I was more than qualified for over the years with the Pittsfield public schools, but I never heard back from them. I would keep getting these e-mails saying they would keep me updated on my job application, but the only e-mail I would receive would be the same one over and over saying they would keep me updated. Phone calls would go unreturned. Now I know why. I wasn’t one of the “special people”. This would also apply to hiring for the City of Pittsfield. Same scenario.

    When I read several weeks ago about people complaining about the lack of diversity in hiring for the City of Pittsfield, I can only smile because Pittsfield doesn’t just discriminate by not hiring people who are non-white, but it has to be certain white people who are hired. Many white people are also discriminated against because they do not have the proper connections.

  7. Rafael
    March 7, 2014 at 6:11 am #

    Another typical school system job – full time pay for part time work. I guess the adminstrators feel that if teachers get to work part time yet pull in full time pay and bennies, they should get to do that too.

    • Teecha teecha
      March 7, 2014 at 7:23 am #

      Part time hours my back end. Only an elite few slack off that bad and get away with it. Don’t generalize.

      • Rafael
        March 7, 2014 at 9:52 am #

        14 weeks off a year, plus all the sick days and half days equals part time work in the private sector world. I work over 40 hours EVERY week. Did you, or are you doing that, as a teacher? And I mean every week. Please enlighten us all.

        • Sparkie
          March 7, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

          180 days of work…Dam right its part time

      • Dave
        March 7, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

        Teecha teecha,. Teaching is a job and the majority of teachers treat is as such. It is a paycheck and no more noble than that. If teachers were holier than thou, they would make a stand against the bloated administration that they must know is out of control and unnecessary. It is also the main reason that all of the top of the class students want nothing to do with coming back to Pittsfield to start their career. We don’t even get the best of the “connected” kids anymore. We get the disconnected connected. The smart money is on getting the hell out of here as fast as you can.

  8. eddiep
    March 7, 2014 at 6:49 am #

    I have a hard time believing that an open contract dealing
    with public monies would even be legal. Has the citys legal dept. Ever reviewed this?

  9. Pat
    March 7, 2014 at 7:36 am #

    I’d be extremely interested to see if other Pittsfield school employees at the higher level and even some of the teachers have this clause in their contracts. How can budgeting take place with open ended contracts? Oh that’s right, Pittsfield schools do not actually know how or even feel the need to budget as they always get the huge increases that they demand because as Dan says they use the excuse that it’s “for the children” and that makes it okay to keep pouring money into large salaries for the adults in the school system.

  10. Spider
    March 7, 2014 at 8:09 am #

    How many members of our City Council will be strong enough not to give in to the masses who will attend the school budget meeting with one after another giving their pleading speeches that it’s “for the children”. I want to gag every time I hear it.

    We can’t count on Cotton or Amuso. They undoubtedly still have allegiance to the School Committee.

    Any other thoughts on the remainder?

    • billy
      March 7, 2014 at 11:59 am #

      Watch Chicagoland
      The first episode showed Mayor Rham Emmanuel taking on the council and unions saying his first allegiance to give the children a real education. Because most drop out early. He said he moving towards charter schools and he has lengthened the school day.We have a charther school handing us our lunch and it is presently expanding to take in more students on a waiting list. Pittsfield is spending money on Billboards trying to sell a bloated inefficient system.

    • Sparkie
      March 8, 2014 at 10:47 am #

      Here is an observation surrounding our magnificent 11. The first is a historic little fact. In just 4 council meeting The Honorable President Motor-Mouth Mazzeo has accomplished something no other person in her position has ever achieved. Because of her complete lack of understanding of the proper procedures all of the ordinances and rules passed by the council under her guidance since January are null & void and are subject to lawsuits against the city. No other past Council President has ever had this honor or distinction. Congratulations Missy you must be very proud. They can’t even vote on simple procedures and you expect them to vote properly on the school budget? Good luck……

      • billy
        March 9, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

        It shows that someone might have the organization to get into politics and be a constant complainer with nothing to offer or finding middle ground with their opponents views. Councilor Mazzeo and theMayor have built up a following by being against everything and tearing things down instead of building things.

        She was a constant complainer and roadblock to so many. reasonable progressive plans because it came from Mayor Ruberto, He was far from perfect but he allowed her to talk on nauseaum. Mazzeo since becoming council president has not only showed a lack of understanding of council rules and and procedures that it has become embarrassing .If she spent less time talking and more time doing the actual job of running the meeting their might be hope.

        • billy
          March 9, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

          In today’s. Berkshire Eagle, The Southern Berkshire School District did what we refuse to do .They are downsizing their staff cause od a continued decline in students, they said the have to live in the real world. Why can’t we do the same.

          • billy
            March 9, 2014 at 6:37 pm #


  11. Scott
    March 7, 2014 at 9:35 am #

    The no decrease in pay/benefits clause is to protect them from necessary pay cuts. It is as if they’re squeezing as much as they can before the inevitable collapse. It will never be enough they will always demand more and more even at the cost of others suffering.

  12. Rafael
    March 7, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    Anyone can do quick web research and easily find out that teachers average signicantly less work hours per week than other professionals. And this does not even take into account all the time off – summer, xmas week off, Feb. week off, April week off, half days splattered throughout the entire school calendar, numerous sick and personal days, etc. – teachers get.
    The BS about public school teachers working hard really needs to stop. If I worked that “hard” I’d be fired.

    • Scott
      March 7, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

      There are teachers that work extreay hard and actually care about teaching students. Those are the teachers we all liked who made learning fun and actually taught us something and gave us tools to continue learning for the rest of our lives.

  13. dusty
    March 7, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    Have you ever seen children (and parents) at an Easter egg hunt?

    Reminds me of the Pittsfield School system

  14. Hurdygurdy Man
    March 7, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

    Thanks Planet for another eye opener. Why is it youre the only one giving us this type of coverage?

  15. B
    March 7, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    Cote travel money of $125.00 a month – I have one question. I wonder if he claims an auto expense related to his job on his income taxes! I always thought that you either had to keep track of the actual mileage per day and then it is multiplied by so much money per mileage which is set by the government, or actual expenses for the gas that you pay at the gas pump. I don’t know what or if he claims any deductions. Wouldn’t it be funny if the IRS audited him and the deduction wasn’t handled properly. Karma is a bitch.

  16. B
    March 7, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    Cote “FREE HOUSE”. I am not an accountant but I wonder if the value of that house could be considered a gift, if so did he report it to the IRS and state government? IRS audit?? Like I said before, karma is a bitch!

  17. Mad Trapper
    March 8, 2014 at 8:20 am #

    Dear Dan,

    I was NEVER enamoered with strictly vocational or CP tracts in HS.

    I did both quite well. When the guidance counciler found I had the highest GPA in Math and Science he was DUMB founded.

    Why was I talking metal shop? I aiready had credits to graduate, LAST YEAR, yup 3 years (why not tell me?). Why did he not know that? Metal shop? Fill in the blanks, this was Lenox HS

    Masturbatuer/Administrator, asked why metal shop? I said got advanced physics , calculus, abd chemistry. I already had STRAIGHT As
    in those prior classes . What is left here?

    I had a SHEEP in the headlights. Spent another year at Lenox

    The ADMINISTRATION was AWOL in college selection……….

    By the time I was looking, it was WAY too late.

    Thanks LENOX MIS-guidance Counselors…….



    Yup, been there done that…….

    P.S. learned a LOT in metal shop from David Hobbs, it has served me well in science .


  18. Mad Trapper
    March 8, 2014 at 8:31 am #


    I am sorry.

    To the point PITTSfield,

    Hire more and spend more on unqualified and OVER PAID ADIMINSTRAITORS.




  19. amandaWell
    March 8, 2014 at 8:25 pm #

    Mad Trapper you sound eerily familiar, without giving names, are you familiar with Karen Allen clothing, if so, this is an old friend, keep it under the table if you be he!

    • Scott
      March 9, 2014 at 5:37 am #

      Thanks Ed and I always wonder why old welch is such a big corporate hero. He epitomizes corporate greed with no concern over the millions of life’s he’s affected with pollution. The man should be prosecuted and his earnings should be taken. He’s no super genius CEO he cut jobs and corners leading to not only the economical destruction of communities like Pittsfield but he destroyed our most precious asset as well. Clean drinking water! Who’s up for taking a couple five gallon pals of sludge from the housatonic and dumping it on his doorstep and car??? We can leave him a couple gallons of drinking water and some vegetables from peoples gardens in Lakewood too!

  20. I Care About Pittsfield
    March 9, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

    Mr Valenti I work at city hall and let me tell you this ‘expose’ on the content of Mr Cote’s contract has plenty of us in shock.

    It illustrates the imbalance of city hall vs school dept. We thank you for bringing this out in the open. I can tell you that many of us in the building will be watching the school committee’s actions after Mr. Cote’s contract expires. And we vote!!!