PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, MARCH 10, 2014) — THE PLANET has learned that the $2 million that Pittsfield Supt. Jason “Jake” McCandless has taken the $2 million for new hiring off the table.  McCandless will not ask for the millions for the upcoming FY15. With a million and a half needed for pay raises and untold dollars for other excesses, the $2 million at least is off and out.

What are we to make of this? Let’s consider the possibilities:

(1) Mother Teresa Option: McCandless had an epiphany and selflessly thought of the fate of the poor, bedraggled Pittsfield taxpayers over empire building in the Pittsfield School Department.

(2) PLANETized Option: The Superintendent avidly reads THE PLANET and, after we spilled the beans on his intended budget request for more employees, had a change of mind based on our irrefutable and devastating display of reason and logic.

(3) Push-pull Option: He received push-back against the request from some unknown source.

(4) Business as Usual Option: It was all part of the plan in the first place.

Which of these, if any, might it be? THE PLANET examines.

1. MTO, REJECTED — We might be inclined to entertain this one, except for what McCandless left behind in Lee, where he previously served as super. Let’s ignore the glowing accolades that were laid on thick when he first applied for the Pittsfield job. Even if they were accurate, they are irrelevant. Budgets are strictly “what have you done for me lately.” McCandless’ track history in Lee shows excessive spending. Why else would the current interim superintendent there, Al Skrocki, lament the present financial picture? Skrocki has come out saying Lee public schools will have to tighten the belt. If McCandless did such a great job, why would that message be necessary? Of course, let’s keep it in perspective: Skrocki knows the drill. By “cut” he means less of an increase than last year. That’s how public schools in Massachusetts define “cut.”

2. PO, REJECTED — We don’t know for sure if JIV reads THE PLANET or not. We do know that our site is read (monitored) at Mercer, which, for the uninformed, refers to the PSD’s headquarters, the former school at First Street and Orchard. However, there’s no evidence that our prescriptions for the ailing PSD have been followed in this case. They’ve been routinely ignored before, and there’s no reason to believe otherwise in this case.

3. PPO, REJECTED — This option presumes that someone with authority and in power in Pittsfield told McCandless: “Don’t even think of $2 million in new personnel.” Who do you think would have the political integrity to do that? The mayor? Not a chance. Any member of the school committee? About as likely as Bobby Orr making a comeback and leading the NHL in scoring next year. Councilors? Someone within the department? Parents? The Children? Taxpayers?

4. BUO, ACCEPTED — Having eliminated the other possibilities, THE PLANET gravitates to this explanation, because that’s how the “Screw the Taxpayers Game” gets played. (a) Go public about excessive budget request. Example: Ask for $X+10 increase that you know doesn’t have a chance. (b) Secretly you know that you want $X+5. (c) You then go public again and say words to the effect of, “In the  interests of the public, the schools will ask for 100% less money.” See the scheme at work: From 10 to 5 is a 100% decrease. Actually, it represents a huge factor of increase over X, which represents last year’s budget. Then the triple whammies kick in.

Whammy One: Another year, another increase in the budget. The increases compound upon each other, year after year, like interest in the bank.

Whammy Two: This year’s budget, what will become the FY’15 budget, sets up next year’s increase.

Whammy Three: Your taxes go up again.

That completes the Taxpayers’ Screw Cycle, which, in order to do it full justice, deserves the epic treatment of a full-scale, Wagnerian opera. THE PLANET has thus armed you and equipped you when they pull the ruse yet again … when they stuff the school committee chambers with stooge apologists for the over-bloated school department … when the same group shows like good little soldiers up en masse before our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council — to pressure the money changers into granting them The Big Big Money.

Remember, too, that the first line of defense against this thievery is the school committee, and that body has had a successive reign of chairpeople with no experience in the Dreaded Private Sector — Carmen Massimiano, Kathy Amuso, Alf Barbalunga, and Kathy Yon. It’s the body that approves outrageous contracts such as the one granted to Frank “Free House” Cote.

——- 000 ——-

Speaking of money and the PSD, THE PLANET has taken a first look at the state’s cherry sheets. According to the state, during the FY14 year, the Pittsfield schools lost $3,828,499 to school choice. Drumroll please … for the FY15 year, the schools lost $4,106,649 from parents and their children who pulled out of Pittsfield schools to go elsewhere, or $278,150 above last year’s disastrous showing [ED NOTE: The school choice figures lag behind one year]. This shows something isn’t working right. That’s why they need more  money, more money, more money — not.

The cherry sheets further show an increase in local aid to the city of $157,183 to city schools, from $39,290,000 to $39,447,183. This will be played as an insult, an affront, a humiliation because  it’s too little. The Suits will play that as a sob story before they stick it to Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski again.

This type of scheming done in the name of public education — you know, “The Children” — runs statewide in a state politically lopsided under hegemonic one-party control.  We might call it the Standard Management Scheme of the Commonwealth: Do less (measured by results) but charge more.

As we pointed out last week and shall continue to hammer, unless this approach stops in Pittsfield, the city will be bankrupt inside of 10 years.


“You see, it’s all clear. You were meant to be here from the beginning.” — Emerson, Lake, and Palmer,  “The Beginning,” (1973)






  1. dusty
    March 10, 2014 at 1:20 am #

    Option number 5 might be that the people over at Mercers were afraid someone might expose what goes on there. Like how many people to do what? What are their salaries and how many hours are they supposed to work to get it? What other perks like insurance, mileage, vehicles or free lunches? How many of them are related to the power folk in the city? If no one wants to talk you will know you are onto something. How much of the school budget is related to Mercer?

  2. billy
    March 10, 2014 at 3:16 am #

    Mayor Emannuel has closed fifty schools and is trying to push the system out of tthe public sector and into the charter School system because he said on the tv program ” Chicagoland” that. What they have is not working and half of his black and hispanic
    students will drop out. Rham said when those kids feel like the have no hope,that’s when he said things had to change because it’s all about the kids and not leaving a generation totally unprepared for the future. Sound familiar ? I believe we have a successful and expanding charter school. He has increased the school day as well as working with the state and fixed the pension liability issue for the future.He said thing are going to change on his watch because the city has a billion dollar deficit and the current system is choking off the ability to do capital projects and basic maintenance . Sound familiar.? Crime is bad but going down because he is freeing up funds from his budget, He has also created. A high tech hub building in the city where schools ,buding start ups. And venture capitalists merge.Wecan do the same but we need to get all the above mentioned things under control and free up money that is supporting a system that is not working.

  3. amandaWell
    March 10, 2014 at 4:49 am #

    Heard the State Senator used the words, critical, partnership, and children, all in the same sentence. must be the campaign season.

  4. Nota
    March 10, 2014 at 5:41 am #

    One thing I have heard recently is a stipend for the School Committee members, I’m all for that. That can be funded by a cut from a unneeded administrator’s position.

  5. Spider
    March 10, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    It was nothing more than a ploy….scare the hell out of us and than withdraw it and we will all breath a sigh of relief and dutifully accept the rest of demands.

    Our City Council members better remember that when they see all the supporters for the school budget crowded into the council chambers…. that back home, watching television, are the rest of us taxpayers and voters (who got them into office).

  6. teecha teecha
    March 10, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    to be honest, my family and I were hoping to move back to the Berkshires next year to be closer to friends and family… being a teacher in the dreaded private sector for so long has made me want to in the public system for the pay/benefits. It saddens and slightly worries me that there wont be a massive hiring for the 2014-2015 year.

    • Rafael
      March 10, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

      Glad to see you are admitting public school teachers are overpaid and over benefitted. Sucks working in the private sector, doesn’t it?
      Serious question: do private sector teachers get 14 weeks off a year?

  7. Shakes His Head
    March 10, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    Why would there be a much of a hiring when the numbers of school age kids is stagnant?

  8. jamie
    March 10, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    1/2 the students twice as many teachers vs years ago. One supt. then five supts. now each with a staff. Whats wrong with this picture?

    • Pat
      March 10, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

      Pittsfield is losing population and has one half of the number of children it used to have and yet the budget continues to increase each year as does the number of people on the payroll. Usually these are people related to other people already in the school system or from a well connected family in the area. These are “make work” positions and many of these jobs are unnecessary. It would be one thing if the jobs were needed and the school system was an equal opportunity employer, but these are positions created just to make it easier for those in the higher positions to take off more vacation days or to create jobs for family or friends.

  9. Rafael
    March 10, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    If Pittsfield is losing that many students and that much money due to school choice, then it’s time to lay off some adminstrators and teachers too. And close any unnecessary schools. But it won’t happen, the school system here will just keep growing and growing…

  10. Nota
    March 10, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    it won’t be long before the teachers out number the students.

  11. Sparkie
    March 10, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    Can anyone guess what city councilor does not allow their children to attend Pittsfield Public School’s.

    • dusty
      March 11, 2014 at 1:26 am #

      There is nothing wrong with that. It simply means that they want a decent education for their children. Obviously many parents of means are taking their children out of Pittsfield schools and many more would could they afford it.

      It looks very bad for a school system and its administrators to be sucking up so much money with such negative results. It almost seems like the children are being used by some group to accumulate wealth. I would be ashamed if I were on a school committee that was not raising hell about it. If they are not a part of the solution they are a part of the problem.

      • Sparkie
        March 11, 2014 at 7:20 am #

        Dusty thank you for the very condescending remark about the people of means. It is really helpful to know that if you have money, and your the President Of the Pittsfield City Council, and you are suppose to lead by example, that you would could send your children to other schools because you want them to have a better education.

        How do you explain Mazzeo’s voting 5 times for the raises in the school budget and not offering one suggestion to bring the school system up to her standard.

        Your explanation really makes a lot of common sense.


        • dusty
          March 11, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

          Sorry Sparkie. Not sure I expressed myself well. But I do feel that anyone who can, by any means, get a better education for their children should do so. No one is obligated to opt for an inferior education for their child based on their job.

          But in doing so it might just highlight just how crappy the system she is avoiding really is. And apparently she has plenty of company. The whole budget reeks of week old fish and those supporting it are not representing the people who elected them.

      • billy
        March 11, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

        No there is no problem doing that ,it shows she see’s the system is terrible,so when the budget comes up she would want to cut the incredible fat. I find it incredible that every district but ours is cutting and sizing their system to the school enrollment declines. The Southern Berkshire District did just such a thing this week.They said it just living in the real world. I would hope since she wants a good education for her own child as a leader of the council she would see the system here is not only not working but it keeps growing . Mr Valenti. showed this week that people are voting with their feet and the exodus of students continues and the sizeable funds are going with them.

        • MrG1188
          March 12, 2014 at 8:34 am #

          Southern Berkshire did not cut or re-size. They did the same exact thing Pittsfield, Berkshire Hills and the others are doing; cutting money out of a much higher proposed budget, then saying they made “budget cuts” and passing a still-increased budget over the prior year…just not quite AS increased as before the “cuts” were made.

          • billy
            March 12, 2014 at 11:00 am #

            The article said positions were not being filled and some we’re being cut? If that’s not the case I’m just as mad at them.

  12. ShirleyKnutz
    March 10, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    And which state rep sent their child out of Pittsfield?

    • Thomas More
      March 11, 2014 at 10:50 am #

      I can’t believe that any state rep would send their children out of their district. Our rep in Pittsfield is so loyal that she served on the school building needs commission. Also, her father, step-mother and two aunts slurpped at the Pittsfield school trough forever. Now mom & dad collect $67,000 in pensions from the MTRS while the aunties pull in $58,000.The rep we local folks chose to ‘work’ for us in Boston pulled in $67,000 last year plus travel expenses and bennies.Her base pay is $60,000 so she must of had some OT.

  13. MrG1188
    March 11, 2014 at 5:59 am #

    Off topic, but at least somewhat school-related; was there ever ANY follow-up to the high-speed crash at PHS from those two guys who blew through 2nd St light at 90 MPH? I don’t recall seeing anything from Dan yet, and certainly nothing in the Eagle either. Is this another one of those things where if we ignore it long enough it will go away?

    • Thomas More
      March 11, 2014 at 6:14 am #

      Yes, their both dead. Death cancels all debt

  14. Ron Kitterman
    March 11, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    @ Sparkie at least her family does it with her own money, not with the school choice $$.

    • Sparkie
      March 11, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

      At least in deed Ron. That’s what we expect from our community leaders…..The least…

  15. B. Clairmont
    March 11, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    City council tonight at 7:00 p.m. On channel 18. Stay informed about what is happening in YOUR city.

    • Joe Blow
      March 11, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

      Keep fighting the good fight!

    • Mike Ward
      March 11, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

      Regarding agenda item #7 asking the city solicitor to elaborate on her opinion of how to use the charter objection, why isn’t her written opinion from two weeks ago included in the council packet? That would have been helpful for those of us watching from home.

  16. Nota
    March 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

    Stay tuned for what Barry? You will do as MA tells you or reprimands will be given to you. Also, let’s hope the new renewal fee for my 14 year old dog is put to good use, and let’s hope those that aren’t vaccinated for rabies and such stay on a leash and pay the fee!

  17. amandaWell
    March 11, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    What about cats,rats,birds,ferrets, gerbils, snakes, et al?

  18. Nota
    March 11, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    The President decides all order, that would be the esteemed City Council President, Melissa Mazzeo.

  19. amandaWell
    March 11, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    Tonights Pittsfield City Council Grades: as follows…

    Solicitor Degnan A+
    President Mazzeo A
    Connell A+
    Krol A
    Caccamo D-
    Simonelli D
    Tully F
    Morandi D
    Lothrop D
    Clairmont U yeah U
    Cotton A
    Amuso C

    • Dave
      March 12, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

      Amanda, you make the same mistake Sparkie does in your grading system. You both let your own views and who agrees with them to skew your grading system. Here is an objective view for the last meeting:

      Maz- C Still doesn’t run the smoothest of meetings. Could have been a B- if her actual total disdain for Councilor Clairmont wasn’t so obvious.

      Connell- B Tried, but failed, to get a clear answer to what the opinion by Solicitor Degnan actually meant.

      Lothrup- B+ Helped the meeting along without the usual ( or not as much) I know more than you attitude.

      Clairmont- A- Lost a half a grade by asking too many hypothetical questions, but got it back by being respectful despite the constant bitch-slapping.

      Morandi- D- Would have been an F for cheating off the Mayor’s paper at a normal meeting but not much happening.

      Krol- B+ Would have been a C but isn’t he dreamy?

      Cotton- I Did he say anything? Half the time I can’t hear it anyway!!! Turn his mic volume up PCTV.

      Caccamo- F He didn’t even speak on the report from the traffic commission report regarding a possible traffic light installation at Silver Lake Blvd and East St!?!?!?! Isn’t that Ward 3?

      Amuso- C Can’t think of anything either way so C it is.

      Simonelli- B+ Brought up the loss of 3 parking spaces for valet parking for the “Spice” hotel on North St. Folded like a Steven Valenti suit when the lawyer said it was a major cache of this new project.

      I think that is it…. oh wait that is only 10….. yeah that is it. I would love your reactions, and if you disagree with my grade your assignment is to give a reason.

      • Spider
        March 12, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

        Dave: Got to admit, those are pretty accurate ratings. The missing person….oh, yes, Tully….still can’t figure out why the Ward l people ousted Yon for her. But time will tell!

  20. Spider
    March 11, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    Where do you come up with these evaluations? You gave an “A” to several who didn’t even speak and a “D-” to Caccamo who also didn’t speak.

    Good Lord! and A+ for Degnan???? All she did was ramble and talk in riddles. All I got out of it was a headache.

    Clairmont was GREAT!

    • billy
      March 12, 2014 at 4:21 am #

      Spider. Our lawyer is a embarrassment ,but the thing that gets me is the mayor thinks she deserves to stay, the mayor doesn’t think she talks in riddles,I have never heard her quote a Mass general law. The solicitor to me seems like anaive pawn to give a personal opinion to support the mayor and his cronies when they are trying to push something through,such as. The last think Mazzeo tried to push thru allowing debate to continue at council level and thus limiting the reason for subcommittees where the real work is done..Mazzeo was trying to protect the solicitor from looking ridiculous.,but Barry had the right to do it just like the four councilors did with Spectrum, It’s job performance not personal. If we get sued it won’t be four councilors fault.

  21. Nota
    March 11, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

    I think aWell is a hoot. Sometimes saying nothing,ie Cool Hand Luke,is a good thing. Kick a Buck!