PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

ED. NOTE: Before we begin our regularly scheduled column, THE PLANET needs to weigh in on yet more odd doings by our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council, who Tuesday night looked overwhelmed and overmatched in the confusion that followed the 7-3-1 vote on borrowing $2,766,075 to buy new school buses. For approval, the bonding measure needed a supermajority of eight votes. It received seven in favor, three against, and — crucially — one abstention. The proposal to borrow the money went down to defeat.

Ward 3 councilor Nick Caccamo recused himself from voting. In doing so, his constituents were taken out of discussion on this major issue. They weren’t at the table, because their representative neutered them by virtue of his employment by the Pittsfield School Department. Ward 3 citizens have no say in 70% of the entire city budget. 

Our readers will recall how THE PLANET laid out this precise scenario before and during the election. We said if Caccamo was elected, Ward 3 would be kicked out of the discussions of any PSD matter. It’s like they have 30% representation. For that reason, we advised that Caccamo not run. For that reason, we advised voters not to elect him. He didn’t heed that advice, as was his privilege. Neither did the voters, as was theirs. We will remind all that the total vote failed to reach 25%. Three of every four voters exercised their privilege, depressed by candidates of such caliber.

Sure enough, in the city council’s first substantive vote on school department business, Caccamo, with all eyes on him — excused himself to the ladies room. His inability to vote made the difference in the borrowing measure. Failing a supermajority, the vote to allow Mayor Dan Bianchi to borrow bus money crashed to earth in a fireball. 

Is this how his constituents in Ward 3 propose to limp along for another 21 months? Would they not be better off recalling this man from office and getting someone who can provide them with 100%, not 30%, representation.

THE PLANET detests Caccamo’s status of sans portfolio, and we equally loathe his selfishness for putting his interests and ego above the service of the ward he “represents.” It’s asking much, we allow, but his resignation would go a long way to restoring voter confidence.

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(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, APRIL 10, 2014) — On March 21, THE PLANET sent the following e-mail to the seven members of the Pittsfield school committee:

In recent days, my website — — has covered two issues related to the school department. The first deals with a horrible case of alleged bullying at PHS, which was reportedly witnessed by teachers and staff, reported to the administration, with nothing done to punish the perpetrators. That story ran on March 19. The second deals with the current employment contract of asst. superintendent for vocational, Frank Cote. That ran on March 6 with a follow-up on March 21. If you haven’t read those stories, I would invite you to do so, because I have a few questions:

(1) Have you looked into the case of alleged bullying? If so, what did you do and would you share that with me. If not, why not? And if not, would you do so and keep us informed?

(2) Can you give us a comment on that particular case and of other such stories we have all heard (can it only be me?) about rampant bullying with little or nothing done to punish the perpetrators.

(3) Regarding Mr. Cote’s three-year contract, it expires on June 1. I would like to know (a) How do you intend to vote on the renewal of his contract. If you think he should be rehired, would you please tell us why? If not, same thing.

Thanks. Feel free to add any other comments. I shall be posting your responses (or non-responses) on THE PLANET. A non-respose will be taken as your response. I would only add that I trust you realize that your constituents, who are citywide, deserve to know where you all stand.

The seven members are chairwoman Kathy Yon, Dan Elias, Dan Bianchi, Pam Farren, Tony Riello, Josh Cutler, and Cindy Taylor.

Q: How many of these members would you guess responded to THE PLANET?

A: Two, Elias and Cutler.

Yon, Bianchi, Farren, Riello, and Taylor each took a powder. For Yon, its a double snub, since, as chair, she is required by law to respond to all press and journalistic inquiries. Say what you will about former school committee chair Alf Barbalunga, but THE PLANET can attest that he responded to every one of our inquiries, even when our queries weren’t the most welcome. He was a pro about it.

Does Yon care about the people who elected her? Her position is not tryout on The Amateur Hour.  It is, rather, a serious fiduciary post meant to safeguard the taxpayer’s precious dollars that go toward public education.

THE PLANET acts on behalf of We The People. When political hacks refuse to answer straightforward questions, they aren’t spitting at THE PLANET, literally the only media source locally who will dare ask the tough questions. These hacks are spitting in the faces of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski.

For the record, here’s what Elias and Cutler said:

DAN ELIASI did check into issue of student bullying.  Problem is that I have found no credible evidence that this particular case you mention has occurred.   That does not mean it did not happen, but for me to comment I need to be 100 percent certain that it did.  As for bullying in general, I have stated on a number of occasions that it is a cancer on our school system.  Although we have undergone much improvement in this area, we need to go much further.  I find it as one of the top reasons why students choice out.   It is a very serious problem.

As far as contract goes, I will take my own perceptions combine them with what the other members think and the evaluation done by a new  superintendent and make a honest judgement.

JOSH CUTLER:  My responses to your questions are posted below after having a chance to read and ponder the pieces today:

1) I speak with administrators and staff from Pittsfield High School on a weekly basis, and nothing has been brought to my attention regarding this alleged situation.  If true, however, it is extremely troubling to me.
2) Any time a bullying incident occurs, it’s a matter that the School Committee, administration, and staff members take very seriously.  As someone who is in the schools and speaking with parents and students on a daily basis, I do occasionally hear of incidents that have happened.  I disagree with the sentiment that there is being “little or nothing done” to address these issues – I’m in the schools often and see that our administrators take very seriously incidents which take away from education being the focus.  I do feel that we can always do a better job to prevent bullying in our schools.An environment where bullying is rampant is most certainly not conducive to a quality education.  Understanding bullying and the impact of it is an area which I’ve spent some time learning about since I took office – in January, I attended a conference on bullying and depression presented by the Boston Children’s Hospital and the Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention, and I have shared information from this with a number of my colleagues who have been eager to learn more themselves.  This is an area where the School Committee is also be taking steps to be proactive; as chair of the Safety/Transportation Subcommittee, we will be meeting within the next month to discuss a number of initiatives which will help make our classrooms and buildings safer places to learn.  

3)  If and when a contract renewal is presented to the School Committee for our approval, I will carefully evaluate Mr. Cote’s job performance over the course of his contract and vote based on if I feel he has fulfilled his obligations.  I can’t say how I would vote at this time because I owe it to Mr. Cote and my colleagues to do a full evaluation of his performance (as I would do with any contractual employee who comes before our body for approval) before I would vote.

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This is the full extent of response from the members. THE PLANET doesn’t need to say that in a “league” where anything less than batting 1.000 is unacceptable, 2-for-7, .286, is putrescent.

The school committee controls the purse strings of more than 70% of a $134 million budget. When it does not respond to citizens directly or via the press, any chance at honest government dies at the hands of Special Interest politics, a rancid form of public service that has at its end the advancement of private agendas.

The school budget will come under discussion again this week, tonight in fact. As THE PLANET’s preamble to this column said, the city council Tuesday defeated a measure to authorize borrowing for school buses — only because Nick Caccamo couldn’t vote. On Wednesday, the .286 school committee meets to discuss the school budget.

Concerned citizens have but one duty: To exert pressure on politicians to reject the Special Interests for the good of citizens, taxpayers, and, yes, The Children. The school department budget, which shall be presented as “austere,” is nothing of the sort. It pads the existing blubbery with well more than $1 million in new spending.

It’s time for cuts in spending and boosts in quality. The two are not mutually exclusive. Only poor management perpetuates this fiction.


“Somewhere a broom is wearily sweeping up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life.”Jimi Hendrix, “Castles Made of Sand,” from the “Axis: Bold As Love” album, 1968.





  1. dusty
    April 10, 2014 at 3:30 am #

    If i were to have predicted which school committee members might respond and which ones would not I would have been correct. So no surprises, especially Yon whom I would guess does what she is told to do and does not dare speak for herself.

    Is there a way to verify if this bullying incident occurred or not? Either someone is fibbing or someone is covering something up and though a cover up in this school system would not shock anyone it should be outed if it occurred.

    So which councilor is going to flip when this bus vote comes up again real soon.

  2. Dave
    April 10, 2014 at 3:44 am #

    Mrs Benhke stated that the buses would be paid off in 5 years from the school budget. How disingenuous is that. When the budget comes up in the next 5 years the school committee will just increase what they are sling for, not cut in other areas to pay for them.

  3. Thomas More
    April 10, 2014 at 6:11 am #

    Agree with you on Caccamo – he should get out.
    Just a question – Can anyone set up a site such as this one and say they are a journalist or are there requirements?

    • Deb S
      April 10, 2014 at 7:39 am #

      Go to the top of the page and click on about Dan Valenti, that should answer your question.

    • ed shepardson
      April 10, 2014 at 8:02 am #

      a : a person engaged in journalism; especially : a writer or editor for a news medium

      b : a writer who aims at a mass audience

    • Linda
      April 10, 2014 at 8:46 am #

      Go to “About Dan Valenti” and you will see his incredible background in news, journalsim, authorship, publishing, broadcasting, and related.

      Anyone can set up a site as you well know “Thomas More”. Anyone can say they are anything, like Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakan say they are “reverends”. Dan Valenti isn’t just a journalist, he’s the TOP in western mass and we are fortuante to have a man of his caliber working here.

      • Scott
        April 10, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

        Linda although I don’t agree with DV on every issue you are 100% correct.

        • danvalenti
          April 11, 2014 at 7:12 am #

          Thank you, sincerely.

      • danvalenti
        April 11, 2014 at 7:16 am #

        Thank you, LINDA.

  4. eddiep
    April 10, 2014 at 6:36 am #

    Just a question..what exactly are you implying here?

  5. Spider
    April 10, 2014 at 6:40 am #

    Fear not….the pressure is already on the 3 villains on the City Council who dared to vote against the “bus” contract. Example: the editorial in today’s Eagle.

    Let’s see which ones will remain strong and who will weaken. My guess is at least one will give in….maybe all.

    RE: Mr. Cutler…..he plans to wait to see Mr. Cote’s evaluation before making a decision? The best evaluation in the world would not justify such an outrageous contract! If the existing contract is renewed, it’s time for another taxpayers revolt!

    • dusty
      April 10, 2014 at 7:48 am #

      RE: Mr Cutler also wants to see what his colleagues think. I think the people would like you to make up your own mind Josh. And if you can do that you will be in the minority but highly popular with the people.

      • Linda
        April 10, 2014 at 8:48 am #

        To Mr Cutler: You are young but you needn’t see what colleagues think. Make up your own mind.

        FYI, Mr. Cutler and rest of school committee, the PHS bullying DID occur for a fact. Also Mr. Cote’s contract should NOT be renewed. Look carefully and you will see why.

        • dusty
          April 10, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

          I don’t know if you need to look carefully. On its face it is beyond ridiculous. He has more clauses in his contract than David Ortiz. He is simply a man with a job many others could handle. He is not some rare find in the education world that the city of Pittsfield cannot live without.

          • Scott
            April 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

            It’s all in who you know!

          • Spider
            April 10, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

            If Cutler’s way of thinking is an example of the rest of the new guys on the School Com. this city is in deep trouble.

            Will this city be facing a similar situation like NARH in the near future? We are at the breaking point now. Only the taxpayers seem to be aware of this…..certainly not our elected officials.

          • danvalenti
            April 11, 2014 at 7:14 am #

            Your last paragraph says it all, SPIDER.

          • danvalenti
            April 11, 2014 at 7:15 am #

            On its face, ridiculous. Underneath and inside, bordering on highway robbery.

  6. Learn your Jimi
    April 10, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    That’s from The Wind Cries Mary.

    • danvalenti
      April 11, 2014 at 7:16 am #

      Of course. Thanks for the correction!

  7. Scott
    April 10, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    Did you read the eagle today? The editorial opinion wants to spend the money and sites no foundation for throwing out the school bus plan yet they want to cut trade programs that give students real life cutting edge work expirience. Hey at lest the handful of kids still attending PPS will be taking brand new buses to a brand new school to study…? I don’t f’n know local politics 101???

  8. Ron Kitterman
    April 10, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    @Linda would have to agree with you Dan or the Planet vs the BB or Berkshire Eagle ( take your choice ) is parallel to David and Goliath, with his sling and 5 stones he brings him down, maybe not in the short run but in the end the giant will fall. That would be my prediction.

    • Donald
      April 10, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

      Bold prediction Ron. A blogger with zero overhead outlast an industry in a nationwide decline.

      • Scott
        April 10, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

        No overhead but the freedom to express an individuale idea. That’s powerful and inspirational.

    • danvalenti
      April 11, 2014 at 7:15 am #

      Much appreciated, RK.

  9. Dave
    April 10, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    I don’t understand why people think that Josh Cutler is Terry Kinnas 2.0 . If you watched the school committee debates from the last election, Mr. Cutler made a statement regarding the vocational programs that he didn’t believe in cutting anything. But then again not too many people pat attention so we get what we get!

    • danvalenti
      April 11, 2014 at 7:14 am #

      “Cutting” has the negative connotation that fits right in with The Suits’ agenda not only to “keep theirs” but to pad it as well. “Cutting” should be more neutrally termed: Perhaps “adjusting.”

  10. Ron Kitterman
    April 10, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    @ Donald the internet shut down Egypt, I’m pretty sure the giant Berkshire Eagle could be shut down too. I seem to remember you from your letters to the editor but it’s just that a bold prediction.

  11. Gene
    April 10, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

    I give young Mr. Cutler credit with Mr. Elias for responding to DV but that’s all. Josh seems to be a young man who wants to impress his elders in the ‘Establishment.” Afraid to rock the boat.

  12. Teecha teecha
    April 11, 2014 at 5:32 am #

    You can’t judge caccamo for using the ladies room, as he pees sitting down. The doctor told him no heavy lifting due to lack of a spine.

    • danvalenti
      April 11, 2014 at 7:12 am #

      He needs to seriously reconsider his fitness to serve.