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In his State of the Schools speech, Rochester City School District Interim Superintendent Bolgen Vargas said he wants schools to be like Wegmans. Parents, students and staff should be treated like customers and be able to get answers to their questions. Vargas said schools should be pleasant places and embody the “Wegmans experience.”

(I’m envisioning students pushing grocery carts filled with books down softly-lighted hallways to the Market Cafe for lunch.)

The RCSD faces a $41 million gap. Vargas plans on using $20 million in reserves. The district is getting an extra $10 million from the state. That leaves $11 million the district will have cut – a very manageable figure.

“We are going to end the annual budget drama,” Vargas said.

Vargas also said he is in talks with the teachers union about extending the school day and year. (That could be very expensive, but staggered staff schedules can help trim costs.) He wants Central Office staff to go into schools and substitute teach.

Vargas is clearly very different from his predecessor, Jean-Claude Brizard. He’s conciliatory and eager to please. It’s hard to see him getting into fights with parents, politicians or teachers.

Is Vargas’ kindness a weakness? Can he translate his goals into action? Will he be given time to try?  Those are questions the school board will be asking as it decides whether to give Vargas the permanent job.

Vargas has set the bar high. Wegmans ranks as one of the top companies for employees and its motto is, “Every day you get our best.”

Other items of note:

– The RCSD shared its graduation rate projections. The news is not good.

– Governor Andrew Cuomo is stopping in Buffalo Wednesdsay. When is he visiting Rochester? There are some reporters who’d like to pepper him questions about Buffalo’s billion, Kodak, Rochester’s state aid disparity and other issues.

– Buffalo’s city council passed new food truck rules. The regulations permit the trucks to operate more freely. Alas, Rochester pretty much bans all food trucks, except at festivals and on private property.

– Syracuse is worried about losing the Golden Snowball to Binghamton. Buffalo and Rochester are essentially tied for third place.

11 Responses to Vargas: Make Schools Like Wegmans

  1. If schools were like Wegman’s, parents would have choices. Wegman’s isn’t a monopoly nor does it stock monopoly products.

  2. I like the thought behind it. I understand it is easy to take this literally, but the important message to take is things need to be more open and less conflict driven. Bashing each other over the head has not improved education. It is time to reach across the table to each other. Vargas was the one brave enough to initiate that.

    • I think he meant the spirit and customer service behind Wegmans, not the economics! But he did open himself up to other interpretations………

  3. He opened himself up for criticism over the biggest flaw and failure of the school system — lack of competition.

    It’s impossible to have quality customer service without competition. No matter what his intent, nothing will change so long as parents and students are locked into a tax-sucking monopoly.

  4. Competition! What a grand idea! Question: why are there no corporate-owned roads or bridges? Answer: because some things are just money pits that nobody in the free market is prepared to deal with. Some things do not turn profits, no matter how hard you try. Offering education – even to people who haven’t “earned” anything yet, even to those who’ve actively avoided it, even to people whose circumstances prohibit their education – is sort of like that.

    I’m sure that if “competition” was such a grand idea for education, we would have had private schools teaching everybody 100 years ago. Instead we had a select group of small private institutions teaching a select group of kids. We had our grand experiment. It failed. That’s why public education was founded in the first place.

  5. Nothing like false comparisons to buttress an argument.

  6. Nothing like snark in lieu of a counterargument.

  7. The idea that the biggest flaw of public education is a lack of competition and everything could be solved by privatizing just isn’t true and doesn’t survive any serious scrutiny. If that was the case why is it that the countries who achieve better results than we do it with public systems? The competition argument is cover for those who want to break the teachers unions to advance their own political agendas.

    The biggest flaw of RCSD is poor leadership. The biggest flaw of the educational system in general is a misguided belief that college should and can be be the next step for every student. There is nothing we can do that will result in every student graduating ready for college. We have gutted vocational training and placed huge burdens on our community colleges that are expected to perform both their traditional roles and to do the vocational training that private employers and high schools used to do (and still should).

  8. Mike, I could not agree with you more about the college thing. If we want a better society, we could start with paying more respect to the people who populate it. Not just college-educated kids, but everybody. And I think that, by focusing so much energy on college, we tell kids that if they have any other plans, they’re just not good enough.

  9. well in my own opinion these kids need to eat healthy foods not junk foods.otherwise they will find them selves with high chorlesterol and stents like i have and im 46 yrs old and trust me being on blood thinner and simvastatin and high blood pressure medication isnt something these kids would want either.

  10. Wegmans pulled out of the city except for East Ave. which is generally considered a good part of the city.

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