This time last year, former Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard proposed cutting 900 jobs and gutting art, music and physical education.
Tonight, Interim Superintendent Bolgen Vargas proposed adding 54 classroom teachers, primarily in the elective subjects decimated by his predecessor.
Brizard’s budget, under the guise of “equitable funding,” raised class sizes, left some kids with only one period of gym a week and closed libraries.
Vargas’ budget cuts Central Office, administrative positions and consultants.
Brizard’s budget claimed an $80 million deficit, but set aside $25 million in reserves.
Vargas’ budget uses $15 million in reserves and still has $10 million left over.
Brizard’s budget left displaced teachers collecting unemployment through the summer until they were rehired at the last minute.
Vargas’ budget assures placement before the end of the school year, saving taxpayers a lot of money.
One could argue Brizard cut so much, he paved the way for an easy budget season for Vargas. But both leaders saw increases in state aid. Both leaders had challenges of rising costs and the loss of various grants.
It’s important to note Vargas’ full budget proposal isn’t online yet and there may be programmatic and staffing details that will cause alarm.
Vargas is showing a dramatically different way of handling a budget. It’s so different, one wonders about Brizard’s management style. Perhaps the former Rochester superintendent truly believed in large class sizes and limited electives. The only other explanation is he was incompetent, evil or lacked creativity.
Brizard created chaos.
Vargas – so far – created calm.
Update: There is an interesting thread on my Facebook page about spending down reserves, management styles and whether Vargas’ budget has vision. One comment pointed out one superintendent cuts his way out of problems, while the other spends his way out of problems.
There are three remaining candidates for the RCSD superintendent post.