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“SEG is a mess,” School Board President Malik Evans said today.

The Superintendent Employee Group, known as the cabinet, has been a mess for more than a decade. You can thank David Gantt for helping to push through legislation intended to aid former superintendent Clifford Janey. The law says the Rochester school superintendent has the authority to appoint his cabinet and set their salaries. The school board only has control over the cabinet budget and position titles.

In other words, the board’s power is very limited.

Every superintendent since the law was passed has been caught giving raises and perks that may not have seen the light of day if not for diligent board members and reporters.

Evans said it’s time for the law to be repealed. Exhibit A: The side deals Superintendent Bolgen Vargas awarded to four recent hires. My report today on 13WHAM has details:

Deputy Superintendents Anita Murphy and Beverly Burrell-Moore will each earn $160,000. They are guaranteed the first two years of their salaries, even if they are dismissed without cause within that time period.

Chief of Staff Patricia Malgieri, who will earn $155,000, and Chief Financial Officer William Ansbrow, who will earn $150,000, are virtually guaranteed employment for three years. The only way they can be terminated is if they use illegal drugs, don’t come to work for 90 days without having a disability, or commit a crime against the district or its employees.

The SEG contract covering all other cabinet members says the superintendent can terminate a cabinet member at any time, for any reason. They are entitled to three to six months of severance, depending on their length of service.

School Board Member Van White said Vargas created a “super class of SEG members.” Guaranteed payments and employment in the public sector for top-level workers? It seems unprecedented in this area.

Pending any change in state law, the board will attempt to rewrite the SEG contract to forbid side deals. As for abolishing these positions positions, there’s a fear the district would have to pay out the individual contracts.

Vargas’ current cabinet has 27 administrators and one secretary and a payroll of $3 million. This compares to Brizard’s cabinet payroll of $4.9 million. But Vargas moved secretaries out of this group. If you compare only administrative cabinet salaries, Brizard’s cabinet was about $800,000 more expensive. Vargas also went further and reduced the benefits awarded to cabinet members.

But the side deals we learned about this week are a reminder of SEG’s troubled past – and present.

Links of the Day:

– Politicians around the state are introducing Governor Cuomo at events using the exact same words. That’s because Cuomo’s staff wrote them.

– Buffalo’s new bishop is known for closing churches and opposing gay marriage. Is this a sign of what Rochester can expect in its new Catholic leader?

– Scholars say a 1613 Iroquois treaty is fake. But the tribe says it has the belt version.

Take a look inside a spaceship house!

10 Responses to The Super Class

  1. Maybe these new hires seem untouchable, but Vargas is not — he serves at the pleasure of the school board (and remember what the board did to Janey when he lost their confidence).

    Some would say that the board wouldn’t be in much of a frame of mind to do something like a vote of no confidence in Vargas, having just gotten through the never-fun process of a superintendent transition. But there are others in the district eminently qualified to step into the super’s job on short notice & hit the ground running.

  2. August 9, 2012 at 9:46 pm Proud City Resident responds:

    Thank you, Rachel, for diligence in reporting on the fleecing of the City on Rochester taxpayer. Sadly, nothing changes from one self-aggrandizing superintendent to the next. I hope Malik Evans can figure out how to change these banana republic policies.

  3. August 10, 2012 at 2:39 pm RaChaCha responds:

    Vargas is revealing himself to be the dim bulb Super that some warned he would be. Check out the other Vargas issues that are also giving the board heartburn:

    And what was up with the weird situation you tweeted about this week, Rachel, where the Super asked for a ride with the news crew to Marshall High–?

    Especially given these other issues, the board should give serious consideration to cutting their losses, upending the chessboard, and reconsidering their choice for superintendent. If they do it quickly enough, then these new Vargas hires — having not started work yet — might actually let the district out of these expensive, ridiculous contracts.

    Yes, seriously. Consider it…an annulment.

  4. I think this School Board’s ire is more about the person that Vargas hired than the contract she was given.
    Their disdain for Ms Malgieri is palpable.
    If her contract did not contain guarantees, the board would never allow her to stay. Vargas should be allowed some leeway in establishing his core group of advisors. Isn’t this the same board that simply loved this guy two months ago?

    • I think it’s both, but there’s no doubt they felt blindsided by the hire.

      Beyond the inside politics, however, there is a larger question for taxpayers on whether these contracts are appropriate in the public sector.

  5. Rachel,
    I somewhat agree about concerns over the appropriateness of these contracts. But, couldn’t we say that about most of the contracts issued in the public sector, including Rochester teachers.

    • August 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm Rachel responds:

      Teachers don’t make as much money. Teachers can also be fired for a range of offenses (granted, it isn’t easy).

      I’m wondering why these contracts were necessary? Did all four of these people say they wouldn’t come over without them?

  6. August 12, 2012 at 2:47 pm Orielly responds:

    This is all a bad joke. All this pay and no cut contracts.. meanwhile the schools are failures. And of course the board is re-elected as well. Evans was. What did he do to improve things? Nothing. ITs all a bad joke and the city kids are the ones who lose. For the 50th time. Close it down and put in vouchers. Its the only way that will get us, and city kids, where we need to be.

  7. Pingback: Vargas Has Short Memory » The Rochesterian

  8. March 4, 2015 at 9:02 pm Josh J. Porte responds:

    As those responsible to educate the youth of the RCSD are once again at odds with one another, is it any wonder that the RCSD is the worst in the State of NY? While the “upper crust” , those “experts” in their field jockey for their pay and or payouts, the youth of the RCSD will once again take a back seat. They will lose out as those that are responsible for their education will walk away with unimaginable financial settlements. How does one look themselves in the mirror in the early morning with a straight face? How do you live with yourself? Much is expected from the students and so little, in example, is provided by these “experts” at such a high price. As far as the University of Rochester taking over the East High School is concerned? If I were them, I would pull the plug on that effort. Being thrown under the bus and taking the risk that the good name of the U of R gets tarnished in that noble effort,…..is not worth the risk. The “stuff” still rolls downhill. Clean up the RCSD management.

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