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Evans said it’s time for the law to be repealed.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.