He plans to sue the school board over its vote to strip him of some hiring and firing powers related to the Superintendent Employee Group. This group is made up of highly-paid at will managers, including deputy superintendents, numerous chiefs and a few confidential secretaries. The SEG is also known as the “cabinet.”
Here’s why we care about SEG. These are the folks running the district. The payroll for this group exceeds $3 million, not including benefits. There have been numerous abuses by superintendents of this classification. Under former superintendent Clifford Janey, SEG members were given golden parachutes. Under former superintendent Manny Rivera, SEG members got secret side deals in which taxpayers paid for their PhD’s, with no requirement they continue to work for the district. Under Brizard, the SEG had a record payroll and open records showed he gave SEG members large raises, including a $10,000 one for his secretary. Under Vargas, some SEG members were given secret contracts guaranteeing salary, no matter the performance.
Under a state law championed by Assemblyman David Gantt to shield Janey from a meddling school board, superintendents have the right to choose their cabinets. This law had an unintended consequence. It’s been used by RCSD superintendents to making quiet and dubious decisions. The board only has the power over the budget line and job titles – and history shows the media often has to tell the board what’s going on with SEG.
Right now, there are 32 members of this group. That’s down from the days when it exceeded 50. Former interim superintendent Bill Cala got it under 30, but his successor, Jean-Claude Brizard increased the ranks to more than 40.
Board member Willa Powell said the major reason the board has concerns with Vargas and his cabinet is turnover. Vargas fires people and other people leave. It’s a revolving door. Here’s the short list of people who have left in the past few years: Beth Mascitti-Miller, Shaun Nelms, Anita Murphy, Tom Petronio, Kim Dyce, Jeanette Silvers, Anne Brown, Jamie Warren, Jim Fenton, John Scanlon, Laura Kelley, Leslie Boozer, Bethany Centrone, Jackie Polito and Gladys Pedraza.
Fights between the board and the superintendent over the size and makeup of SEG are not new. This comes up every few years. But Vargas’ decision to sue the board is shocking for one reason. The board easily kick him to the curb and buy out his contract tomorrow.
Vargas should know. He was on the school board that bought out Janey.
CLEAR THE SIDEWALKS:
The City of Rochester does zero enforcement of the code saying property owners have to clear their own sidewalks. Meanwhile, New York City issues thousands of tickets.
— Rachel Barnhart (@rachbarnhart) March 4, 2015