It’s great that Rochester’s business community leaders are concerned about the academic performance of city school students. Sandy Parker, CEO of the Rochester Business Alliance, and Dutch Summers, chair of Jasco, said
in last Sunday’s Democrat and Chronicle that they are disturbed by the Association of Supervisors and Administrators’ recent vote of “no confidence” in Superintendent Bolgen Vargas.
Parker and Summers are right; Vargas does need every district employee’s help, whether they are teachers and principals or food servers and custodians. And their concerns with ASAR’s contract, which allows members to cash out unused vacation time, may be appropriate if the members are able to actually use their time within the year.
But Parker and Summers should have thought twice about wading into discussions about salaries and compensation packages. They were frosty toward the idea of principals making an average salary of $98,000. Only one day earlier, the D&C’s lead story was about the exit payout package of David Klein, former Excellus Blue Cross and Blue Shield CEO. Klein leaves with nearly $13 million.
Parker and Summers questioned whether parents and students are well-served by ASAR's contract. Do they believe Klein’s customers were best served by his sweet deal? And the salaries of some Eastman Kodak executives were outrageously high even when it was clear the company was tanking.
It’s disingenuous of business leaders to accuse teacher and principal unions of putting their self-interests before those of their students, when many businesses routinely put their interests before the good of their employees and consumers.
Parker and Summers would have been far more credible in their critique if they had they also condemned the lack of affordable housing in downtown Rochester, the lack of affordable day care, and the fact that many of Rochester's children go without proper nutrition and health care. They could support an increase in the minimum wage and universal pre-k.
It’s true that many of Superintendent Vargas’s challenges originate within the school system. But it’s also true that he’s unable to keep many of the social ills that students face every day outside the walls of city schools without more help from the community.