There was a small crack in the Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas’s silence last week concerning his notice of claim
against the city school board. Vargas wouldn’t say whether he intends to proceed with the litigation, but he did speculate about his future with the district.
Vargas talked about his job performance, starting with a reminder of what he inherited. Though much of it is familiar ground, to be fair, he did find one big mess after another. The relationship between teachers and former superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard was so bad that it had become personal.
Attendance and record-keeping, something most of us would assume is as basic as turning on the lights, was so haphazard that some data on student enrollment was a guesstimate. And many teachers, principals, and administrators weren't receiving annual evaluations.
Vargas maintains that for a superintendent to have even a chance of fixing the system, he or she needs more flexibility. He’s charged with that responsibility, he says. But he’s either been restrained or undermined in making many important decisions, he says.
“How can you disregard that I inherited an organization that didn’t evaluate its people to one that does, and I’m being challenged by some?” he says. “Although we’re not perfect, we’ve made radical improvements in holding people accountable here. But I’m getting resistance, and perhaps my future here depends on that kind of resistance.”
Vargas says that there’s a reason why superintendents tend to leave the district after three years.
“No organization can be successful when the role of the superintendent and the role of the board are not clear,” he says.
Regarding rumors that he’s leaving, he says, “At this point, I’m 100-percent committed to working with the people who are here. We have the most talented teachers and administrators right here in this district. We just have an organization that is inflexible, and there is a lot of lack of clarity here about who runs the schools and day to day operations. Once we clarify that, I believe we will make drastic progress.”