Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas used his State of the Schools speech last week to assure parents, students, and community leaders that the district is on a path to improvement.
But creating a culture that's firmly focused on the basics -- literacy, attendance, budgeting, and basic management -- will take more time, he said.
Vargas gave examples of some of the district's challenges to explain why change seems to be taking so long. The district had six different English language arts curriculums in 12 years, he said, and a 22 percent decline in enrollment over 15 years.
Vargas also touted changes he's made since he came on board in 2011, including the addition of music and art teachers, social workers, librarians, and sports programs. And he revisited a familiar theme -- increasing instruction time.
Vargas said he's done all of this while also rolling out the new Common Core curriculum and state-required teacher evaluations. He also expanded pre-kindergarten and is overseeing much of the modernization of Rochester's old school buildings.
But it was the confrontational stance that Vargas took with the bargaining unit for principals and administrators that resulted in the evening's most provocative moment. He said that the contracts he inherited, tenure laws, and administrators' inflexibility are hindering improvement.