The Rochester City School District has more principals than it has schools.
The president of the Administrators and Supervisors Association of Rochester, which voted no confidence in Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, said there are five principals without schools.
School board member Mary Adams said she has asked the district how many principals are on staff and where they are working. She said the district has not produced the information.
"The District has had a surplus of Principals in recent years. This is because of state requirements to remove Principals from schools with consistently poor performance, and tenure laws that prevent the Superintendent from dismissing them," said the district in a statement. "However, the current number of unassigned Principals in the District matches the number of openings. Dr. Vargas will assign Principals to match the needs of each school community and program, hiring from inside or outside the District in the best interests of children."
Some of the discrepancy in the math is because the district is putting principals in jobs that are slated to be filled by program administrators. But per the ASAR contract, these positions are not the same. Furthermore, program administrators are not accountable to the state for test scores. Program administrators are also paid less.
The district says it has a principal opening at All City High School, which is not a school, but a program. The district also has a vacancy at School #44. A third vacancy exists at School #17, which is being led by Executive Principal, Ralph Spezio. A principal position is open to work under him, meaning the elementary school will have two leaders.
That still leaves two other principals who are not assigned to schools, Jordan said. The ASAR contract says the district can place them in out-of-title positions for one year. Four principals were working out of title last school year. ASAR has filed a grievance because they've been out of title too long.
Jordan points out the school board approved promoting two assistant principals to principal jobs last month, when the district could have appointed the unassigned principals.
"I don't begrudge (the promoted individuals), but when you have a contract, you're already paying a tenured principal who's already out of title, it's not fiscally responsible," said Jordan.
"For an organization this large, you do need some flexibility," said White. "Just because you have a bench filled with five people doesn't mean you have five people who can fill the spots."
Last night, the school board hired a principal not assigned to a school, Barbara Zelazny, at a salary of $125,000. Zelazny resigned her job at Avon High School when she was offered the principal job at Monroe High School.
The school board hired her, but refused to approve her placement at Monroe.
"She was not the person for that job," said board president Van White. "You can't just throw anyone into Monroe."
Board member Cynthia Elliott voted against hiring Zelazny, but said the board chose to go ahead with hiring Zelazny because Vargas feels she would be a good addition to the district.
Adams also voted no. "We did not have accurate information about pool of available administrators," she said.
The principal of Monroe, Armando Ramirez, learned he was being replaced by reading the board resolutions online. ASAR organized numerous supporters to to show up to the board meeting on his behalf.
Ramirez remains principal of Monroe, but only for the time being. Vargas said he's still going to look for a replacement, but he apologized to Ramirez for the way he found out he would be removed. Ramirez has had a tumultuous tenure at Monroe, as detailed in a consultant's report showing poor staff morale.