(Rochester, N.Y.) – Former Rochester Superintendent Dr. Clifford Janey was forced out of office in 2002 amid budget controversies that included the size and payroll of his cabinet.
When it comes to the Rochester City School District’s top-level staff, not much has changed under Dr. Manuel Rivera.
An analysis of data obtained by 13WHAM News through the Freedom of Information Law shows Rivera increased the size of his non-secretarial appointed staff by six positions, to 36. The payroll for this group also increased by 45 percent, to $4.02 million during Rivera’s five-year tenure.
The cabinet-level positions are part of the Superintendent Employee Group, a non-unionized category of workers that includes confidential secretaries and high-level officials. The superintendent negotiates their salaries, which are then approved by the school board.
Among the highest paid SEG members:
• James R. Cooney, Chief Financial Officer -- $162,000
• C. Michael Robinson, Chief of Operations -- $147,250
• Michael J. Looby, Chief Legal Counsel -- $146,250
• Ford C. Greene, Chief Information Officer -- $145,750
• David S. Silver, Associate Chief of Program Management -- $144,500
• Joanne Giuffrida, Chief Human Resources Officer -- $139,250
• Marilyn P. Grant, Chief of Small School Partnerships -- $135,000
Rivera earns $230,000.
Rivera maintains the compensation for his staff is fair, because the jobs are complex and carry a large amount of responsibility. He also said the pay must be competitive, or he risks losing qualified officials to the private sector or larger school districts.
Rivera added that SEG members deserve more compensation, because many have given up union protections to join his staff.
“There are tremendous needs in our school system and huge responsibilities that we have. Trying to find great people means that we have to be prepared to offer the kind of salaries to attract them,” he said.
Rivera said it’s not fair to compare his cabinet to Janey’s, because he has restructured his staff. Also, in the last five years, it’s become harder to recruit school executives.
It took the district about a year to find a chief financial officer, and the district had to hire a search firm.
"It's a phenomenon that's affecting urban districts and school systems nationwide," Rivera said.
In addition, Rivera said the salaries for top RCSD officials are comparable to local suburban districts.
Adam Urbanksi, president of the Rochester Teachers Association said, “It's discouraging that salaries for Central Office bureaucrats are increasing at a much higher pace than salaries for everyone else in the system, especially teachers.”
Urbanski has long been a critic of Central Office salaries.
“They should be competitive, as the teachers’ salaries are competitive, but they should not be as exorbitant as some of them are," he said.
The 2006-07 budget for the Buffalo school system shows the payroll for the superintendent’s staff is $1.8 million, less than half what it is in Rochester. Buffalo has a similar student population with similar test results.
When asked about Buffalo's smaller payroll, Rivera said school districts each structure their administrations differently, and some top officials in Buffalo may be part of bargaining units not reflected in the budget figure.
At City Hall, only the mayor makes more than $120,000 a year, at $124,337. Fourteen members of Rivera’s cabinet earn more than $120,000.
Mayor Robert Duffy said he’s aware of the disparity between the district and the city in terms of the salaries of top officials.
“I don't care about programs, projects, efforts, speeches, or anything. I care about results. And the one thing I know is that half our kids graduate,” Duffy said.
Rivera said he can hold his cabinet members accountable, because he can fire them with or without cause. He also pointed to improved test scores at the elementary level, and acknowledged frustration with high school results.
Duffy would not comment on whether he will weigh the SEG payroll when deciding how much money to give the school district next school year.
To look up salaries of RCSD cabinet members in the final school years of the Janey and Rivera administrations, click on the links below.
Janey’s Cabinet 2/15/02
Rivera’s Cabinet 11/06
RCSD Annual Accountability Report