NEWS BLOG: Vargas's contract asks for less

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Few things in business are as deadly as overplaying it. Overplaying a sales pitch is for the clumsy amateur, the unconfident, and the unprepared.

Underplaying it, however, is entirely different. Underplaying takes skill. And there's some risk involved. You're essentially asking for less, and promising little. But you have to deliver more than what's expected.

Bolgen Vargas and the Rochester school board have agreed on a contract for the superintendent that leans toward the latter.

Vargas has agreed to an annual salary of $195,000. He didn't have prior experience as a superintendent. But he spent a year on the job, much of that time devoted to stabilizing the district and repairing some damaged relationships by a predecessor paid about $40,000 a year more.

Also, Vargas's contract is for four years, a longer term than his predecessor's. That might help to reassure people on the search committee who said they wanted a superintendent who is committed to staying in the job.

Vargas's resignation clause is another underplay. He has agreed to give the board a 12-month notice, reassuring the board that he won't leave them unprepared and without a successor.

But it was his comment at last week's board meeting that was the classic underplay. Following the vote on his contract, Vargas made a point of saying that he hasn't promised any specific increases in graduation rates.

There are at least a dozen reasons why it was a rational thing to say. But expectations about increasing the city's graduation rate haven't gone away.

The goal of the underplay is to deliver more than what's expected. And Vargas's risk is not doing that.

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