- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2004

The D.C. school system’s presumptive superintendent received $262,000 and the promise of a favorable job review after agreeing not to sue the Rochester school board in 2002, according to legal papers.

Clifford B. Janey, 58, who is negotiating a contract to be the District’s next superintendent, led the 35,000-student school district in Rochester for seven years until the city’s school board bought out his contract amid a budget crisis.

According to a copy of the agreement, Mr. Janey promised not to sue the Rochester school board and donate $10,000 to a scholarship program. In return, the board gave Mr. Janey $262,000 to cover the nearly two years that remained on his contract. In addition, board members also promised to restrict their communications about him to any prospective employers.

The agreement also calls for the city school board members to release only a recommendation letter whenever an employer inquires about Mr. Janey’s experience. The letter credits him for wide-ranging improvements in the school system, including better test scores, increased student attendance and improvements in school safety.

“Since 1995, under Dr. Janey’s leadership, the City of Rochester School District has seen great improvements in facilities, programs, student truancy and drop out rates, school safety, student achievement and parent, community and business involvement in our schools,” the letter reads.

The letter also indicates Mr. Janey helped the school district to be “financially prepared for continual education progress,” but it failed to mention the budget controversy that prompted his departure in 2002.

The D.C. school board officially named Mr. Janey as superintendent last week, though he continues to negotiate his contract. The school board is expected to vote on his contract next month. The Boston native is expected to begin the job later this month.

In a telephone interview Friday, Mr. Janey said Rochester school board members gave him a good job review because they agreed that he improved city schools. He said the severance deal didn’t alter their view of his performance.

“If your belief didn’t allow you to support it, you wouldn’t support it,” Mr. Janey said of the school board’s decision to provide him with the recommendation letter.

Rochester Mayor William A. Johnson Jr. sought to block the severance deal in an appeal filed with the Office of the New York State Education Commissioner.

The appeal was later dismissed. He blamed Mr. Janey for a $45 million budget shortfall.

A May 2002 report on the school district’s finances by the New York Office of the State Comptroller declared the Rochester schools in a “serious financial crisis.”

The state report showed that Mr. Janey and the school board “included some problematic estimates in the 2001-02 budget,” including the assumption that state financial aid would continue to increase.

Mr. Janey blamed the budget woes on a late state budget, less-than-expected state aid and an economic downturn after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“You’re automatically in a projected deficit,” he said. “The school district has been in that situation for the last few years.”

Rochester school board member Ron Brown, who voted for the severance agreement, said Mr. Janey was used as a scapegoat for the school district’s financial problems.

“The biggest problem was that our legislature never does anything timely,” Mr. Brown said. “And the mayor here fights with everybody. He was just throwing gasoline on the flames.”

Mr. Brown called Mr. Janey “a great pick” for the D.C. school system.

“People who know what’s going on in education say it’s one of the smartest things that D.C. could have possibly done,” he said. “But if you want a guy who gets along with everybody and who just goes along with what the powers that be want, then you’ve got the wrong guy.”

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