By NICK GRABBEStaff Writer
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
AMHERST - Superintendent of Schools Alberto Rodriguez responded testily Monday to criticism of his vacation days and preplanned sick leave.
Speaking at a School Committee meeting, he denounced residents who have posted attacks on his time away from his office on local blogs without identifying themselves.
"It's ironic that people clamor for transparency, then hide and shroud themselves in anonymity," he said.
Rodriguez decried "nonsense by folks who do not have the integrity to come out and say, #Hey, it's me.'" He added he does not read blogs about Amherst schools and politics.
He speculated that the criticism may have come from "individuals who didn't want me here to begin with."
Rodriguez became superintendent last July. On Feb. 2, he informed the School Committee in a memo that between last Aug. 10 and this April 26, he scheduled 40 days off, including nine days of sick leave between Feb. 22 and April 26.
He said the sick leave is for doctors' appointments, an unnamed medical procedure and recuperation time, all in Florida. He said his condition is "extremely uncomfortable," affecting his quality of life but not putting his life at risk.
On Monday, he explained why he was unable to return to Amherst from vacation Feb. 23, as scheduled. His doctor determined the day before that his condition had changed and "didn't feel it was in my best interests to get on a plane," he said.
So last week, while in Florida, Rodriguez underwent tests, including chest X-rays and an electrocardiograph, intending to have the surgery done last Friday, he said. But it couldn't be scheduled, and is now set for its original date in mid-April, he said.
With these tests out of the way, all that remains before the procedure is a blood test, which he can do in Amherst, with the results faxed to his surgeon in Florida, he said.
Rodriguez said that his confidentiality should be honored. His critics "have no right to ask certain questions, but they go ahead and do it, so I will answer some and not others," he said.
He asked if the School Committee would prefer that he "call in daily and ask for sick leave" rather than informing it in advance. "It would be terribly dishonest" to not communicate his knowledge of an upcoming medical procedure, he said.
"No good deed goes unpunished," he said of his attempt at open communication.
Rodriguez also responded to criticism that he is having the surgery done in Florida and not Massachusetts.
"My family are down there, and on a rotating basis will take care of this old man," he said. "Economically, this is more feasible than flying up six or seven individuals."
Rodriguez said he will submit to the School Committee a revised memo of his vacation time and sick leave.
While he originally planned to return to Amherst Feb. 23, he did not return until Monday night.
Committee member Irv Rhodes responded that he was "stunned that this conversation is taking place. I thought it would have been out of bounds." Still, because the Feb. 2 memo did not give any reason for the scheduled sick time, "the public can be excused for asking the question," he said.
Andy Churchill, chairman of the Amherst School Committee, declined comment on Rodriguez's remarks Tuesday.
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.