GSE News

Rochester Names GSE Alum Interim Superintendent

May 12, 2011 - Bolgen Vargas, a 2010 graduate of Penn GSE’s Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership, has been named the interim superintendent of the Rochester City School District. 

His selection comes less than a month after outgoing Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard announced that he is leaving to take over the Chicago Public Schools.

Vargas served on the Rochester City School Board for eight years and served as president between 1998 and 2002. For the past 16 years, he has worked as a counselor in a large suburban school district outside Rochester. 

At the age of 15, Vargas immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic and began his American educational experience in a New York City public school bilingual program. On graduating, he earned his undergraduate degree in international studies and his master’s in educational counseling at the State University of New York at Brockport. 

His own experience as a student who defied the statistics spurred his interest in urban public education, civic engagement, and educational advocacy. His research at Penn GSE focused on resiliency factors among at-risk students in the Rochester school district, which had a 52 percent graduation rate in the year of Vargas’s study (2007-08). 

His dissertation looked at the experiences of low-income, urban students who, although facing the kind of risks associated with dropping out of high school, had succeeded academically. Vargas found that these students enjoyed strong protective factors such as supportive relationships in many places (school, neighborhood, home) and participation in activities, both during and after school. In November, Vargas and Brizard co-authored an article in Education Week that described this study. 

Vargas will begin in the new role as soon as the official school board vote is cast, likely early next week. Speaking of the appointment, School Board President Malik Evans told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle that first on Vargas’s agenda is the finalization of the district’s 2011-12 budget, which calls for the elimination of over 800 positions to fill a $76.5 million deficit.


Media contact: Jill DiSanto-Haines / / 215-898-4820