Superintendent Terry Dade wants out of Rochester Schools

Rochester Superintendent Terry Dade said Wednesday that he has inquired with a lawyer about breaking his contract with the Rochester City School District at the end of the academic year in June.

He described his relationship with the Board of Education as strained and said its lack of support for him fueled his decision to leave.

“The way a good district operates is we unify as leaders to identify what the problem is and then to collaboratively come up with solutions, and unfortunately that has not occurred,” Dade said.

Dade became the troubled district’s sixth leader in 10 years in July, having arrived with high expectations from Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, where he was an assistant superintendent and led a turnaround effort for some of that system’s worst-performing schoolsHe expressed support for several initiatives in place in Rochester, including a common curriculum, relying more heavily on data to influence decisions, and restorative justice practices, which promote inclusiveness and relationship-building to solve problems. 

But he has spent most of his roughly 10 months on the job attempting to plug budget deficits that stemmed from the district overspending in excess of $27 million last year prior to his arrival.  Consequently, he has laid off scores of teachers, and recently proposed $87 million in budget cuts that include more layoffs and reductions in cherished programs that have met with resistance from the board and the community at large. 

Dade said he has had to shoulder the burden of balancing the budget without the backing of the board.

“The way a good district operates is we unify as leaders to identify what the problem is and then to collaboratively come up with solutions, and unfortunately that has not occurred,” Dade said.

Dade, whose annual salary is $250,000, signed a three-year contract with the board, a body with a reputation for running superintendents out of town. The board was harshly criticized in a 2018 report by a state-appointed education watchdog for micromanaging the district.School Board President Van White did not return a message seeking comment.

Mayor Lovely Warren issued a statement decrying the board, and renewed her call for the state chancellor to step in and take over the district.

"Today, yet again our school board and its enablers are putting their wants, and their salaries, before needs of the children they purport to serve," Warren said.

"It is a travesty that we would lose another superintendent, especially during the most severe fiscal crisis RCSD has faced," her statement went on. "Again, rather than deal with a catastrophe of their own creation, the school board has attempted to disgrace and destroy another leader that dare speak the truth."

News of Dade's departure followed a severe state comptroller's audit of the district's dire fiscal picture released this week that suggested district officials set the stage for financial ruin when they ran roughshod over their own cost projections in preparing the 2018-19 budget.

 

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