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Dade Could Be Within Days of Leaving RCSD

Patti Singer

RCSD Superintendent Terry Dade confers with chief of staff Annmarie Lehner during a meeting of the school board’s governance committee on March 10, 2020. File photo

At one point in the middle of all the talk about deficits, Terry Dade said he never expected to be the budget superintendent. He said he thought he’d holding read-alouds and focusing on academics.

Instead, it seems the numbers have worn him down.

On April 22, Dade acknowledged he is talking to the Board of Education about leaving – 10 months into this three-year contract. He said his discussions had been leaked.

If Dade were to resign, his contract requires he give written notice to the president of the Board of Education at least 90 days in advance of the effective date.

Dade said he has not signed anything but expects an agreement with the board could be reached in the next few days. He is seeking to stay until June 30. However, the board can move the effective date up of his departure to the date it received notification. Dade said he did not anticipate leaving immediately.

Attempts to reach Board of Education President Van White were not immediately successful.

There still is work to do before the end of the academic year – pandemic planning and most pressingly, the 2020-21 budget. The spending plan goes to City Council in June.

Dade said he had been thinking seriously for the past month about leaving.

While the board hires the superintendent and is technically the boss, Dade said it’s important to function as a team. “It’s absolutely critical when you’re facing crisis after crisis that we faced this year.”

Dade said that he has not seen leadership in the district “in regard to all of us coming together to identify the problem and come up with agreed upon solutions,” in regard to the budget.

Since his arrival, Dade has talked about RCSD as a family.

“Families disagree, that’s what families do,” he said. “But they also support the heck out of each other in times of need. Unfortunately I haven’t that coming together to support each other in these troubled times.”

Counting Dade, the Rochester City School District has had five different people in the superintendent’s chair since Jean-Claude Brizzard left in May 2011. Bolgen Vargas and Dan Lowengard sat there twice. Some were interim appointments.

Dade was hired in May 2019 and started on July 1. At the time, he did not know about the district’s budget crisis. Since an external audit released in September showed that the district had a $30 million shortfall from the 2018-2019 school year, Dade has been consumed with closing the gap. Each month brought news of a larger deficit and Dade has said that because of several years of underbudgeting and overspending, he has had to close a $152 million hole in one year. That includes his proposed budget for the 2020-21 school year that would have to close an $87 million gap.

The district, which was audited by the Office of the State Comptroller, is under investigation by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

If Dade were to leave, it could reignite debate over the state’s role in the district. The Education Department is requiring that the district bring in a financial/academic monitor, but that person is not in place.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren released a statement about the possibility of Dade leaving:

“… Yet again our school board and its enablers are putting their wants, and their salaries, before needs of the children they purport to serve. It is a travesty that we would lose another Superintendent, especially during the most severe fiscal crisis RCSD has faced. Again, rather than deal with a catastrophe of their own creation, the school board has chosen to attempt to disgrace and destroy another leader that dare speak the truth. I have been steadfast in my call that our children must be put first and that the State must act to provide them the education they deserve. It is clearer than ever that the State Chancellor of Education must act, and the influence of so-called leaders like Assemblyman Bronson must be removed, so that real leadership who will meet the needs of our children can be restored.”

Last September, before the budget issues were known, the city wanted a referendum on at least a five-year state takeover of the district. The city lost a court case on the referendum and residents did not get to vote on the measure.

Board of Education Commissioner Natalie Sheppard said that an early departure by Dade should not send a message to the state that it should take over the RCSD.

“I don’t agree with state takeovers,” she said. “I agree with state intervention and assistance, but not as a takeover.”

Sheppard said she was surprised to hear that Dade was considering leaving the district early.

“It was a shocker,” she said.

Dade is scheduled to give a report at the April 23 school board meeting, scheduled to convene at 6:30 p.m. via video conference and broadcast on the district’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

Sheppard said she hoped the board would have the opportunity to talk with him before the meeting.

Dade’s contract called for a review in June of his performance and his relationship with the board. Sheppard said she thought Dade “was doing the best he could under these circumstances.”

Dade’s contract runs through June 30, 2022. His base salary is $250,000 per year.

According to the contract, Dade’s employment can be terminated based on the superintendent’s disability, written resignation, termination upon agreement or discharge for cause.

If the superintendent and the board mutually agree to part ways, terms and conditions of that agreement supersede the contract.

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