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RCSD Accepts Dade’s Resignation; Hears Updated Budget Proposal

Patti Singer

RCSD Superintendent Terry Dade, back, school board vice president Cynthia Elliott and president Van White listen to questions from members of City Council Finance Committee on Oct. 10, 2019. File photo

Two hours after he called for a vote on the resignation of Superintendent Terry Dade, Rochester City School District Board of Education President Van White praised the man who left the district before finishing the first year of his contract.

The main agenda item on April 28 was the presentation of an updated proposed budget. Dade was absent, just as he did not attend a budget meeting April 24 with members of City Council.

Deputy Superintendent Lynda Quick and Chief Financial Officer Bob Franklin took his place in both instances. On April 28, they presented to the school board a proposal that includes:

  • a request for $4.5 million reduction in spending at East High School;
  • reducing $3.5 million in central office funding;
  • transitioning Rochester International Academy into a grades 7-12 program at a savings of $3.1 million;
  • opening a pre-K center only at School 44, closing School 57 and sending 216 pre-K seats back to community-based organizations; and
  • restoring the position of Director of African American Studies and not adding the position of Director of Culturally Linguistic Initiatives.

The board voted to accept Dade’s resignation after it emerged from executive session, which is closed to the public and was not part of the broadcast. No details of any separation package were made public.

At the end of the meeting, before again going into executive session, White said it was appropriate to thank everyone involved in developing a budget that has to close an $87 million gap.

“We should begin with Terry Dade,” White said. “Bottom line, this was a budget that was originally drafted and presented by our superintendent, Mr. Dade. He does deserve some thanks for getting us started on this conversation.”

Dade arrived last July, and by the end of September found himself mired in a budget hole that seemed to get deeper every month. He said in an interview April 22 about his desire to get out of his three-year contract that he was worn down by a series of crises and lack of consensus in decision-making. He said he was unsure what, if any, presence he would have at board meetings now that his intentions were known.

The next evening, a school district in the Hudson Valley announced it had hired Dade, and he sent an email with his resignation to the board shortly after its meeting ended.

In what he called unscripted remarks, White said on April 28 that the board has stuck together under stress and pressure of public opinion.

“I recently remarked that this board has stuck with our superintendent, including Superintendent Dade when he probably made the most difficult decision a superintendent could ever be asked to make,” he said. “Remember those mid-year cuts? This board of education supported him, so don’t let anybody tell you that you have not stood in the path along with your superintendents … .”

With Dade seemingly out of the picture, out of the picture, Quick, Franklin and Chief of Staff Annmarie Lehner presented the latest version of a budget that first was presented in March and answered questions from the board.

Quick and Franklin said the balanced budget was fiscally responsible and educationally sound. The board votes on the budget next month and it goes to City Council in June.

However, they warned the board that budgeting is expected to be an issued for subsequent years because the cost of COVID-19 will reduce money from the state.

Part of this budget’s balancing act involved collaboration from East High School, whose budget is not in the purview of the district superintendent. A recommendation by Dade in early April to cut the East budget by $6 million caused controversy and confusion.

East Superintendent Shaun Nelms was surprised by the move and reacted defensively. But over the ensuing weeks, Nelms and the University of Rochester worked with the district to identify areas of deferred spending.

“We wanted to make sure that the other principals and teachers in the district knew that we are part of the RCSD,” Nelms said the day before explaining to the board that East would be delaying some spending until the 2021-22 school year. “We thought it was appropriate for us to make deep cuts, as were other schools but we wanted to make sure we were doing so not because we were told to do so by Terry but because we were being collaborative with his team and more importantly, the board.”

Not only Dade’s proposed budget, but Dade’s departure, affected Nelms.

UR’s Warner School of Education ran the superintendent search for Dade’s new district, Cornwall Central School District. The Warner School is the Educational Partnership Organization for East.

Warner School released a statement that UR and East leaders didn’t know Dade was a candidate. The school is looking into how it got involved.

But the real or perceived conflict of interest has taken Nelms out of the running for the job of RCSD superintendent.

“Under different circumstances, I would have loved to serve the families of Rochester in that position,” he said. “That decision has prevented me from serving the families in the capacity of superintendent for the whole district. But I will continue to do the work as superintendent at East and hopefully through collaboration over the next five years, we’ll be able to support all kids.”