Foss: Larry Spring bailed on Schenectady

Schenectady School District Superintendent Larry Spring gives students high fives before they enter Howe Elementary in 2015
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Schenectady School District Superintendent Larry Spring gives students high fives before they enter Howe Elementary in 2015

Categories: News, Opinion

Larry Spring didn’t resign. 

He bailed. 

In the midst of an unprecedented global crisis that has forced school districts around the country to adapt on the fly, Spring quit on his teachers, students and parents. At a time when people all over America are rising to a tough occasion, he has done the opposite, shrinking from the moment like a dog with its tail between its legs. 

Apparently, this is the kind of leadership $205,000 a year gets you. 

The kind that runs away when disaster hits, and leaves others to pick up the pieces. 

This is weasel behavior, and Schenectady residents should demand a refund. 

They should also ask some hard questions. 

They should ask whether the Schenectady City School District is really on “a good path forward,” as Spring, who served as superintendent for eight years, claimed in his interview with The Daily Gazette’s Zachary Matson. 

In fact, one can make the case that, even before COVID-19 turned the world upside down, the city’s school district was having a challenging year. 

Regular reports of fighting at the high school and high rates of absenteeism suggest that things weren’t exactly going swimmingly. Given this ongoing turmoil, one can certainly ask whether Spring was still the right person for the job. 

His sudden departure implies that he wasn’t — and that perhaps he never was. 

Schenectady residents should also ask why the man they’ve rewarded so handsomely decided that this was “the right time” to step down, a claim so absurd it insults one’s intelligence. 

Even more absurd is Spring saying he plans to use the time off to finish his doctoral dissertation. 

While teachers, students and parents gamely carry on under a storm cloud of uncertainty, Spring is going to work on his doctoral dissertation? Does his doctoral dissertation include a cure for COVID-19? Because that’s the only thing that would justify his bailing on the community to finish it. 

Frankly, I’m hard pressed to think of a more appalling abdication of responsibility from a local leader, or someone who positioned himself as such. 

If nothing else, it’s an “emperor has no clothes” moment for the ages, one that ought to have Schenectady residents packing school board meetings — should we ever have public school board meetings again — and demanding a real explanation for Spring’s departure. 

Unfortunately, they’ll never have the opportunity to confront Spring himself, because he essentially ghosted the school district.  

His resignation was accepted at a virtual school board meeting that he did not participate in and that members of the public couldn’t attend. If he was looking to minimize scrutiny from journalists and residents, he couldn’t have picked a better time to leave. 

As I said, true weasel behavior. 

In retrospect, Spring’s biggest talent was talking. 

He spoke eloquently about the needs of children in poverty, and the way the state’s funding formula shortchanges city schools. He came across as an advocate for poor youth and often seemed genuinely concerned about the plight of the district’s lower-income students. 

But actions speak louder than words, and Spring’s shameful actions speak volumes. 

Schenectady’s residents deserved better from their superintendent. 

They should be angry — and they should ask why Spring chose this time, of all times, to say good-bye.

 

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