EDITORIAL: Schenectady school board, Spring owe public an explanation

Superintendent's sudden departure raises questions that must be answered
Former SHS Superintendent Larry Spring speaks during the summer high school graduation at Schenectady High School last August.
Former SHS Superintendent Larry Spring speaks during the summer high school graduation at Schenectady High School last August.

Well isn’t that all nice and tidy and polite.

Schenectady school Superintendent Larry Spring suddenly up and quits in the middle of the school year, in the middle of a national health crisis that has disrupted the entire education system he oversees, and your elected school board signs a piece of paper sweeping it all under the rug.

How nice for everybody. How nice for everybody, that is, except for taxpayers, parents, students, teachers and district staff.

Sorry, but “no comment” is not good enough.

When you put someone in such a high position of trust and responsibility and pay him gads of your tax dollars to do that job, you have a right to expect more details about his departure than some lame agreement by all parties to keep quiet and not to sue one another.

The school board was probably just listening to its lawyers’ advice when it signed the separation agreement, which includes a non-disclosure clause that prohibits either side from revealing any naughty bits one side knows about the other.

And they did all this, quite conveniently, when they were under an emergency exemption to the Open Meetings Law allowing them to hold the meeting without the public being present to demand answers.

It’s situations like this that demonstrate why non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) for public officials are so detrimental to government transparency and should not be allowed.

Taxpayers in the Greater Johnstown school district are familiar with such secrecy. In September, their school board hired an interim superintendent who’d left her old district under questionable circumstances. 

The board hid behind an NDA to keep its taxpayers in the dark about the reasons.

Schenectady taxpayers themselves have seen this before. A decade ago, the district’s controversial superintendent, Eric Ely, inexplicably resigned, and the board refused to disclose the reasons or terms, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Is this what we elect these people to do? Keep secrets from the people they serve?

If there’s a legitimate reason for why the superintendent left, then just tell us.

Secrecy breeds mistrust and fuels the public’s imagination.

Already, some commenters to our article on the resignation have put forth their own conspiracy theories, including that there was something bad about to be revealed that the board and the superintendent didn’t want to come out. Is that what the school board wants? Suspicion? Mistrust? 

Of course, that’s why they signed this nondisclosure agreement — so they can hide behind the law to keep their little secret.

Maybe there’s nothing nefarious going on. Maybe Mr. Spring genuinely is leaving to complete his college dissertation or spend more time with his family or pursue other opportunities.

If so, let’s hear it from his own mouth. If he’s got nothing to hide, then he’s got no reason to sign an agreement not to disclose his reasons for leaving and not to sue or be sued for revealing the truth.

And if the school board’s got nothing to hide or fear, then it shouldn’t have signed the agreement in the first place.

Government is supposed to serve the people, not keep secrets from them.

Residents of the Schenectady school district shouldn’t let this go unchallenged.


Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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