Schenectady

Foss: Board must acknowledge harm caused by Spring

Wall of silence is beyond insulting
Larry Spring, left, during a school board meeting at Schenectady High School, February 26, 2020.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Larry Spring, left, during a school board meeting at Schenectady High School, February 26, 2020.

Categories: Opinion

Just for kicks, I pulled up a 2012 Daily Gazette story about the promising young superintendent just hired by the Schenectady City School District, a man named Larry Spring. 


Spring was an educator, the article informed me, who had never given up teaching despite leaving the classroom behind. He was an innovator, who embraced new and exciting ideas and would demand improvement. 

He was not someone, according to board member Andrew Chestnut, who would paper over the district’s flaws, or insist that “the problem doesn’t exist.”

Eight years later, we know Spring, who resigned abruptly in mid-March, was a fraud and enormous hypocrite – the very definition of a bad hire. 

We also know that the school board has devoted substantial resources to covering up a big problem – Spring’s disgusting “pattern” of abusing younger female employees who worked for the district, as documented by the district’s own law firm and first reported by the Albany Times Union.  

The wall of silence is beyond insulting, and suggests there’s little desire to reckon with the deterioration in staff morale and school climate that resulted from Spring’s alleged predation. 

That’s unfortunate, because you don’t solve problems by burying them, which is what the board tried – and failed – to do. 

 

The internal investigation into Spring’s behavior was triggered by a sexual harassment complaint filed by a woman who works in the Schenectady school district but is employed by Capital Region BOCES, according to the Times Union. 

The report, which was put together by the Rochester-based law firm Harris Beach, confirmed longstanding rumors about the inappropriateness of Spring’s interactions with women in the school district. 

I can’t remember when I first heard these rumors, but they were widely known within the district and in the broader Schenectady community. 

(If they went unreported on for so long, it’s because publishing accusations of this nature requires extensive corroboration from victims and others with knowledge of the abuse.) 

Which is what makes the board’s actions – or, depending on your perspective, lack thereof – so infuriating. 

The sad truth is that it shouldn’t have taken a formal complaint for board members to exercise some oversight responsibility and respond to the troubling stories swirling around their superintendent. 

If the board wasn’t aware of these stories, then members are completely detached from the district they supposedly run. If they were aware of them, it raises questions about why nothing was done earlier. 

Neither scenario speaks well of the board’s judgement or leadership. 

I’ll reiterate what I wrote shortly after Spring resigned. 

The circumstances surrounding Spring’s tenure and resignation call for an extensive post-mortem, not secrecy and silence. 

They call for a cleansing – for a genuine, good-faith and, most importantly, transparent effort to admit and identify failure and figure out how to do better. Pretending that the problem doesn’t exist, to borrow Chestnut’s phrasing, won’t help matters. 

If anything, it will make things worse. 

Right now, the board is refusing to talk about, release or comment on the Harris Beech report, having signed non-disclosure agreements with Spring stating that neither side would say anything disparaging against one another. 

Legal agreement or not, that’s a terrible mistake. 

The sins uncovered by the board’s internal investigation caused great damage to the school district. 

It’s time for the school board to do the right thing, and acknowledge that. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. 

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