Some messes are easy to clean up.
And some are hard.
Put the mess caused by former Schenectady Superintendent of Schools Larry Spring in the hard category.
Spring resigned abruptly at an all-virtual school board meeting last March, and you didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that all was not rosy.
A school board that never had anything but praise for Spring suddenly seemed eager to turn the page and move on, despite the myriad unanswered questions about why, exactly, their longtime leader was leaving.
Spring’s explanation for why he was stepping down only served to muddy the waters.
“This is the right time,” he said, even though it was anything but.
COVID-19 had just forced every school in the district to shut down. And Spring, a hugely ambitious man, had little in the way of plans. Asked what he might do next, he expressed a desire to finish his doctoral dissertation – a claim so absurd it still makes me laugh.
If one thing was obvious, it was that Spring and the school board had agreed to keep mum about the real reasons behind Spring’s hasty departure, and avoid an ugly public divorce.
It was a strategy aimed at sweeping Spring’s mess under the rug, but some messes aren’t so easily hidden.
Spring has filed a notice of claim against the school district, alleging he was wrongfully coerced into resigning over sexual harassment allegations.
Those allegations, reported by the Albany Times Union last May, were the subject of an internal investigation that concluded Spring had a “pattern” of abusing younger female employees who worked for the district.
Spring, for his part, denies this.
He claims the district used the sexual harassment allegations to force him out without due process, and he’s seeking $7.8 million in damages.
I take no pleasure from Schenectady’s disgraced former superintendent announcing his intention to sue the school district, but I do see one potential benefit from taking Spring’s case to the courts.
The school district has never fully reckoned with the deterioration in staff morale and school climate that occurred during Spring’s tenure, or explained how it intends to repair the damage.
The board’s lack of transparency isn’t limited to Spring: Community groups have criticized the search for his successor, saying it lacks transparency. What will it take to rid the board of their bad habits, and be open and honest with the public?
A lawsuit might help clear up some of the remaining mysteries surrounding Spring’s departure, while also forcing the long-overdue reckoning with his tenure that the district has mostly avoided. It might even inspire some reflection, about whether opacity and secrecy are really in keeping with the spirit of public schools.
Spring made a big mess.
And it still needs to be cleaned up.
Reach Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.