Prince Sprauve, a Schenectady-based filmmaker who worked in the City School District for nearly a decade, announced a run for the Schenectady school board Monday night and called for community involvement in a superintendent search process the board is set to start anew.
Sprauve, the father of two students in the district, announced his run just two days before petition signatures were due to the district clerk. He emphasized his work with Schenectady youth over the years and his goal to strengthen district-community relations.
“I’m really someone that’s from the community, in the community, that understands the heartbeat and temperature of the community,” he said in a short announcement video posted to Facebook.
Sprauve grew up in the Fort Greene housing projects in Brooklyn, moved to Schenectady when he was 18 years old and has stayed ever since. He earned a GED from Washington Irving School and when he was 21 took a job as a paraprofessional at Schenectady High School.
“From that point on up until now, I have been a major advocate for our kids,” he said in a Tuesday interview.
While at the high school, he started working with the school’s audio production teacher and students, spending time recording countless sports events and other activities. He picked up film editing skills along the way and ultimately produced a pair of films involving Schenectady students: “Fast Life,” which premiered at Proctors in 2013, and “Cradle,” a film about teen pregnancy, which premiered in 2018. He used students in both films and turned the premieres into broader community events.
“This is where I learned to do film, Schenectady High School was like my film school for 10 years,” Sprauve said.
He started a nonprofit film production company, which he converted to a business during the pandemic, and has also worked in the school district as a community liaison, interacting directly with students and their families to head off or help resolve problems. He said now he wanted to take part in decisions that affect all students in the district.
“It’s one thing to protest, it’s one thing to advocate, but it’s another thing to sit in the seat and make decisions of who is going to get what and how it’s going to be allocated,” Sprauve said. “We live in a community right now that’s split between the haves and have-nots, and I’m just saying that needs to change, everyone deserves the same platform to be great.”
Sprauve said the district should invest more directly in community activities, hosting events like the movie premieres he held that included students, district staff and other community members to discuss shared challenges and ideas.
“When big decisions need to be made with the district, it’s always best to make it with the community, not for the community, and I think that is something the district has struggled with over the years,” he said.
When it comes to the school board’s search for a new superintendent, which will mostly fall to the new board members elected next month and the current members who remain, Sprauve said the board should be looking for ways to involve community members in the search process more, not less. Some members have suggested the board use a closed process to attract the most qualified candidates, citing previous community meetings from which details of the board’s last search were leaked to the media. Some board members, including incumbent Andy Chestnut, who is running for a new term, have agreed with outside advice that experienced candidates are unlikely to join a search process if their involvement will be made public.
But Sprauve argued any candidate who wants to lead the Schenectady school district should be willing to meet and address the community prior to their selection. Candidates not willing to put themselves before the community in that way may not be the best fit for the district.
“Why wouldn’t you want to be connected to the community if you are the superintendent, why wouldn’t you want to be on the frontline if you are the superintendent? That bothers me,” he said. “Leadership is a frontline issue. If you want to be a leader in the community then you need to be on the frontline.”
Sprauve said he decided to run for a board seat in the last few days and spent much of Tuesday gathering the necessary signatures to get on the May 18 ballot, when two board seats are up for election. Incumbent board member Andy Chestnut is running for re-election. Longtime community activist Jamaica Miles has also announced a run for the board, as has Erica Brockmyer, a former Boys and Girls Club of Schenectady leader, and Samuel Rose, a state Education Department employee and Schenectady High School graduate. Voters will be able to select two candidates to fill the two open, three-year board terms.