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School board negotiating with Schenectady superintendent choice

School board negotiating with Schenectady superintendent choice

The Schenectady school board is negotiating to hire Laurence Spring as the next school superintenden

The Schenectady school board is negotiating to hire Laurence Spring as the next school superintendent.

Spring, who is currently the Cortland Enlarged School District superintendent, did not return a call seeking comment.

However, Board of Education member Gary Farkas confirmed that the entire school board drove to Cortland early this week to tour Spring’s school district. Board President Cathy Lewis had previously said board members would tour the final candidate’s district to make sure they had chosen the right person.

Farkas said the trip didn’t raise any red flags. “It was positive,” he said.

Now the district is negotiating with Spring, Farkas said.

The board has not yet officially announced that Spring is the new superintendent. Board members have said they won’t announce their choice until they finish negotiating a contract.

“Until it’s signed, it’s not a deal,” Farkas said.

Lewis did not return a call seeking comment. Previously, she said she would make no comment until a contract is signed.

Spring is currently making $152,000 plus benefits at a school district whose student population matches that of Schenectady High School. But he may not get much of a pay raise to take on a district more than three times the size of Cortland.

Former Schenectady Superintendent Eric Ely made $189,899, plus benefits, after several years leading the district.

Interim Superintendent John Yagielski makes $170,000, without health insurance or pension. He agreed to the smaller salary because he already receives benefits as a retired superintendent.

During the 42-year-old Spring’s public interview, he impressed many by describing how he realized, through data tracking, that his school district was inadvertently discriminating against poor students for advanced math classes. He said the realization led him to make sure such things didn’t happen again.

He also said he would judge school programs by their results, which pleased some school board members who have expressed frustration that the district sometimes does not track results to determine whether programs are a success.

Spring also said he’s data-driven — wanting to follow teaching methods that have been thoroughly researched and tracking school programs to evaluate their effectiveness.

He pleased teachers when he said state tests have proven to be unreliable. He said he would negotiate with the teachers union to create teacher evaluations that aren’t “tainted” by a strong emphasis on the test results.

Since that time, Yagielski has successfully negotiated an evaluation system for the high school teachers. In that system, 20 percent of the evaluation is based on test scores.

Spring promised to move to Schenectady if hired and said his 4- and 6-year-old children would be enrolled in Schenectady schools. The diverse community here is a draw, he said, because he wants his children to live among many races and cultures. He also wants them to be able to get an International Baccalaureate Diploma in high school — an advanced program that Schenectady is one of few school districts to offer.

He comes from a city that is 93 percent white, according to the latest Census figures. Schenectady is 61 percent white but similar to Cortland in poverty levels, with 20 percent living in poverty. Cortland has 21 percent of its population living in poverty.

The Cortland school district has 2,800 students, much smaller than Schenectady’s 10,000 students.

Spring has been superintendent there for six years. Prior to that, he was the assistant superintendent for instruction at Wayne Central School District in Ontario Center, Wayne County.

He also had three years of lesser administrative experience as a director of student learning and an assistant principal. He began as a social studies teacher at East Irondequoit Central School District.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in history and psychology at SUNY Geneseo and his master’s in educational leadership at the University of Rochester. He told the school board he would complete his doctorate in education this year from Vanderbilt University.

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