SCHENECTADY -- School Superintendent Larry Spring is set for a 2-percent raise in July as the school board considers continuing his four-year contract through June 2023.
The raise will lift Spring’s base salary to over $205,000 as he starts his eighth year in charge of Schenectady schools. With benefits, Spring’s total pay will reach nearly $270,000 next school year.
The school board is scheduled to vote on the contract extension at Wednesday night’s regular meeting.
School board President John Foley on Tuesday highlighted Spring’s efforts to increase the district’s state funding and establish programs to address students’ myriad academic, behavioral and health needs.
“He has increased funds, he has increased positions and services to students,” Foley said. “There is a lot of success there, and I think the contract basically is saying we want to go forward with this work.”
The district, which under Spring has argued aggressively for increased state funding, received over $7 million in new state aid under this year’s state budget. The funding increase, the largest in the region, helped the district add dozens of new staff positions in next year’s district budget.
“I am pleased to present a 2019-2020 budget that significantly boosts program and services to students, aims at closing the opportunity gap and brings the tax levy to the lowest it has been since 2010,” Spring wrote in his annual budget message. “While we are still significantly underfunded by New York state, I am encouraged that the priority seems to be shifting toward funding the neediest school districts.”
Foley said initiatives like the district’s general education continuum, which aims to support struggling student who don’t qualify for special education, and its “trauma sensitive” approach are key to improving student outcomes in the long run.
While district officials in recent months have noted positive signs among the district’s youngest readers and improved class passage rates at the high school, efforts to strengthen the district’s core academics have yet to translate to higher graduation rates and state test scores.
Schenectady’s district-wide June 2018 graduation rate reached 58 percent, up slightly from June 2017 but down from 62 percent in June 2016. The district improved that graduation rate to 61 percent in August 2018. In January, Spring said he expected last year’s graduating class to mark a low point as he saw signs this year’s class would usher in improving graduation rates.
The district’s low graduation was highlighted by challengers in last month’s school board election as an issue of critical importance. Foley on Tuesday acknowledged the graduation rates were below what the board wants to see.
“Under 70 percent is not a good rate, I’m not happy with that rate,” Foley said Tuesday, adding that he wanted to see what was driving the graduation rate and better understand whether students were actually mastering academic content.
While some of the district’s schools have improved enough in recent years to make their way off the state’s struggling school list, six of the district’s 11 elementary schools were included on the state’s new list of schools in need of comprehensive support and improvement, an indication the schools were among the bottom 5 percent of school performance in the state.
The board had raised Spring’s salary by 2 percent in 2016 and 2017 but didn’t provide a raise last year when it agreed to extend his contract for another year. The contract up for board approval this week also raises Spring’s annual travel stipend by $1,000, bringing the stipend to $4,000 to cover business-related travel both locally and out of town.
In the coming months, the board appears headed toward establishing explicit long-term goals for the district for the first time in recent years as the board considers adopting a proposed strategic plan, which outlines the district’s broad vision and priorities. The strategic plan, if approved, promises to guide the district’s work over the next five years.