Laurence Spring, who has served as superintendent of Schenectady city schools since June 2012, abruptly resigned his post Wednesday.
The Schenectady school board accepted the resignation at Wednesday night’s virtual school board meeting in a resolution that was added to the agenda during the short meeting. The meeting wasn’t open to the public but steamed online.
Spring, who did not participate in the meeting, said in a phone interview afterward that "for me the timing is right" and that he felt confident the systems established during his tenure set the district on a positive course.
“I’m feeling pretty proud of all of the things we have been able to accomplish in eight years, and I think the district is on a good path forward, and I wish them all the best going forward,” said Spring, whose salary topped $205,000 this year. “This is the right time.”
Spring said he planned to devote time to finishing his doctorate dissertation, using the time he is forced to stay at home due to the COVID-19 public health crisis as a sabbatical of sorts.
The abrupt resignation comes during the district’s second full week of school closures and as it braces for closures that could extend well into the spring. The district is also narrowing in on a budget proposal to put up for voter approval, a budget still clouded by the state’s deep fiscal uncertainty.
The board appointed Aaron Bochniak as acting superintendent. Bochniak has served as the district's director of data and accountability, overseeing large areas of district operations related to technology, testing, data collection and reporting, and transportation, since November 2016. Before joining the district, he spent over 10 years at the Capital Region BOCES and six years at Siena College.
In a phone interview after the meeting, board President John Foley reiterated the board's action but would not expand on the reasons for Spring’s sudden resignation or even when the board received Spring's resignation letter. During the meeting, Foley said these were “very difficult times for our district,” referring to the challenges presented by the pandemic.
Juliet Benaquisto, president of the district's teachers union, said she was notified of the resignation shortly before Wednesday’s meeting and said she has confidence in the district staff's ability to carry on the daily work of educating Schenectady's students.
“I’m confident our district will make this transition smoothly, and I look forward to working with Dr. Bochniak as interim superintendent,” she said. “We are a district full of dedicated staff that will keep our focus on our students and their needs during this national health pandemic.”
During his tenure in Schenectady, Spring has built a profile as an advocate of educational equity, often citing his mission that “race, economics and disability are never predictors of student achievement.”
Spring has drawn praise from state officials, lawmakers and education advocacy groups for the district’s efforts. He has lobbied to increase state aid to the district and led the district as it implemented initiatives to be more responsive to the impact of poverty and trauma on students. Spring spearheaded a new diversion program that gives students with long-term suspensions a chance to opt for therapeutic treatment in place of a traditional suspension and helped establish a summer program that has extended the school year for students in recent years.
Under his leadership, the district reached its highest graduation rate in over a decade last year and has seen gains in reading and math proficiency scores on state tests for primary-grade students. But those state proficiency scores have remained below 25 percent throughout Spring’s tenure.
During an interview Wednesday night, Spring said he was proud of the district’s ability to “bring the notion of equity to the forefront” and to consistently examine publicly data about how the district’s different student groups performed on various measures – even when the data was uncomfortable.
“Making conversations about equity standard conversations I think will be something that I will be proud of for a really, really long time,” Spring said. “I think the primary issue is and continues to be one of equity.”