Former Schenectady schools Superintendent Laurence Spring won’t get paid any more of his salary as of the school board’s adoption of his resignation Wednesday night, under a separation agreement district officials provided to The Daily Gazette on Thursday evening.
Spring will use up the remainder of his personal and vacation time through April 22, at which point his resignation will be final, under the agreement. The district will continue to provide Spring health insurance through June 30.
The agreement, which Spring signed Wednesday, also includes language that prevents school board and individual board members from making “any statement to any person or entity, whether oral or written, that disparages Mr. Spring.” Spring similarly is barred from disparaging the district or its employees, under the agreement. Spring also waives any legal claims against the district and agrees not to file a lawsuit against the district in matters related to the separation.
Spring on Wednesday also submitted a short resignation letter, which the board adopted at its virtual meeting later in the day. The resignation letter provides no reason for the abrupt departure, which comes during the district’s second full week of closed schools and remote teaching.
“Please accept this as my irrevocable letter of resignation from my position as Superintendent of Schools of the Schenectady City School District and from any other position(s) to which I am entitled,” Spring wrote in the letter.
Spring didn’t respond to The Gazette’s request for a followup interview Thursday.
Spring earned a salary of just over $205,000 this school year, up from $181,200 when he joined the district in 2012, an over 13 percent increase spread over multiple raises during his tenure.
School board members on Thursday would not get into specifics of Spring’s departure and some refused to comment in response to any of The Gazette’s questions. Board President John Foley said the board planned to meet next week to determine the next steps for conducting a search for the district’s next superintendent.
“We are working on that and we will be getting back to folks next week,” Foley said Thursday.
In the meantime, Aaron Bochniak, the district’s director of planning and accountability, will serve as acting superintendent and oversee all district operations. Bochniak has served in the position since Nov. 2016, overseeing technology, testing, data collection and reporting, transportation and other district operations.
In a message sent to staff Thursday evening, Bochniak said he was honored by the appointment as acting superintendent and promised to communicate with staff as best he can. He also committed himself to the district’s ongoing work and said that work will remain the same going forward.
“Our students are fortunate to have such a fantastic team working to ensure their safety, security and success,” he said in the note, which the Gazette obtained. “As we move forward, the goals, work and direction of our district remains the same.”
Many people in the Schenectady community, though, responded in shock as news of Spring’s resignation spread Wednesday night. In an interview shortly after Wednesday’s meeting, a meeting Spring did not participate in, he said “for me the timing is right” and that he planned to work on his doctorate dissertation. Many pointed out that a global pandemic hardly seems like the ideal time for a superintendent to resign. Superintendents often depart districts with more lead time for a search and orderly transition to new leadership. In the past, Spring has said he planned to leave the district when his children graduated high school, still a few years away, and at one point he even joked that the school board would consist of all new members at the time of his departure.
William Rivas, a community activist and one-time school board candidate, captured much of the shocked sentiment in a social media post Thursday.
“I am having some trouble with the fact he did this now!” Rivas wrote on Twitter. “We have a world in crisis, now is the most important time to stick together and show people exactly what (our) communities are made of.”
Jamaica Miles, a Schenectady parent who is active in the community, said she was “not loving the idea that in the middle of a crisis the superintendent left” and called for the community to work together to continue supporting the needs of Schenectady’s students. She also lauded Spring’s efforts in pushing state lawmakers to increase Schenectady school funding and his focus on the vision that “every child is capable of success if you break down the barriers in their way.”
“I want to hear what steps the board is going to take to ensure we continue to keep in place the programs and services that have been so beneficial to our students and district, and they are going to move forward with the things we have been doing under Spring,” she said Thursday.
When reached Thursday, board members Bernice Rivera, Katherine Stephens and Dharam Hitlall largely refused to comment on Spring’s departure, referring to the resignation as a “personnel matter.” Board members Ann Reilly and Cathy Lewis did not return messages Thursday seeking comment.
Board member Andy Chestnut on Thursday said he couldn’t answer questions about the specifics of Spring’s departure because it was a “personnel situation,” but he did answer some questions.
He said it was possible the timing of the departure was right for Spring and his family. “I take Larry at his word that this is the right time for him,” Chestnut said.
Chestnut also said the district’s transition to remote lessons in recent days and the establishment of a food-distribution network to get meals to families across the district demonstrated the staff’s ability to continue its work under new leadership.
“It isn’t the superintendent that has been streaming all of those lessons and delivering all of those different things,” Chestnut said.