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Rochester School Superintendent Terry Dade wants to leave that job

James Brown
WXXI News file photo
Terry Dade

The man who has led Rochester’s school district for less than a year says he plans on leaving that post soon.

Rochester City School District Superintendent Terry Dade says his lawyer is talking with the Board of Education about terms for his separation from the district at the end of the school year. That would involve breaking his three-year contract.

Dade started in his role last July, coming to Rochester from the Washington, D.C., area. He formerly was an assistant superintendent in Virginia. 

Dade says that his relationship with the school board has been strained at best, and he indicated to WXXI News that lack of support is largely behind his decision.

“The way a good district operates is we unify as leaders to identify what the problem is and then to collaboratively come up with solutions, and unfortunately, that has not occurred,” Dade says.

Dade says the school board has not been supportive, and he has had to shoulder the burden of making the budget balance.

“That is no way for a district to operate, it can’t be just Superintendent Dade’s plan, Superintendent Dade’s cuts and reductions, and vote no for Superintendent Dade’s proposal,” he says.

The district's school budget has been mired in problems over the last year, after a previously undisclosed budget gap of about $30 million was found. Now, the district is dealing with a more than $80 million shortfall, partly due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and the possibility that state aid will be cut.

Dade became the troubled district’s sixth leader in 10 years. He arrived with high expectations from Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, where he led a turnaround effort for some of that system’s worst-performing schools.

He expressed support for several initiatives in place in Rochester, including a common curriculum, relying more heavily on data to influence decisions, and restorative justice practices, which promote inclusiveness and relationship-building to solve problems.

But he has spent most of his roughly 10 months on the job attempting to plug budget deficits that stemmed from the district overspending in excess of $27 million last year prior to his arrival.

Consequently, he has laid off scores of teachers, and recently proposed $87 million in budget cuts that include more layoffs and reductions in cherished programs that have met with resistance from the board and the community at large.

Dade signed a three-year contract with the Rochester Board of Education, a body with a reputation for running superintendents out of town. The board was harshly criticized for micromanaging the district in a 2018 report by a state-appointed education watchdog.

Dady says that right now, he is firm on his decision to seek an exit from his contract and says that things would have to be drastically different for him to remain as superintendent beyond the current school year.

Board of Education President Van White did not return a message seeking comment.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's news director. David Andreatta is editor of CITY Newspaper.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.