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Community reacts to Dade’s talks to leave RCSD

James Brown
Rochester City School Superintendent Terry Dade

Rochester City School Superintendent Terry Dade announced Wednesday that he’s in talks to leave the 

district after less than one year on the job. The four union leaders who represent the bulk of district employees say the district needs a state monitor now.

An educational and financial monitor was approved as part of the state budget agreement but isn’t expected to be appointed until July. 

The unions wrote a letter to Betty Rosa, the chancellor of the New York State board regents to speed up that process and if she can’t. Rochester Teachers Association president Adam Urbanski has a solution for Rosa.

“And if that’s not possible, then the chancellor, to appoint herself, to be interim monitor to assure responsible budgeting,” said Urbanski.

The state education department would not comment on Rosa but a statement said that they’re “aware of the situation” in Rochester and “have been in contact with the district.” Dade had a conversation with the state education department on Wednesday in-between interviews with local news outlets. The conflict between Dade and the board comes during a difficult year for the district including mid-year layoffs because of overspending by prior district administrations and it was further strained as the board grapples with bridging an $87 million budget gap for next school year.

It's these conflicts that a state appointed monitor is expected to smooth over. Assemblyman Harry Bronson brokered the deal with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office for the monitor in exchange for an immediate $30 million spin-up loan. He, like Urbanski and the district’s union, is calling for an immediate monitor.

Bronson’s opponent in the June elections is Alex Yudelson, Mayor Lovely Warren’s chief of staff. Yudelson criticized his opponent’s continued support of the Rochester Board of Education

“We need to have a community conversation about the best way for this district to operate,” said Yudelson. “And frankly that’s something Assemblyman Bronson has been unwilling to have since the start of his tenure.”

Yudelson called the way the school board is elected and governs “broken.” He calls them “hyper partisan” and “micromanagers.” 

“All of the reforms that people talk about, whether it's community schools, or busing, neighborhood schools, all these sorts of things,,” said Yudelson. “If you don’t have a governance system in place who can competently implement these ideas than you’re going to have a broken system and the reforms aren’t going to work “

Warren went further in a statement released after Dade’s announcement.

“It is a travesty that we would lose another Superintendent, especially during the most severe fiscal crisis RCSD has faced, “ said Warren. “Again, rather than deal with a catastrophe of their own creation, the school board has chosen to attempt to disgrace and destroy another leader that dare speak the truth.” 

“I have been steadfast in my call that our children must be put first and that the State must act to provide them the education they deserve,” said Warren. “It is clearer than ever that the State Chancellor of Education must act, and the influence of so-called leaders like Assemblyman Bronson must be removed, so that real leadership who will meet the needs of our children can be restored.”

Credit James Brown
The Rochester Board of Education offices

Bronson said that thousands of districts across the county, state and nation successfully operate with an elected school board. He also compared the board to President Donald Trump who the democrat opposes. He said opposing any politician like Trump or specific board members isn’t enough to throw out the entire governance structure.

“The discussion isn’t whether we remove the office of president,” said Bronson. “The question is who do we vote into his place?”

Despite their disagreements, Bronson and Yudelson agree that the district’s budgeting process should be changed, and that the state should have more input. They also favor a non-partisan, lower paid board of education.The Rochester school board is the highest paid board in the state. 

But Bronson is steadfast in his support of keeping the current governance structure. He said he often disagrees with board decisions but said that’s not enough to change the leadership structure. 

“The model is not the problem,” said Bronson. “The problem is that we’re not getting people to focus on the children and their education.”

Bronson is also hopeful that Dade will not leave the district. He said he has regular talks with Dade including within the last 24 hours. 

Among the hopeful that Dade will return is Clinton Bell, who runs Abraham Lincoln #22 school. Bell was among the two dozen or so principals who rallied at the district’s central office Thursday. 

Bell said the conflicts between Dade and the Board of Education should be put aside.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by James Brown (@jamesbrowntv) on Apr 23, 2020 at 4:37pm PDT

“We need stability in our district. Our kids deserve it. Our community deserves it. And we’re not getting that right now,” said Bell. “I am appealing to the board to reflect on their practices and how they work and work with the professional educator that Terry Dade is.” 

Lashara Evans agreed with Bell, she’s principal of school 54.

“We have faith in him,” said Evans “There’s work to do. And if there’s anybody who can right-size the district it’s Terry Dade.”

Dade and members of his cabinet watched the protest from the second floor of the Board of Education. 

After the protest, the administrators went inside the building and met with Dade and begged him to stay. He told them that his “decision isn’t final yet” and he “still has prayer and reflection to do.”

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.
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