RCSD Superintendent Terry Dade considering a departure from district amid budget crisis

RCSD

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester City School District Superintendent Terry Dade is “considering” a departure from his position within the district.

Dade started as the district’s superintendent last summer and within his first year on the job, he’s underwent a budget crisis with an $87 million deficit, hundreds of staffing cuts, student protests, and more.

MORE | How RCSD got here: Timeline of events in district’s budget crisis

Dade says he spoke with lawyers about the possibility of leaving, but it’s important to note this is not a done deal at this time. Dade said working with the district’s school board has been “extremely challenging” to get the work done in order to balance the budget.

Dade said the RCSD is “probably the most difficult district in the country,” and now with a severe budget crisis looming, the superintendent says the lack of teamwork is making things tough. Dade says in order for him to stay, some dramatic shifts would have to occur, and he adds some topics are the same talking points he’s been advocating for, for months.

“So, something I’ve said back in Albany is I’ve advocated for a monitor in the RCSD,” Dade said. “I think we sorely need it. That monitor has to have political and education influence and swagger like we’ve never seen. Who can come into the most challenging district in the United States to make some very tough decisions, weigh in when there are disagreements, to make sure that we have a few things moving forward? A balanced budget that is looking out for the best educational, social and emotional support of our students. A budget that is also fiscally sound.”

School Board President Van White says the news caught him and other board members off-guard Wednesday. He feels Dade will remain with the RCSD and true to the mission: the children.

“There’s no doubt Terry Dade’s heart is in the right place, and my colleague’s hearts are in the right place. We just got to get on the phone, get reconnected, and to make sure we have as priority one, our children,” White said.

Regarding the potential departure of Dade, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren released this statement Wednesday:

“Today, yet again our school board and its enablers are putting their wants, and their salaries, before needs of the children they purport to serve. It is a travesty that we would lose another Superintendent, especially during the most severe fiscal crisis RCSD has faced. 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. 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.”

State Assembly Candidate Alex Yudelson also weighed in Wednesday:

“To those who have followed the story of the Rochester City School District for the past few decades, this news will come as no surprise. Superintendent Dade is a great leader who has the best interests of Rochester’s kids in mind. But he is the 6th superintendent in the past 7 years. So it’s no surprise that the School Board, which Assemblyman Bronson has worked so hard to protect and whose members have endorsed him, is running Superintendent Dade out of town. I’ve been clear about the need for real, structural change in our schools in order to finally put the needs of our kids above the wants of adults. It’s clear that this will take new leadership in Albany,” says Yudelson.

Responding to the possible departure, Assemblyman Harry Bronson says he hopes Dade remains.

“During this year’s State Public Hearing on education, I stated that sometimes the right person comes at the right time.  I strongly believe Superintendent Dade is that person and I encourage him to stay in his position to provide stable leadership during these tumultuous times; Rochester’s children can’t afford to start over with yet another Superintendent. Political football with our children’s education is inappropriate.  Instead, we need to fight for them.  I’ve always been an advocate for our children and have been vocal about transformative change that will also restore the school district’s trust with the local community. 

As a community we need to partner with the Superintendent and give him the support needed to turn RCSD around for our children –they deserve nothing less. I successfully fought for requiring an independent monitor to provide financial and academic oversight; develop a viable financial plan in partnership with the Superintendent; and, act as a liaison between the school board and the superintendent.  The independent monitor is required to also hold public hearings on the financial plan to seek the input of parents, students and city residents.   We need to act quickly and move to appoint that monitor as soon as possible so we can put our schools back on a path to success. This matter cannot wait.”

A report Tuesday from New York State Comptroller Tim DiNapoli’s office said the district’s budget issues went back years.

The State Comptroller’s Office released a draft audit report on the Rochester City School District for the 2018-2019 school year Tuesday. They said the district neglected to use accurate estimates to balance the budget for that year, leaving a deficit of $27.4 million.

The Comptroller said the school board failed to adopt a structurally balanced budget and didn’t follow its fund balance policy. They also say the district lacks a comprehensive multi-year financial plan. 

The Comptroller’s Office did make some recommendations going forward: Give realistic estimates of revenues and appropriations, comply with the board’s fund balance policy, and restore the fund balance minimum. Lastly, get financial plans in place to fund long-term operating needs.

The RCSD did respond to the audit saying they are in general agreement with it, and it is in-line with what their own analysis has shown. Officials did say a separate federal investigation is currently on-going within the RCSD.

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