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RCSD school board president discusses Superintendent Dade’s ‘surprise’ departure, UR’s involvement

RCSD

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester City School District Superintendent Terry Dade is leaving his position and has accepted a job with the Cornwall Central School District.

That means RCSD will have to search for a new leader while it also faces an estimated $87 million budget deficit. Dade took over as the district’s superintendent last summer, and in less than a year on the job, the district saw hundreds of staffing cuts, student protests, and more.

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

The University of Rochester is raising eyebrows for its involvement in Dade’s new position. News broke Friday that the Cornwall School District’s superintendent search was conducted by a search the U of R’s Warner School of Education. A representative for the U of R said they were unaware that Dade had become a candidate in the search and the process was independent and confidential.

RCSD board president Van White said although he doesn’t know the full story he thinks the U of R could’ve handled this situation better.

“I would’ve hoped they would’ve done what I think is basic in business and that’s to do a conflict search. And because they didn’t do that a lot of good people’s reputations are for a moment at least are drawn into question,” White said.

The conflict is particularly tough due to the U of R’s partnership with East High School. For the past five years, the two have been collaborating as part of an Education Partnership Organization. East superintendent Shaun Nelms said he didn’t know about Dade’s new position or the U of R’s involvement until Friday morning.

“What should’ve happened is the moment his name was mentioned, they could’ve given that over to another search firm or recused themselves,” Nelms said. “I understand how it happened but I also agree that it should not have happened and that’s really important to know but there was no intentional effort to push Terry out or do anything of the sort.”

When asked if helms would be considered as a candidate for Dade’s replacement, White said under any other circumstances, Nelms would’ve been a top candidate. However, due to the U of R and East partnership and the involvement with Dade’s new position, White said he doesn’t think it would be appropriate.

A statement from the RCSD Board of Education Friday said in part:

“Much to our surprise, we learned yesterday from the media that Superintendent Terry Dade accepted another position.  Please understand that your Board of Education’s commitment to our students, staff, and community remains steadfast.

Going forward, our first priority is to recommend a budget to the Rochester City Council that best addresses our fiscal circumstances with a focus on the best educational opportunities for our children.  At the same time, we are focused on the future leadership of the District and its stability as we look forward to our reopening for regular instruction. We are confident that the strength of our community, together with our commitment, will see us through the challenges currently facing us.”

Officials from the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education also released a statement Friday about its role in Dade’s departure. The Friday statement said in part:

“We understand that the superintendent search assistance provided by the Warner School of Education to the Cornwall School District on its face looks like we may have undermined our commitment to Rochester, its educators, its residents, and most importantly its students and families, so we want to be clear that this is not the case and the result is entirely unintentional.

The Warner School’s Center for Professional Development and Education Reform provides leadership coaching and search consulting services throughout the state.  Since 2009, the Center has conducted nearly two dozen superintendent searches for districts, and the Cornwall search was one of five assisted by the Warner School in a little more than a year. 

While the Center was responsible for the Cornwall Central School District search, University leaders and East EPO leaders were entirely unaware of the fact that Terry Dade had become a candidate. While unfortunate, it was a completely independent and confidential process. 

That said, we are looking more closely at how this happened, so as to avoid any possible real or perceived conflict of interest in the future. University leadership takes seriously its commitment to the Rochester community and the stability of its schools and regrets that we had any role, however small, in Mr. Dade’s departure.”

RCSD principals demonstrated Thursday outside the district’s central offices in support of Dade, pleading him to stay, but Dade said Wednesday the inability to work cohesively with the district’s school board was driving him out the door.

Dade said he was at his breaking point after trying to balance the budget for what he called “probably the most difficult district in the country.”

“This has been the most challenging and taxing year of my professional career,” Dade said Wednesday.

Full press conference with Van White:

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