NYCLU honors Sch’dy superintendent
with Ned Pattison award
Schenectady City School District Superintendent Larry Spring was honored at a ceremony on November 12, 2014 at the Polish American Community Center, by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) for his efforts to seek equitable funding for poor and minority students. The NYCLU, one of the nation’s foremost defenders of civil liberties and civil rights, presented Spring with the prestigious Ned Pattison Award.
Spring, who is an advocate for the disadvantaged and those living in poverty, launched an aggressive campaign to try to get Schenectady, which is shorted about $62 million each year, the New York State aid to which the district is entitled. In his work, Spring uncovered an issue of discrimination. Data shows that school districts with higher concentrations of minority students are systemically underfunded. The more white a school district’s population, the more likely the district is to receive all, or close to all, of the aid it was promised under the mandated Foundation Aid formula. Schenectady receives only about 55 percent of the aid it should be receiving. “Different treatment of students based on race is a violation of Federal law,” said Spring.
Schenectady’s superintendent first took his complaint to the Governor’s office. He has since filed formal complaints with two federal agencies. Last winter, he hand-delivered the complaint to The United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights in Manhattan and then a few months ago submitted the complaint to the United States Department of Justice. The complaint requests that the agency open and fully investigate the claim, correct the violations of law and order appropriate relief. Each office has responded by claiming that the matter is not within their jurisdiction. Spring disagrees and continues to press for answers.
Under Spring’s leadership, Schenectady has implemented the Community Eligibility Option program which ensures that all students in the district receive free breakfast and lunch every day. The implementation and success of the program in Schenectady serves as a model for other districts across the country. Since implementing the free meals, Schenectady student attendance rates have dramatically increased.
Shortly after coming to Schenectady, about two and a half years ago, Spring established a Schenectady Equity and Excellence committee comprised of community advocates. The group was charged with completing an equity audit and to study disproportionality data and review policy. It has developed a racial justice report card and advises the district on all matters of equity.
Spring insists that “race, economics and disability will not be predictors for student achievement” in Schenectady.
He speaks at many conferences and sits on panels that address poverty and mental health and has recently authored an article on the effects of poverty.
School board president Cathy Lewis proudly introduced and presented Spring with the NYCLU award. “I am honored and humbled to receive the Ned Pattison Award,” said Spring who noted that it is very special.
Spring spoke about his advocacy efforts and the road he has traveled thus far trying to get the students of Schenectady the resources that they desperately need. The superintendent shows no signs of backing down. Spring said he plans to continue the fight because it is the right thing to do.
The Ned Pattison Award is presented annually to celebrate the life and values of Edward W. “Ned” Pattison, whose work as a public servant and private citizen showed his concern for the poor and the powerless. Pattison is remembered as a man who stuck to his principles – when doing so jeopardized his personal ambitions.
Spring was joined at the celebration by his wife Karen and parents Helena and John.