Syracuse City School District (SCSD) Superintendent Sharon Contreras has lost the support of area teachers. In a vote on this week, 95% of the 2,800 member Syracuse Teacher Association voted that they have “no confidence” in Contreras, according to Ryan Delaney of WRVO Public Media. This is the first time the union has taken such action.
During the meeting, teachers union head Kevin Ahern said:
“Despite our assurances that things will improve, our concerns have been ignored and the district is clearly heading in the wrong direction,” Kevin Ahern said, between cheers and yells from the hundreds of teachers and parents in the crowd.
The vote comes as a result of a multitude of complaints toward district administration. These included issues with school safety, a lack of communication, and “inept implementation” of teacher evaluations and education standards.
In an earlier meeting, board member Max Ruckdeschel had stated he lost confidence in Contreras following a series of mediocre hiring decisions.
However, not everyone feels this way. Many parents and community members attended the meeting in support of Contreras, citing that the existing problems were present even before Contreras was in office.
“She’s an agent for change and that’s what we need for our kids,” said Hasan Stephens, a community activist.
Contreras herself spoke at the meeting, saying:
The feelings expressed by STA members through this action are understandable given all of the stressors that our teachers are facing – the mandated implementation of the Common Core and new evaluation systems, as well as the scrutiny surrounding student behavior and discipline. I remain 100% committed to continuing to work with and support our teachers and staff as we strive to prepare every student to graduate from high school and lead successful lives.
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner stated that while the teacher’s concerns were understandable, she is planning to meet with both Ahern and Contreras to bring both sides to a mutual understanding.
“The vote by the Syracuse Teachers Association (STA) is understandable given the frustrations I have heard building among both teachers and administrators. The pressures, expectations and complications imposed on our educators today are unprecedented … On top of these challenges, Superintendent Sharon Contreras faces the immense task of dealing with the aftermath of an investigation by the Attorney General into past disciplinary practices in the district. I have spoken with Superintendent Contreras and STA President Kevin Ahern. They have agreed to meet with me to begin conversations that I hope will lead everyone back to common ground.”
Contreras is one month short of three years on the job for the SCSD. She is the first female superintendent of SCSD, and the first African-American woman to serve as superintendent of one of the “Big 5” districts (New York City, Syracuse, Yonkers, Buffalo and Rochester) in the history of New York State.