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Syracuse City School District adopts new strategic plan with lofty goals

The Syracuse City School District now has a blue print for the next five years, that administrators hope will take it from being one of the poorest performing districts to one of the most improved urban school districts in America. The plan calls for changes across the board.

The strategic five-year plan adopted by the school board is called "Great Expectations." It's five goals include better communication by the district; higher expectations for students; an updated core curriculum; more attention on recruiting and retaining good teachers; and more support for families.

Parent Talina Jones likes the lofty goals. "We raise the bar high, and as long as you provide supports, and services that people need then I think it will be a successful plan," Jones said.

Employees like Brian Nolan expect the words will lead to action.

"Right now, it's just a document on paper," Nolan said. "Once the work groups start and we ask people to become part of the work groups to implement the plan, that's when the rubber meets the road."

Superintendent Sharon Contreras says this is going to help the district budget during very difficult fiscal times.

"How you spend your money is based on who yells the loudest," Contreras said. "Now we have priorities and the board can develop and approve a budget that's based on strategic priorities."

Administrator Nolan says without a blueprint like this, the 31 schools in the city district often don't work together.

"Sometimes what happens, you don't act like a school district, but a district of schools, and the schools are kind of operating independently, trying to do the best they can," Nolan said. "But I think the strategic plan brings everyone together with a real understanding of what the ultimate goal is, what the vision is."

A special task force developed the plan with community input, at times holding meetings after church services, and knocking on doors of apartment complexes to find out what residents wanted to see from city schools.

Contreras says work has already started on implementing some of the specifics of the plan that was adopted by the school board Wednesday night. She students should see a change, even this year.

"They'll notice a new curriculum, more technology,, more supports for them…more extended day programs.  They'll see their teachers are focused to even a greater level."

Contreras says programs that don't fit within the plan will be eliminated.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.