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Syracuse superintendent apologizes over Fowler High School plans

Ryan Delaney
Syracuse school superintendent Sharon Contreras. (File photo)

Syracuse City School District superintendent Sharon Contreras apologized Wednesday night for the way news about plans to phase out three of the city's schools was made public.

A letter from the state Department of Education leaked to the press Monday outlined possible plans for three underperforming schools in the city: Fowler High School, Hughes Elementary and Delaware Elementary.

The plans mentioned for Fowler High School in the letter talk of the school becoming a "school of choice" focused on public safety and security, called in the Feb. 27 letter a National Security High School.

That name angered Fowler parent Kelly Abt, who said the name only perpetuates a negative image of the school. 

"For a school in an area that already experiences such negative connotations, that name becomes extremely inappropriate," she said.

Afterward, Contreras addressed parents, saying she never saw the letter and that it was a draft. A second letter dated March 4 - and given later to the press - changes the working name for the school to a Public Safety High School.

Contreras apologized for the news coming out in the media.

"We will be providing staff with an update, and families, and we would never be disrespectful and not go out to the staff and the students and talk to you about what the plans are," she said.

She stressed that Fowler will not be closed. Plans will be released as soon as they're ready. The state has given the school district an April 30 deadline for those plans, which must be implemented by the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

The three schools have been below state standards for three years and by law, must be overhauled or closed.

The school district is already transitioning Hughes into a Latin school, offering a classical education to high-performing students. The letter mentioned the possibility of Onondaga Community College taking control of Delaware Elementary.

The school board has a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, April 16.