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Miner looks to move teachers union, district forward in talks

Ryan Delaney
A Syracuse Board of Education meeting on Wednesday became heated over the superintendent's performance.

The head of the Syracuse public school teachers union and the superintendent of the district will sit down this week in hopes of repairing a fractured relationship. 

Mayor Stephanie Miner, a former labor lawyer, will mediate the discussion. 

The Syracuse Teachers Association voted overwhelmingly last week that it had "no confidence" in Superintendent Sharon Contreras. The results were announced at Wednesday's school board meeting by union president Kevin Ahern, who then led a walkout of teachers.

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Syracuse Teachers Association President Kevin Ahern.

The board meeting became heated and noisy with the walkout followed by shouts of support for Contreras. It also at times became racially charged, largely over discipline in the schools. The state attorney general is investigating harsher punishment in the district toward minority students.

Miner called the no confidence vote “understandable,” but "it is not an option to say that we’re going to allow our community to devolve into accusations against each other when an asset as important as the future of our children and education system is at stake.

"And so we have to call on our better selves, our better angels, to say, let’s focus on what is most important," she said Friday. "And that is the children and making sure we’re educating the children."

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Superintendent Sharon Contreras.

The teachers union says it’s upset over safety in the schools and what Ahern called "inept implementation" of education standards and teacher evaluations. The STA says Contreras has ignored and disrespected them.

"I know both sides, in fact I know everybody on all sides of this issue," Miner said. "All of these people come to it with the best of intentions, which is to say we want to education children and make sure all children are getting what they’re entitled to."

Miner said she will focus the talks on the future and moving forward.