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School year starts with three new schools in Syracuse

Ryan Delaney
WRVO file photo
Syracuse City School District Superintendent Sharon Contreras greets students outside of Hughes Elementary and Syracuse Latin on the first day of school.

Some Syracuse public school students started the new school year this week in an entirely new schools aimed at turning around struggling academic buildings.

In the basement of Hughes Elementary School, Syracuse City School District Superintendent Sharon Contreras greeted students at the new Syracuse Latin magnet school. Its liberal arts heavy curriculum is being phased in first at the kindergarten and first grade levels.

Contreras admits there was some confusion over just what a Latin school would be, which stalled applications from students in the spring to attend the new school.

"So we did more outreach and we had quite a few families apply," she said after the tour.

Students had to pass a test and interview process in order to enroll. Fowler High School is also transitioning into a public service academy and the district is working to turn Delaware Elementary into an in-district charter school with a Spanish language immersion program.

Since a large portion of the new Delaware Primary students are Hispanic, the Syracuse school district has applied to teach several courses at the school in Spanish.

The move must be approved by the state education department, which Contreras said they're still waiting on.

"Well, I have no idea but we’ve answered all of their questions to date," she said. "We know we’ve put together a very good program. So we’ll see soon."

Along with having to revamp struggling schools, the district also faces a challenge because performance exams stagnated last year in the second year of Common Core standards.

Contreras said the district worked with teachers all summer to improve instruction.

"We will continue to work over the school year to make sure that our students are improving," she said.

The superintendent says she has a professional relationship with teachers’ union, despite their vote of ‘no confidence’ in her late last academic year.

In the spring, the Syracuse Teachers Association held a vote of no confidence in Contreras and demanded her resignation.

Since then, Contreras and teachers’ union president Kevin Ahern have met regularly at meetings organized by the mayor.

"Mr. Ahern is very committed to the students and the teachers of the Syracuse City School District, as am I. And we’re going to make sure we’re going to move forward," the superintendent said.

Contreras also struggled last year to maintain confidence in her work from the board of education. She’s said she still has confidence in the teachers.