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'Historic' contract with Syracuse teachers makes them among the highest paid in region

Ryan Delaney
Syracuse City School District Superintendent Sharon Contreras

The Syracuse City School district reached a contract agreement with its teachers, which district officials are calling historic. 

The deal offers teachers pay raises over the next five years, ranging from three to five percent.  It marks the biggest raises the teachers have received in a decade, and makes them among the highest paid teachers in the region. 

According to Superintendent Sharon Contreras, the agreement was made possible in part by revamping the health care plan for teachers.

“We were able to get some really good concessions, by implementing a high deductible health care plan, which was among the first in the region,” said the superintendent.

Overall, the district will invest an extra $75 million in salaries over the next five years.  Contreras says the health insurance compromise make that cost-sustainable.

The starting salary for teachers will increase by 13 percent, to $47,500.  The average teacher salary will also jump by more than $12,000 over the life of the contract.  

The contract also features a bigger emphasis on professional development for teachers, especially new teachers, who are more likely to leave the profession after a few years.

"New teachers will not only participate in our peer assistance and review program, which is a collaborative effort between the STA (Syracuse Teachers Association) and the district, but they will also receive 60 hours of mandatory professional development even before they walk into the classroom,” said Contreras.

They’re hoping that will also help attack an issue that is widespread in education, particularly in urban school districts.

“New teachers leave. Forty to 50 percent of all new teachers leave in the first five years. It’s not just urban teaches. So we have to address that issue.  And we’re hoping that by offering competitive salaries and offering professional development, we’ll be able to address that issue.”  

It took a year to negotiate the deal, which was approved by the district’s school board last week. But Contreras says the goal throughout the negotiations was to make sure the contract was sustainable.

"This is not a contentious negotiation, it was more a matter of how do we fund our priorities. And that’s what took a while.” 

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.