© 2024 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Bittersweet' departure of Contreras as Syracuse school board disscusses what's next

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News File Photo
Superintendent Sharon Contreras (right) at the Syracuse School Board vote on her contract extension in 2015.

After the announcement that Syracuse Superintendent Sharon Contreras is going to be stepping down from her position to accept a new job in North Carolina, the Syracuse Board of Education has been discussing how to move forward. The school district has seen highs and lows during Contreras’ tenure.

Low graduation rates, schools put on receivership for struggling performances and high suspension rates have plagued the school district in recent years. Contreras was not loved by all, the Syracuse Teachers Association voted overwhelmingly against her leadership two years ago in a symbolic vote. But school board president Derrick Dorsey said her legacy will be remembered by how she was able to keep all those plates spinning.  

“It’s a bittersweet situation, I think we have a person that has poured themselves into the Syracuse City School District over the last five years and have helped us move forward in terms of improving graduation rates, decreasing drop-out rates and getting our schools off the receivership list,” Dorsey said.

This year saw the highest graduation rates in more than a decade, above 60 percent when it was below 50 percent just two years ago. The district has cut suspension incidents by half since 2010.

Dorsey said, contentious negotiations last December among the school board members over Contreras’ new contract may have set the wheels in motion for her departure.

“It just would be very emotional for a person," Dorsey said. "You have to respect the fact that she was actually exploring other opportunities at that point because of the things that the previous board looked at. She decided to put her feelers out there and we’re happy for her.”

Moving forward, Dorsey and the other school board members will continue to discuss what kind of leadership they will install in the short-term to continue their push for the district to become the most improved in the state.  

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.