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Lavine's opponents, teachers union, react negatively to proposed mayoral control of Syracuse schools

Ellen Abbott
Republican candidate for Syracuse mayor, Laura Lavine, at a press conference.

Last week, Republican candidate for mayor Laura Lavine proposed mayoral control of Syracuse’s public schools. But Syracuse’s teachers union and some of Lavine’s opponents are calling that plan a mistake.

"People want to be part of the answer," said Democratic candidate Juanita Perez Williams. "To leave it to just the mayor’s office to do that, I think makes it too political, it can be harmful. I want to see a community resolve the issues.”

Lavine's plan would make the school board appointed by the mayor and approved by the common council, rather than elected by voters.

Syracuse City Auditor Marty Masterpole is also running in the Democratic primary for mayor. He said right now, the school district is heading in the right direction. Graduation rates are up, and he said it would not be responsible to upset that progress.

“If you want to be superintendent, be superintendent, if you want to be mayor, be mayor," Masterpole said. "Those two things are not the same, they’re very different.”

Lavine, the former superintendent of the LaFayette School District, has called the Syracuse district dismal, despite the progress its made, reaching a 60 percent graduation rate.

"I’ve already been a school superintendent, I’m not running to be the schools superintendent of Syracuse," Lavine said.

She said appointing the school board, rather than having voters choose it, would ensure a consistent vision.

Syracuse Teachers Association President Megan Root said the union is deeply disturbed by the plan. Root said having an elected school board is, “the most democratic way of allowing the community to have a voice,” in the district. Root gave the following statement to the Syracuse Board of Education.

The STA is deeply disturbed by Republican Mayoral Candidate Laura Levine’s statements yesterday regarding the SCSD. She claims that our school system is failing and attempts to shame us for celebrating rising graduation rates. Further, she supports spending more money on charter schools, vaguely stating that parents need choices until we get this “thing” turned around. Clearly she has no idea of the choices which the SCSD already provides for our students, nor does she have a real understanding of what urban education looks like. Based on her contentious relationship with the Onondaga Nation during her tenure as LaFayette Superintendent, I have no confidence that she has any interest in working with us as mayor.

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.