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Syracuse schools make ‘significant progress’ as suspension agreement with NY AG nears end

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Syracuse Superintendent Jaime Alicea at a budget hearing for the school district.

Syracuse Schools Superintendent Jaime Alicea said the district has made significant progress in the last four years, while they have been complying with an agreement known as the Assurance of Discontinuance with the state attorney general’s office. The agreement is in its last year and was originally put in place because the district had one of the highest suspension rates in the country.

During the 2012-13 school year, 30 percent of all students in the district were suspended at least once and black students were suspended at twice the rate as white students. But currently, the black in-school and out-of-school suspension rates have decreased significantly to six and ten percent respectively, although those are still higher than the rates for any other race. The overall in-school suspension rate as decreased by eight percent and out-of-school suspensions have also been reduced.

The district will submit a final report to the attorney general in June. Alicea said he is hopeful they will meet all the items in the agreement and can use the money they were spending, about $10 million annually, on other things.

“But we need to continue to monitor and continue to provide the support that our students need to be successful in schools,” Alicea said.

Instead of suspensions, Alicea said the district has moved into more restorative practices to understand what is going on with students at home and in their communities. The district is adding more positions in family engagement support.

“These are going to be 17 people, these are not full-time people, these are hourly people, that are going to be working with parents in the community, providing some support, getting them engaged in school, going to community centers and providing some training for parents," Alicea said. "So it’s increasing communication between the school and our parents.”

Addressing the issue of school security, the district will also hire eight more sentries for the high schools.

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.