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Lavine says she elevated conversation on Syracuse schools in mayoral race

Laura Lavine, Republican candidate for mayor of Syracuse.

This is part of a series looking at each candidate running for mayor of Syracuse. You can find our stories featuring the other candidates for Syracuse mayor at the bottom of this page. 

As the Syracuse mayoral race wraps up, Republican candidate Laura Lavine said she knew it would be tough for her to win in a city where Democrats hold the vast majority. Lavine said she has loved the experience of running and said she has elevated the conversation on education in the city.

"I don't think public education in Syracuse would have been discussed nearly at the level that it has been, if I hadn't been in this race," Lavine said. 

When Lavine was in the fifth grade in the Syracuse City School District, her teacher read her class the book, “A Wrinkle in Time.”

“I remember going home and saying to my parents, 'Is it possible that a child wouldn’t speak from birth to age four, but then would start speaking in grammatically complete sentences?'" Lavine asked. "That was the central character in the book. I look back now and I realize that was when I developed my interest in learning how children communicate.”

Lavine began her 40-year career in public education as a speech therapist. She would go on to become a principal, a director of special education, an assistant superintendent and then a superintendent. On the campaign, she has called for mayoral control of the public schools. The school board would be appointed by the mayor, rather than elected by voters.

“If we had higher performing and safer schools, I wouldn’t be calling for such dramatic action as mayoral responsibility of the schools," Lavine said. "But we’re not there. That is not right. It is unacceptable. We need to do better for our students and their families.”

The school district’s graduation rate has been improving. But Lavine points out that 40 percent of students still do not graduate on time or drop out.

Lavine has also called for hiring more police officers and practicing more community policing.

She has been a lifelong city resident on Syracuse’s east side, living with her husband of 36 years in the same house she grew up in. But after they went to buy candy for Halloween, no trick-or-treaters came to their home.

“We used to get dozens of trick-or-treaters; the last few years, fewer and fewer," Lavine said. "Where are the families with all of the children?”

If elected, she said she hopes in four years, Syracuse will be reinvented as a place where people choose to live, buy homes and raise families.

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.