The day after a highly contentious meeting of the Syracuse School Board at which teachers proclaimed they have "no confidence" in the leadership of Superintendent Sharon Contreras, the head of the Syracuse Teachers Association and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner speak out.
Wednesday night, hundreds of teachers, community leaders and parents turned out as the Teachers Association revealed more than 95 percent of the teachers voted no confidence in Superintendent Contreras and called upon the school board to remove her from office.
The teachers are upset with the deterioration of civility and safety in the schools, what they call the "inept implementation" of common core standards and unfair teacher evaluations.
STA President Kevin Ahern told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon today, the dispute has been brewing for 3 years. "Clearly they don't hear us. Despite the fact that we we report to them on a monthly basis the whole litany of issued we have and they've been hearing this like a drum beat for three years now. " Ahern said.
Superintendent Contreras issued a statement that the no confidence vote was "understandable given all the stressors that our teachers are facing" But she remains "100 percent committed to continuing to work with and support our teachers...."
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is settting up meetings between the Teachers Association and the school administration in hopes of resolving their differences without the removal of Superintendent Contreras. "You're seeing that the teachers are under significant stress over the implementation of common core, teacher assessments and then the Attorney General's investigation over disciplinary practices in the school district. I think what you saw was a vote of frustration by the teachers in saying there needs to be attention paid to their issues."
Ahern says he has agreed to meeting with Mayor Miner but when asked if he could forsee any resolution in which Contreras would remain, he answered, "It's way too early to tell right now."
The no confidence vote has exposed a racial divide between teachers and community leaders over disciplinary measures which many feel fall too heavily on minority students. Ahern says, "This is not a racial issue. This is a labor/management issue that involves the working conditions of our members and the learning conditions of our kids."
Mayor Miner says she has not yet set up any specific meeting dates. She says she wants to give both sides a cooling off period.
The Teachers Association has threatened to work against the re-election of school board members who side with Contreras. Ahern told Kenyon, "Certainly we will be working to find new candidates in the next election cycle to replace the majority of people on that board."
At this point, it appears board members are unwilling to remove Superintendent Contreras. contacted by phone... board vice president bill bullen admitted: "we need to do a better job as a board..." but he added: "we've got to change our culture... it's best to work together and not against each other."
T he school board is entirely composed of democrats. Thursday, Tom Dadey, the Chairman of the Onondaga County Republican Party seized upon an opportunity "The failed policies of the Democrat school board has not worked. We've seen it for decades. It's a mess we're in. It's time for a major change in the school district." Dadey said.
F our of the seven Syracuse School Board members are up for re-election this fall. Dadey says the Republican Party is recruiting candidates to run against them. He feels the no confidence vote against Sharon Contreras will help republicans gain favor with the voters.