The Syracuse Teachers Association wrapped up a two-day "no confidence" vote this afternoon on the leadership of Syracuse City School District Superintendent Sharon Contreras.
Speaking on conditions of anonymity, teachers have cited a myriad of issues for the vote ranging from safety and disciplinary concerns to the handling of controversial teacher evaluations. Teachers and parents have both said that they simply don't feel like their concerns are being addressed by administrators. Many teachers have also said they've been discouraged by administrators from reporting behavioral issues.
"Teachers are following the rules and doing everything they can but kids just get switched to other schools," said Syracuse parent Kim Zook. "A problem at Huntington might go to Grant or to Lincoln. It just goes in a loop so nothing's really being done about it."
Many parents believe that a probe launched last fall by the state Attorney General's Office investigating the way SCSD handles discipline problems has only exacerbated the issue.
Contreras' supporters though believe that the vote of 'no confidence' is too rash a move and that more time is needed to allow recently launched disciplinary programs to take effect.
"This is a huge complicated problem that's not going to be resolved overnight," said Walt Dixie,executive director of the local chapter of the National Action Network, which called for the state investigation. "If [Contreras] is removed tomorrow, that's still not going to resolve the problem the next day. All we do is give Syracuse a black eye."
A particularly violent year in Syracuse schools, however, has left many parents feeling that the time for change is now.
"As a parent who's in the building every day it's blatantly apparent that something is wrong in our schools right now," said Syracuse parent and Be The Change advocate Heidi Teska. "If the administration isn't going to fix it, then the board needs to elect one that will."
"The teachers should have voted a year ago for no confidence," said Zook, a 14-year Syracuse schools parent. "I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly in the district and the last two-and-a-half years have been ugly. It sounds like tomorrow's going to be ugly too at the board meeting. I feel terrible for our teachers who've had to live in fear for their jobs for so long. It's about time that someone finally stood up and said 'We've had enough.'"
The results of the vote will be announced at tomorrow's regularly scheduled school board meeting. Due to expected heightened attendance, that meeting has been moved to Dr. King Elementary School, 416 E. Raynor Ave., at 5:30 p.m.