Union acts as school yard bully in multi-front attack on Syracuse school leadership: Matt's Memo

Syracuse Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras.

There's a section in the contract of the Syracuse School Superintendent where the header reads "Defense of Superintendent". It is a section that offers the leader of the public school system legal protection from lawsuits assuming she has fulfilled her duties in good faith. Superintendent Sharon Contreras just might have her attorney digging deeper into her deal for other ways to defend her reputation and career. It was under attack tonight by the Syracuse teachers union.

A room filled with teachers, parents and community members made for an extraordinary school board meeting tonight at the Dr. Martin Luther King School. The Syracuse Teachers Association announced a no confidence vote in the superintendent. They say more than 9 out of 10 teachers want her out. The union called for an immediate negotiation to end her employment.

Moments later the Mayor of Syracuse e-mailed a statement. She was suggesting she play the role of moderator between the two sides. "I have spoken with Superintendent Contreras and STA President Kevin Ahern," said Mayor Stephanie M i ner. "They have agreed to meet with me to begin conversations that I hope will lead everyone back to common ground."

The mayor's claim of agreement for the two sides to meet stands in contrast to the union's official position this evening. "The Syracuse Teachers Association urges the Board of Education to immediately enter into negotiations with Superintendent Contreras for a mutually agreed upon and expedited departure date," said union president Ahern in a resolution.

The union issues a multi-part resolution. It was a passionate attack on the superintendent and the school board. It was sternly worded. The statement did not veil its displeasure with both the district and the union. It called the Contreras administration "inept". It criticized the school board for "abdicating" its fiduciary responsibility. It threatened the board with a political attack that would "ensure that the majority of you don't get re-elected."

The teachers union attempted to show leadership in bringing this no confidence vote. Instead the union came off as a school yard bully who was upset that the superintendent has not followed their wishes and the school board has not respected the teachers.

The strategy is flawed. The union personally attacked the very board it needs on its side to actually affect the change it desires: the termination of Superintendent Contreras.

There was no immediate action taken tonight by the school board. A moderated session between school administration and the union may or may not take place. Despite the grandest of meetings and the passionate attacks on one another, the Syracuse City School District may be left with a messy political stew and relationships forever broken.

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