By Ben Velderman
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – If residents of the Syracuse City School District ever wonder why their schools are so awful, Superintendent Sharon Contreras may just tell them to look in the mirror.
In a recent interview with The Post-Standard’s editorial board, Contreras said it’s “shocking” that Syracuse parents and taxpayers have not demanded better results from their schools.
Contreras, who has served as SCSD’s superintendent since 2011, said she didn’t hear complaints about the district’s chronically low-achieving schools until last fall when the Spanish Action League and the NAACP aired their concerns at a school board meeting.
“I’ve been in education nearly two decades,” Contreras told The Post-Standard. “This is the first community where that has happened for me, where it took nearly two years for a group to come forward and say, ‘This is unacceptable.’”
Contreras continued: “When the adults are not saying the low performance is unacceptable, what we are saying without speaking is we don’t have high expectations for our students.”
Seven Syracuse schools are so dysfunctional that “fewer than 20 percent of students perform adequately on state tests. At one of them, the Westside Academy at Blodgett, 97 percent of seventh-graders failed to meet state standards in math last year,” The Post-Standard reports.
The district was recently awarded $31.5 million in federal funds to help turn around those seven schools. The district will use some of the extra money to lengthen the school day by an hour and to provide more professional development training for teachers, the Post-Standard reports.
Part of the reason Syracuse residents have kept quiet about the sorry state of their schools might be because their concerns have been deemed less important than the demands of the local teacher union.
While Contreras didn’t blame the Syracuse Teachers Association for the chilly relations between teachers and parents, she did acknowledge that “many, many of our parents do not feel they are welcome in our schools, and we have to change that.”