Syracuse, NY- Mayor Stephanie A. Miner today outlined a series of steps the City, School District and Say Yes to Education must embrace to promote reform and reverse decades of declining student performance.
The Mayor made the announcement following the Common Council’s vote that upheld her veto of a $2.4 million tax increase.
“In order to change decades of declining performance, our schools need real transformational change rather than symbolic gestures that throw more taxpayer money at strategies and practices that clearly are not working,” Mayor Miner said. “Leadership often means having to do the right thing at the expense of doing the easy thing. We must use these fiscal challenges to drive change even if it is difficult.”
The Mayor outlined a series of steps she is backing and will ask the District’s new Superintendent, Sharon Contreras, to support when she arrives July 1.
First, the Mayor embraces a series of recent recommendations from a national educational consulting firm that would transform the way the District selects and rewards teachers and allocates its classroom resources.
Educational Resource Strategies (ERS) was hired to collaborate with the School District to study how the District spends its money. The study benchmarked the Syracuse City School District with other districts and suggested new practices that appear to be most likely to improve student performance.
“We are not going to change student performance until the approach in the classroom changes,” said the Mayor, who will push these recommendations from ERS’ report:
∙Restructure the teaching job to attract and retain the highest contributors and support effective teams.
∙Focus more on the quality of instruction than on the number of instructors.
∙Move away from one-size fits all class sizes to target individual attention based on student and subject needs.
∙Extend and strategically organize student time.
∙Redesign special education to shift resources to early and ongoing intervention in general education settings.
Second, to drive this agenda, the Mayor has spoken to the incoming Superintendent and they have agreed to monthly one-on-one meetings. Additionally, the Mayor has committed to assigning City staff to participate in year-round budget discussions with Syracuse City School District staff and to pursue new areas of cooperation and consolidation.
“We have to close the divide that has grown between City Hall and the District and bridge that gap by building a trusting relationship,” said Mayor Miner. “The new Superintendent and I agree that we must talk directly and frankly about taking a new direction that puts results for children first.”
And third, the Mayor asked the District and Say Yes to engage more parents in committing to avail their children of all the support services offered by the Say Yes promise.
“Too many parents tell me they don’t fully understand everything Say Yes has to offer,” Mayor Miner said. “Until we engage more parents, too many children will fail in school no matter how much money the District spends.”
To reverse this, the Mayor called on Say Yes to develop a process for parents to meet with staff at the time of student enrollment and for parents to sign a pledge – the “the Say Yes Pledge” – to commit to helping their children graduate from high school.
“I would like to see every parent commit his or her signature to a document that indicates he or she has been briefed on what Say Yes can mean for his or her child and that the parent is committing to help that student succeed in school,” Mayor Miner said. “While Say Yes offers a promise of services and tuition assistance, parents should share in a promise in return – to do their part every day to help their children succeed.”