Former Syracuse schools superintendent on Biden’s list for Sec. of Education (report)

Syracuse, N.Y. — Sharon Contreras, a former superintendent for the Syracuse City School District, is being considered by President-elect Joe Biden as his education secretary, CNN is reporting.

Her name is one of several being reported as a possible pick.

Others include teacher union leaders Lily Eskelsen Garcia and Randi Weingarten.

The Washington Post reported Biden is more seriously considering Leslie Fenwick, the dean emeritus of the Howard University School of Education, and Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona.

Contreras was hired in 2011 to lead Syracuse’s schools, which currently have about 21,000 students.

Her contract was extended twice, though not without some controversy. The second extension came in late 2015, just before three new school board members were to take office the following year. At the time, some teachers and students were critical of Contreras’ leadership.

At the same time, graduation rates rose during her five years.

In Syracuse, Contreras also oversaw a shift in the district’s disciplinary procedures after the state’s attorney general ordered changes. She led the district away from “zero tolerance” practices — suspending kids at a high rate — and toward “restorative justice” and other techniques for keeping students in the academic environment. The shift created tensions within the district. It also decreased the number of suspensions district-wide by thousands.

But in 2014, 95{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} of teachers voted “no confidence” in her leadership in Syracuse.

Contreras was named the Guilford County Schools’ superintendent in the summer of 2016. That district, North Carolina’s third-largest, serves about 72,000 students, according to its website. Its four-year graduation rate is 89{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1}.

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