GCS selects new SuperintendentBy Yasmine Regester / July 1, 2016
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After 30 applications from 15 different states, four public forums, two employee forums, an online survey, and four semifinalists, only one could be chosen.
The Guilford County Board of Education approved Sharon L. Contreras, superintendent of Syracuse City School District in New York, to serve as GCS’s new Superintendent in a unanimous vote at a special-called meeting on June 28.
“The traits and characteristics provided by the public were our guiding stars,” said Board Chairman Alan Duncan. “They said they wanted someone with a background in curriculum and instruction and someone who could work with the community. We have found that person.”
Before Tuesday night’s vote, Contreras spent the day meeting with parents, staff and community members across Guilford County at three separate community meet and greets. She shared personal stories of having to advocate for herself to be identified as academically gifted, and about the English teacher who inspired her to enter education.
“I am just as passionate about educating children as I was when I started teaching 25 years ago,” said Contreras.
Contreras is considered an advocate for providing high-quality education to all children. She began her career as a high school English teacher and served as a principal, area superintendent, assistant superintendent and chief academic officer for school districts in multiple states, winning numerous awards and recognitions. She has earned degrees from Binghamton University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a proud and active member of The Links, Inc. and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
The school board began its search in February, shortly before previous Superintendent Maurice “Mo” Green was slated to leave in March. Green served as superintendent for eight years, before resigning to take the position of Executive Director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem.
Contreras currently serves as superintendent of the Syracuse City School District (SCSD) in New York, a Say Yes to Education scholarship participnt similar to Guilford County) with more than 20,000 students. The largest district she has worked for was Clayton County Public Schools in Georgia, with 50,000 students, slightly smaller than the 72,000 students currently enrolled in GCS.
Her accomplishments include increasing student access to challenging academic courses, expanding career and technical education options and improving low-performing schools. Under her leadership, Syracuse established 16 new career pathways for high school students, launched a school for gifted elementary students and opened two new high schools to provide students with the opportunity to earn associate degrees in electrical engineering technology, manufacturing technology and health-related fields.
Contreras also worked with the New York State legislature to secure $300 million in construction funding to create 21st century learning environments for students and negotiated a landmark contract with the teachers’ union, making SCSD teachers the highest paid in the region over a five-year period. Contreras also has worked to address students’ social and emotional needs by expanding partnerships with the community and bringing breakfast in the classroom and universal free breakfast and lunch programs to all Syracuse schools.
“I am in Guilford County because I believe in your core values, the great work you’ve been doing and the work we can continue to do together,” said Contreras. “I think we can all agree that until 100 percent of our students graduate career or college ready, there is more work to do.”
Contreras’ first official day with Guilford County Schools will be Sept. 1, 2016, or earlier if possible, with a starting salary of $250,000.