Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 8.11.03 PMIt’s official. Syracuse School District superintendent, Sharon Contreras, has accepted a job as the superintendent of the Guilford County Schools in North Carolina.

The news broke less than a week after the end of another contentious school year for the Syracuse schools chief which included a disputed one-year extension to her employment contract. The compromise extension turned out to be the penultimate chapter in a saga (some say a tragedy for students) marked by difficult relations with teaching staff, a vote of no confidence by members of the teachers union, and serious concerns about the safety of students and staff during the school day (of course little of the controversy is listed on her official Wikipedia page, someone has done their due diligence to scrub any controversy from the virtual record).

Contreras began severing ties with the district quickly with an email to staff (see below) and the deletion of her Twitter account @scontrerasscsd in what has been dubbed #Contrexit.

There will certainly be many questions about her #Contrexit. Who will replace her? Will the Board of Ed choose another Broad Academy, reformy driven leader? Will Contreras take any of her “Talent Management” staff (yes, they really call it that) with her? Spoiler: Contreras’ chief of staff, Kim Bradley, left the district in November to take a job in…..(wait for it)….North Carolina.

Time will tell.

From: Contreras, Sharon
Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2016 7:21:17 PM
To: All District Staff
Subject: Thank you!

Dear Colleagues,

Following the close of a successful 2015-16 school year I’m writing to inform you that my time with the Syracuse City School District has come to a close. Certainly this news brings mixed emotions. While I am excited and open to this new opportunity, I am saddened to be leaving a community I have come to love. I have been named Superintendent of Schools in the Guilford County School system in Greensboro, North Carolina and will begin the 2016-17 school year in that capacity.

Working alongside wonderful SCSD students, staff and administrators for the past five years has been a true honor. Together, we have implemented our districtwide strategic plan, Great Expectations, and we have seen great changes in our school buildings and the District as a whole. I am confident that these positive changes will continue in the weeks, months and years to come.

I sincerely thank each of you for making my first Superintendence an educational, challenging and fulfilling experience. I look forward to hearing about all the ways you will continue #makinggreathappen for the children of the SCSD in the future, and I hope you will keep in touch!

Sincerely,

Sharon Sharon L. Contreras, Ph.D.
Superintendent, Syracuse City School District
725 Harrison Street Syracuse, NY 13210
(315)435-4161
Scontreras@scsd.us
Twitter scontrerasSCSD

 

Pressure mounted today outside Governor Cuomo’s Manhattan offices as hundreds of CUNY supporters protested proposed budget cuts to CUNY.  Both sides of the streets were lined with protesters as union leaders and activists were arrested in yet another act of civil disobedience in support of a state budget that supports the City University of New York’s quality programs and student services.

The crowd could be heard shouting, “C-U-N-Y, don’t let CUNY die!!” amid honks of support from passing motorists.  The Governor has proposed $485 million in cuts to state funding for the public university.

Among the first to be arrested today was Barbara Bowen, the president of CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress, the union representing over 25,000 CUNY faculty and staff.  Today’s rally echoed similar protests as far back as November in what is proving to be an effective escalation of tactics by CUNY supporters against the governor.  Cuomo and the state legislature face an April 1st budget deadline in Albany.

Watch live video of today’s arrests.

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Finally, Pennsylvania will see a budget passed after an unprecedented 387 day saga that left schools struggling to fund basic services.

It contains a $200 million increase in direct aid to public schools, albeit $175 million less than Wolf had wanted; it holds all taxes at current levels; and it increases state aid to Penn State, Pitt and Temple.

READ MORE

SEE THE BUDGET TIMELINE HERE

UPDATE:

Here’s the latest installment in what’s sure to be a series of stop-motion Lego movies. Enjoy!

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You gotta see this app. Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 7.32.43 PM

My son (10) walked around the corner this afternoon asking about an app (Koma Koma) we had downloaded on our iPad a few months ago but never really dug into. I think I deleted it. He had an armful of Lego and wanted to make his own stop-animation movie.

So, we re-downloaded it, set up a little studio on the kitchen table, and within seconds we were filming his very own stop-animation Lego short. It’s easy to use with four simple functions: capture, play, delete, and save to gallery. This is literally so easy a 4th grader (probably even a 1st grader) could run it.

The app records one frame at a time and gives you a cool “onion skin” overlay after each capture which allows you so see a translucent image of the previous frame and line up the next shot. We kicked our production up a notch by importing the movie into iMovie; adding titles, sound effects, and credits; and exporting to our Facebook page so family and friends could view it. We found we needed a few more sound effects that weren’t available on iMovie (robot lasers, explosions etc.) so we recorded them on Garage Band along with some dialogue for the characters.  Check out our finished product here (hosted on Google Drive).

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Now, admittedly, 43 seconds did take us a good amount of time to produce (about 2 1/2 hours) mainly because we wanted to add sound, titles, etc. and I was refreshing my iMovie skills as I went, but a basic movie can be produced in as few as 5 minutes. Anything can be a character: toys, modeling clay, paper cutouts, leaves and twigs. What was amazing to me was how riveted my 10 year old was throughout the entire process. He mapped out the scene and dialogue with attention to details. He manipulated the app with no problem. He absolutely loved picking out the sound effects and recording the extras. Titles and credits were the icing on the cake, “We’re making a real movie!” he shouted. This is a great example of how immersed a kid can get in a project with an end goal in view and the potential for sharing their work with a broader audience.

The only feature that would make this app better would be the ability to record audio in real time on top of the video. A simple soundtrack function would make this a complete app for one-stop video production.  There’s probably a simpler way to add sound than involving iMovie and Garage Band, when I find it I’ll update this post. In the meantime, download the app here and read more about it here.  Have fun with your first production.

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Presenting a Tech 4 Teachers workshop at the high school today. It’s been a great afternoon of teachers sharing best practices in their classrooms. Refreshing to see teachers providing professional development for teachers. 

  

If you’re just getting started integrating tech tools in your classroom, there are three resources that you should consider adding to your arsenal. I use Twitter and Edublogs every day and post to my Remind account about once a week. These tools can help you better communicate with parents, share student work online, and connect with other educators with you same interests and passions.

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Twitter lets you connect with users around the world. Users include teachers, politicians, journalists, parents…etc. You’ll learn from direct connections with colleagues as well as the many Twitter Chats that are scheduled every week.  To get started, check out a short screencast: Getting Started w/ Twitter hosted on this site.

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I maintain my classroom blog on Edublogs. It’s a very user-friendly blogging site that looks great and is free (basic level). Check out my classroom blog at www.MrMcCrea.com. Edublogs is basically WordPress for teachers but, unlike a Wordpress site, does not embed ads on your site. You don’t have to worry about what a student or parent might randomly see when they visit your site.  You can upgrade your blog for added features (at a cost), most notably the ability to embed videos on your site (youtube, Vimeo etc.). This upgrade isn’t necessary though, it’s easy to host your videos on your Google drive and then simply post a link to the video on your blog (see example here). Edublogs has a great app for your smartphone which allows you to post pictures and videos right from your phone. No more downloading pictures before updating your site or swapping media cards or flash drives.

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Remind allows parents and students to subscribe to text message announcements that you manage through the Remind website or an app on your phone. Users sign up by sending a text message to an SMS number on their cell phone but their numbers remain private. Once they sign up for your “class”, they can be moved to other classes you teach (great for coaches or teachers who teach multiple level courses). Remind is a great way to instantly contact your team, students, or parents (text messages have a 98% open rate and only 1% spam rate compared to email which only has an average 20% open rate). I use it to promote our classroom website and calendar.