SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse City School District Superintendent Sharon Contreras got a warm welcome Thursday morning as she entered a classroom at the Frazer school on the first day of the new year. She was joined by Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner to get a look at how Frazer's new procedures will be executed. The facility is now one of seven Syracuse schools undergoing major changes in hopes of improving student performance.
"It means additional learning time, additional flexibility and we have at least 50 percent of the staff is new in this building," said Contreras.
It's all part of the new Innovation School model. Each of the seven schools all have an extra hour of class time each day and an extra hour of teacher development time. The teachers also get 14 extra development days per year.
"We know that professional development works, when teachers are committed to their own growth, you will see that there is an increase in student learning and I see that the teachers are committed," said Contreras.
Mayor Miner says she backs the changes and recognizes that the district needs to do something revolutionary to get back on the right track.
"We need to bold in our experimentation and support the school district as they do that. We've had chronic under-achieving schools for far too long and the only way that we're going to turn that around is by bolding experimenting and taking risks," said Miner.
Contreras believes early student intervention in key in solving some of the district's problems.
"It is more difficult the longer you are falling behind, so if you've been behind for five years, as opposed to one year, it is more difficult to catch up, but our teachers are committed to those students and we're committed to making sure that we catch them up," said Contreras.
The model also calls for at least 50 percent of the staff in each school to be new, which the district hopes will bring fresh approaches to their old problems.
The Innovation School initiative is supported by $31.5 million in federal funds.