Featured photo: Dr. Sharon Contreras (photo from GCS Facebook page)

In a letter to Guilford County School staff on Friday, Superintendent Sharon Contreras announced that she has accepted a full-time position with The Innovation Project and would be leaving the district after the 2022 school year.

Contreras, who has led the third-largest school district in the state since 2016, will be taking a position at The Innovation Project as the CEO. The company is a nonprofit working group of North Carolina school district superintendents.

“It is a mission that is close to my heart, and one that I feel will allow me to continue the great work we have done here and expand it to reach even more districts across the state,” Contreras wrote in the letter.

Contreras, who has testified before the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, has a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis and a master’s in educational administration from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She also has a master’s in English literature and English education and a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the State University of New York at Binghamton.

Prior to joining Guilford County Schools in 2016, Contreras worked as the first woman of color to lead one of New York state’s largest school district, serving as the superintendent of the Syracuse City School District from 2011-16.

During her tenure, Contreras has faced numerous obstacles including building renovations and repairs, supporting a school bond, and more recently, targeted attacks from right-wing conservative groups. In June 2021, TCB reported that Contreras had received numerous threatening messages from those associated with Take Back Our Schools, a conservative community group.

However, in her note to GCS employees, Contreras kept her message simple and thanked her colleagues for the work they had done during her time with the district.

“It has been my honor to serve as your superintendent for the past five and a half years,” Contreras wrote. “I will remain here through the end of this school years. I am grateful for your amazing work in the face of overwhelming obstacles these past few years, and I know that Guilford County Schools will continue to transform the lives of our students in the years to come.”

In a press release on Friday, School Board Chair Deena Hayes-Green made note of Contreras’ leadership over the last five years.

“Dr. Contreras has provided extraordinary leadership in these dynamic times,” Hayes-Green state. “Even prior to the pandemic she was relentless in keeping us focused on what we can and must do to improve outcomes for students.  She is creative, courageous and brilliant.  We will miss her but remain grateful for all the ways her contributions here will be felt for years to come.”

According to the press release, as a part of the Innovation Project, Contreras will help “address complex challenges in public education” and work with 17 district members from around the state.

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