An advocate for providing high-quality education to all children, Dr. Contreras began her career as a high school English teacher in Rockford, Illinois, then went on to serve as a principal, area superintendent and an assistant superintendent. Throughout her tenure in Rockford, Illinois, Sharon worked diligently to implement a federal court order to desegregate the Rockford Public Schools.
In 2004, Sharon accepted the position of Chief Academic Officer for the 52,000 student Clayton County Public Schools in Jonesboro, Georgia. In 2007, Sharon became the Chief Academic Officer for Providence Public Schools in Rhode Island. There she improved the graduation rate and rolled out the Providence Pathways initiative to provide high school students with greater access to career programming. While leading the Education Division in the Providence Public Schools, she was an advisory committee member for Ready2Learn Providence, served on the advisory committee for the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University and was co-chairperson for Governor Donald Cacieri’s Urban Education Task Force Early Literacy Committee.
On July 1, 2011, Sharon became superintendent of the Syracuse City School District. Not only is she the first female superintendent of SCSD, but she is also the first woman of color in the history of New York State to serve as superintendent of one of the Big 5 districts (New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers). In August 2012, Sharon unveiled Great Expectations 2012-2017, the district’s five-year strategic plan. She has also successfully negotiated progressive teacher and principal evaluation systems, as well as an Innovation Zone that provides maximum operating flexibility for the lowest performing cluster of schools in the city, schools primarily on the Westside. Under Sharon’s leadership, SCSD won a $31.5 million grant, the largest in the district’s history, to support the underperforming schools in the iZone.
Sharon has also established a Blue Ribbon Career and Technical Education (CTE) Task Force to ensure students have multiple authentic opportunities for access to the 21st Century STEM, emerging technology and other professions and trades. CTE programming in SCSD is expanding rapidly, including a ground-breaking partnership with Onondaga Community College and MACNY to provide high school students the opportunity to earn an Associates Degree in Electrical Engineering Technology or Manufacturing Technology.
Deeply committed to early learning, Sharon has also worked with numerous community-based agencies and organizations to expand pre-kindergarten opportunities for Syracuse families.
Sharon has spearheaded initiatives to address not only the students’ educational needs, but their health and social-emotional needs as well. She has implemented Breakfast-in-the-Classroom and universal free breakfast and lunch programs in all schools. Additionally, she has worked closely with Say Yes to Education and Onondaga County to expand the Promise Zone program to every elementary, pre-K – 8 and middle school to provide critical supports and resources to students with emotional or behavioral challenges.
Sharon has degrees from SUNY at Binghamton and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a 2010 graduate of the Broad Superintendent’s Academy, an advanced development program focused on closing achievement gaps and providing a quality education for all students.
Sharon serves on numerous boards and councils including SYRACUSE 20/20, SCSD Educational Foundation, Near Westside Initiative, Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection, Commissioner John King’s Advisory Council, Northeast Comprehensive Center, New York State Council of School Superintendents and New York State Association for Women in Administration. Sharon is a well-regarded and sought after speaker at the state and national level and has won several awards for her civic and professional leadership.