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GCS Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras to leave post at end of school year

She's taking on a new role as the CEO of The Innovation Project.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras announced Friday she will leave her role at the end of the school year to take on a new job in August.

Contreras held a news briefing Friday afternoon.

“I was appointed superintendent of Guilford County Schools in 2016 and have been a large district superintendent for nearly 11 years...I cannot believe that I am blessed to have a second dream job,” Contreras said at Friday’s press conference. “I thank all of the Guilford County Schools community partners for their support over the last five-and-a-half years.”

GCS confirms Contreras will be CEO of The Innovation Project a nonprofit group of state school district superintendents and their teams. The group started in 2015 to find collaborative solutions to challenges in public education. Contreras said she hopes to use her superintendent experience to help new superintendents who are facing never-before-seen challenges due to the pandemic.

"I think it's a much more difficult job than it's ever been, I think that's true for all of our staff: teachers, principals, bus drivers. I think it's very complicated, very complex," Contreras said. "The pandemic has made the job very complex and I think that the community has to come together to solve some of the problems created by the pandemic instead of simply looking at school districts and saying this is a school district problem I think that makes it much more difficult to keep educators in positions.”

While the new position is a major part of Contreras' decision to leave, she also said she wants to spend more time with family, including her grand-nephew.

"All of us have to make that sort of decision for ourselves, what's good for our families? And I think I want to spend a lot more time with him before he goes off to college," Contreras said. 

RELATED: Guilford County Schools stepping up security for superintendent & other staff after nasty emails

Contreras started her career as a high school English teacher before making history as the first woman of color to lead Syracuse City School district in New York. She took the top educator role at Guilford County Schools in July 2016. 

WFMY News 2 obtained a memo Contreras sent to her team, explaining the move. 

She wrote in part, "It has been my honor to serve as your superintendent for the past five-and-a-half 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." 

Contreras expressed her love and adoration for parents and students at Friday’s press conference.

“I thank the parents for entrusting your children to us and supporting us through this pandemic,” she said. “To the students I say what I always say, I love you, I believe in you, and I will never give up on you. You are why we do this work, keep making us proud.”

Contreras added Friday she is most proud of the work the Board of Education did to help pass the $300 million dollar bond for school facilities. However, she regrets leaving students in a place where they still can't reach their full potential due to class and racial barriers.

"I'm proud of the principals because every middle school now has advanced courses. That was not true when I first started. We have higher rates of students in advanced placement classes, and international baccalaureate programs and we are moving in the right direction but still too many students are not in a position where they will leave here and lead a high-quality life," Contreras said. "I’ve always said the only outcomes that really matter are life outcomes, not test scores but the life outcomes of our students and I want the district to be in a place that students are performing so well that they can leave here and choose the career that they are passionate about and walk into that career and live a decent life."

One Board of Education leader said Friday they will need to convene as a group to start discussing the search for a new superintendent. 

RELATED: GCS offering shuttle services to some high schools amid bus driver shortage

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