Dispute between Onondaga Nation and Lafayette Schools spills into Syracuse City politics

NEDROW (WSYR-TV) - As Laura Lavine runs as a Republican for Mayor of Syracuse, she's finishing up her tenure as superintendent of the Lafayette School District. In her final days, the district is being criticized for not working with the Onondaga Nation.

Leaders of the Onondaga Nation are upset about the district's decision to not hire Simone Thornton, a member of the nation community, as the next principal of Onondaga Nation School

It's one of only three schools in New York State on sovereign land and the Nation claims it can contest which district runs the school.

Nation leaders have decided to end the school year early for its students who attend the school, which serves Kindergarten through 8th grade.

Nearly 95 percent of the student body is no longer attending the school this year, and many of them are spending time at the Nation's Lacrosse Arena where Clan Mothers are organizing events and serving lunch.

The Onondaga Nation accuses the district of not listening to them and blames the Board of Education and Superintendent Laura Lavine.

The controversy followed Lavine to an unrelated mayoral forum Monday night in Syracuse, where she was asked about it.

Lavine was not able to respond with much detail, citing a personnel matter.

"School districts are required by the New York State Education Department to hire people with expertise and the required certification to fill positions such as elementary principal. The Board of Education adheres to that requirement," she said in an email when asked what her message was to the Nation and members who were upset that Thornton wasn't hired.

In an email to NewsChannel 9, Lavine says the Onondaga Nation School offers its students unique learning opportunities, like Onondaga Language and Culture, which she says is a result of "continuous collaboration and cooperation" between Onondaga Nation leadership and the District.

"The District has met with the Nation leadership for an extended period of time and has had multiple communications with their representative.  Unfortunately, at this time, the District is unable to accommodate all of their requests with respect to the operation of the Onondaga Nation School," she said in response to the claim that she and other administrators are not listening to Nation leaders.

She says it's disappointing that students' education was impacted by the dispute, but she's encouraged by the number of families choosing to have their students return to school. 


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