Zheadric Barbra, Syracuse City School District
On this episode of Working: Syracuse we meet Zheadric Barbra. As Assistant Superintendent of School Reform at Syracuse City School District, Barbra is responsible for the improvement of Syracuse's 37 public schools. This is a difficult task given the district's size and its challenges. For example, it ranks No. 2 for homeless students in New York state following New York City and in past years has been ranked lowest average SAT scores in N.Y. state. Many of its students come from homes with economic struggles. In fact, 80 percent of the district's students qualify for free or discounted meals. Out of 21,686 students within the district, 3,700 are English as a New Language students, speaking 72 different languages.

But Zheadric's background developed a resilience that allows him to embrace challenges with grace and determination. He credits his mother, who raised him and his four brothers alone while working manual-labor jobs and depending on food stamps, as the source of much of his determination and his belief in education. He says she raised him and his brothers with this central philosophy: "There's no other option than what you have in front of you. You can't not do well. There's no other option." She also instilled in him the belief that education serves as the cornerstone of a good life. He's applied these lessons to his own education, career, and experience with fatherhood, and he tries to pass along these beliefs to the students whose educational experience he oversees.