HUDSON--The State Education Department has approved an Alternative Transition Program (ATP) for 16-year-olds “who are at risk of dropping out of school, or have dropped out of school,” according to a December 10 press release from Hudson City School District Superintendent Maria Suttmeier. The press release came a day after a school board meeting at which Ms. Suttmeier reported the status of alternate education plans on hold.
According to the press release, the ATP may start in January 2014, at 364 Warren Street, in Hudson, with staff from the Berkshire Union Free School District. This will allow alternate education for “up to 45 sixteen-year-old Catskill and Hudson students who meet the state’s eligibility requirement” to begin, while the state of the originally-conceived “Bridge” program remains in limbo.
The idea of the Bridge, also known as the Columbia-Greene Partnership Academy, arose last spring. Then Ms. Suttmeier, Catskill Central School Superintendent Kathleen Farrell, and BUFSD Superintendent Bruce Potter conceived of two programs: one for general education 14-16 year olds with dubious prospects of graduating from conventional high school, one for special education students. It was to open September 2013, and Berkshire Union spent months training staff for it. Then, in late August, legal questions regarding students having teachers from outside their district came to light, and the Bridge was delayed.
The new approval will allow an equivalent of the Bridge to begin for 16-year-olds. According to the press release, “the state is considering extending the program to 14 and 15 year olds… for September 2014.” In addition, 364 Warren Street will also hold Day Services Special Education classes, some for special education Hudson students who currently travel to Berkshire Union’s campus in Canaan for classes.
Meanwhile, at the December 9 meeting, Coordinator of School Improvement April Prestipino announced an additional approach to increasing high school graduations: Apex On-line Credit Recovery. Apex is a “self-paced” learning program for students “in line to graduate” but who lack to credits to do so. A pilot program for Apex will run from January to June. Up to 25 students at a time can enroll in it. The district purchased the 25 slots from BOSCES.
Ms. Prestipino indicated that teachers will “monitor” Apex and that the district is talking with the union about it. With Apex, she said, the district is “not looking to replace teachers” but to help students who in regular classes have not amassed enough credits to graduate.
The question of the future of the Greenport School building also arose at the December 9 board meeting. “We’re pretty much sitting in limbo, waiting,” according to District Business Executive Robert Yusko. “There has been miscommunication” between the interested parties. The district has accepted a purchase offer of $400,000, but the Planning Board did not receive the escrow check it was expecting from the buyer by its November meeting. Meanwhile, since making its offer, the buyer has modified its construction intentions, possibly in anticipation of environmental concerns, according to school officials.
“I’m pretty much appalled by the lack of cooperation,” said Board President Kelly Frank.
The Planning Board will next consider the matter at a January meeting. Once the District and intended buyer approve a definite sale agreement, voters will decide in May whether to approve the agreement.
In the course of the December 9 meeting, officials mentioned the effects of Common Core Curriculum. Ms. Prestipino said that Common Core requirements make “teachers feel that they’re brand new.” She gave this as a reason teachers need support and professional development.
Ms. Suttmeier said, “The Common Core isn’t all bad. Having high standards is not a bad thing. Having common standards is a good thing,” since some students move between different districts during the course of their schooling. In fact, before more “coordination,” the teaching philosophies between different school buildings within the district were, Ms. Suttmeier indicated, so different from each other that they could have been in different districts. On the other hand, she considers the current system to have some drawbacks, such as “too much testing.”
Also at the meeting:
•Ms. Suttmeier said students "are more engaged” when talking about complex social issues as the result of a 5th grade class discussing poverty in “Third World” countries, where the teacher was a facilitator.
•School Social Worker Tara McSherry-Wolfe, three current students, and two recent graduates boosted the Youth Employment Service Program (YES) for 8th through 12th graders. According to Ms. McSherry-Wolfe, some employers say YES students interview better than 30-year-olds. This is YES’s 7th year in Hudson, and it has its highest enrollment ever. YES’s requirements include attending 12 weekly sessions. The five current and former students each praised YES for helping them develop strategic body language, communication skills, and confidence. One said it helped him with his college essays. Through YES, they got internships in a fire department, a small animal hospital, a newspaper, and Operation Unite. About 30 local businesses use YES.
•The Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School Jazz Band played for the Board and attendees. Under direction of music teacher Scott Vorwald, in the presence of Principal Mark Brenneman, 14 children played holiday songs.
The next Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, January 13 at the High School Library at 7 p.m.