School board says congratulations… and good bye

HUDSON–The school board recognized 34 teachers this week for tenure granted a few months ago, though many of them will be leaving the district due to job cuts. If they find work in another district they will be eligible for tenure in two years instead of three.

Because of the continuing delay in settling the state budget, the school will borrow $3 million in the form of a short term loan. At 1.29% interest the loan will cost the district $17,650, some of which might be saved if it can be paid back before October 29, said district Business Manager Daniel Barrett in his report to the board at the June 14 meeting. He also said retirement incentives could save the district a sizable amount of money, since newer personnel don’t earn as much as people who have worked at the school for decades.

Superintendent John Howe announced that the position of high school principal will be shared by Steven Spicer, the current principal, who will become the principal in charge of instruction, and by Tom Gavin, current principal of the Alternative Learning Program, who will be the principal in charge of management. The Alternative Learning Program has been discontinued.

Intermediate School Literacy Coach Elizabeth Dolan announced a new literacy initiative called “Hudson Reads.” The program will pair adult volunteer mentors with children for weekly shared lunchtime reading sessions. It offers a chance to make a difference in a child’s life as a role model while sharing and imparting a love of reading, she said.

“Research has found that a typical middleclass first grade student has been read to an average of 1,000 to 1,700 hours prior to entering school. However, a student in a low-income family, as many of our students are, has had only 25 hours of reading time when entering first grade. This is an area in which our district is in dire need,” says the school district’s website in its “Hudson Reads” section.

“The program offers the potential for expanding a child’s opportunity for academic success,” said Ms. Dolan, who stressed that volunteers are the key to the success of the venture. The program will start in October. Volunteer applications are available at the website

Mr. Spicer presented and the board approved a new course designed to “fill a need for struggling students in danger of dropping out or not completing high school, and for those with special needs. The school has been criticized for not helping African Americans and economically disadvantaged students reach graduation,” he said.

In his facilities report Buildings and Grounds Director George Keeler said that the $700,000 remaining in the 2007 construction account will be used for replacing older lockers at the M.C. Smith School, resurfacing and lighting the tennis courts, plumbing repairs and work on the M.C. Smith track and bleachers for the football field. A successful resurfacing of the Junior High cafeteria ceiling with acoustic tiles has reduced noise, he reported. Bids on the $6 million district-wide roof repair project are due June 28.

The board discussed how to find someone to fill the seat that board member Pat Abitabile will vacate, rejecting the proposal by board member Peter Meyer, who suggested appointing the first runner up in the recent election. Instead the board will interview candidates and make a selection. At last month’s meeting, the board discussed but did not move on the other alternative: holding another election.

Cathy Bartolotta, who teaches economics at Catskill High School, made a plea as a distressed parent, for restoring modified sports for junior high students, as other local districts have done. “Seventh and 8th graders are left out of the chance to compete at sports. Most have aged out of extracurricular soccer and baseball programs at a vulnerable point in their lives. What do I need to do to bring it back?” she asked.

“Raise $40,000,” she was told. It’s not even necessary to start a booster club now that the district has a federal non-profit status that allows it to accept donations, said the superintendent.

“It can be done,” said a member of the audience.

Amy Bonneville, a graduating senior and the student board of education member, reported that seniors received $45,000 in scholarship awards this year.

The board will hold a special meeting devoted to a presentation on special education Monday, June 28, at 7 p.m. The board will also convene a special meeting Wednesday, June 30. The annual organizational meeting is scheduled for July 7 at 6 p.m.

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