Hudson school board questioned on plans to spend grant

HUDSON–The school district’s Alternative Learning Program, which lost its home at the Greenport School in the most recent round of budget cuts, was still very much on the minds of school board members and the public at Tuesday’s meeting board, as board member Peter Meyer asked whether a $400,000 grant the district received for the program must be used exclusively for its intended purpose.

“Are we spending it correctly?” he asked the board and Superintendent John Howe.

“We haven’t received any indication that we’re not spending it correctly,” replied Mr. Howe.

Under the district’s budget for the 2010-11 school year, which voters approved in May and is now in effect, money from the ALP program is part of the district’s general budget. The funds help make up for a $2.5-million shortfall in revenue the district faced as it prepared the budget. The shortfall was largely due to a loss in state aid, and the district ended up drastically reducing the number of teaching positions through layoffs.

If it turns out that the grant money must be used entirely for the ALP program, the district may have to find an equal amount somewhere else to make up for the loss to the general budget, said Daniel Barrett the district’s business manager.

The ALP still exists as a program, although it no longer has a designated space, faculty or administration. Plans are being made to help ALP students adjust come fall to attending classes at the high school. In August they will get a special tour and will be briefed on courses and academic expectations.

Several members of the public spoke at the July 20 meeting in support of the program. And board President Emil Meister said the school will protect the interests of ALP students, and will monitor their progress.

Also at the meeting, the Booster Club spoke of its plans to reorganize this Thursday night at 7 p.m. at a meeting in the Junior High cafeteria for the purpose of raising the $40,000 needed to bring back modified sports, which offers competitive sports programs to junior high students. The club raised a large amount of money in the past to support school sports but disbanded during the administration of former Superintendent Fern Aefsky, when members felt that the school district no longer appreciated the group’s efforts.

Orion Educational Consulting, professional educational auditors, presented their findings on the K-6 curriculum at the elementary and middle schools for the general student population and the disabled population. The consultants said that the school was on the right track, with much work still to do, emphasizing the need to “make sure curriculum is designed to align with standards that students will be tested on.”

The consultants suggested repeated data collection, assessment, curriculum adjustment and internal auditing to raise standards “in written, taught, and tested curriculum.”

The firm also praised the Rubicon Atlas curriculum mapping software acquired last year and now in use in the district. One change they suggest is no longer letting teachers “self select” the courses they take for professional development. Instead teachers should be directed to study in areas where the school’s greatest needs exist.

When Mr. Meyer, head of the board’s Curriculum Committee asked the consultants to recommend a top school curriculum for Hudson to look at, he was told there isn’t one. “Faculty have to buy into the curriculum. They have to own it, invest in it, and help create it,” they said.

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