Spicer named new Hudson elementary principal

HUDSON — The Hudson City School Board has appointed Steven Spicer the next principal of John L. Edwards Elementary School. Carol Gans retired from that position in August, though she continues in the post as acting principal. Mr. Spicer, the high school co-principal, will assume his new duties January 3, 2011, after an on-the-job transition period working with Ms. Gans.

The move offers a money-saving and possibly a face-saving solution to discord that erupted last month in public between Mr. Spicer and Hudson High School’s other co-principal, Tom Gavin. Until last summer Mr. Gavin led the Alternative Learning Program, which has been discontinued.

An exchange of words at the board’s November 24 meeting led to Mr. Spicer filing a charge of harassment against Mr. Gavin. But the county District Attorney’s Office, after reviewing the school’s digital video tapes of the incident, has withdrawn the charge.

School board member Mary Daly said at the board’s meeting Monday, December 13, that she had hoped for a principal with elementary school experience.

But board member Elizabeth Faut praised Mr. Spicer, who holds a BA degree from Harvard University, calling him “one of our more experienced administrators.” Ms. Faut said that to have hired outside the district would have created the need to let go two more teachers. Both new principals’ salaries will remain the same.

District Superintendent John Howe expressed confidence in Mr. Spicer, saying, “He will be great for parents, staff, teachers and, most importantly, for students.”

Two PTA members, Karen Krager and Michele Bows, formed a parents’ committee at the request of the superintendent to provide input on the search for a new principal. They said this week that they, too, had hoped for someone with previous experience in the field of elementary education, and they expressed discontent with the decision during the public forum at Monday’s meeting.

Board member Peter Meyer praised the appointment of Mr. Gavin as a great move for the high school.

“I have confidence in Mr. Gavin,” said Mr. Howe.

In other business at this week’s meeting:

*Superintendent Howe said, “We’re headed for very difficult financial times. Anything that is not nailed down by entitlements went out the door last year.” He said 70% of the school district budget is connected to personnel, including payroll, retirement and healthcare, “and that part is going up $1.8 million, while revenue is down $1.8 million.”

Mr. Meyer brought up his Share the Pain Plan, which calls for freezing all salaries, reworking transportation, and taking $500,000 from the general fund, a plan estimates would result in savings of $1.5 million.

* Maria Suttmeier, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, suggested that the district leadership team already in place be directed to study the problem of student fighting. Once the idea received board approval, she asked interested parents who don’t work for the district and are able to attend evening meetings, to volunteer.

*Mr. Meyer then withdrew his proposal for a special task force to address the student fighting problem.

*A committee is working to finalize the district’s Student Bullying Prevention and Intervention Policy, and the board is reviewing new anti bullying policy to be added to the school’s code of conduct.

* High School Physical Ed teacher Jeanine Millar, chairwoman of the Physical Education Department, introduced the school’s new swimming program; by March she expects the program will involve almost every student in the district.

*In response to offense taken by some members of the public at the hasty way a recent emergency meeting was adjourned, the board voted to amend its closing procedure to include discussion.

*The board voted to pay a $3,000 penalty and costs of $3,585 for the removal of a petroleum tank buried on school grounds in 1988.

*Two members of the public, the Reverend Kim Singletary of the Overcomers Ministries and Alan Skerrett, separately expressed concern about whether school personnel charged with restraining students during a crisis are properly trained in accordance with best practices and state law.

*The Reverend Ronald Grant and Ellen Henderson separately stressed the need for a safe learning its environment, and for healing so that the district can get back to focusing on its educational goals. 

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