Hudson plan aims to move more toward diplomas

HUDSON – The school board got an update this week since a new guidance program called “Catch 22” was adopted last year.

The program, planned by Junior High Principal Derek Reardon represents a change in school policy and has raised expectations and requirements for students. Its purpose is to familiarize students while they are in junior high with the idea that they need to fulfill credit requirements by passing every class in order to advance from one grade to the next and to graduate. Mr. Reardon said he expects this awareness will improve their performance once they get to high school.

“Catch 22” has been explained to students at assemblies, and students are informed of their standing in progress reports issued to them and their parents every five weeks. At-risk students receive additional intervention by guidance counselors.

Junior high students now need to accumulate 22 credits each year. They earn one credit per academic course per quarter, with a half-credit allotted for courses like art, music and health, which meet every other day. Students can earn 2.5 credits by passing final exams and by scoring well on state tests, said Mr. Reardon at the Monday, January 24 board meeting. If a student falls behind, he or she can make up credits in after-school courses or in summer school. Once they get to high school, they will be expected to accumulate 22 credits during the course of four years, since courses are assigned fewer credits in the high school.

The principal said that 5% of the seventh grade — seven students — have fallen behind, earning fewer than five credits per quarter; in the eighth grade 12% — 17 students — are in serious jeopardy.  But the figures are only based on credit statistics from the first academic quarter. Mr. Reardon said that teacher questionnaires rate the program as a success. Guidance Counselor Rosalie Cornell said problematic academic performance was linked to poor attendance and a number of other factors. It is now tougher to get through Junior High than in the past.

In financial matters, Scott Preusser, CPA reported to the board on an external financial audit he conducted and suggested the district create three-year budgets instead of spending plans focused only on the next year. But he acknowledged that the uncertainty schools from pending state cutbacks makes the three-year approach difficult.

“These are tough times for school districts. Most school districts are in the same boat, but Hudson has fewer reserve funds than other districts. It’s hard to do reserves unless you can come up with excess funds.” he said.

This winter the school district will negotiate with the Hudson Teachers Association for a new contract for the 200 members. Superintendent Jack Howe said the district settled on pacts with its other three bargaining units last year. On Monday the board designated School Board Vice President Jeff Otty as its representative to the negotiations. He will observe negotiations and report back to the board.

“We’re simply adding another set of eyes and ears,” said Board President Emil Meister.

Also this week:

*Board Member Peter Meyer reported on work completed by the Curriculum Committee and said that 10 more teachers will receive instruction in curriculum mapping software. The school’s participation in the federal Race to the Top program means a lot of work ahead to meet enhanced testing goals.

*Board Member Elisabeth Faut asked for a report from the administration on the number of students in school out of the district and their academic progress. Sending students out of district because of special needs requires a significant portion of school resources. She also asked Mr. Howe what grants the district was applying for.

*Superintendent Howe spoke briefly about ongoing budget issues and said they are waiting for news about state aid to schools. He also said that they plan to distribute or post information for the public at each meeting about what to expect at meetings and how to participate in public forums.

The next meeting of the board is scheduled for February 14 at 7 p.m. Junior High cafeteria.

Due to concerns about the weather, the District Leadership Team (DLT) for Shared Decision Making meeting was rescheduled to begin immediately following the High School “Meet and Greet the Principals” Wednesday, February 2 at 7 p.m. in the High School Library.

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