Assistant superintendent Maria Suttmeier to replace Jack Howe
HUDSON-The Hudson School Board this week chose Assistant Superintendent Maria Suttmeier to succeed outgoing Superintendent Jack Howe. Mr. Howe announced his retirement in March. Ms. Suttmeier, who has worked at the Hudson City School District for 14 years, will take up her new duties July 1.
“I take great pride in assuming this leadership role and believe in the Hudson City School District’s ability to meet the needs of all students. Together we can turn our challenges into opportunities as we work to improve our current situation,” Ms. Suttmeier said at the school board meeting Tuesday, April 24, where her appointment was announced. She expressed thanks to Mr. Howe for his leadership and friendship and for being a mentor.
“The board believes that Ms. Suttmeier has the tools and talents to lead this district,” said School Board President Peter Merante. “We discussed in an executive session whether to conduct a search that would cost thousands and we decided we had a well-qualified candidate in house with passion for education and dedication to students.”
He said that her biggest challenges aside from the economic woes suffered by most public schools around the state will be to develop a curriculum that meets state Education Department standards, the implementation of new state guidelines for teacher evaluation, and raising test scores at M.C. Smith Intermediate School, currently deemed a school in need of improvement.
Ms. Suttmeier is the co-founder of two organizations: the Hudson Book Festival, now in its fourth year, and Investments in Youth, a not-for-profit that provides character building experiences for Hudson teens. She was also a driving force during the last year on a team of local organizations that secured a $400,000 Federal Promise Neighborhoods planning grant to analyze what Hudson students need most to succeed during their formative years. The grant positions the district to apply for millions of dollars in grants for implementing those programs.
Ms. Suttmeier grew up in Greene County where she attended public school in Cairo. As a child she wanted to go into education but her family owned restaurants, which influenced her to choose a business major in college. But later, as a young mother with an uncompleted college degree, she followed her heart back to education.
“I had found my niche. I had found something I was passionate about,” said Ms. Suttmeier in a phone interview Wednesday.
She graduated with honors for her work in the reading field, receiving a BA in 1996, and a master’s degree in education from The College of Saint Rose in Albany in 1998. She earned school district administrator and school administrator and supervisor certificates from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in 2006.
She emerged from school during a tight education market, with few teaching jobs available, but found a position in Hudson that combined her business and educational training when she was hired by the Hudson and Catskill school districts as a grants coordinator for an abstinence education program they had funding for five years. The job expanded to managing additional grants and she was subsequently hired as associate principal of M.C. Smith Middle School and served from 2006 to 2009,during which time she helped boost test scores so that the school was no longer designated in need of improvement.
Ms.Suttmeier, now a Hudson resident who spent much of her career in Hudson beginning with a part-time job at the Cornell Cooperative Extension, called the city a very good fit for her. “I immediately felt at home here. I love the diversity,” she said.
She has two adult children. Her son is a state trooper in New Hampshire and her daughter, who plans to teach, will graduate this spring from the University at Albany with an MA in English literature.
Ms. Suttmeier was appointed to her current position, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, in 2009 by Superintendent Howe. Since then she has led work to upgrade the district’s curriculum, and had a leading role in other projects involving new standards, state test results, grant writing, data management and professional development. The board has not decided who will fill her position after July.
“I don’t know all the answers, but together we can make it work,” said Ms. Suttmeier of the school district’s prospects. “We have a road map now,” she said in reference to the Butterworth Report, a state mandated document presented to the board at Tuesday’s meeting. “We’re entering the restructuring phase to pull M.C. Smith out of improvement status. I see that as an opportunity,” she said.