Conduct code, alternate school occupy Hudson board

HUDSON–The search for a new Hudson High School principal is in progress, district Superintendant Maria Suttmeier reported this week at Board of Education meeting.

The Monday, August 12 meeting also saw a disagreement over the district’s Code of Conduct, discussions of the new alternate learning partnership and the possibility that the district may replace the person who calls substitute teachers with an automated system.

The meeting also marked the return of Ms. Suttmeier, who had missed several board sessions because of illness. (Ms. Suttmeier’s column, Inside the District, appears elsewhere in this edition.)

With Thomas Gavin appointed administrator for the Columbia-Greene Partnership Academy, the alternate learning partnership, the search is on for someone to succeed him as high school principal. At the meeting, Ms. Suttmeier and board members said that the district has placed ads for the position in the Times Union and other newspapers, received 12 applications, and now has whittled them down to four candidates in whom school officials are “very interested.” The next step will be a first round of interviews. Meanwhile, Antonio Abitabile is acting principal of Hudson High School.

Also at the meeting a proposed new Code of Conduct failed to get enough votes from board members for implementation, to the disappointment of many spectators. Unless the board approves a new code before the start of the 2013-’14 school year next month, the district must abide by the current code for the upcoming year. The current code was adopted last August.

Kelly Frank, Jeri Chapman and Carrie Ott voted for the proposed new code; Elizabeth Fout voted against it; Joseph Carr abstained; and Tiffany Hamilton and Peter Rice were absent. For the proposal to pass, it would need at least four votes–a majority of the full, seven member board.
Explaining why he abstained, Mr. Carr said, “I haven’t seen it. I can’t vote on it.”

One of the objections to the proposal is that it would make students too vulnerable to searches, questioning and disciplinary action.
“We want the code to be more positive, less punitive,” Ms. Suttmeier said.

When the vote on the measure failed, audience members expressed dismay.
“I would encourage a re-vote,” said Quintin Cross. “We can’t sabotage kids and the community.”
Selha Graham-Cora of Claverack also asked for a new vote, saying she and her and her family “have been victims of the old code.”
Frank, the school board president, recommended accepting the revised code “so at least it’ll be different from the previous code” for the new school year, while continuing to make improvements for next year. But Ms. Fout said, “Overall, the new code is worse than the old code. This code doesn’t deliver what we promise. If we’re suspending kids right, left and center, how can they graduate?”
Ms. Frank conceded a that a second vote Monday would not change the outcome, saying, “We don’t have a full Board.”
The board has been revising the Code since November 2012.
Much of Monday’s meeting concerned the proposal for the Columbia-Greene Partnership Academy, known as the Bridge: an alternate learning program for students from the Hudson and Catskill districts judged at risk for not graduating from high school. The Partnership also involves the Berkshire Union Free School in Canaan, which for years has educated “at risk” students from around the state. Classes will take place in the former Register Star building at the corner of Warren and 4th streets in Hudson. Envisioned for the Academy are two programs: one for 12 special education students, the other for up to 48 other students. The Catskill District is to pay 44% of Administrator Gavin’s salary. And classes are scheduled to start this September.
Bruce Potter, the Berkshire Union superintendent, gave a presentation about the Bridge, saying that while traditional schools operate with a “one-size-fits-most” approach, the Bridge will be “targeted” to address the special needs of its students. It aims to make students “both college and career ready,” with a 5:1 student-teacher ratio, paid work “externships” and a truancy prevention program. But with the start of the school less than a month away, several attendees questioned whether the program would be ready in time and others asking that some of the ideas be more generally applied.
Ms. Graham-Cora asked specifically about the truancy prevention program. “It’s great that it’s happening at the Bridge, but 25 kids is a drop in the bucket. We need it at Hudson High School.”
Also Monday, several substitute teachers spoke in favor of continuing Lorraine Dellavechia’s role of matching people on the substitute list to classes needing them and calling the proposed substitutes early in the morning to ask whether they can teach that day.
The district is considering replacing her with an automated system. The board heard that Ms. Dellavechia “knows who can fit where.” And Bill Fisher said, “The current system works fine. It’s easier to say no to an automated system than a personal call.”

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