Hudson school board looks to fill vacant seat quickly

HUDSON–The Hudson City School District Board of Education decided this week to call for letters of interest to fill a vacancy on the board, welcomed this year’s student representative and confronted the effect of the district’s image on curriculum.

Board member Elizabeth Fout resigned earlier this month and the remaining board members decided at the Monday, September 23 meeting to fill the vacancy at the October 21 meeting by choosing from among the candidates who express interest by October 14. Ms. Fout’s term ends June 30, 2014, and her replacement will serve until that date. Those interested in this position must send a two-paragraph letter of intent expressing why they want to serve on the board to Frieda Van Deusen, Board Clerk, by October 14. In addition, they should attend the October 21 board meeting so the appointee can begin serving immediately upon selection.

The October 21 meeting will take place at John L. Edwards Primary School starting at 6 p.m. instead of at the High School at 7 p.m., because that meeting will focus on the primary school curriculum.

In a related matter, the board decided to table until January the proposal for increasing its membership from seven to nine members.

Monday’s meeting was the first for this year’s student representative, William Glasser. A senior at Hudson High School, William is on the student council, in the National Honor Society, and on the football and baseball teams. Most of his courses this year are college level. He plans to go to college for mechanical engineering and join the Army ROTC.

During the meeting, as the Board discussed curriculum development, board member Jeri Chapman reported that the mother of a grade school pupil said her child already knows the class math material and requested that the child get extra math work. In response, Ms. Chapman said a teacher told the mother: No. This is a low income district. We don’t do this.

“It’s like telling her: ‘If you don’t fit the district’s image, you don’t belong in the district,’ Ms. Chapman said. She also said a mother who asked that her primary school child be taught how to write the child’s name on school work was told by school officials: We don’t do this until April.

Ms. Chapman observed that the district has programs for children progressing more slowly than their class’ average but nothing for children at or above average. She urged giving them challenges “so that they learn every day.”

Nicky Genito, a teacher aid at the primary school, lamented, “The classes are… humongous compared with 4-5 years ago.” With almost 30 pupils per class, the teachers “barely have enough time to give special consideration to any kid,” she said, as budgets keeping being cut.

Schools Superintendent Maria Suttmeier, having just returned from a meeting of the New York State Council of School Superintendents, reported that she saw how districts with higher test scores have more flexibility than Hudson in designing their curriculums. Other schools “get away with” a lot of things “and call it curriculum,” she said. “It boggles my mind.” But Hudson must design its curriculum under the wing of state officials ready to say, “No, no, no,” Ms. Suttmeier said.

At the meeting the board proposed three district goals:

1. Raising the graduation rate 15% within three years

2. Increasing the ELA (English Language Arts) and math scores 3.5% a year for the next five years, overall and by each group

3. Developing a written curriculum incorporating Common Core standards by June 2014.

Also at the meeting the board:

Continued the discussion of school uniforms and decided to look at other districts that have used them.

“I think this needs to be looked at seriously,” said Board President Kelly Frank, adding “Uniformity in clothing will help students feel more connected.”

But Ms. Suttmeier said that as a public school, the district could not require uniforms.

Heard from William Glasser about sports events that included fund raising for Erika Wordon, who graduated from Hudson High School in 2007 and now has brain cancer.

Learned from Ms. Suttmeier that , for her 27-month doctorate program at Sage Colleges, she must attend the meetings of a “rural” school district, and she has chosen the Ichabod Crane district in Kinderhook.

Heard Robert Freeman, one of the two members of the state Committee on Open Government, answer questions about the state Open Meetings and Freedom of Information laws. He clarified when a board may adjourn to an executive session that excludes the public. In order to go into executive session, a majority of the total board members must vote to do so and the board must state the specific reasons for the executive session rather than reciting the list of allowable reasons.

Over the summer Selha Graham-Cora, who has children who attend Hudson district schools said that the board conducts much of its business “behind closed doors.”

But at Monday’s meeting Ms. Frank said to Mr. Freeman, “The board seems to be under the veil that we’re hiding something. But based on what you have said, our board is more open than other boards.”

 

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