Tougher courses would count for more

HUDSON–Changes affecting kindergarteners and college-bound high school students plus a curriculum workshop highlighted the Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting Monday, February 10.

Screening for next year’s kindergarteners, which traditionally happens in late spring, would happen earlier this year in March under a proposal made by district Superintendent Maria Suttmeier. The change would give school officials more time to determine and arrange the resources necessary for the about 160 children expected to join the school community.

Meanwhile, opportunities to apply for college scholarships will occur Thursday, February 13 at 7 p.m. in the Hudson High School computer lab and Thursday, February 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hudson Opera House, senior Oswaldo Rosete, vice president of the High School Student Council announced. He served as student representative at Monday’s meeting. The purpose of these events is to facilitate the Scholarship America process, where each student creates a profile, receives online feedback on the scholarships he or she is eligible for, and can apply for several scholarships at once.

In another matter that will impact older students, High School Principal Antonio Abitabile explained his proposal for grade weighting. Currently at Hudson High School a student’s overall grade is the simple average of his or her classroom grades, excluding gym. Under the proposal, certain academically challenging courses would receive a higher weight in calculating the overall grade. Mr. Abitabile said he favors a weighted average because other area school districts have it and it provides “carrots” to nudge students into taking potentially more challenging courses. He lamented, “We’ve had salutatorians who have not had regents diplomas.”

“Most of the students I’ve talked to have wanted” weighted grading, Mr. Abitabile said.

Among those courses suggested for the highest weight were AP (advanced placement) classes. Also discussed were other advanced classes, including those taken for Columbia-Greene Community College credit. On the other hand, starting next year, a student’s overall average will include physical education grades.

Both Mr. Abitabile and board member Jeri Chapman noted that some colleges rely on averages supplied by high schools but instead use the overall grades in applicants’ transcripts to derive the institutions’ own formulas and applicant scores.

In other news, the Alternate Transition Program–an alternative high school–after a semester’s delay, is up and running at the Bridge Academy at the corner of Warren and Fourth Streets in Hudson. Ms. Suttmeier reported, “Today makes a week. It’s a smooth transition. This is a great opportunity for our students to catch up.”

In public comment time, Selha Graham-Cora, a mother of district students, read a letter from another parent expressing concern about safety in the parking lot of John L. Edwards Primary School. Students, parents, teachers and support staff risk getting hit by vehicles when crossing the parking lot, she said. Ms. Graham-Cora, who called for extra aids to monitor the parking lot, said the issue had been raised before and asked whether anything had been done about it.

“We’ve put in speed bumps,” Superintendent Suttmeier replied.

Another speaker said that aids are in the parking lot from 7:30 to 8 a.m. “Then they have to go inside, because they have different jobs.” Someone said that a police officer used to be in the parking lot, but he has not been seen recently.

Nina Fine asked whether the district had plans for “children who are above grade level… enrichment programs for children who need extra challenges.” Referring to the new state curriculum, she said that the Common Core covers only topics for a specific grade with no accommodation kindergarteners who are ready for 1st grade work. Ms. Fine also said it is difficult for children to skip grades. “There is quite a contingency of parents who are concerned about this and who are leaving the district,” she said.

Board member Chapman responded said the board had just come from a curriculum workshop where “we saw lots of differentiation by skill in a grade,” and teachers striving to accommodate these differences.

The Primary School Curriculum Workshop took place at the beginning of the meeting at the Primary School with board members and other attendees visiting three classrooms, where teachers gave presentations.

Kindergarten teachers Terry Ohl, Lisa Dodig, and Kristin Rutkey demonstrated material for teaching the alphabet, short words, and counting. First Grade teacher Melissa Brown said that for ELA (English language arts) and math, “We guide our whole curriculum on the Common Core.” The Common Core, she added, suggests that reading matter be 50% fiction and 50% non-fiction. Science is included in ELA. In stating the goal of making pupils “independent readers,” she added that in Kindergarten, pupils “learn to read”; in 1st grade, they “read to learn.”

Second grade teacher Debbi Sweet said, “Second Grade is a progression building on Kindergarten and 1st grade.”

Also, at Monday’s meeting:

•Board member Peter Rice said he would like more parents attending board meetings.

•George Keeler, superintendent of buildings and grounds, received praise for giving up part of his weekend to attend to a disabled boiler caused by a “small fire” at the Claverack School now used as a temporary county court.

•Mr. Keeler reported that the City of Hudson is looking for the Primary School to give up about 1,500 feet of designated-not-prominent grounds for a bicycle path for which the city has received a grant.

The next Board meeting is Monday, February 24 at 7 p.m. in the High School Library. A public conversation about next year’s school budget will take place Wednesday, February 26 at 6 p.m., in the Primary School cafeteria.

 

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