Rice chosen to lead Hudson school board

HUDSON– In the first Board of Education meeting since classes began this school year the Board of Education this week selected a new president, Peter A. Rice, Jr.

Also at the September 8 meeting the board presented Ian McCormick, the new associate principal of both the intermediate and junior high schools and heard how student participation in state tests affects the district’s efforts to improve its standing.

Mr. Rice has been on the School Board for three years. His term lasts until 2016. He drove tractor-trailers until an injury required him to explore other career paths. Now he is a full-time student at Columbia-Greene Community College, studying education. His wife teaches in the district at the John L. Edwards Primary School.

Board member Derrick Smart nominated Mr. Rice to replace Kelly Frank, who resigned last month to take a job in Texas. Mr. Rice is the board’s third president in 17 months. Tiffany Martin Hamilton remains vice president.

Ms. Frank’s departure left the Board one member short of its required seven members. At Monday’s meeting, two candidates presented themselves for the spot: Jay Carlisle, a lawyer, and Sage Marie Carter, a freelance video designer. The board decided to consider them further and wait until the next meeting before choosing one, citing the importance of the decision.

The meeting also included the introduction of Mr. McCormick, the new associate principal of both the Junior High School and the Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School. In addition, Superintendent Maria Suttmeier announced that Jacob Hoffman of the Hudson Police Department has started his duties as a school resource officer. He joins Wendy Guntert, the part-time school resource deputy from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

Kimberly Shannon, a communications specialist from Questar III, has been assigned to the district Tuesdays and Thursdays. She presented a vision for the district’s presence on Facebook, Twitter and the district’s website. Later, during public comments, Nicky Genito noted that High School Principal Antonio Abitabile has been doing the same thing.

On another topic, the board heard that students opting out of standard state exams for grades 3-12 in the last school year adversely affected the district’s efforts to improve its standing, according to Superintendent Suttmeier and Coordinator of School Improvement April Prestipino. Ms. Suttmeier said that although the tests seem compulsory, parents can “send a letter to the district saying they want their children to refuse to take the test.” And in 2013-14, only 89% of the junior high’s white students took the math tests.

If the district had been in good standing, said Ms. Prestipino, this would not have been a problem. But Hudson is a “focused district,” and in order to improve its academic performance, at least 95% of the students–overall and by designated groups–must take the tests. Race is one of the designations used in the evaluation of test scores. Other group designations include economic status and disability.

Ms. Suttmeier said that parents are feeling “their children are over tested” and need more preparation to meet the standards of the Common Core curriculum.

Board member David Kisselbaugh asked what should be done. Mr. Suttmeier said the district sends out letters and principals call parents who want their children to opt out. Mr. Smart suggested the letters show how “all the other kids pay” for those who do not take the tests. Thirteen white junior high students opted out of the math tests.

“The thing that really bothers me,” Ms. Suttmeier said, “is that districts in good standing suffer no consequences” for students opting out of standardized tests. The superintendent attributed the problem to a movement based on the notion that current the state’s standardized tests are “harming students.”

Also at the meeting:

  • Principal Abitabile announced that a room has been set aside with 16 computers for APAX online learning for High School students. He sees APAX for both Regents preparation and credit recovery. Students who failed one quarter of a course last year would give up a study hall period this year to retake that quarter via APAX. Passing the quarter on APAX will both increase the course grade on their official transcript and exempt them from repeating the whole course. And Mr. Abitabile envisioned students who fail an early quarter of a course being able to repeat it through APAX immediately, while going on to the next quarter of the course with their regular class
  • Ms. Suttmeier said that the new development planned for the Greenport School site has an issue with access. Currently access is through the Dollar General parking lot. Access from Route 66 could involve another individual’s property where “there was an encroachment years ago”
  • Principals Steven Spicer (primary school), Mark Brenneman (intermediate school) and Derek Reardon (junior high) reported that the school year in their buildings has gotten off to a good start. Associate Principal Robert LaCasse (high school) expressed satisfaction with the single-period lunch, saying, “We’re feeding the entire school in 15 to 18 minutes”
  • Mr Abitabile noted the district’s graduation goal for this year is 73%, and to achieve that, the graduation rate for students currently in the high school building must reach 78%.

The next Board meeting will be Monday, September 22 in the Hudson High School library.



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