School district wary of city’s housing plan

HUDSON–Opposition to the proposed sale of 33 acres of Hudson High School grounds to developers and an overview of state proficiency test results for 3rd through 8th grade students dominated the Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting Monday, August 25.

Last week Hudson Common Council President Don Moore targeted the 33 acres—currently an open field—for residential development. But at this week’s school board meeting the proposal did not sit well.

“We were very surprised to see it in the news without any communication from Don Moore and the Common Council,” said Board President Kelly Frank. This was especially true, she added, since the Common Council had accused the school board of not communicating enough with the council.

Dan and Mary Udell of Taghkanic, frequent volunteers in the school district, called the land sought by the city “an incredible resource” for recreation. “With grand views of the Catskills, it’s a unique location,” the Udells wrote in a statement they handed out at the meeting.

Both Ms. Frank and the Udells’ statement identified other sites around the city being considered for residential development, including: the former Greenport School buildings on Route 66, the Hudson waterfront along Front Street, and land near the prison. Ms. Frank suggested the city develop its other residential plans first and see how they work before adding new sites.

If the city wants additional tax revenue, said Ms. Frank, it should end the use of payments in lieu of taxes “so that businesses pay the taxes they should be paying.”

Continuing her critique of the plan for school land, the board president said the only road to the site is a parking lot and, she said, “Just because it’s not used by humans does not mean it’s not being used. It’s a green space.” At present the cross country team works out there.

“Why on earth should there be a large… development behind our schools?,” the Udells asked. “Think of the traffic problems and resulting air pollution!”

The speakers also proposed alternate uses for the land. Ms. Frank said that the district has already applied for a grant for solar panels. And the Udells’ proposed an “outdoor sports complex.”

District Superintendent Maria Suttmeier said that the solar panels would reduce the school’s energy bills. She said city officials had told her the site could have both the housing and solar panels.

A key feature in the Udells’ sports complex concept is an all-weather track. Currently Hudson High School has no track. According to the Udells, only one other high school in the state shares this distinction. The track surface at the Intermediate School is cinders and no longer qualifies for competitions. Replacing it a new track has been rejected because it would conflict with the baseball field.

District Business Executive Robert Yusko said a sports complex would require expensive construction, voter approval and possibly more debt. “There’s been different talk throughout the years about what the land would be used for,” he said.

Scores rise a bit

Also at the meeting, Ms. Suttmeier distributed a comparison of the just-released proficiency results in ELA (English Language Arts) and math for students in grades 3 through 8. The figures compare the just-completed 2013-14 school year to the previous year. Over the last year ELA proficiency increased by 3% in the district, much better than the statewide change of only 0.1%.

Math proficiency in the district increased by 2.3%, but that was only half the increase seen statewide.

Hudson saw some progress in reducing the number of students who scored at Level 1 (“Below Standard”), with those in Level 1 decreasing 4% for ELA and 3% for math.

Detailed results by grade level are available from the district.

In addition, Ms. Suttmeier noted that the Hudson High School graduation rate had jumped 10 percentage points from the Class of 2012 (59%) to the Class of 2013 (69%). She said she saw preliminary figures for the Class of 2014, which she is not yet allowed to reveal. “The only thing I can say is that we have no intention of backsliding,” she said.

Also at the meeting, the board introduced Joe Mazzone as a new special education teacher at the high school. He is to teach a self-contained class of 12 students and will have an aide. Previously, he taught for 14 years at Vanderheyden Hall, a residential facility near Troy. His experience, he said, includes students who have needed special education for many reasons, including learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and a variety of psychological and emotional problems. Although presented as a social studies teacher, he expects to teach all subjects. His goals, he said, are to help students “achieve academically,” pass tests, graduate and gain life skills.

The meeting Monday was the last for Ms. Frank, who has resigned to take a job in Texas. The remaining board members will choose her replacement as president at the next meeting. Her departure opens up a seat on the Board of Education, and adults who live in the district and who wish be considered for appointment to fill the seat should submit a letter of interest.

The next Hudson school board meeting is Monday, September 8 at 7p.m. at the Hudson High School Library.

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