Hudson hears support’s tepid for school tech bond

HUDSON–The upcoming election will contain a proposal for an education technology bond, but many advocacy groups have taken no position on it, an official announced at the Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting Monday, October 20.

At the same meeting, the board voted to approve a contract to sell the Claverack School, but concerns about the presence of asbestos have delayed installation a boiler there. In addition, student representative Atia Begh announced two resources for college applicants: help in filling out multi-college applications in the High School computer lab starting October 21 and information about financial aid at the Hudson Chamber of Commerce on October 29.

The School District Business Executive Robert Yusko called attention to the November 4 election’s statewide Proposition 3, called the Smart School Bond. If approved by voters statewide, the bond would provide money for schools to acquire “technological infrastructure,” a term that includes pre-kindergarten classrooms, faster broadband connections and technology to facilitate students taking standardized tests online.

The bond would obligate state taxpayers to repay a debt of $2 billion plus interest, over 20 years. The Hudson City School district’s allocation from it would be about $1.7 million.

“It may not be the most financially sound position, but it’s a quick way for schools to get the money” for certain technology they believe they need right now, said Mr. Yusko, citing an interpretation of the bond proposal.

But he reported, several advocacy groups have taken no position on Proposition 3 because, though it will cover the capital costs of setting up facilities, it does not address subsequent operating expenses, like the costs of universal pre-K. In addition, some of the new computer technology will be obsolete in a decade or less and some districts are already in the process of acquiring current technological “musts” by other means.

Coordinator of School Improvement April Prestipino said the Hudson City School District has already been awarded funds to purchase equipment to help get more students to take standardized tests online. So far, students doing so as part of the district’s pilot program have had no problem, Ms. Prestipino reported.

As for the old Claverack school building, which most recently has served as the temporary county courthouse for many months, the board voted unanimously to approve the contract to sell the building to Jeffrey Gibson for $390,000. If voters approve the sale agreement at the May 2015 school district election, the closing will take place about 10 days later. Court operations are scheduled to return soon to the renovated and expanded County Courthouse in Hudson.

But the Claverack building needs a new boiler. Last February the old boiler was causing problems, and Mr. Yusko said that after installation of the new boiler began the week of October 13 workers complained about their possible exposure to asbestos. So on October 20 an air sample was taken for evaluation, and further work on installing the boiler awaits the test results.

Also at the meeting:

  • Board member David Kisselburgh of the Facilities Committee announced a goal of altering the appearance of the district’s central office to “present and represent our school district in an appropriate manner,” to make it more “inviting and welcoming,” and to get it to “represent what we really are”
  • Superintendent Maria Suttmeier spoke of the need for a large enough pool of qualified substitute school nurses. When a nurse is absent and a substitute not available, the building principal takes over nursing duties. This situation calls for remediation
  • Ms. Suttmeier and the board also spoke of plans for a policy under which once a student has five unexcused absences from gym, a school official will call the student’s parents. More unexcused absences from gym could result in a grade of “audit, no credit.”

The next Board of Education meeting will take place Monday, November 10, at 7 p.m., at the High School Library. The Harlem Wizards will play High School staff and students on Thursday, November 5.

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