Hudson board learns more about learning and cash

HUDSON–A curriculum workshop and a preview of fiscal and community-oriented strategies occupied the Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting Monday, December 8.

The meeting began with a second grade girl and primary school Principal Steven Spicer leading members of the school board and administration to three primary school classrooms for the curriculum workshop. In the first classroom, kindergarten teacher Teresa Ohl presented kindergarten reading and math. “We read every day; we write every day,” she said. Reading focuses on one-syllable words. Math emphasizes “counting and cardinality,” the “concrete and representational,” over the “abstract.”

Board Vice President Tiffany Hamilton remarked, “You have a lot of kids that need special support. How do you provide that?”

One way, Ohl said, was by putting the children into groups where those who already have a skill can help others obtain it. “I have 23 children this year. This is more than I’ve ever had,” she said.

In the next classroom, first grade teacher Melissa Brown and the girl demonstrated classroom activities designed to help children progress in reading and spelling. Ms. Brown said the children’s favorite activity was the daily “book shopping,” where they go to the classroom’s library section and each picks out a book. Math, Brown said, focuses on addition and subtraction up to 100.

In the next classroom, second grade teachers Debbie Sweet and Tiffany Shumway presented their teaching methods, with the help of the girl and a second-grade boy. The Common Core curriculum, said Ms. Shumway, has brought a clear change to math, with its “definitely more rigorous” approach.

Mr. Spicer said, “Parents are calling me saying: ‘I can’t help my children with their math homework.’ I tell them to ask the children what the symbols mean.”

At the regular board meeting following the workshop, District Business Executive Robert Yusko reported on having attended a conference for school business managers. One “key point” he got from the conference was confirmation of the need to establish a reserve fund and develop a strategy for using it. Mr. Yusko had advocated for this even before the conference.

“Currently we don’t have any reserve,” he said. With a reserve, the district could “plan what we do at the yearend if we end up with a surplus.”

In addition Mr. Yusko got the impression from the conference that “we do a really good job at disputing unemployment insurance claims.” When a claim arises, he said, “challenge it as much as possible, because a lot of money is at stake.”

An update of Hudson Promise strategy for the Hudson City School District came from Kathy Clark, director of After School Programs, and Joan Hunt, Promise Neighborhood Project director. They spoke of turning the district schools into “community schools,” which engage not only students and teachers, but also families and the community. Goals include “removing barriers to learning,” to help people—from infancy through adulthood—develop to the point they are ready for college and for citizenship and “community.” The community school would help people get housing, medical, and English language skills in addition to educational resources.

“It seems that we are destined to do something,” said Superintendent Maria Suttmeier. “I’m excited that we’re able to move forward.”

The community school strategy includes hiring a director and three parent coordinators. The Mental Health Association will participate in the hiring. When ready to begin the hiring process, the jobs will be posted.

Also at the meeting:

  • Student Representative Atia Begh announced that the Power of Peace, having concluded Level 1 workshops, will return in March and April for Level 2 workshops
  • Coordinator of School Improvement April Prestipino said the district’s participation in the K-12 Insight Survey was “unprecedented for a first year.” Sixteen percent of the parents, 56% of the 7-12th graders, 81% of the 3-6th graders, and 87% of the teachers answered the survey. One parent did so in Bengali. Some students could not participate, because they were not in class the day their class was assigned to respond to the survey. Results of the survey are not yet available
  • Ms. Prestipino also announced that, as last year, 8th graders in Accelerated Math would be exempt from the regular 8th grade math exam if they took the integrated algebra exam
  • Atia Begh announced that a special education class had started using therapy dogs.

The next school board meeting will be Monday, December 22, in the high school library, at 7 p.m.

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