Hudson students make progress

HUDSON–An update on the Bridge Academy alternate high school and the location of future meetings highlighted the Hudson City School district Board of Education’s meeting Monday, November 24.

The Bridge, formally the Columbia-Greene Partnership Academy—has been educating about 45 high school students in Hudson since February. Most of its students are in an Alternate Transition Program (ATP), which took in general education 16 and 17-year-olds who had fallen behind in the number of credits expected for graduation-bound students their age. ATP students come from both Hudson and Catskill high schools. The Bridge also serves a group of special education students. Its staff comes from the Berkshire Union Free School District.

Bridge student John Irwin, Berkshire Union Superintendent Bruce Potter and Bridge staff member Dan Kalbfliesh reported on the performance of the Academy, which is now in its fourth quarter of operation.

In the 2013-2014 academic year, the ATP students spent the first semester in their home high school—Hudson or Catskill—and the second semester at the Bridge. According to the presentation, the first semester ended with only 28% of the students passing their courses. But by the end of the second semester, 58% passed. Of the 2013-2014 ATP students, 82% continued in the Bridge for the 2014-2015 academic year. Of these, on the day the first quarter ended this fall, 54% were passing their courses. But now, a few weeks later, 62% have passed first-quarter material.

In addition, during the first semester last year, in their home schools, these students had an attendance rate of 78% and accumulated 128 suspensions. In the second semester, at the Bridge, they had an attendance rate of 75% and accumulated 98 suspensions.
“We built the Bridge to the kids we weren’t reaching,” said Mr. Potter. “Education isn’t one size fits all.”

“High school is a social hub,” observed Mr. Kalbfliesh. “We’ve had students who go to school but not class. In the Bridge, the only place to go is class.” There is no room where students can hang out and socialize without going to class.

Student John Irwin told the meeting, “Before I came to the Bridge, I was not a successful student. Almost the only time I went to class was when a hall monitor dragged me in. But then I tried the Bridge, and I loved it. What got me is that they seemed to care about you. They’re willing to sit with you, with your math problems, even reading to you, for however long it takes, to help you pass a subject. Before I came to the Bridge, I felt I didn’t have the tools to be great. Now I do.”

In addition to academic and job preparation, the Bridge students participate in community services. These include putting up flags at the Firemen’s Home on Memorial Day, painting walls with cancer-awareness murals, and selling food for fundraisers.

Starting next semester, Mr. Kalbfliesh will become the principal at the Bridge, the third person to hold that position. Rick Shea, currently a Bridge’s social studies teacher, will become its coordinator of work-based learning.

Through the end of the academic year, the Bridge will stay at its current location at the corner of 4th and Warren streets in Hudson’s business district. But it is committed to moving three blocks away, to 11 Warren Street, until recently a building owned by Coarc building between Front and First streets. There Mr. Potter envisions “11,000 square feet of state-of-the-art building,” including two things the current site lacks–a gymnasium and cafeteria.
With the additional space, the school is also considering adding programs. One under consideration, though still not official, would take in 9th graders judged to be “bright but at risk.” In conjunction with Bard College they would complete the program four years later with both a Regents diploma and an associate degree.

Also at the November 24 meeting, Board Vice President Tiffany Martin Hamilton kicked off a discussion on the location of future meetings. Currently, most meetings take place in the high school, though the next meeting (December 8) will take place at John L. Edwards Primary School because of a curriculum workshop there. Inspired by the Hudson Common Council’s decision to hold each of its meetings in a different place “in the community,” Ms. Hamilton suggested the Board of Education consider a similar effort to meet at various local sites. She hopes this would encourage more people to become involved, saying, “I would be thrilled to have 10 or more people attend.”

“It’s an excellent idea,” said Board Member Derrick Smart. “Anything to get closer” to where more students’ families actually live.

Superintendent Maria Suttmeier and Business Executive Robert Yusko pointed out that in picking meeting locations, one must consider:
•The need for a secure place for executive sessions
•The requirements for setting up and breaking down new spaces
•Making sure special speakers and guests know the location
•Whether staff of new meeting location would have to work overtime.
Board Member Maria McLaughlin said she had talked to people at Providence Hall who felt that a such a meeting in their community room would encroach on their space.
Mr. Smart mentioned the idea that the meeting location, instead of roving, should change to a new default site—the primary school. Ms. Suttmeier said that the Primary School is “in the city. Easier to get to.”

But Board President Peter Rice asked, “Why do we have to accommodate the public? This is a business meeting.”

Mr. Smart acknowledged that meetings held at the primary school have also had poor attendance.

Mr. Rice asked, “Can we have a survey as to why people don’t attend?”
Board Member Sage Carter, along with Ms. Hamilton, suggested arranging child care—possibly through the Student Council– for parents who wanted to attend the meetings. Ms. Hamilton mentioned telling parents they could take their children to meetings.

Also at last week’s meeting:
•April Prestipino, coordinator of school improvement, suggested evaluating how students are recommended for Academic Intervention Services (AIS), supplemental help along with regular classroom instruction. On the one hand, “The first three years are important. If students aren’t reading at grade level by grade 3, they’ll always be behind.” On the other hand, “there are way too many kids in AIS in junior high”
•The board voted to raise pay for substitute teachers. Starting January 1, certified substitutes will receive $90/day, non-certified $70/day. Ms. Suttmeier had recommended this change to make the Hudson District more competitive with other nearby districts whose substitute lists overlap with Hudson’s. Retired teachers will continue te receive $100/day
•Student Representative Atia Begh announced that during Winter Walk on December 6, artwork by Hudson students will appear at the Hudson Opera House.
The next school board meeting will be at the John L. Edwards Primary School December 8 at 6 p.m., with a curriculum workshop, followed by the regular meeting at 7.

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