Hudson shows improvement on grad rate and finances

HUDSON–Good news about both financial indicators and graduation rates, along with concern about school time videos and other issues likely to continue into 2015 greeted the Hudson City School District Board of Education at their last meeting of calendar 2014.

Scott Preusser, the district’s independent auditor from the accounting firm of Raymond G. Preusser, reported at the December 22 meeting that the district’s “over all financial condition has improved” from last year. He said that this year–2014–costs consumed 95% of the district’s budget, down from the 97% they consumed a year earlier, and “there are no significant deficiencies” in the district’s financial status, he added.

Now is the time for the district to establish a budgeted reserve, Mr. Preusser recommended. That advice echoed calls by district Business Executive Robert Yusko, who has previously requested the board create a reserve several times.

“We like to see that a district has a healthy fund balance,” said Mr. Preusser, who also told the board that “a budget shouldn’t be one year. You should look down the road. I suggest three years.”

Community meetings on the annual district budget are scheduled to start in February and take place before regular board meetings, to encourage people to attend both meetings.

Also at the December meeting schools Superintendent Maria Suttmeier announced that 71% of the District’s original Class of 2014 members had graduated. This graduation rate is 12 percentage points higher than that of the Class of 2012 (59%) and 2 percentage points higher than that of the Class of 2013. In fact, it is the district’s highest graduation rate since the Class of 2006 (73%). The median graduation rate for the 10 classes from 2005 through 2014 inclusive is 63%.

The graduation rate will have to continue its current climb in order to meet its Destination Graduation goal of at least 74% for the Class of 2015. And if it reaches that mark, Ms. Suttmeier said, “We’ll set another goal.”

The board heard from Linda Hopkins, the mother of two students in the district, who urged board members to develop a policy about having children spend school time watching videos. These guidelines, she said, should include how much time a day children in school spend watching videos, how long each video session lasts and the content of the videos.

Ms. Hopkins, whose children attend the primary and intermediate schools, said her direct experience with their school time video watching comes from last winter’s many days when weather prevented outdoor recess. With the primary school gym unavailable for physically active play at recess time, children spent much of that time watching videos. She said she hopes for “a solution for active indoor recess. We want kids moving.”

She also said that some substitute teachers show videos instead of teaching a class by talking to students and that “some children get scared” by the videos’ content. And she asked, “Should they show R movies in the high school without the parents’ permission?”

Ms. Hopkins said she represents a group of area parents concerned about the issue.

In other business:

Ms. Suttmeier announced that the huge attendance at the primary school holiday concert thrilled her to see such community involvement but raised concern about the facility’s capacity. The superintendent expects a letter from state officials because that evening more people filled the school’s “cafetorium” than safety regulations allow. Ms. Suttmeier thanked the police and staff for helping keep the crowd orderly, even though many attendees had to stand. However, she expressed hope for a performance space that will allow future events with that size audience to take place, saying, “I don’t want to take it away from the children”

  • Board member David Kisselbaugh, a member of the Facilities Committee, said plans continue to rebuild the district office suite in the high school building. People with affected work spaces are already previewing redesign plans. The current suite, said Mr. Kisselbaugh, is “not aesthetically pleasing.”

“It’s like a mousetrap,” said Ms. Suttmeier. “We want to be a community school” and the district offices need to be “something more welcoming,” she said

  • Mr. Kisselbaugh also said the district needs to address traffic problems at both the high school and the primary school. He said speed bumps have been installed at the high school lots, calling it “a start”
  • Student Representative Atia Begh announced that the National Honor Society has raised funds for scholarships at its bake sale
  • Ms Suttmeier remarked that since performance music classes had switched to first period, attendance has increased. Band and chorus members have an incentive to come to school in the morning.

The next board meeting will take place Monday, January 12 at the High School Library. It will begin with a curriculum workshop at 6 p.m. followed by a regular board meeting at 7 p.m.

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