Hudson brainstorms school improvement ideas

HUDSON–School uniforms, welcome packages for new families in the district and a staff with a demographic profile closer to that of the students: these were some of the leading suggestions at a community conversation on how the Hudson City School District (HCSD) can best meet its students’ needs and build a vision for 2020.

The meeting took place Thursday, August 20, in the cafeteria of the John L. Edwards Primary School.

HCSD Superintendent Maria Suttmeier counted 60 people—including public figures–“at its peak,” she reported later.

Ms. Suttmeier and Andrew DeFeo, assistant superintendent at Questar III, BOCES, ran the meeting. The other participants divided into groups, each of which sat at a table. Each table had a large sheet of paper, with one person at each table acting as scribe. As the people at the table discussed education, the scribe listed their recommendations. At the end of the meeting the sheets were posted on the walls and each participant stuck adhesive colored dots by the six suggestions they favored most.

The suggestions that got the most dots included:

  • Develop community school programs for the school and the community
  • Expand Power of Peace throughout District
  • An enrichment program for the Primary School similar to that in the Intermediate School
  • School uniforms
  • See diversity as strength rather than a negative
  • Less politics, more learning
  • Diversity of staff to mirror student population
  • Welcome packages for new families in the district

Other suggestions addressed peer mentoring, attendance, bullying on buses, play time during inclement weather, suicide, guidance, the agricultural community and exit interviews with students.

Attendees included parents and grandparents, educators, retired educators, a recent Hudson High graduate, local business owners and a father and his 9th-grade son who had just moved to the district from Cleveland. The 9th grader participated in the discussion with the adults. Two little girls played on the cafeteria stage while their mother participated in the discussion.

Six of the seven members of the school board participated as did Hudson High School Principal Antonio Abitabile, Common Council President Don Moore, Aldermen Rick Rector and Alexis Keith, and Cedric Fulton of the Staley B. Keith Social Justice Center.

The meeting’s purpose as stated in the district’s website was to give the public input in “building HCSD’s Vision 2020,” a five-year plan “to establish measurable goals for the academic and socio-emotional well-being of students. It follows on Ms. Suttmeier’s 2012 Destination Graduation program to increase the graduation rate by 15% over three years. This goal, Ms. Suttmeier said, has been achieved.

The new Vision 2020 has four strategic goals:

  • Raise the Bar by “creating a more rigorous and challenging environment for all… students
  • Close the Gap in achievement between students
  • Align Curriculum and Instruction
  • Foster the students’ social and emotional development

The first three are the same as Destination Graduation. The fourth arose, Ms. Suttmeier explained, out of the need to balance the academic emphasis of the first three with other aspects in the students’ lives.

Each of the participants was able to discuss with different groups of attendees.

Remarks during the sessions ranged from “kids who aren’t high achievers should be allowed to join activities like the student council. That will help them feel more belonging in the school” to criticism of the lack of useful information or difficulty finding the Parent Portal on the district website.

“I live two blocks from here and have no idea about what’s going on,” said one participant.

“Of my three years as superintendent and three years before as assistant superintendent, tonight is one of my highlights,” Ms. Suttmeier said at the close of the meeting. “We have some really tangible ideas, which we can take back to the district. But this is just Step 1.”

The next step–community involvement–will take place October 1.

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