HUDSON–Sumayyah Shabazz joined the Hudson City School District Board of Education at the board’s meeting Monday, July 27. She fills the vacancy created by the recent resignation of Peter Rice.
Ms. Shabazz was the only person to apply for the position, and at the meeting the board appointed her unanimously. Immediately, Ms. Shabazz took the oath of office, administered by Board Clerk Frieda Van Deusen, and took her seat at the board table. All seven places on the school board are now filled again.
Originally from New York City, Ms. Shabazz has been in Hudson 15 years. Her youngest child graduated from Hudson High School last year and is now in the military. Ms. Shabazz was a substitute teacher in the Hudson City School District for four years and served as a counselor at Berkshire Farm for 12 years. She has also worked for the police. Currently she studies psychology at Columbia-Greene Community College and expects to graduate this December.
“What do you think are some of the strengths of the school district?” board Vice President David Kisselburgh asked her.
“The right people are in the right place. The school just needs a little push,” Ms. Shabazz answered. “The school is very strong, it’s going forward.”
Mr. Kisselburgh asked what she thought were the district’s weaknesses.
“I think more teachers need to work together,” Ms. Shabazz answered, citing her experience as a substitute teacher in different classes.
Mr. Kisselburgh continued: “My feeling on the weakness is… see these empty seats! What are you going to do to fill them?”
The meeting room in the Junior High School library had chairs for at least 30 people, but only five people comprised the audience, including two reporters and a new teacher awaiting presentation to the board. Such attendance is normal for most school board meetings.
Ms. Shabazz replied, “It’s hard. A lot of people in the community don’t want to come because they don’t believe in the district.” She suggested giving out flyers about upcoming board meetings to church officials for them to give to parents in their congregations.
“We have to teach the parents to teach the children,” Ms. Shabazz added.
When asked what committee she would like to join, Ms. Shabazz suggested the Policy Committee. That committee already had three members, but one of them—Mr. Kisselburgh—volunteered to leave it and join the budget committee, which had only two members. The board accepted those changes, and the composition of the two pertinent committees ended up as William Kappel, David Kisselburgh and Carrie Otty making up the Budget Committee and Sage Carter, board President Maria McLaughlin and Ms. Shabazz on the Policy Committee.
Also at the meeting:
- Elizabeth Krizar was presented by district Superintendent Maria Suttmeier as a new 7th grade social studies teacher. Last school year she was a teaching assistant for 7th and 8th grade special education. Prior to that, she held several positions in the Ichabod Crane District
- Business Executive Robert Yusko said the main cause of the district budget increasing 11% in four years, from $40.9 million in 2010-11 to $45.3 million in 2014-15, was the cost of employees. Two major factors have been increases in both the cost of medical insurance and the ratio of retired to active employees.
- Ms. Carter called attention to the frustration generated by the state, which did not release key performance indicators for an academic year until about the end of the following year.
“Teachers do everything they are supposed to do,” according to improvement plans, Ms. Carter said, without finding out whether doing so improved their students’ performance. She said data on student performance are not released until about a year after students have moved on to the next grade. By then, teachers are finishing up their instruction of students from the following year. The most recent school year for which they must base decisions on teaching methods and curricula is two years ago.
The next Board of Education meeting will take place Monday, August 10 at 7 p.m. at the Hudson Junior High School library.
In addition, a Community Conversation about District Graduation Goals will take place Thursday, August 20, at the John L. Edwards Primary School.