Hudson tests whether music keeps kids in school

HUDSON–­­Music and crossing guards highlighted the Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting February 9.

An after school music program, Project Harmony, will begin for first and second graders February 29. Over several school years, it is designed to teach students “all the skills they need to play in an orchestra, said program founder Josh Aronson, who attended to the board meeting. The program will benefit even those students who do not intend to become professional musicians, Mr. Aronson said. “Science has found that when you give children this type of musical education, starting at a young age, you rewire the brain” for better academic performance. “Dropout rates decrease,” he added.

“The percent of these kids who go on to college is stunning. Even in districts with lots of economically disadvantaged families like Hudson,” he told the board. He said the program also helps build self-­esteem and social skills.

For its first term in Hudson, Project Harmony has lined up 20 pupils in John L. Edwards Primary School and designated Zoe Arba, a violin teacher, as its leader. Ms. Arba, who grew up in Poughkeepsie and now lives in Tivoli, and has taught people ages 3 through 72.

For the first 16 weeks of the program, Mr. Aronson said, the children play no instruments but study “musicianship.” Then they are introduced to string instruments. In third and fourth grades they are introduced to brass and wind instruments. He hopes that older students from the school band will mentor the younger learners.

Project Harmony is “completely scholarship driven,” said Mr. Aronson. “I’m raising money for it.” Board President Maria McLaughlin said she had gone with her son, a primary school student, to
the program’s orientation and found it “stunning.”

“Thank­ you for choosing Hudson,” district Superintendent Dr. Maria Suttmeier said to Mr.Aronson.

On another matter, Dr. Suttmeier reported on efforts to improve traffic safety near the primary school. The school stands near the junction of Fourth, State and Carroll streets. At previous meetings, participants proposed crossing guards for children walking to the school, even if accompanied by an adult. Now Dr. Suttmeier announced she had found out that the law forbids school districts from hiring crossing guards. So her office has approached the Hudson City Police.

The ideas mentioned include having School Resource Officers assist as crossing guards, using AmeriCorps volunteers for that service or students from the Questar III BOCES Law Enforcement
program. “It’s in the city’s hands,” said Dr. Suttmeier.

“Now we know where we have to put the pressure,” said board Vice President David Kisselburgh. Hudson resident Maija Reed, who has raised this topic at several meetings, said, “I really want to
thank everybody. You really have done everything you can.”

Also at the meeting, Coordinator of School Improvement April Prestipino announced that the
English Language Learner program “continues to grow.” Kindergarten with 15 to 20 students who speak a language other than English at home “is not unusual.” In addition, there are English
learners in older grades.

The school board’s seven seats are now full. At the previous board meeting, January 20, the six
other Board members elected Michelle Camacho to fill the then­vacant 7th seat. Ms. Camacho has lived in Hudson 10 years and comes from Clermont. She has two children at the Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School—a 5th grader and a 6th grader. She has worked for the state Office of Children and Family Services for 22 years, in a variety of positions, including Juvenile Justice.

Ms. Camacho said she was interested in joining the Board to “get more involved” and to fill committees that “nobody can get anyone to join.” She ended up on the board’s Audit and Facilities committees.

Ms. Camacho said the district’s strengths include: diversity: ethnic, language, cultural and religious; and dedicated teachers. In her eyes the weaknesses include: bathrooms­­ “not necessarily in the best repair”; “dated” textbooks, also in “disrepair”; and “lack of advanced educational opportunities” for the best students.

As for the challenges the district faces, she said these include: “how to manage inappropriate behavior, without disrupting” classes; and building “an environment conducive to learning,” which she believes the new Capital Project will help. The school buildings her children have attended look too “institutional,” she said.

The next School Board meeting will take place Monday, February 22, at 7 pm, at the Hudson High School library.

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