HUDSON–On May 17, residents of the Hudson City School District (HCSD) will vote on the proposed 2016-17 school budget and candidates for three open seats on the school board. The budget calls for continuing all programs and keeping all staff positions, with $45,910,371 in appropriations--$433,250 more than the current year–and a 2.15% tax levy increase. State aid will drop, partly because the district, having climbed out of what the state calls “focus” status, which means it is no longer eligible for extra funding aimed at improving academic performance.
The school year runs from July 1 through June 30. If voters reject the budget proposal, the board could put a revised proposal to a public vote next month. If that also fails, board would have to adopt a a contingency budget, which would reduce or eliminate the tax increase but also results in cuts in programs and, possibly, staff.
Meanwhile, three Board of Education seats will open by the end of the school year. For these positions, two candidates’ names will appear on the ballot and a third citizen has expressed interest in having voters write in her name on school Election Day. Of the three board terms, one will last for five years, one for 3 years, and one for 2 years. The more votes a candidate gets, the longer her term will be.
The two candidates on the ballot are Linda Hopkins and incumbent Sumayyah Shabazz. The person pursuing a write-in opportunity is Wilette Jones.
Sumayyah Shabazz has been on the School Board since July 2015. She has seven children, the youngest of whom went through the HCSD and graduated from Hudson High School in 2014. The others attended school in New York City. She currently is studying both at Columbia-Greene Community College (and expects to earn her associate’s degree May 14) and online at CW Post University (where she is building credits toward a bachelor’s degree). Her studies concentrate on psychology with an art concentration and children and family services. She has also been substitute teacher in the district for four years. Ms. Shabazz was born in New York City, she said by telephone May 3, has lived in Hudson for 15 years, and worked at Berkshire Farm for 12 years.
“The school is very strong, it’s going forward,” Ms. Shabazz said in an earlier conversation. “The right people are in the right place. The school just needs a little push. I think more teachers need to work together. We have to teach parents to teach the children.”
Linda Hopkins has two children, one in 3rd and one in 5th grade, attending Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School. Ms. Hopkins teaches science part time at Taconic Hills High School. She has also been a substitute in HCSD for three years and “gotten to know the teachers.” She was born in Montreal, though she has had her mother’s US citizenship from birth, Ms. Hopkins said in a conversation in late April. She moved to Albany when she was 12, studied science as an undergraduate at Cornell, holds an MA in Environmental Education from Southern Oregon University, and has also attended the Upper Valley Teacher Institute in Vermont.
The HCSD “needs a lot of work,” Ms. Hopkins said, and she can “see [circumstances] from all sides.” Her “focus is the kids.”
Wilette Jones and her four children, who range in age from 13 to 32, all were educated in the Hudson District. The youngest child is currently in 7th grade, and the next youngest, now 20, graduated from Hudson High School with honors. Ms. Jones graduated from Hudson High School in 1988. Now she is Parent Coordinator for Community Schools. This makes her “very well versed with what is going on in the schools,” said Board President Maria McLaughlin.
Ms. Jones was born in Florida and moved to Hudson when she was two, she said in a conversation May 9. She has also worked for Head Start and the County Clerk’s Office.
“I want the school to grow and come together,” Ms. Jones said. “I have been in Hudson most of my life.” The way “the community came together” supporting the varsity basketball team impressed her.
Voters in the Tuesday, May 17 school election will vote at one of three polling places depending on where they live:
• JLE Primary School, 360 State St., Hudson
• Greenport Pumper Company #1 Fire House, 216 Greene St., Greenport
• AB Shaw Fire House, 67 NY-23, Claverack.