Hudson lauds kid books fest, finds op-outs vexing

HUDSON–The school district has won a Utica National School Safety Excellence Award, for “efforts to create a safe school environment,” Superintendent Dr. Maria Suttmeier announced at the Board of Education meeting Monday, May 9. The award is for what is called “under-the-roof” safety. Dr. Suttmeier credited Building and Grounds Superintendent George Keeler and his staff.

The meeting also included a discussion of last weekend’s Children’s Book Festival, assessment tests and school lunches.

Dr. Suttmeier called the Children’s Book Festival, which took place May 7 in Hudson, a “phenomenal success.”

Coordinator of School Improvement April Prestipino added, “It was so fun to watch kindergarteners know exactly what books they want and their authors. And it was a chance for me to talk with teachers out of the work setting.”

School Board President Maria McLaughlin recounted how thrilled her son was to meet the author of his favorite books in person. The child and the author ended up talking with each other a long time. Ms. McLaughlin encouraged “whatever we can do to keep this going.”

This year the ELA and Math assessment tests had no time limits, and of the children who took them, more attempted answers for every question, Ms. Prestipino reported. Last year, she said, “I saw blank answers where the students might have run out of time.”

Still, Dr. Suttmeier said, “I’m concerned about students who feel they do not want to take state tests. How can they build stamina for the Regents?” She said that the Regents exams taken by high school students are timed and are required for graduation.

She also said that accommodating students whose parents opt out of having them take the assessment tests is a “nightmare.” One problem is finding space for them to sit, especially in the Junior High. Another is that so many opt out letters do not come until the test morning, so the district does not learn how many non-test takers there are until the morning of the test. And Some children come in the test day saying they do not want to take the test but without having a letter from a parent or guardian. In that case, the child is taken to the test room and given the test anyway, though the administration must notify the child’s parents or guardian.

“Parents are asking for special privileges for some students,” said Dr. Suttmeier, who added, “We don’t give the opt-outs fun activities. They have to sit and read until their class is done with the test.”

In other business, Cathy Drumm, food services supervisor, announced that the government reimbursement for universal free lunches has stayed the same for two years, but that the district is eligible for an increase with next school year. Dr. Suttmeier said that initially some children avoided the lunches over concerns the meals might contain items forbidden by their religion. She indicated that Ms. Drumm had adjusted menus to provide alternatives acceptable to their faiths and put up signs in the cafeteria indicating what the foods contain and where those foods are located.

The next School Board meeting will take place on school election night, May 17, at 9 p.m. at the John L. Edwards Primary School on State Street.

A meeting that will include a presentation on the district’s Capital Project will take place Monday, May 23, at 6 p.m. at the High School Cafeteria on Harry Howard Avenue.

 

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