Hudson school board mulls achievement and loss

HUDSON–Praise for all students completing another year of school, commemoration of the few who have died before graduation and a college-in-high-school program all received attention at the Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education meeting Monday, June 6.

“This is the best time of the year to be superintendent,” Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier said at the meeting, adding, “to see the children get recognition for what they have done.”

The Boys’ Varsity Basketball Team will have a float in the June 11 Flag Day parade in Hudson. In the past season, the team made it to the state Final Four. Several team members came to the June 6 School Board meeting with their coaches, Shawn Briscoe and Tyrone Hedgepeth. Dr. Suttmeier, who noted that the district struggles to improve its image to the outside world, declared, “We’re better than our image!” She told the team, “What we’ve being trying to do for years, you’ve done in one season.”

The superintendent gave a certificate of achievement to each player present and gave certificates to the coaches to give each of the other players later. The certificates recognized the youths for their team membership, 26-1 record, and getting in the state Semi-Finals. “I want to thank the board for recognizing our athletes,” said Coach Briscoe. Team members include Mike Alert, Shamar Daniels, Tyler Dellavechia, Daniel Folds, Dante Garrido, Zachary Hedgepeth, Kieaonie Ivey, Kimedrick Murphy, Justin Oliveras, Jeremy Ramirez, and Ellis Richardson, Matthew Sweet, and Willie Walker. The team left the stage to chants of, “We’ll lead the charge!” and “Go Blue Hawks!”

Additional student recognition came with over $73,000 in awards to seniors, “thanks to the generosity of our community,” Dr. Suttmeier announced. “I have known these kids since they were in 5th grade” she said, adding that she is happy to see them “well rounded.”

Dr. Suttmeier also reported attending a kindergarten concert, where the children not only sang but also moved with the music and recited poetry. She attended the senior prom, where she enjoyed seeing “kids having so much fun with each other, class advisors, and teachers.”

On the topic of creating a memorial for students who die before graduating, the board discussed what form the memorial would take, whose names would qualify for it, and who should participate in planning it. Board Vice President David Kisselburgh suggested a memorial stone, engraved with names, in a courtyard with a bench. Board Member Sumayyah Shabazz suggested a pathway with stones marked with the students’ names and birth dates and “getting art students to help out with the design.” Board Member Carrie Otty suggested it should be in a quiet area.

Though original talk had been about memorializing all students who died before graduation, regardless of the cause, Mr. Kisselburgh focused on those who had committed suicide. “Suicide is an epidemic in the US,” he said. “I don’t want to wait until next year. I don’t want to keep putting it off. I want to do something as expeditiously as possible.”

“I would object if the only way you can get on the stone is by committing suicide,” said a man in the audience. “Kids will get the message that it is the only way you can get engraved in stone.”

“The reason we don’t put suicides’ name in the paper is so kids don’t think that’s the way they can have their day in the sun,” said another.

“We don’t want to glorify suicide,” said Dr. Suttmeier. “But we want to honor families who have lost a diploma.”

Board President Maria McLaughlin wondered whether the memorial should include deceased faculty members. Ms. Otty said that in that case, the person must have died while still working in his or her position, not 20 years after retiring. Otherwise, somebody said, “We would have a cemetery.”

Dr. Suttmeier said the topic should be discussed at the next facilities meeting topic. Other people to consult included Students Against Destructive Decisions and the parents of deceased students.

Also at the meeting the superintendent said that Bard College has offered 14 students from Hudson High School who will be seniors next year the opportunity to take courses for dual high school and college credit. Bard professors would teach the courses, and the credits would be transferrable to CUNY, SUNY, and several private colleges. The students would spend half day at their home high school taking courses necessary for graduation and half a day in Hudson’s Warren Street Academy taking the college-in-high-school course. Tuition would be free in the 2016-17 year.

Students would start the program with a mandatory summer workshop. Dr. Suttmeier explained that the program aimed at “not the top students and those taking AP courses, but the next rank” and “those who would be in the first generation in their family to attend college.”

Dr. Suttmeier also reported attending a meeting of superintendents and state officials to discuss how well the current state curriculum really prepares students for college and careers. Colleges look for “resiliency and perseverance, not necessarily high Regents scores,” she said, while employers look for “communication, not only via computer but also with people.” “College and career readiness is my passion,” she said.

The next school board meeting will take place Monday, June 20, at 7:00 pm at the Hudson High School library.

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