Hudson pleased by students’ progress but not by U.S. cuts

HUDSON–A new associate principal, new teachers, robocalls, the Warren Street Academy and a federal grant reduction highlighted the Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education meeting Monday, July 24.

Alyssa Sabbatino was welcomed as the new associate principal of Hudson Junior High School. She will work with Principal Derek Reardon. “Student engagement is my main priority,” Ms. Sabbatino said.

Her additional objectives include that: discipline be “restorative”; instruction be differentiated; individualized be based on students’ needs; and teachers be “empowered.”

After years in the Schenectady school system, Ms. Sabbatino gave her reason for taking the position in Hudson, saying, “I feel it’s a perfect opportunity to use my expertise.”

Meghan Sullivan and Nicole Warren, two new classroom teachers for the Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School, were also presented. About all three staff additions, Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier said, “The important thing is that they want to be in this district. They want to be Blue Hawks.”

Board President Carrie Otty raised the topic of robocalls to parents with limited English skills and suggested they have the option of receiving such messages in a language they understand better.

“We’re trying to keep them engaged in the district,” she said.

Dr. Suttmeier said that despite the suggestion’s merits, preparing each message in different languages and dividing the call list by language would take time and resources. For some cases, like announcing snow days, she usually does not have a translator at the ready.

April Prestipino, coordinator of school improvement, called attention to a program called Living Tree, which “allows people to receive messages in different languages.”

She acknowledged that “it’s hard to sign people up for it.”

But Dr. Suttmeier said that looking into how the district might use Living Tree is “a great idea.”

Also at the meeting Dr. Suttmeier reported improvements at the Warren Street Academy’s Alternate Transition Program (ATP) for youths whose chance of graduating from high school might be better there instead of a conventional high school. In the 2016-17 school year, 80% of the academy’s students passed over all, up from 68% in 2014-15. In 2016-17, 54% passed the Regents exams, up from 30% in 2015-16 and 24% in 2014-15.

“Attendance has increased and significant incidents have decreased,” Dr. Suttmeier reported, adding, “They’re getting better.” Furthermore, she said, some students who graduated this year did so because of the ATP.

“As kids cross the stage, I know their story,” the superintendent said. One student she had known, faced personal and academic difficulties from kindergarten through junior high, Dr. Suttmeier thought the student would drop out. But this student attended the ATP and graduated this year, wearing business clothes under the cap and gown. “I’m proud,” Dr. Suttmeier said.

The ATP, also called the Bridge, has about 35 students from the Hudson and Catskill districts. The Berkshire Union Free School supplies the faculty.

In other business:

• Ms. Prestipino reported a 50% cut ($85,000) in federal Title 2 grants for class size reduction and professional development. The district uses Title 2 money to pay for some kindergarten teachers. State education officials had warned the district to expect cuts but not ones so large. The federal government, Ms. Prestipino said, wants to eliminate Title 2 altogether.

“We’re glad to be financially secure and have a surplus in this area,” she said. “I’m thankful that we’re able to have for our students what we have now.” But “future budgets must be more aggressive”

• Dr. Suttmeier reported official state approval for moving the 2nd grade from John L. Edwards Primary School and adding it to the Intermediate School

• Ms. Otty said some coaches had said the new athletic bleachers look smaller than the previous seating and expressed concern about seating capacity for large events. Dr. Suttmeier said she would pursue that matter.

The next meeting of the Board of Education will be Monday, August 14 at the Intermediate School. It will begin with a 6 p.m. tour of the section remodeled for second graders and continue with the regular meeting at 6:30.

The switch of meeting site to the Intermediate School is because of the tour. But the starting time for regular School Board meetings has been changed to 6:30 p.m. (from 7) for the school year starting this month.

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