HUDSON–An optimistic audit, a new board member, assessment testing by computer, staff vacancies and a money game in an economics classroom highlighted the Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education meeting Monday December 18.
“You’re financially moving in the right direction,” external auditor Scott Preusser told the board. Reasons he gave include:
• Financial reserves are growing. Only a few years ago the District had none
• For the Capital Project, the district spent less money than was budgeted for 2016-2017 because some bids came in lower than expected. The district also delayed borrowing money for it until months later than planned, thus reducing interest charges, a point reiterated Business Administrator Sharifa Carbon
• Food Services took in over $65,000 more than it spent.
Addressing another matter the board appointed Lucinda “Lucy” Segar to fill its seventh seat, which had been vacant since a resignation last month. Ms. Segar has lived in the district for five years, has taught at Kite’s Nest, and currently teaches 12th grade English in Catskill. She has no children.
“I want to contribute to my community, while finding out how school boards work,” she said. “It will be a learning experience.”
Originally from Amherst, Massachusetts, Ms. Segar studied writing at Columbia University, studied education at Bard, taught at Fashion Institute of Technology and lived in New York City before coming to Hudson.
In addition to Ms. Segar, the Board includes another teacher among its members. Linda Hopkins teaches at Taconic Hills.
Regarding upcoming state assessments, fifth graders will take their ELA (English Language Arts) test and eight graders will take their math test by computer, while students will continue to take all other 3rd-8th grade assessments by pencil and paper, Coordinator of School Improvement April Prestipino announced. Starting in an as-yet unspecified future year, all students will have to take all such tests by computer, she has said at previous meetings, and the district should start preparing itself step by step instead of having to do it all at once. For the first step, Ms. Prestipino said at the December 18 meeting, district officials want to computerize one ELA test in one grade and one math test in another grade. Now, she said, “We will see their results.”
Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier called attention to openings for district employees. “We want to build up an inventory of staff,” she said. “We aren’t anticipating cuts.”
One opening is for a behavior specialist. The district hired someone for that position over the summer, but then a personal situation prevented her from actually coming, and the district has not found a qualified replacement. Another, Dr. Suttmeier continued, is to replace a special education teacher who left. This teacher’s students were divided up—most sent to other classes, but one travels to another district.
Ms. Carbon spoke about raising the wages of substitute maintenance people to compete with other districts. She also noted that the HCSD has a shortage of all substitutes.
The meeting was preceded by a curriculum workshop, with presentations by Hudson High School teachers Laura Bender (economics), Scott Vorwald (music) and Gail Wheeler (writing).
Ms. Bender’s classes include personal finance, and this year she has woven that topic into the curriculum via Classonomics, a game (activity) in which students get imaginary money for each day of class attendance, use it to pay rent for their desk, fees for use of classroom objects, and fines for various infractions. They can earn more from classroom jobs, which they apply to do. As Ms. Bender encourages “entrepreneurial activities,” students have expressed interest in “buying” classroom items and renting them to their classmates. How much imaginary money one has at the end of a quarter, compared to their goal, contributes to their grade.
Dr. Suttmeier asked if this program has led to “a change in behavior.”
“I have nothing to compare them with,” replied Ms. Bender. She said students were already conscientious when they started. But Ms. Bender added, “I’d like to see how it works with other students.”
Mr. Vorwald talked about his Music Theory and Technology class. Ms. Wheeler, who brought two former students to join her presentation, runs the writing center, which helps students with—among other writing—essays for college admission and scholarship. It sometimes stays open until 8:30 pm, with some students coming after their sports practice.
Also at the meeting, Dr. Suttmeier reported that:
• “Across the state, the chief concern of superintendents is the mental health of students”
• Questar III is starting a one-year program from which students will emerge as certified Emergency Medical Technicians
• A full-day program for students to learn how to operate heavy equipment is under consideration. Needed for this is a location suitable for such training and close to where students live.
The next meeting of the HCSD Board of Education will take place Monday, January 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the Hudson High School.