Hudson speeds up school security measures

HUDSON–Security, budget designing and firefighter recruitment highlighted the Hudson City School (HCSD) District Board of Education meeting Monday, February 26.

For security, Superintendent Dr. Maria L. Suttmeier announced:

1. Many school doors are to be fitted with alarms “very quickly.”

2. Starting September, visitors to school buildings will enter foyers, separated from the rest of the building, and have to stay there until their driver’s licenses pass security checks. School Resource Officer Jake Hoffman of the Hudson Police Department said that Ichabod Crane and Chatham schools already use such a system.

3. Around April 20, a panel discussion about school safety and gun issues will take place at a HCSD school.

4. The District is “tightening links with the Columbia County Department of Social Services” for when a “students shows a mental health red flag.”

“I have received emails from parents asking if the school has metal detectors,” Dr. Suttmeier said. It does not now. “I don’t want to be a fortress. I don’t want to give the impression of this city school being dangerous.” Furthermore, metal detectors are “not foolproof,” she said. If you are bringing in a gun, “you don’t go through the metal detector; you figure out another way to get in.”

“But,” she continued, “if people want metal detectors,” she will consider them and she has already discussed them with Hudson Police Chief L. Edward Moore.

Board Vice President Maria McLaughlin said her non-urban school in about 1995 “had a metal detector and it was like nothing” to the people who got used to going through it every day.

Officer Hoffman said “a metal detector is a deterrent.”

Several students attended the meeting for a sociology class and Dr. Suttmeier invited them to speak. One did. “I don’t know about the metal detector,” the young man said. Already other schools “don’t think highly of this school.”

“When something like [the Florida shooting] happens, I feel it heavily on my shoulders, heart, and mind,” said Dr. Suttmeier.

Meanwhile, budget building time for the 2018-19 school year has begun. The February 26 meeting opened with the first of four budget workshops ahead of a budget hearing April 17 and the budget vote May 14. For this meeting, School Business Administrator Sharifa Carbon overviewed budget considerations.

The maximum school tax levy increase allowed this year will be 3.85%. Last year, the District increased the school tax by less than the allowed percent. However, Ms. Carbon mentioned a need to talk about “the sustainability of going below the tax increase cap,” because a lower tax levy one year means a lower base for the following year, no matter how low its tax cap. Thus a lower than possible tax one year is “a cost for future years.”

Other considerations in the budget include:

• Maintaining the state support that helped the district improve its academic status

• Social/emotional support for students and staff

• Special education

• English as a New Language

• Maintaining financial reserves for unforeseen expenses

• Governor Cuomo’s proposal to cap increases in state funding for buildings, transportation and BOCES services at 2% a year; and his proposal to change the formula for reimbursing districts for summer special education. With the new formula, the Hudson district would lose 22%. At an earlier meeting Ms. Carbon said some of these changes had been proposed before but had never passed. But now, she said February 26, “with so many political things happening, proposals that wouldn’t go through before now could.”

Ms. Carbon said, “We want to give the students what they need while being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money.”

Also at the meeting, James Brady of the Columbia County Volunteer Firefighters’ Association asked to visit the school on two days in April in order “to entice young people” to explore joining the force. The fire service has lost 20% of its individuals, he said, and gave as one reason “young people don’t know what” volunteer firefighting really includes. He mentioned benefits for firefighters.

He and the board spoke about his setting up an informational table by the cafeteria at lunchtime.

All firefighters in Columbia County are volunteers.

The next meeting of the HCSD Board of Education is Monday, March 12, at 6 p.m., at the Hudson High School library. It starts a half-hour early to allow for another budget workshop at the beginning.

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