Principal implores board to find him a new role

HUDSON–The principal of the school slated to close in June asked the Board of Education this week to find a way for him to continue working for the Hudson City School District (HCSD).

The meeting Monday, March 12 also included discussion of lunchtime detention and a budget workshop focused on the tax levy.

The district will close the John L. Edwards Primary School (JLE) this June. In September its grades–pre-kindergarten through first–will move to the Montgomery C. Smith School, which currently has 2nd through 5th grades.

“I want to stay out of dedication,” JLE Principal Steven Spicer told the board March 12. “I know if you put your heads together, you can find a place and a title for me in the new building.

“Next year will be an upheaval for the 130 children…. They are losing their educational home. All the major routines of their lives are about to change, and one of the most important people they look to for stability and safety [may] not be there. I promise you, when the children begin their first day in their new school, they will ask where Mr. Spicer is. Either I will be there to welcome them to their new school, reassure them that all is well and ease their adjustment, or I won’t,” he said.

“Having someone they know and love to help them and their families through this transition is a game changer. There is no way the district can lose with this,” he said.

He said kindergarten orientation program in a new building is complicated and said that children and their parents would be anxious. “When they let go of their parents’ hands, they took mine. They and their parents knew they were safe, they were loved, they would be educated,” Mr. Spicer said, adding that he wants to remain with the districts “for one more year to help our babies adjust to all the upcoming changes and challenges.

“I need you to find a way to help me stay.”

The board did not discuss or take action on his request during the regular session of the meeting.

On another topic, board member Sage Carter raised objections to the practice of punishing children by making them miss recess. With “lunchtime detention,” a child eats lunch in a detention room and stays there during recess time. Ms. Carter pointed out that these children miss needed physical activity, because lunchtime is the only opportunity for them to be active on days when their class does not have gym.

Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier indicated that some administrators see lunchtime detention as the only way to make children do homework they otherwise would not do. Coordinator of School Improvement April Prestipino observed that lunchtime detention is sometimes a compromise between classroom punishment and suspension.

The topic of which infractions warrant lunchtime detention was discussed. Board member Linda Hopkins indicated that the prospect of lunchtime detention had had a positive effect on some children, but “if someone has been in it 25 times, it’s not working” for that child.”

Turning to another matter, the board recognized teachers about to retire, including Gary Finelli, who teaches art, and Deborah Sweet, who teaches 2nd grade. Mr. Finelli has been teaching since 1973, the last 21 years in Hudson. He said one of his most positive experiences has been running into former students, sometimes years after their graduation, and their telling him, “I remember a lesson you taught us in third grade.”

Ms. Sweet has been teaching 2nd and 1st grade for 37 years, her “whole teaching career” in the HCSD. “I grew a lot here,” she said.

The meeting began with Business Administrator Sharifa Carbon reviewing the budget situation, charging the board to decide the school tax levy. This year the Hudson District will be allowed to increase the tax levy by no more than 3.85% over last year’s unless more than 60% of district voters approve a larger tax hike.

For other districts in Columbia County, to date, the maximum tax levy increase ranges from 2.62% to 3.89%. Inflation was more of a factor this year than it was last.

Dr. Suttmeier said, “I don’t think that 3.85 [%] is warranted, but the less base we have next year, the less we will have in future years.”

Ms. Carbon said that other points to consider included:

• “2018-19 will be the first year we will not have a lease for Questar” to use part of the High School for its nursing program.

• With homeowners no longer able to deduct state and local taxes because of the new federal tax law, “people are looking at things differently.”

Ms. Carter asked, “If we increase the tax levy, will it be used to keep going existing programs or for new programs?”

Dr. Suttmeier said “We are reducing class size. Our classes are way too big,” and, “We’re looking at career development and occupational studies, as part of destination graduation to occupation.”

Also at the meeting:

• Dr. Suttmeier praised all the police forces that responded promptly to the March 6 bomb threat and said it had shown the need for a better system for communicating with parents

• The superintendent and board members discussed how well district students had improved in reading, and how—despite dedicated teachers—the district still needs to improve math scores

• Ms. Prestipino announced that registration was beginning for Camp Invention, a one-week camp from July 9-13, on school grounds, where children get creative technological challenges.

The next meeting of the HCSD Board of Education will take place Monday, March 26 at the Hudson High School Library, beginning with a budget workshop at 6 p.m.

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