HUDSON–Student voices, the budget, sports, and access to buildings dominated the Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education meeting Monday, March 26.
At the meeting were four high school students who led local participation in the March 14 national Walkout for School Safety: Siddique Ahmed, Pierre Jeune, Nadia Miah, and Tahrima Siha.
“I was so proud of them,” said district Superintendent Maria L Suttmeier. “They were respectful of the school. They were not disruptive. They cooperated with the administration. And their voices were elegant. You can hear how thoughtful they are. They have done a great job. They represent the best of the HCSD.”
Nadia added, “It wasn’t about only Hudson. It was about the whole nation. Death is something we have no control over, but gun violence is.”
Pierre spoke of the need to come together, “regardless of if you are Democrat or Republican.”
Siddique said that some people are embarrassed by their emotions and need places to express themselves safely.
The students plan to talk on a WGXC radio program Wednesday, April 4, from 4 to 6 p.m.
Again this week the meeting began with a budget workshop run by district Business Administrator Sharifa Carbon. The board must determine the percent by which to increase the school tax levy in the 2018-19 school year compared to the current levy. The cap set by the state, which cannot be exceeded with the approval of a supermajority of district voters is an increase of 3.85%.
On the one hand, Dr. Suttmeier said, she feels that percent is “too high.” But she said that a tax increase that asks “too little” could result in curtailing some expansions the District is considering. Areas under consideration for expansion include math, special education and safety programs, as well as Camp Innovation and a STEM lab.
From last to this school year, the tax levy was raised by less than the maximum allowable percent. And the lower the tax levy is for the next school year, the lower the base for the following school year will be, no matter how low the tax cap is then. The next step for district officials is to study budget scenarios using different tax levies.
Ms.Carbon noted that factors going into drafting the budget in addition to the tax cap include uncertainty about state aid and funding policies, the request from several school districts for more funds for both school resource officers and mental health officials, planning for reserve funds, credits to employees for contributions to health insurance, and the loss of income from Questar’s rental of part of the high school building. The 2018-19 budget must be ready to face district voters for approval on May 15.
During the budget workshop Dr. Suttmeier remarked on the seats for the public, which were empty. “We used to have a packed house,” she said.
On another topic, Dr. Suttmeier announced that more High School bleachers should be delivered by April 23 and installed by the first week of May. Board member Sage Carter said that with the high school baseball diamond under reconstruction, the varsity baseball will practice at a Greenport Park, with the district paying both for busses and “a small fee to Greenport.”
Junior varsity and modified baseball teams will use fields at the current intermediate school. Ms. Carter also anticipated ‘public use of the track” when weather improves.
Board member Lucinda Segar asked how “undocumented families” will be able to enter school buildings, once a new security system goes into place. This electronic system will buzz visitors in only after their driver’s licenses pass security checks. This led to a discussion of how anybody without a driver’s license could enter the functional parts of school buildings.
Ms. Segar said that the Catskill Schools have a person “who stays after school hours to buzz people in.”
Also at the meeting:
• The Board accepted with regrets the retirement of two members of the Central Office clerical staff, thanked them for their years of service and wished them well in the years ahead. The retirements are effective at the end of June. Both attended the meeting, and when asked for their retirement plans, included enjoying grandchildren. In addition, Delores De Boer said, “I’m going on to a new phase of my life,” and Bonnie Dykeman said, “Just enjoy life”
• Coordinator of School Improvement April Prestipino noted that State ELA (English language arts) tests begin right after spring break, and the 5th graders will take them by computer
• Ms. Prestipino encouraged interest in both Odyssey of the Mind teams and Camp Innovation.
Board member Linda Hopkins, who teaches at Taconic Hills, said that a teacher “can always tell what kids have support at home.”
The next meeting of the Board of Education will take place Monday, April 9, at the Hudson High School Library, starting with a budget workshop at 6 p.m.