Hudson’s 2020 break plan bumps into Questar’s

HUDSON–Education for careers in education, the 2019-20 school calendar and the budget highlighted the Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education meeting March 11.

District Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier reported on progress developing a Careers in Education curriculum for high school students. Columbia-Greene Community College suggested the students come to its campus for a full set of courses. But there the students would have to pay $200 a credit. Hudson High School currently offers college courses at the high school for one-third the college tuition. These include some courses required of pre-med undergraduates, such as Introductory Psychology. Dr. Suttmeier recommended offering this career track on site at the high school, so more students could afford it.

Dr. Suttmeier also announced that the calendar she will prepare for the 2019-20 school year will differ from Questar III BOCES’ calendar although it usually matches it. Questar’s planned 2019-20 calendar will have a two-week Christmas vacation, with school resuming Monday, January 6. But Dr. Suttmeier plans to resume school in the HCSD Thursday, January 2, after a week-and-a-half vacation. Her reasons include reducing the number of consecutive winter days that poor children will go without free school meals and hourly employees will go without pay. On the other hand, she said, some people warn that in a two-day school week there will be a lot of absences. The superintendent said the main challenge would be determining how the school district students in Questar programs would spend January 2 and 3.

The 23 districts served by Questar III are roughly split on their Christmas vacation preferences, Dr. Suttmeier reported. Some have teacher union contracts that require the two weeks off.

On another topic, Business Administrator Sharifa Carbon spoke about factors affecting the tax cap, tax revenue and lobbying in Albany for education support. “State aid is uncertain; it’s uncertain what our budget will be, but we must move forward,” she said.

Ms. Carbon reported returning from Albany “hopeful that the legislature will reject” a proposal to combine 11 programs–each currently funded separately–into one funding bucket, known as “Services Aid.” These 11 programs are: Transportation; BOCES; Non-BOCES Special Services; Textbooks; Library Materials; Academic Enhancement; Computer Software, Hardware and Technology; Supplemental Public Excess Cost; High Tax Aid; Charter School Transition.

Funding for Services Aid would be based on both need and school size. In Albany, Ms. Carbon joined a group speaking to a state official who explained that combining the programs would give districts “more flexibility” and that other states are adopting this approach.

Ms. Carbon said her group pointed out that their districts already had flexibility and expressed their concerns about the combined funding plan. The official said he would pass their concerns on to Governor Cuomo.

In addition, Ms. Carbon said, the governor would like to direct funds to districts, including small city school districts that have been “underfunded.” HCSD is a small city school district.

In a related matter, Dr. Suttmeier reported that the HCSD paid Questar III $20,000 for 25-days of an expert social studies specialist for the elementary grades. But the specialist left for new job elsewhere and her replacement came on board only this month—too late for 25-day agreement . That leaves the district short $20,000. “This isn’t fair. We’re paying for something we didn’t get,” said Dr. Suttmeier.

All Board members, Ms. Carbon and Assistant Superintendent of School Improvement April Prestipino agreed.

When a board member asked whether the district could credit the excess payment toward a future order from Questar, Ms. Prestipino said, “We’ve tried it before, and they’ve always said no.”

“We’re shareholders in BOSCES. They should be responsible toward us,” said board member Sage Carter.

Board member Charles Parmentier suggested hiring “a specialist on our own.”

Another board member said Questar is a shared service meant to reduce costs for its constituents.

Also at the meeting, Dr. Suttmeier reported that the HCSD’s computers have developed a tendency to crash unusually frequently during school time, much to the inconvenience, annoyance, and frustration of administrators and students alike. The matter is under investigation. But if the problem continues too long, Ms. Prestipino said she will see whether the student assessment tests scheduled to be taken by computer can be changed to paper.

The next meeting of the HCSD Board of Education will be Monday, March 25, at the Hudson High School library. It will begin with a budget workshop at 6:00 pm followed by the regular meeting at 6:30.

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