HUDSON–The 2019-20 budget, course cuts and proposals, Columbus Day and pool parties were among the topics addressed at the Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education meeting April 8.
The board passed a budget proposal that calls for spending $49,792,463 in the 2019-20 school year. This includes a tax levy 2.3% higher than last year’s even though the state tax cap formula would have allowed the district to increase the tax levy by up to 2.5%.
The lower tax increase “give[s] something back to the community,” because this year the district can afford to do so, said Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier, who presented the budget proposal. This will be the third straight year that the HCSD school tax levy will increase by less than the allowed maximum.
Business Administrator Sharifa Carbon announced that the state budget includes an increase in foundation aid and maintains separate funding for several programs that Governor Cuomo originally proposed consolidating into one bucket.
Proposed school budgets face voters for approval May 21.
Dr. Suttmeier announced that the district will discontinue teaching Italian this September unless it can find a replacement for the current Italian teacher, who is retiring. “What happens to students who are currently in the Italian tract?” asked board member Charles Parmentier.
“We’re speaking with the Italian-American Club and also considering distance learning,” Dr. Suttmeier replied. With the loss of Italian, the HCSD would offer its students only Spanish as a foreign language. Teachers for other foreign languages are hard to find. “When the University of Albany cut their foreign language department, that hurt us,” Dr. Suttmeier said.
But she added that the district will start offering American Sign Language when it finds a teacher.
Mr. Parmentier asked whether there is any chance of restoring physics.
“We need to find the right teacher,” Dr. Suttmeier replied. Later she said that the district stopped offering its students physics a few years ago because not enough students were interested in taking it to justify a class.
Assistant Superintendent of School Improvement April Prestipino announced not only that “our students were fine” doing the ELA assessment on paper–the computerized versions of the tests experienced problems in some schools. The tests also saw a high percent of student participation. Preliminary reports say only 20 students in 6th through 8th grade and 11 students in elementary grades opted out of the tests. Both Ms. Prestipino and Dr. Suttmeier were pleased with what they described as the “remarkable improvement” in test participation.
Plans for the 2019-20 year call for seven kindergarten classes: five for conventional one-year kindergarten, one for the first year of two-year kindergarten, and one for the second year of kindergarten. The second year of kindergarten will be for children who end kindergarten judged still unready for first grade. The first year of two-year kindergarten will be for children who will need more than one year of preparation before first grade, according to the results of kindergarten screening. Board member Sage Carter asked if parents who disagreed with their child’s assignment to one-year or two-year kindergarten would have any appeal. Dr. Suttmeier recommended the board spell out the decision chain clearly before enacting the decision policy.
In discussing the school calendar, board member Maria McLaughlin asked, “Why do we still have Columbus Day? How about renaming it Indigenous People’s Day?”
Human Resources Manager Rachel Rissetto reported knowing of one other school district that has done so. Dr. Suttmeier said that decision is “up to the board,” but “we follow Questar’s lead,” she said, referring to the BOCES district. Upcoming salary negotiations with teachers can lead to calendar revisions, and “we should have a larger conversation on the matter,” the superintendent said.
Ms. Carter suggested the need to revise the policy of letting the community use the high school pool for parties. “People tell us they’re bringing about 10 kids and then come with about 15,” she said. “We have no control over where they are. I’ve seen them running up and down the halls. We don’t have enough weekend staff.” This situation increases the chances of a liability issue. Suggestions for considering included a minimum number of adults per children and restricted doorways. “I appreciate the board opening the pool for our community,” said Dr. Suttmeier. “It’s not easy to turn the community away.”
The pool will be closed over the summer for maintenance.
Also at the meeting:
• Student Representative Kyle Ublacker, a senior, said that upon graduation he will enter the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs
• Ms. Carter announced that the back stairs at the Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School are going to be replaced over the summer either with new, heated stairs or with a heated ramp
She also reported a sidewalk is being built from the Crosswinds development to the Elementary School
• Dr. Suttmeier observed that the district now has two school resource officers: one from the County Sheriff’s Office, and one from the Hudson Police Department.
The next meeting of the HCSD Board of Education will be Tuesday, April 16, at 6:30 p.m. at the Hudson High School library and will replace the usual Monday meeting.