Teacher shortage saddles Hudson with language barriers

HUDSON–American Sign Language (ASL) will replace all “foreign languages” except Spanish, due to lack of teachers, the Hudson City School District Board of Education verified at its May 7 meeting.

The board also received updates last week on the May 21 budget vote and board election, and the high percentage of students who took state assessment tests.

The high school’s Spanish program will continue. But the Italian language teacher is retiring, and there is no replacement to be found. So starting with the 2019-20 school year, the district will no longer offer Italian.

“I’m disappointed,” Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier said. She expressed hope that students taking Italian in 8th grade this year will be able to continue taking it for two more years with a teacher who knows the language, although it is “out of his certification area.” But Italian was the last foreign language other than Spanish that the district still offered. Once its last class ends, the district will cease offering any foreign language instruction other than Spanish.

“We put out a posting for a teacher of any foreign language other than Spanish—especially Mandarin, which could excite some students—but we found no one,” Dr. Suttmeier reported. “We used to get our language teachers from the University of Albany’s foreign language programs,” but the University of Albany cut that program, she conceded.

At the meeting the board approved hiring a teacher for ASL. High School Principal Antonio Abitabile and Associate Principal Robert LaCasse say there is strong interest in ASL, Dr. Suttmeier reported. The incoming teacher is certified in teaching other topics to the deaf and hard of hearing but can teach ASL while preparing for the test to obtain certification.

The meeting also included a public hearing about the district’s proposed 2019-20 budget, which faces voters May 21, but nobody from the community was present. Dr. Suttmeier indicated that people assume the schools will keep functioning, but schools need citizen authorization to spend the money necessary to provide their services. Dr. Suttmeier encouraged a get-out-the-vote effort, including in the District’s outlying areas.

The May 21 election ballot will contain not only the proposed budget but also a candidate for the School Board and space to write in the names for more board members. Three board terms are expiring, but only one incumbent is running to continue her position. The other two spaces will have to be filled by write-in or appointment, because no other qualified person submitted a formal petition to run for the seat.

The one candidate whose name will appear on the ballot is Willette Jones, who has been on the board since 2016 and been its vice president since 2018. She and her four children were educated in the Hudson District; she graduated from Hudson High School in 1988. Any write-in candidates who receive enough votes to join the Board will be seated only after their qualifications and their willingness to serve are checked. They may be able to speed the process by attending the election night meeting May 21 and bringing identification and proof of residence, Board Clerk Leslie Coons said.

On another matter, Assistant Superintendent of School Improvement April Prestipino announced that only 17 elementary school students and 21 junior high students refused to take the state assessment math test this spring. The refusal rate for math was “as low as for ELA [English Language Arts],” she said with satisfaction. Now, the district can estimate the pertinent skill levels of “all students, not just some.”

Student Representative Kyle Ublacker gave a slide show of a senior seminar in which three students presented how and why they settled on the college they will be attending.

The next meeting of the Hudson Board of Education will happen on a different day, time and place than usual. The meeting will be held Tuesday, May 21, at 9 p.m. at the fire house at North 7th and Washington streets in Hudson, to get the election results.

The meetings after the school elections will return to Mondays starting June 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the high school library.

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