Hudson School District tells public: Have a seat

HUDSON–Old auditorium seats, new staff, softball and baseball were topics highlighted at Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting July 17.

The auditorium of Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School (MCS) is getting new seats this summer, and the district is offering 60 to 70 of the old seats to the public. At first, the district tried auctioning off all of the more than 500 seats. But the call for bidders got only one response, and the bidder looked at the seats and decided against buying them.

The old seats had to be removed quickly in order for the new seats to be installed in time for the new school year. But first Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier suggested “getting to the people who have a spiritual connection” to the old seats and the board discussed how to reach these people.

“We should err on the side of community outreach,” said Board member Linda Hopkins.

Within a few days, most of the seats were thrown out, but the 60 to 70 in the best condition remain, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds George Keeler reported by phone July 22. These seats are in the MCS auditorium for now. They are “in groups of six, hooked together. As far as I know, individuals can get seats, for some kind of donation,” said Mr. Keeler. But he emphasized that decisions on their fate and who can get them is in the hands of the district’s head office.

At last week’s board meeting, board member Sage Carter had suggested offering the old seats to TSL and Basilica, two performance art venues in Hudson.

But board member Justin Elliott cautioned, “We shouldn’t seem as if we’re favoring them over other venues or the public” He also said, “We should set a date, publish it, and say if you want any seats, respond by that date,” he said.

Also at the July 17 meeting Dr. Suttmeier introduced four new staff members:

• James Boyle, head of maintenance. Mr. Boyle said he served 14 years in the Navy, serves currently in the National Guard, and “look[s] forward to being part of the team”

• Meredith Goth, speech/language pathologist, said she was “excited to get started and know the kids here”

• Kayla Lamb, school psychologist, said she had graduated from Marist College and had experience with young people from pre-school through high school, including with incarcerated youth

• Christine M. Mavrikis, 3rd grade teacher, said she got her degrees from SUNY New Paltz. Dr. Suttmeier said what impressed her about Ms. Mavrikis was her “enthusiasm for teaching.”

On the athletic side, the varsity softball facility needs modifications to protect players and spectators from fly balls and to allow more comfortable game-watching. These modifications require more space. Two proposals for obtaining this space include filling in the drainage ditch behind the field and moving the field about 20 feet.

Filling in the ditch could interfere with necessary drainage, and moving the field would put it undesirably close to another field. But now, Ms. Carter reported, Mr. Keeler has said it is possible to build alternate drainage. Therefore, filling in the ditch is back on the table. With the additional flat ground, “we would do a new back stop,” said Ms. Carter.

Dr. Suttmeier said the district would install 5-tier portable bleachers, capable of holding 100 to 200 people, behind home plate. In addition, she acknowledged, the softball community has “opted for smaller dugouts,” than originally proposed. Softball coach Don Conte has advocated the smaller dugouts.

Ms. Hopkins asked whether the Board would vote on plans for the softball field.

“No formal vote is needed,” said Dr. Suttmeier.

“We’ll talk with the softball community,” said Ms. Carter.

Meanwhile, the District plans to upgrade the Varsity baseball field behind MCS. But enclosing it in a 10-foot high fabric-covered fence would make athletic facilities behind MCS “single use,” pointed out Gary Sheffer who once played baseball for Hudson High School. “Think of all the uses it could have! It used to have field days. Open yourself to the public! The MCS site is not a run-of-the-mill field. It’s a historic structure. It was designed by Laurie D. Cox and opened as part of Hudson’s 150th anniversary.”

Mr. Cox was a prominent landscape engineer and sports enthusiast, according to Wikipedia. Although the athletic facilities behind MCS have been used for school sports, they and the school were designed and opened separately. According to the 1935 Sesquicentennial Program for the City of Hudson, the Board of Education acquired the 28-acre tract that holds both the athletic facilities and the school in 1931. Mr. Cox designed the athletic facilities; Tooker and Marsh, prominent school architects, designed the building, for a high school. The fields ended up being built three years before the school.

The MCS building served as Hudson’s High School until 1972, when the High School moved to its present location, and MCS filled with younger students. The high school has fields of its own now, but some high school sports continued at the MCS facilities. Nearby residents use the tennis courts and track. Football and soccer moved to the high school grounds in 2017. Mr. Sheffer suggested baseball do the same.

“Our original plan was to move varsity baseball over to the high school grounds in the capital project,” explained Dr. Suttmeier. “But the baseball community came to us and said they wanted to stay at MCS.” They it has better wind and sun for their game.

Also at the meeting, Mr. Elliott said there are still traffic issues at MCS. Cars are starting to use the bike/walking path.

The next meeting of the Hudson City School District Board of Education is Tuesday, August 6, at 6:30 p.m. at the MCS auditorium. This is a different location than the usual meetings.

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