At Hudson, smaller headcount means better class sizes

HUDSON–High school electives, the up side of declining enrollment, the first weeks of school and construction updates received attention at the Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting September 17.

The meeting opened with a “curriculum workshop” of presentations by three teachers of elective courses in Hudson High School: Victoria Dougherty–Food Entrepreneurship; Liz Albino—Art; and Phil Gebhardt–Graphic Design.

All three presenters, as well as Hudson High School principal Dr. Antonio Abitabile, spoke about college courses in high school under auspices of SUNY Cobleskill. Some courses available to Hudson students earn them both high school and college credit. Students attend them in the High School building, paying less tuition than they would in college. SUNY Cobleskill oversees some of these courses; Columbia-Greene Community College (CGCC) the others. The Cobleskill partnership started this year; the CGCC partnership has been going on for several years.

High school senior Jasmin Ahmed praised the Art Department. She said she has been taking art since she was a freshman. Her classes have included studio art, drawing and painting, and digital photography. “I haven’t been a good art student, but I’ve enjoyed it.” As for future plans, she said, “I’m really interested in political science and international relations, but I plan to do photography on the side.”

Dr. Abitabile said that because of all the advanced elective courses, “We’re seeing specialization in high school. The students aren’t happy about it. They want to take 15 courses, but we have only eight time slots.”

Dr. Abitabile also reported that High School enrollment is the “smallest it’s ever been. You can feel it. There’s s noticeable difference in the hallways and cafeteria.” But he added, “classes are finally the right size,” and “schedules are running well, maybe because we have so few students.” In addition, with fewer standard class sessions required for each course, “we’re able to put our manpower into support sessions,” for extra help in science, social studies, math, and–for the first time in years for the High School–reading.

The principals of the District’s three buildings reported on the first two weeks of school. Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School (MCS) had a “much smoother opening than last year,” said Principal Mark Brenneman, despite “a lot of new staff.” This year’s curriculum includes a “new focus on science,” he added. In addition, the Breakfast with Dad program was “one of the smoothest and most well-attended” ever.

Derek Reardon, principal of Hudson Junior High, and Mr. Brenneman both spoke of their schools’ “continuing our journey with AVID,” the Advancement Via Individual Determination, a college-readiness program.

Dr. Abitabile said he advises teachers not to give out syllabi the first day lest they overwhelm the students.

District Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier reported that as of her conversations with George Keeler, superintendent of buildings and grounds:

• Six prefabricated dugouts are planned; two for the varsity baseball field at MCS, the others for fields behind the high school. The dugouts will take six to eight weeks for assembly and should arrive by mid-October. Upon arrival, they will need to be bolted to concrete slabs. The varsity baseball dugouts will have some different features than the softball dugouts

• On the MCS field, “We’re” removing the old dugouts and grandstand and “working with a fencing company to get prices” on a new permanent fence around the baseball diamond. Plans call for saving the old grandstand’s brick for other projects and grinding up its concrete to put in the ravine. For safety, the new permanent fence will be six feet high in some places; four feet high in others

• The high school weight room and athletic lockers are undergoing upgrades

• At MCS, the new sidewalks are finished and the auditorium is “moving along”

• The walking track around the MCS field will end up with an adjusted shape. “Is it still a quarter of a mile?” asked Board member Linda Hopkins. “Yes,” answered Dr. Suttmeier.

Also at the meeting:

• Business Administrator Sharifa Carbon was the subject of an article by the Association of School Business Officials, announced Board member Justin Elliott

• Dr. Suttmeier introduced Megan Grandinetti, a new nurse at MCS starting in October. Ms. Grandinetti said she attended the HCSD until 5th grade, went to Columbia Greene Community College, and “always wanted to be a school nurse”

• The Board accepted the retirement of Ellen Miller, currently Dr. Abitabile’s “right hand,” after 18 years with the District, as of November 1

• The High School pool is open, but its water temperature is about 10 degrees lower than expected, and “they’re addressing it,” reported Dr. Suttmeier.

The next meeting of the Hudson City School District Board of Education will take place Tuesday, October 1 at 6:30 pm at the Hudson High School library.

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