Solid finances allow Hudson to consider future goals

HUDSON–A positive financial report, goals for after 2020, the AVID program, and uses of school grounds highlighted the Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education’s two most recent meetings, October 1 and 15.

“Overall, your district is in good financial condition,” External Auditor Scott Preusser reported at the October 1 meeting. “Your asset-to-liability ratio keeps increasing. Your budget was tighter this year than last year, but overall your position is strong.”

Now that the district has a reserve fund, Mr. Preusser suggested earmarking part of it for the capital projects. After all, someone at the meeting said, as one capital project finishes, the next is in mind.

“We’ve been working on goals” for after 2020, schools Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier announced at the October 15 meeting. Currently, the HCSD is aiming for a package of goals called Vision 2020. But with 2020 so near, there is also a need to prepare the next goal package, and Dr. Suttmeier said she will send a survey to faculty and administrators. The survey will ask for both evaluations of Vision 2020 goals and suggestions for future goals. The Vision 2020 goals were important and essential, she said, but added, “I don’t know if they spoke to every one.”

The AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) college-preparation technique has reached all 5th graders and a group of 7th graders in the district this year. It received attention at both meetings. With AVID, “teachers can still teach in their individual way, but the material is the same” in all classes of each grade, Dr. Suttmeier said. All students within the grade get lessons in the same skills, knowledge, and organizational techniques.

Mark Brenneman, principal of Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School (MCS), said that AVID “brings us together as a district” with the same expectation in all classes.

A 5th grade teacher said, “I’ve been in the district since 1996. I’ve seen programs come and go, and I’m really enthusiastic about AVID.”

All AVID students, regardless of grade, have a loose-leaf binder organized the same way with the same color tab for each subject. The binders are checked and graded once a week. “The kids are really enthusiastic about the binders,” said another 5th grade teacher.

For the AVID 7th graders, the district needs volunteers to work with individual students who would bring academic problems to them. The volunteers would come to the junior high school twice a week. To find them Assistant Superintendent April Prestipino recruited high school juniors and seniors who are taking at least one advanced class and have a study hall. She went to their study hall with fliers about the volunteer opportunities and seven potential volunteers responded positively. Their next step is training for the role. “Some people want college students or even adults for this position, but we think fellow students are the best,” said Ms. Prestipino.

Addressing another matter, on October 1, the board authorized the transfer of “such sums as are necessary” from the district’s unassigned fund balance to pay for upgrades to the baseball field at MCS and the softball fields at the high school. These upgrades “shall include but may not be limited to the construction of dugouts” and a fence. The cost is “estimated not to exceed $300,000.”

On October 15, board member Sage Carter reported that putting up a six-foot fence for safety around the MCS baseball outfield is okay and that that field’s “concessions and bathrooms don’t need replacing.”

In other business:

• The district plans to let the state acquire a 12-foot-wide strip of district land near the high school for the Empire State Trail segment on Harry Howard Avenue. Dr. Suttmeier announced the agreement October 1, saying it is best for the state to take the land, because “we don’t want liability issues.”

The trail will have features that will make walking to and from the schools safer. More details will come to light as the state develops the project

• “We’re considering expanding to halal food,” in the cafeteria, Dr. Suttmeier reported, after Mr. Preusser reported that the school lunch program’s operating fund balance is “three months ahead”

• Dr. Suttmeier reported that she and Business Administrator Sharifa Carbon have met with technology experts about internet connectivity issues. “Sometimes I have to communicate by phone, because we can’t do it by computers,” the superintendent said at the October 1 meeting. She added that the district is “working on a permanent solution”

• At the October 15 meeting high school technology teacher Jack Beyer rolled in a cart painted like a school bus with a green seat for two students. School bus safety lessons will use this cart. Mr. Beyer said he made it mostly by himself over the summer, at the request of HCSD Transportation Director Nikki DeDominicis.

The November meetings of the HCSD Board of Education will take place Tuesday, November 5, at 6:30 p.m. at the high school library and November 19, at 6 p.m. in the junior high school library.

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