She leaves school board with praise and advice

HUDSON—Being on the school board has enabled Linda Hopkins to see the Hudson City School District (HCSD) from several angles, and much of what she has seen is positive, she said on May 22, with about a month remaining in her five-year term.

The HCSD is “lucky that its board is made of a lot of educators, moms and dads, whose priority is the children,” Ms. Hopkins said. In addition, “We are very lucky to have a superintendent and an assistant superintendent whose priorities are the children and who want to work with the teachers and the community.”

In contrast, Ms. Hopkins continued, “I’ve worked in districts where the school board wants to keep taxes down, and many members see the board as a steppingstone to political office. Some members have not had children in public school in the past 30 years.”

Both Ms. Hopkins and her husband are teachers. Her husband has also been a school administrator. Between them, they have years of experience working for several school districts and education systems. Their two children attend Hudson city schools. So, Ms. Hopkins said, she has experienced the viewpoints of teachers, administrators, families and the board.

Typically, she observed, teachers are in their classrooms, administrators are in their own spaces and there is little communication between them.

‘It was an honor to work with everybody.’

Linda Hopkins, HCSD board member

She did not seek reelection

Some school boards have an “us-against-them” attitude. She’s thankful Hudson’s does not, and that is one of the HCSD’s good points, she said.

Ms. Hopkins said that at this stage of her life, she does not have the time for “the effort it takes to do a good job on the board.” So she decided not stay on it when her current term expires June 30. But she said she will be sad to leave.

Things she will miss include addressing her own children’s school issues expeditiously and interacting with the other board members. “It was an honor to work with everybody,” she said.

Bringing “a variety of experiences into decision making” is one value of a school board, and the HCSD board has that variety, Ms. Hopkins said.

As a parent on the board, she can cite her children’s experiences to raise issues that would have come up later if at all. This helps these issues “trickle up” to the administration, she said.

On the Board, Ms. Hopkins got “to understand what the board is responsible for and what it can and cannot do. Many teachers don’t understand what the administrators are dealing with and what the board can do. Sometimes we had to make decisions based on state and federal policies, and these did hurt some people’s feelings.” She said she made sure the board at least include reasons for its decisions.

One of the best things the board did during Ms. Hopkins’ tenure happened when the school district building a new addition on Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School to hold more grades, in 2016 through 2018. The architect presented a plan for the addition, but the board wanted a “school community,” and decided that the plan was not good for that purpose. So the board got the plans modified. “The way it looks now is because we worked as a group.”

Asked what advice she would give the new board, Ms. Hopkins said:

“Focus on making sure the kids have the best education possible to grow into their best selves” and, “Realize that the most important power that a school board has is to listen to the details of what is being proposed, explained and described. Ask clarifying questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question. You’re the administration’s additional eyes and ears.”

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