Hudson seeks Rescue funds to fix elementary gym

HUDSON—Gym repairs using federal pandemic Rescue funds, new teachers, new administrators and the search for a new superintendent dominated the Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting September 7.

District Business Administrator Jesse Boehme reported that the elementary school gym needs repairs, and the board agreed to use funds from the American Rescue Plan for them. The gym’s bleachers, padding, floors, and acoustic panels need patching or replacing and Mr. Boehme projected photos of some of the problems. The bleacher steps are losing their treads and that creates dangers, he noted, though the bleachers’ “internal working” remains okay. The gym’s last renovation occurred in 1997.

In addition, Mr. Boehme reported that school officials want to enhance the gym’s audiovisual capabilities for after school programs and other events.

He added that elementary school principal Mark Brenneman said he wants recommended gym repairs done. Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier added that with the recent capital updates to other parts of the building, the gym shows its need for updates too.

To sand the gym floor and repaint its lines, repair the bleachers, repair the padding, and replace the acoustic paneling may cost about $342,000, Mr. Boehme estimated. Of this, almost two thirds would be for the paneling.

“We talked about what state aid is available,” board member Sage Carter reported. She is on the board’s Facilities Committee.

But Mr. Boehme said the district cannot not get state funding because the proposed project is a repair, not a capital improvement.

Mr. Boehme said that leaves the district with two possible ways to pay for the gym work: the district’s Repair Reserve account, which now has over $700,000 or American Rescue Plan Act funds, of which the district can get up to about $3.8 million.

Tapping the Repair Reserve would require a public hearing and community vote. That will take time.

American Rescue Plan funds are meant to help recovery from the pandemic. “I want to make sure we use them wisely,” said Board member Lucinda Segar. Still, she reasoned, repairing the gym qualifies, because it will help students recover from the disrupted year by improving students’ social and emotional development.

American Rescue Plan funds are “use it or lose it,” observed board member Mark DePace.

“We have until September 30 this year to finish applying for the funds,” said Assistant Superintendent of School Improvement April Prestipino. In the application, it has to say how the district envisions using the money, but applicants can submit revisions and amendments. So far, the district’s major use of American Rescue funds has been for summer school.

‘I want to make sure we use them wisely.’

Lucinda Segar

Hudson school board

So the board agreed to add fixing the gym to its application for American Rescue Plan money.

“I think the gym renovation is a good use of the money,” said audience member Ken Sheffer . “I played winter tennis there from 1972 to 1976, and it was a mess then. But you should use the rest of the American Rescue Funds money to freeze the budget,” so there will be no tax increase, he said.

The junior high also has “deplorable ” acoustic tiles, Dr. Suttmeier observed.

Mr. Boehme said that at a future date “we’ll look at it.”

Also at the meeting Dr. Suttmeier welcomed several new teachers and administrators:

* Chris Diamantatos, director of Food Services. He said he comes from two decades of food service at a nursing home

* Caitlin Doren, high school counselor. She said she studied history at SUNY New Paltz and volunteered with Americorps

* Trinidad Hernandez, associate principal of the elementary school. She said she has been in education for 16 years. Ms. Hernandez replaces Amanda Klopott, who reportedly left at the end of last month to become a principal in Troy.  Ms. Klopott had been associate principal of the elementary school since January 2020

* Lawrence Leung, junior high science teacher. He said he started teaching after a career in engineering

Victoria Williams, junior high AIS Reading teacher. She said she comes from teaching special education in Chatham

* With Dr. Suttmeier planning to retire in January 2022, three board members have formed an ad hoc committee to keep track of the search for her successor. To date, Questar III BOCES has surveyed community members about characteristics they want in a new superintendent. Dr. Suttmeier reported that Questar Superintendent Gladys Cruz reported that 337 people had answered the survey, although only 211 answered it completely.

“That’s a good number,” said board member Mark DePace.

Dr. Suttmeier said she has kept her hands off the survey design and interpretation. The survey results will help create a brochure for recruiting applicants for the superintendent position.

At the same time, Ms. Carter, Mr. DePace, and Ms. Segar asked permission to form an ad hoc committee to keep the board aware of what is going on with the superintendent search and to help with search documentation. The full board voted to form the committee and then voted to assign the three members to it. The committee’s first task will be to “look at the timeline”

* Mr. Sheffer asked for more readily available minutes, especially of Facility Committee meetings and the superintendent search.

The next meeting of the Hudson City School District Board of Education will take place Tuesday, September 21, at 6 p.m. at Hudson High School.

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