HUDSON—Parent notifications, a student firefighter, and the Future Focused mission received attention at the Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education meeting October 5.
A discussion on how to better inform the community of upcoming board meetings moved on to all communications between the district and its families. The HCSD and its schools notify their students’ parents/guardians about pertinent developments by text messages, emails and robocalls. But some board members are themselves parents, and they had personal experiences to report.
Selha Graham, a board member who has had children in HCSD schools for almost two decades, announced that she has not received automated or digital school notifications in more than a year. Later she explained that when her first child entered the HCSD system in 2002, she would get paper notices and newsletters. This was how the district “made parents aware what was going on.” Then, the district switched to text messages, emails and robocalls. Ms. Graham found getting the messages these electronic ways convenient. But, she said, the last time she got such a school notification, in any form for more than a year. And currently three of her children are in HCSD schools. Now, to find school news on the internet pertinent to her, she must “hunt” for it.
Board member Sage Carter, also a parent, added that the school notifications she gets come to an old email address. She said she has tried to change it many times but the change does not happen. She recommended giving parents “an easy way to change information.”
“Let me look into that,” said Assistant Superintendent of School Improvement April Prestipino.
On another topic, District Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier recognized Ethan Gabarini, a high school senior who is also a fireman, for completing the 9/11 Memorial Stair Challenge. This required “climbing” 110 stories on a stair climber wearing full firefighter gear. The gear was “very heavy,” and the “climb” took him over an hour. Commemorating the 9/11 2001 tragedy on its 20th anniversary and the firefighters who risked and lost their lives to save people “gives me chills,” he said.
Dr. Suttmeier said that Mr. Gabarini “represents the district.” Mr. Gabarini has been in the HCSD since kindergarten. That day, October 5, before appearing at the meeting, he enlisted in the army.
About every five years, the district updates its mission, vision, and overarching goals. It has titled its mission/vision for now through 2024 “Future Focused.” Dr. Suttmeier and Dr. Prestipino gave a overview of it at the meeting.
The relentless mission of Future Focused is to “advance the academic, social, and emotional development of all students,” in partnership with our the community, according to the presentation.
“We can’t do it alone,” said Dr. Suttmeier.
Future Focused, says the presentation, is preparing all students for “career, college and citizenship.
I love that career is on top,” Dr. Suttmeier said. “We want people to be passionate about their career.” The reason for going to college is to prepare for a career, she said. “College isn’t for everyone.”
“You don’t have to be linear,” said the superintendent. Some people graduate from high school not knowing if they will want/need college courses.
Dr. Suttmeier said she went back to college in her 30s and was the first in her family to go to college.
With Future Focused, says the presentation, “it is our responsibility to create an engaging, inclusive, and inspiring educational environment with varied opportunities for our students to:”
A — Achieve Academic Excellence
B — Become Future Ready
C — Commit to Civic Engagement
“We to give students the skills, ability and confidence to become what they want to be,” said Dr. Suttmeier.
In accordance with this vision, the district has defined goals that are Specific Measurable Appropriate Relevant Time-based (SMART).
“Some goals are easier to measure than others,” observed board member Lucinda Segar.
In order to Achieve Academic Excellence, schools are to “foster an engaging, effective learning community through rigorous, inspiring academic programs.” A corresponding SMART goal is that at least a certain percent of the teachers will use WICOR (Writing, Inquiry Collaboration, Organization, and Reading) strategies in all classes.
For future readiness, schools are to “partner with the community to provide all students with opportunities and support to become career focused, college ready, and outstanding citizens with a sense of purpose.” By 2021-22 the district wants 100% of its high school seniors to attend college fairs, watch campus tour videos, visit worksites, and know what further education is necessary for their “career of interest.”
For civic engagement they are to “cultivate a positive culture by providing safe, inclusive and supportive learning environment, embracing diversity, fostering collaborations, and actively engaging students in civic activities locally and globally.” By 2024-25, the district wants at least 70% of elementary students and their families to participate in opportunities offered by the school.”
Another civic engagement indicator is for all schools “to implement a plan to confront barriers and access to equity in school policies” and instruction.”
“We’ve grown up as a school district,” Dr. Suttmeier said adding that in 2009, when she began as assistant superintendent the goals were day to day. Now, she said, “We’re Future Focused.”
Also at the meeting:
• Board member Mark DePace reported that the application for a new superintendent has been posted and interviews will take place in November. Dr. Suttmeier plans to retire in January
• Student Representative Jacob Hromada described activities planned for Spirit Week. These include a banner contest, relay races, a kickball tournament, tug-of-war, and girls flag football
• Dr. Suttmeier said, “It’s a joy to see children in our schools. It’s amazing what teachers have done with routines.”
The next meeting of the HCSD Board of Education will take place Tuesday, October 19, at 6 p.m. at the Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School. This location is different from the usual meetings.