Hudson district puts focus on littlest learners

HUDSON—Ambitious elementary school programs highlighted the Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting October 19.

The meeting began with a curriculum workshop presenting the Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School (MCS). Programs highlighted included math, ELA, STEAM, and conduct.

For math, the emphasis is on aligning the curriculum, so that all students entering one grade will have received the same math instruction in the previous grade, regardless of teacher. Math Coach Diana Kipp, 2nd grade teachers Diane Sheedy and Michele Zlomeck, and 1st grade teacher Lori Below spoke of the need for consistent math vocabulary, strategy, pacing, and tools. A math committee, established in June this year, meets regularly.

For elementary reading, English, and other Language Arts (ELA), this year the district started using the Core Knowledge Language Arts program. ELA Coach Lisa Dolan and 1st grade teacher Melissa Brown called the program “very big and very new” for the school but the district has “hit the ground running” with it and is seeing engagement with the kids as children catch up in age-appropriate skills after the educational interruptions of the past year and a half.

One adaptation to the new normal is having children who are learning to read watch videotapes of someone pronouncing letter sounds. With in-person learning, the teacher’s lips are behind a mask.

In kindergarten through second grade, the teachers said, every day has two hours of the Core Learning program: 60 minutes each of “skills” and “knowledge.”

‘The pressures are real.’

Principal Mark Brenneman

Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School

The skills are based on the science of reading. The knowledge portions includes science and social studies. Its reading material could be too advanced for the grade level, so the teachers read these lessons to build vocabulary. There are also opportunities for activities.

For STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math), teacher Samantha Mort presented an overview of topics covered. These include leaf-collecting, leaf art, raising trout from eggs, envisioning a mission to Mars, three-dimensional printing, and gardening. The students wanted to make pickles and learned that meant growing cucumbers, Ms. Mort recalled. They also grew pumpkins, some of which they pollinated by hand, and radishes. Kindergarten through fourth grade students have STEAM once a week, Ms. Mort said. Older grade STEAM classes put more emphasis on computers and coding.

MCS Associate Principals Ian MacCormack and Dr. Trinidad Hernandez spoke about how their school has been divided into houses, each with the Latin name of a desirable character trait. The houses compete against each other and win points for good conduct and actions. Posters around the school tell how to act responsibly, respectfully, and safely.

Elementary school Principal Mark Brenneman thanked the teachers, saying,” “The pressures are real.” He said many students have not been in school for a long time. He also thanked the school board.

Also at the meeting:

• The board confirmed the immediate appointment of Shawn Briscoe as district athletic director He replaces Derek Reardon. Mr. Reardon will remain principal of Hudson Junior High, and Mr. Briscoe will remain dean of students at the junior high

• The Board discussed possibilities for a Children’s Book Festival in 2022. District Superintendent Dr. Maria Suttmeier noted the difficulty in planning an event when one does not know whether it will be allowed to happen.

• Dr. Suttmeier said the district needs more Covid-19 test kits

• Business Administrator Jesse Boehme reported that one intended use of federal funding he has applied for will be hiring a diversity, equity, and inclusion manager. In addition, Dr. Suttmeier raised the possibility of a mental health professional coming to the schools once a week.

The next meeting of the Hudson City School District Board of Education will take place Tuesday, November 2, at 6:00 pm, at Hudson High School.

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