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Hudson looks to school culture as route to better performance


HUDSON – The school board this week voted to adopt a new support and intervention service for kids and their families designed to help at-risk students. Ichabod Crane and Taconic Hills have had the same program in place since 1994 and 2002, said Gaye Hoffman who presented the program to the board.

Members of the school district leadership team spoke at the Monday, August 22 meeting, about their study of Hudson’s school district’s “climate and culture.” Team member Dan Udell said a positive climate and culture is necessary for success and a barrier to success is created if those features are lacking. He cited the district’s Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program, which seeks to reward good behavior and deter bullying, the Hudson Children’s Book Festival, the FIRST Robotics program and the Columbia County Backpack program, which provides food for children on the free or reduced fee lunch programs to eat over the weekend, as things that promote a positive school district climate and culture.

“We stopped work on bullying. We needed to look at broader issues like how students react to school,” said Mr. Udell.

Board member Jeri Chapman reported that the district’s anti-bullying policy had been revised and awaits the board’s approval.

“We had a lot of challenges,” said Assistant Superintendent Maria Suttmeier in reference to state test scores released earlier this month. She said it was important to consider the context and implications of the scores, and how the district compares to other, similar districts. In the future she said, these tests will be less predictable, because questions from past tests will no longer be released to schools for use as a teaching tool. The tests will have more essay questions that will draw on broader understanding of deeper content knowledge, and even young students will have longer testing periods.

She said proficiency benchmarks were set by the state to reflect the score that students who are successful in high school and college achieve. They are meant to be an indicator of future academic success.

Across the state text scores are down, said Ms. Suttmeier. In 2010, the difficulty of state tests was adjusted upward, a change that caused the scores of students in Hudson and in other districts to plummet.  “Fewer students met or exceeded the required scores,” she said.

The district is now engaged in a multi-pronged approach designed to help students meet the new requirements. New curricula coordinated across grades, enhanced teacher training, new reading and math foundation programs, and more writing exercises are expected to help. To further understand the implications of the new tests, the administration will need to collect and analyze more data from the state, she said.

Also this week:

*Gerald Wood, the district’s newly appointed interscholastic sports coordinator, was introduced to the board. During a break he said he had 30 years of football coaching experience, worked as a teacher’s aide and worked as a substitute teacher. He directed the Boys Club, and is Hudson’s Youth Commissioner, a volunteer post. He replaces Kevin Bowes.

*The Pop Warner Football League petitioned the board for a reduction of $150 fees for home games and won a $75 reduction after arguing that they have nowhere else to go and provide a useful service to district kids who are required to keep their grades up to participate in the program. The district was required to increase fees to the public for use of school facilities by state rules pertaining to contingency budgets.

*The board meeting began with an hour-long executive session during which the board met with the district’s labor attorney, Stuart Waxman of the Hopewell Junction firm Donoghue, Thomas, Auslander & Drohan, presumably to talk about stalled contract negotiations with the Hudson Teachers Association. The union was mentioned at the board’s July meeting. No announcement was made before the board resumed its regular public meeting.

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