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HCSD wrestles with language, culture policies


HUDSON—Food services, administration changes, and “inclusivity” issues received attention at the Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education meeting April 5. (For budget proposal see Page 1 of the April 14 issue; for shelter-in-place episode report, see Page 3 of the April 14 issue).

The cost of food services has “gone down tremendously” since the HCSD joined Capital Region BOCES’ food network, Business Administrator Jesse Boehme reported. Now the school district can take advantage of economies of scale.

But Board member Charles Parmentier expressed concern that “the quality of the food isn’t as good.”

“I’ve heard student concern about it in feedback,” added Superintendent Lisamarie Spindler.  The students want more variety, and there are shortages. “We’re looking into it,” she said.

On another matter, the board again discussed the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity (DEI) in Education policy it is developing and a list of questions board member Lakia Walker raised.

The policy calls for welcoming people regardless of how they fall into various categories. Although it also lists race, economic status, and religion among these categories, Ms. Walker wondered whether in practice the policy would be used to emphasize and celebrate various sexual habits and identities, while giving at most lip service to the other categories. In addition, she wondered how the policy could embrace and include people who both hold sexual standards that have been declared obsolete and have a religious excuse for doing so.

“One day, will we have to choose between which protected group to consider?” Ms. Walker asked. “Will students have the opportunity to opt out of literature” and other lessons “that shame them?” Regents exams are tied to these lessons, she said.

Board member Lucinda Segar said that this is the world students live in, and they have to be taught to “navigate” this reality. Board Vice President Mark DePace said people should be educated how to handle this.

Ms. Segar also suggested the policy include something about respect. “If students have a non-majority opinion, they need to feel they’re still respected.”

“That includes religious beliefs,” said board member Sage Carter.

Dr. Spindler recalled teaching classes during a political election, where students had different opinions. One must figure out: “How can I be in the same space as a person and not feel uncomfortable?”

A challenge, Ms. Walker noted, is how “can one person respect another person without believing in their lifestyle?”

Some board members said these issues are a reason for approving the policy as soon as possible, so they can later work out how to apply it. But that would mean tailoring the application to the policy details, rather than tailoring some policy details to the desired application.

“Policies have unintended consequences,” Dr. Spindler said. And implementing the DEI policy in practice “is not going to be the work of one person.”

Some Board members and administrators thanked Ms. Walker for expressing her opinion.

One of the DEI protected groups is the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement (CCSM). As it has done in other recent school board meetings, that group brought people to press for a DEI policy that accommodates people whose English is limited. Two mothers of HCSD students read statements in Spanish, and Elvia Garcia, a community organizer for CCSM, then translated them into English.  One mother said, “I feel I can’t be there for my children. When I go to concerts, I don’t know what I’m clapping for.”

‘One day, will we have to choose between which protected group to consider?’

Board member Lakia Walker

Hudson City School District Board of Education

The other said that when she goes into stores, her seven-year-old son translates for her.  She also said she needs documents translated into Spanish by a human, because sometimes humans can translate more accurately than computers.

Also at the meeting:

•The board approved interim principals for May 2 through June 30, for the High School and the Junior High School. High School Principal Robert LaCasse is leaving May 1 for the Albany City School District, where he will be Instructional Supervisor for Secondary Social Studies and World Languages.  To replace him quickly, the board designated Derek Reardon, Principal of Hudson Junior High, as interim principal of the High School, for the rest of the school year. To stand in for Mr. Reardon during that time, the board designated Ian MacCormack, an associate principal of the Elementary School, as interim principal of the Junior High School

•Assistant Superintendent for School Improvement April Prestipino presented the results of a survey to “give the district insight regarding stakeholder perceptions of the current climate and culture in the district.”

The next meeting of the Hudson City School District Board of Education will take place Tuesday, April 26, at 6:00 p.m. at Hudson High School. A public hearing on the budget proposal will take place May 3.

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