Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Musical Chairs at HCSD

Yesterday morning we read in the Register-Star about an altercation between high school co-principals Steven Spicer and Tom Gavin in which Gavin allegedly threatened Spicer with bodily harm in the hallway during a Board of Education meeting. This morning we can read about the possibility that Steven Spicer may replace the retiring Carol Gans as the principal of John L. Edwards, the district's primary school: "Spicer in the running for JLE principal."   

While taxpayers can breathe a sigh of relief that the school district may not be contemplating elevating yet another person to the highly paid status of administrator and Jack Howe may have found a convenient way to defuse the untenable and, it would now seem, volatile situation created by the "co-principal" scheme that gave Gavin a job after the Alternative Learning Program was scrapped, if Spicer goes to JLE, who ends up being the principal of Hudson High School? 

In yesterday's Register-Star article,  a quote from Mary Udell blames Gavin for the problems of violence in the high school: "After witnessing Gavin’s dropping of the coat, Udell said, 'This man [Gavin] does not belong in this school. All this stuff [in-school violence] was when Mr. Spicer was in the hospital. . . .'" A comment by Spicer quoted in the article--the one that seems to have incited Gavin--also implies his culpability: “'Let’s enforce the code of conduct. Kids don’t understand—if you let them break rules, they don’t understand you can’t break other rules. There has to be one rule for everybody.'”

If Spicer can't be absent from the high school for three weeks without things descending into chaos, how will this story end? 


  1. Needless to say, we have a bit of a challenge here. The co-principal idea was nutty from the beginning; but to put two veteran, strong-willed principals in the same school was ridiculous. And we see the results. This is Management 101 -- the Supt. blew it and the Board of Ed went along with it. Both Spicer and Gavin are competent principals and we can save the district a lot of money by giving each one a school to run. --peter meyer (member of the BOE)

  2. I believe you have confused strong with political. Strong principals have self-control in every situation. When the school and BOE policy is no electronic devices allowed in the building, strong principals do not allow cell phones and IPods in the hallways and classrooms. A strong principal stands up to the parents who text their children during academic class time because the parent “needs” to tell their child something. A strong principal knows every “gang sign” such as beads, colors etc. and refuses to allow them in the building.
    I think we have a real problem in our high school and I know because I teach at Albany High and have for 20 years. I know what the HHS and the Hudson School District is doing now is actually going to result, as if, they did nothing.
    I suggest we have the strength to save our school and that means getting strong leaders or insisting that the politics and popularity are not the priority.
    • Publically post all new rules and send mailings home.
    • Keep all parents in the loop. Many parents want their children to succeed.
    • If HHS does not have metal detectors, get them installed or use dogs. Stop allowing drugs and weapons in the building. A lot of drug dealing occurs at the high school.
    • Have a big trash can outside the entrance and throw all cellphones and IPods confiscated in the building into it.
    • Make academic vigor our number 1 priority. That means above sports. If a student is failing make sure they are off the teams. You would be surprised.
    • All fights get a superintendent’s suspension (longer than 5 days).
    • Stop blaming the teachers, this truly carries over to the classroom. Anger and hostility does not produce an effective learning environment.
    • We need to really want to improve our schools, which means we have to lay down all of our personal and political motivations, and really do what it is going to take to get us back .
    Barbara Ponkos-Merola

  3. Barb,

    Nice thoughts, some great ideas, but 2 corrections/amplifcations. First, there is no rule against having cellphones in the school. (There is a rule against disrupting class and that needs to be addressed.) Second, as to blaming teachers, I'll make a deal with you: only if we can get people to stop blaming parents. Seriously, we've got to get out of the blame game and start improving schools -- NO EXCUSES.



  4. gossips....thanks for bangin' the drum on this one! when i read the story in the RS i was both disgusted and upset. we hear about declining census and graduation while the costs only go higher and higher. where is the superintendent in all of this? i can only hope that you and others keep on top of this.

  5. No sane person with kids is going to move to Hudson with this going on in the schools. This is disruptive not just to the kids who want to learn, but to the well being of the entire community. I think they need a zero tolerance for violence. We have all been to high school, everyone knows who the violent and disruptive kids are. They need to be removed and schooled at a different secure location. Maybe a few rooms could be procured at the Hudson Correctional facility for this purpose. If they don't cooperate, they might as well get used to being there, since that's just the sort of place they will end up living in.

    Tim Slowinski

  6. I've convinced the board to have a Special Meeting on the high school / discipline situation. The meeting will be this Monday, 7pm, at John L. Edwards School. We have great resources in this school district -- great teachers, great kids, great facilities -- and we need to make it work for ALL kids. Come Monday night: ask questions, make comments, demand change. The kids need YOU!

  7. parents, teachers and students all have a role in this mess but it is up to the administrators and their supervisors to take control and start to heal this obviously sick situation as soon as possible. once this happens the others either fall into line or are gone. start with the board of education and the superintendent! they have allowed this to happen for too long and, like the above comments, seem to be posturing without taking responsibility. the future of our society is in our schools and all of us deserve better!

  8. p.s.
    thank you to reyemretep@gmail (peter) for convincing the board for the special monday meeting and your earlier attempts to bring about the special task force to investigate this matter. you are not alone!