Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The School District and the City: Part 3

Maria Suttmeier, superintendent of the Hudson City School District, was present at the Common Council meeting on Tuesday night, accompanied by four members of the Board of Education (Maria McLaughlin, Sage Carter, Carrie Otty, and Sumayyah Shabazz), John Sharkey of Rhinebeck Architecture, Jeff Budrow of Weston & Sampson, HCSD buildings and grounds superintendent George Keeler, and HCSD attorney Virginia Bendict. Suttmeier began by summarizing the proposed capital project but explained that her primary reason for being present was to answer the aldermen's questions.

Speaking of the project, which has been dubbed "K-12 Vision 2020," Suttmeier explained that its goal was "improving educational quality and experiences on our campuses," noting that the graduation rate had increased in the 2014-2015 school year from 59 to 77 percent. She asserted that it was a "sound financial decision to do a capital project now"  and spoke of "right sizing" the district. She then explained the proposed grade-level reorganization. 
  • In the school year 2016-2017, Grade 6 will move from Montgomery C. Smith to the Junior High School--into space already available.
  • In the school year 2017-2018, Grade 2 will move from John L. Edwards to Montgomery C. Smith.
  • In the school year 2019-2020, PreK, Kindergarten, and Grade 1 will move to a new 18,000 square foot addition to be built on the south side of Montgomery C. Smith.
Speaking of the acquisition of adjacent City-owned land for tha addition at Montgomery C. Smith, Suttmeier explained, "We don't need the property, but acquiring it would enhance the project."

When the discussion turned to the erosion on that City-owned land caused by the storm water system at the school, Suttmeier said, "We can't fix what is on City-owned property, but if we can acquire it, we could." At which point Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) asked, "Would the district commit to remediating it if they acquired it?" The answer seemed to be yes.

Alderman Henry Haddad (Third Ward) wanted to know what the proposed addition would look like. John Sharkey, from Rhinebeck Architecture, explained that the building had not been designed yet and drawings that "gave an idea of the building's footprint" were "as far as we've gotten." He expressed his admiration for the original school building, constructed in 1937 as a WPA project, and noted that if the school district could get the land from the City of Hudson, he would like to "push the addition back and over" so that it would have a lower profile and less impact on the historic school building.

Jonathan Lerner, chair of the Conservation Advisory Council, brought the conversation back to the erosion caused by storm water runoff from school district property onto City property. He maintained that the erosion was "the result of negligence of the part of HCSD, and the district has an obligation to remediate it." Suttmeier reiterated that if the parcel acquired included the erosion, HCSD could fix it.    

Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) wanted to know what the academic benefit of spending $20 million was. In answer, Suttmeier spoke reducing transitions (moving from one school to another), which have been shown to have a negative effect of academic performance, aligning the curriculum (from grade level to grade level), and professional development.

Responding to Rector's concerns, Friedman said he shared a concern for academics but went on to say, "A lot of students that go to that school are not interested in the academic route." He continued, "The condition of the school is a reflection of how the community feels about the school, and the track is a reflection of that." Although Hudson High School has a successful track team, track meets cannot be held at Hudson High because there is a cinder track which is "not safe for our students." The proposed capital project includes a new athletic field behind the high school with a 400-meter track, a field for soccer and football, and accommodation for pole vault, shot put, and discus.

Hudson resident Peter Frank inquired about the sale of John L. Edwards, asking if the City and the community would have any input into its repurposing and suggesting that it might be used for affordable housing. He was told that the sale of the school building, which would not happen until the 2019-2020 school year, would be subject to referendum.

Before the meeting adjourned, former mayor and now Fifth Ward supervisor Rick Scalera thanked Friedman for his comments, called the upcoming referendum a well-kept secret, said the capital project was an opportunity that would not come again, and urged the aldermen to support the referendum and get their constituents to vote.

The meeting was videotaped and will be aired on Mid-Hudson Cable Channel 11 at 7 p.m. on Friday.


  1. "Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) wanted to know what the academic benefit of spending $20 million was. In answer, Suttmeier spoke reducing transitions (moving from one school to another), which have been shown to have a negative effect of academic performance, aligning the curriculum (from grade level to grade level), and professional development."

    What is the evidence for the above statement? It had better be pretty compelling to spend 20 million. Other than that, we are spending it for a track field it seems.

    I intend to vote no on this scheme myself. I have read nothing that is remotely convincing that abandoning the the school on State Street, and this moving of students around, in an orgy of bricks and mortar fixation, has much merit at all.

    So give me the data. Give me the evidence. Data based decision making please, however novel that concept might be in some quarters around here.

    Just a pathetic cry of frustration that will make no difference whatsoever I understand. Maybe I should have spent most of my time on School Board issues since I arrived, rather than what I have focused on.

    I do appreciate the excellent work of Tim O'Connor on environmental issues. That takes care of that. Now we are just down to the 20 million issue.

  2. The school district's very informative public meeting for this week just ended. (There are two more on the next two Wednesdays, at JLE at 6 PM).

    I'm happy to report that the district's commitment to repairing the serious erosion damage was reiterated tonight, as long as the City agrees to part with the land. (It would be an unusual circumstance for a school district to be permitted to spend money on land it doesn't own.)

    For anyone's environmental concerns, this plan finally makes total sense. I have no doubts.

  3. unfortunately, the graduates have been pushed through the sytem to make the teachers look less incompetent. the salaries are huge-- at close to 100 k for some teachers, and hudson still ranks at the bottom 10 % of the entire school system in the state.

    this is a waste of money. maria suttmeier should revisit more ways to spend limited tax dollars in 5 years after she has a sterling track record>

    the city of hudson doesnt need more spending on its school system. it is a bad idea for a failing district. and we do not need this. it has spend enough as it is. and gotten less.

  4. This is a really complicated proposal which is years in the making. One must factor in banking schedules, demographics-plus-too many campuses, the State's expectations for these buildings, which are updated with every 5-year inspection, and on and on.

    Please, attend one of the upcoming information meetings to pose your questions and arguments. You may still disagree with the proposal, but you won't be unimpressed with the quality of planning brought to this.

    it would be a shame to reject the proposal based on wrong or incomplete information.

    There are two meetings remaining, on January 27th and February 3rd (Wednesdays both), from 6 - 7 PM at the John L. Edwards Elementary School.