Authors Posts by Dakota Antelman

Dakota Antelman

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Maddie Haufe swings on a pitch during the game. Haufe would later tie the game with a two run double in the seventh inning. | by Siobhan Richards.

by Dakota Antelman

After forcing extra innings with a six-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Hawk softball team lost one of its longest games in recent memory on Saturday, May 20 by a score of 10-6 in the tenth inning. The late season loss now amplifies the pressure on the Hawks to secure a spot in next month’s playoff tournament.

“That’s a stinger,” said head coach Laura Bowen after the game. “That’s a stinger of a loss.”

The Hawks fell behind early thanks to a three-run Tantasqua first inning. Lindsey Zac started the scoring for the Warriors with a sacrifice fly with no outs in that inning. Kelsey Emrish and Marie Stewart tacked on RBIs of their own as the Warriors sent all nine of their batters to the plate before Hudson could get off the field.

“I think that we put ourselves in a hole,” Bowen said. “When we came out in the first inning and let up three runs, we put pressure on ourselves before we even got a bat in our hand which stinks.”

The score held until the fifth inning when Zac and Emrish knocked in two more runs for Tantasqua, giving them a 5-0 lead. Abby LaFountain batted in Tantasqua’s sixth run in the top of the sixth inning.

As the Warrior offense thrived, the Hawks had just two hits and a walk as they entered the seventh inning trailing 6-0. Two walks and two singles to lead off that inning, however, seemed to turn things around.

“A lot of teams down 6-0 in the seventh inning are going to go up and give up,” said Bowen. “But we brought the next batter up and had quality at bats.”

As Tantasqua batted around in the first inning, the Hawks did the same in the seventh inning, scoring six times during ten individual at bats. Amanda Doucette managed to break the Tansatqua shutout with an RBI single with no outs. Jordyn Safranski then scored from third base on a wild pitch, and Megan Miller chipped away at the lead with a two-run single with two outs. Maddie Haufe finally tied the game with a base clearing two-run double.

“It’s just the momentum that’s going through you [that keeps you going],” Haufe said of her team’s ability to come back. “We were getting pumped up, thinking we can win when we came back with all those runs.”

The game remained deadlocked after the seventh inning, however, dragging into the tenth inning before the Warriors revived their offense. They scored four times in the top of the tenth inning and stifled Hudson’s attempt at a second comeback in the bottom of that inning, winning the game.

While she celebrated Hudson’s ability to force extra innings, Bowen said she wished her team scored earlier in the game.

“We kept saying, ‘Make an adjustment from your at-bats; learn what the umpire is calling; learn what [the pitcher] is throwing,'” she said. “I think that definitely helps. She was a good pitcher, I’m not taking any credit away from her, but, like I said, we have to make adjustments earlier than that.”

The Hawks now sit in third place in the MidWach B league. They need at least two wins out of their last four regular season games if they are to return to the playoffs. Though she said that path will be difficult, Bowen vowed after the Tantasqua loss to “go down fighting.”

“We’re putting a lot of pressure on ourselves for sure, but it’s absolutely doable,” she said. “These girls have it in them. It’s just a matter of if they want it or not.”

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Winners of this year's Big Red prom pictures contest.

by Big Red Staff

Juniors attended prom on Friday, May 12. More than 100 of those juniors submitted their prom pictures to the Big Red’s prom pictures contest using the hashtag #HHSPromPics2017. Members of the Big Red staff met Monday and selected winners in seven categories.

The winner of “best picture” wins a $10 Dunkin Donuts gift card.

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Students thank their teachers during teacher appreciation week. | Photos by Dakota Antelman and Jordan Cullen

by Big Red Staff

Last week was teacher appreciation week across the country. Hudson High School students were happy to participate, thanking and praising their teachers in interviews with the Big Red.

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A Hudson firetruck waits outside Hudson High School as students leave after dismissal. The last of the firetrucks to respond to HHS left shortly after 2pm. | by Dakota Antelman

by Dakota Antelman

A lightbulb in the HHS auditorium malfunctioned on Monday afternoon, prompting a full evacuation of HHS and disrupting students taking the AP Psychology exam at the time.

The malfunction took place just after 1:15 p.m. during a drama class held in the auditorium at the time. A district electrician reached later Monday afternoon said he saw smoke when he entered the auditorium shortly after the incident.

Firefighters also immediately responded to the school while students and their teachers gathered outside. Though the evacuation lasted roughly 15 minutes, at least one firetruck lingered at the school until shortly after 2 p.m..

“Everything is safe and fine,” Principal Brian Reagan said in an announcement to the school after the evacuation ended. “We appreciate your cooperation.”

The malfunction did snarl a variety of specific activities throughout the afternoon. Students already more than an hour into their AP Psychology exam had to leave their testing room when the smoke triggered fire alarms.

According to Sophia DiPlacido, a student taking the exam at the time, her test proctor calculated the time students missed due to the evacuation and added it onto the previously scheduled end of the test to allow students to finish.

“All the test scores should still be valid,” she added. “They didn’t say otherwise.”

Director of Guidance Counseling and AP Test Coordinator Angie Flynn confirmed that the scores will not be invalidated Tuesday morning in an email.

Though her score will count, DiPlacido said the evacuation did still impact her.

“It was stressful when we were outside because we had no idea if we would be able to make up the time we missed,” she said.

The additional time also caused problems for AP Psychology students and their extracurricular activities. DiPlacido said that, since they were not allowed to leave the testing room until the test was over, even some students who finished early were late for work, sports practices or other after-school commitments.

In addition to AP Psychology, the malfunction briefly raised concerns about the town meeting scheduled to take place Monday evening at 7 p.m., roughly five hours after the incident. Firefighters and facilities staff were able to disperse the smoke and a faint chemical smell long before the meeting, however, allowing the event to proceed as scheduled.

Monday’s incident also marks the second time in two years that a fire alarm has disrupted standardized testing at HHS. Last April, during the 10th grade English MCAS exams, alarms prompted the evacuation of the school.

Like this incident, however, students who were still testing at the time were able to complete their tests.

“Students need to stop testing, the proctor needs to secure the room after it is emptied, and then students can simply resume testing when they re-enter the building,” Reagan explained of the MCAS protocol for evacuations in an email. “Because MCAS is untimed, there are really no issues with losing time for a fire alarm.”

After the smoke and the chemical smell had subsided, the district electrition lingered in the auditorium testing lights and speaking with drama teacher Kathleen McKenzie about what happened. This incident, he said, was the first of its kind to take place in the now 14-year-old new high school building.

He added that a “thermal overload” sensor normally prevents malfunctions like the one that triggered Monday’s evacuation. The sensor, he explained, is designed to shut off a light before it gets too hot. “It seems like that failed today,” the electrician concluded.

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Jack Cecelya throws off to the Bromfield team after Hudson scored late in their opening day game on Friday. | by Dakota Antelman

by Dakota Antelman

Ultimate frisbee player Jack Cecelya wore a shirt with the words “If you build it…” scrawled on it last Friday, a reference to the words Ray Kinsella hears in his cornfield in the movie Field of Dreams.

Indeed, he and 10 other HHS students, with head coach Mark Krans, built an ultimate frisbee team this past winter. On Friday, Bromfield came to play in Hudson’s first match.

The team has been practicing in the HHS gym and on local fields since October. Their game Friday, however, marked a new step in expanding ultimate frisbee at Hudson High as the team began competing in interscholastic games for the first time.

“Ultimate is a beautiful sport,” Krans said. “It’s great competition. People who play ultimate love ultimate, and they play it for the rest of their lives. Just to give these kids an opportunity to play against the other high schools and whoever else we can play around here is a great opportunity.”

The matchup kicked off a nine-game schedule that will take Hudson to a variety of nearby towns for games against teams including Nashoba, Billerica, Lincoln-Sudbury and Groton-Dunstable.

Bromfield, which is entering its fourth season as an organized program, did manage to beat the rookie Hawk team. However, they only did so late in a game which had been tied 7-7 after nearly two hours of play at Hudson’s Intel Field.

After their team’s eventual 8-7 win on a sudden death “Universe Point” score, even Bromfield coaches and parents remarked on the strength of the Hudson team in its debut.

“You guys must have been practicing,” one parent said to Krans as she followed the Bromfield players off the field.

Though they lost, Krans and his players saw numerous bright spots in their debut. As their competitors noted, they say these bright spots were, in part, the result of nearly seven months of practice.

“I can throw a frisbee much better than I could going into this experience, which has been awesome,” said junior Elizabeth Cautela. “We’ve grown closer together as well. We’re friends now while we were just strangers before. We’re definitely like a family. We have a lot of fun together.”

Among the struggles for the Hawks was the introduction of heavy wind to their gameplay situations. Playing on the relatively open Intel field, the Hawks did often fail to connect with one another on long passes as their throws were frequently blown off course. They had not dealt with wind during their many months in the gym.

The game also marked one of the first regulation 7-on-7 games since the club started. Though their ranks have both swelled and shrunken since October, they have rarely had enough players show up at their early morning gym practices to run full team scrimmages. As of Friday’s game, the team only had 11 players on the roster.

Though they may not have been running full games, however, Krans said the months of practices have already generated conversation about ultimate frisbee among students and teachers. Krans, who called Massachusetts “one of the hotbeds of ultimate in the country,” noted his excitement about the growing popularity of the sport and his team in particular.

“The kids are loving it,” he said. “The teachers are hearing about it. I’m having a blast. The kids work hard, they’re teachable, they listen and they have improved so much in such a short period of time.”

New and already improved, the Hawks are eying the season ahead of them in hopes of succeeding at the state tournament in Northampton on June 1.

Looking beyond this year, the Hawks are doing their best Kevin Costner impression and hoping that since they built it — their team — more players will come.

“We called it the Hudson Ultimate Experiment because we weren’t sure if it was even going to take off and work out,” Krans said. “It’s taken off well, but we really need to grow, especially because four of our players are seniors who are going to be leaving at the end of the year. We want more young players to join so that we can build a legacy of the Hudson Ultimate Experiment.”

Cautela echoed that sentiment, saying that she has already seen and heard enough from prospective players to think that ultimate frisbee at HHS will be successful beyond this still young season.

“It’s something fresh,” she said, later adding. “A lot of these kids have been playing the same sports for 10 years or longer than that. They’ve been playing softball forever or baseball forever, and they’re tired of it and want something new. I think the future is pretty bright.”

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Ryann Sawyer slides to avoid the tag of Framingham catcher Kaitlin Carman. While Sawyer would not score on this play, she did score twice during the game with one hit and two walks. | by Dakota Antelman

by Dakota Antelman

Longtime softball assistant coach and acting head coach Ray Girard hastily answered his phone Tuesday as his team celebrated their 8-1 win over Framingham in the first round of the annual Cheryl Jones tournament.

Newly appointed full time head coach Laura Bowen was calling from Hawaii to check in on the game’s result. But her team had already ensured that she had little to worry about as they improved their record to 3-0 with another day of solid fielding, batting and baserunning in particular.

“It showed how solid we are as a team,” said pitcher Sophia Togneri. “There were a lot of balls in play, and everyone needed to hit well and hit as a team to get the win that we did. It shows how we’re really bonding as a team.”

Though it started slowly, the Hawks scored in the middle innings of the game and held on for the win. After failing to get a runner on base during the first inning, the Hawks scored three times in the game’s second frame to take a 3-1 lead.

They tacked on another run in the third inning when Emily White drew a two-out walk with the bases loaded that scored Togneri. The walk was already the eighth of the day for the Hawks and the fourth in just the third inning alone. They finished the game with 13 walks.

“The first three innings, they were swinging at stuff over their heads, but they finally got it together from then on and they knew they needed to stay focused,” Girard said about the walks. “If you start swinging at pitches over your head, you’re going to pick up bad habits. This is a good team, and we didn’t do that too much.”

Hudson followed up White’s walk with a fourth inning offensive explosion that stretched their lead to 8-1. They racked up 10 at-bats during an inning that started with a leadoff single by Megan Miller and ended with a ground-out also by Miller. Ryann Sawyer, Fillmore, White and Sydney Chiasson all picked up RBIs between those two Miller at-bats.

The Hawks quieted the Framingham bats from that point forward, allowing just one hit as they maintained their seven-run advantage.

Togneri, in particular, finished the game with six strikeouts, bringing her season total to 24. She also allowed just three hits, the second time this season she has done so. However, she was quick to deflect praise to her fielders.

by Dakota Antelman
by Dakota Antelman

“I was kind of nervous coming into this season after we had an infield that was so tight last year with all the seniors,” she said in reference to last season’s infield quartet of Haley Gaffney, Keeliey Zompetti, Keaton Prashaw, and Steph Hamilton. “I wasn’t sure how we were going to work together or if it was going to be the same [this year]. Today really gave me confidence in my fielders that, no matter what I throw, they’ll have my back.”

Her infield, now played by Haufe, Miller, Amanda Doucette, Natalie Bishop, and, later, Ashley Sousa, committed no errors in Tuesday’s game and recorded 9 of the contest’s 21 outs.

The Hawks now move into the championship round of the Cheryl Jones tournament. The final, scheduled for Thursday at 1 p.m., pits them against Dracut.

“They can hit, they can field, and they have an outstanding pitcher, just like us, so it should be interesting to see,” Girard said. “It’s going to be a battle, and that’s the way it should be in the championship round.”

From there, with Bowen back as their head coach, they will resume their regular season schedule with games against Shepherd Hill, Nashoba, and Groton-Dunstable next week.

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by Ally Jensen

by Big Red Staff

It’s spirit week! Check this page every afternoon for photos from that day’s spirit theme! Also, follow us on Instagram (TheBigRedHawks) and on Twitter (@thebigredhawks) for more spirit week photos and updates.

Thursday will be Color Day and will end with a “field day” event during fifth block.

Monday: Sports Day

Tuesday: Hawaiian Day

Wednesday: PJ Day

Thursday: Color Day

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Brett Kustigian speaks during a public job interview with the Hudson School Committee. | photo courtesy HudTV

by Dakota Antelman

Hudson superintendent finalist Brett Kustigian highlighted the similarities between his current district and Hudson while he praised the state of the Hudson Public Schools during a pair of public forums Wednesday.

The sitting superintendent of the Quaboag Public Schools in Warren, MA, called Hudson a “diamond in the rough” after visiting its schools for the day. Later in his afternoon Q&A with parents and school committee members, he noted how his experience in Quaboag would enable him to address similar problems in Hudson.

“With a little polishing, this district could be number one in the state,” he said, later adding. “The buildings are well maintained. In the classrooms, it’s bustling. Students are working hard. Teachers are working hard, and principals are working hard as well.”

After his remarks on the success of HPS, Kustigian addressed a number of concerns voiced by parents and staff since the superintendent search process started late last year.

Primarily, he reflected on his work to better the state rating of his current school district after he inherited a Level 3-rated district in 2009. Like it did in Quaboag during the early days of Kustigian’s tenure, the state currently rates Hudson at Level 3. The rating tags Hudson as a district failing to narrow gaps in learning.

“My experience taking a Level 3 district and moving it up is another reason why Hudson is a place I want to be,” he said.

Beyond the broad state rating system, Kustigian addressed the specific issue of growing ELL populations in schools. As recently as the 2014-2015 school year, Quaboag had five ELL students. The next year, Kustigian said, that number jumped to 30. It continued to increase the following year, reaching 50 students.

Hudson itself has seen a rapid rise in ELL students joining the school. For at least two years, it has been trying to add ELL teaching positions to alleviate massive caseloads, particularly at the middle and elementary schools. Budget cuts have slowed the expansion of the ELL department, however, as, last spring, the district cut a proposed ELL coach position to avoid a larger shortfall.

Calling the cuts he has had to make in his own district “the worst days of a superintendent’s job,” Kustigian sympathized with Hudson’s budget woes and laid out his strategy for cuts.

“These are decisions that I look at and try to affect students last,” he said. “You try to look at every possible place before you look at the classroom for cuts.”

Kustigian did circle back to discussing the strengths of the Hudson Public Schools before ending the forum. He described his ideal district as one where students are excited about school and like coming there. In Hudson, he said, he sees that.

“After seeing the district today, my decision to come to Hudson has been reaffirmed,” Kustigian said. “You’ve got great people here. You’ve got a tremendous amount of resources. You’ve got buildings that are in tremendous shape. You’ve got a student body that is happy. You’ve got a climate in each one of the buildings that is awesome. It’s a really really good vibe.”

Kustigian was the third and final finalist to visit the district. The school committee now plans to deliberate and vote to appoint a successor to outgoing superintendent Jodi Fortuna on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the school administration building.

The Big Red will be following the superintendent search until after the vote to appoint. Check back regularly for updates as the district holds new meetings!

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School committee chairperson Michele Tousignant Dufour names the four finalists for the Hudson superintendent job at a meeting on March 7. | Photo courtesy HudTV

by Dakota Antelman

Arlington’s Laura Chesson made her pitch to be the next superintendent of the Hudson Public Schools (HPS) on Wednesday, offering more than 20 years of experience in analytics that, she says, may help the district with its budget and state rating.

After visiting Hudson’s schools throughout the day, Chesson sat down with community members Wednesday afternoon for a Q&A and returned Wednesday evening for a public interview conducted by the school committee.

The sitting Arlington Assistant Superintendent began working with district budgets when she became the Principal of Maynard High School in 2008 and has since also gathered experience analyzing, reporting, and responding to MCAS and other data that the Massachusetts Department of Education collects.

“Being able to analyze data is critically important as a superintendent,” she told the Big Red shortly after speaking to the community in a public Q&A. She later added, “Sometimes, it just raises more questions for you, and if you can’t analyze that data, you can’t see what those questions that you need to ask are.”

Chesson started her education career as a math teacher, working first in New Mexico before briefly moving to Hudson. After she left HPS in 1997, she worked as an administrator in four different districts, including, most recently, Maynard and Leominster.

The Arlington Public Schools are roughly twice the size of the Hudson Public Schools in terms of students served and buildings occupied. As a result, the budget Chesson has helped draft each year has consistently been nearly twice the size of the Hudson budget, which has hovered around 30 million dollars for several years. | by Dakota Antelman
The Arlington Public Schools are roughly twice the size of the Hudson Public Schools in terms of students served and buildings occupied. As a result, the budget Chesson has helped draft each year has consistently been nearly twice the size of the Hudson budget, which has hovered around $30 million for several years. | by Dakota Antelman

Her current job in Arlington has often utilized her skills in data analysis and budgeting. Last spring, she and her fellow Arlington administrators worked through months of deliberation to add six million dollars to their budget for the 2017 fiscal year. This year, she once again helped compile her district’s budget.  

“There were things that we felt like we needed to add into the budget to meet our goals,” she said, later adding. “In order to add approximately $800,000 worth of things, we had to cut $730,000. So my ability to be able to look at and understand the budget enabled us to decide what we needed to cut and what we needed to add. My ability to analyze data helped with that.”

Hudson itself is facing budget cuts for the third straight year after the district cut roughly $750,000 from its budget in 2015, cutting parts of the elementary band program among other things.

As parents and staff fear further budget cuts, many also call attention to the state of special education in the district.

“We have significant issues that are constantly being addressed and readdressed,” said Maureen O’Brien, the mother of three HPS students and a special education teacher in the Worcester. “Consistency is always a question for me as a teacher, and a parent, and a friend of a lot of people in the special education community.”

Hearing O’Brien and several other citizens throughout the now months old search process, the school committee followed suit also brought up this topic in their public interview with Chesson.

“Special education and general education have to work in a partnership,” Chesson told the Big Red after the Q&A and before the school committee interview.  “I have worked very closely in that partnership for the past five years, even though my role isn’t in special education.”

Indeed, Chesson lacks the resume experience of the three other candidates that the school committee initially picked as finalists. She is the only Hudson finalist to have never worked as a special education teacher, coordinator or paraprofessional.

She did, however, fill the shoes of her current district’s special education administrator when that administrator went on maternity leave last year. Before that, she had also worked in a three-person teaching team early in New Mexico that integrated special education students and teachers with their general education classmates and colleagues.

by Dakota Antelman
by Dakota Antelman

“We were fully included, so I had students even with severe cognitive disabilities that were members of my class,” she said of her work there.

Their interviews with Marco Rodrigues of the Worcester Public Schools, and Chesson, complete, the committee did announce on Friday morning that their fourth finalist, Jahmal Mosley, had withdrawn his application for the Hudson job after taking a position in Nashua, NH.

They will now interview Brett Kustigian of the Quaboag Public Schools on Wednesday, March 29, before they vote to appoint a successor to sitting superintendent Jodi Fortuna the next day.

The Big Red will be following the superintendent search until after the vote to appoint. Check back regularly for updates as the district holds new interviews and meetings!

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Marco Rodrigues speaks during his interview with the school committee on Monday night. | Photo courtesy HudTV

by Dakota Antelman

The Hudson School Committee kicked off the final stages of its superintendent search Monday by hosting a Q&A and public interview with Marco Rodrigues of the Worcester Public Schools. In both appearances, Rodrigues listed transparency and communication as priorities should he become superintendent. 

The Worcester Chief Academic Officer and experienced public school administrator told parents, staff and the school committee that he values communication between parents and their student’s school as well as communication between teachers and their colleagues.

During the evening school committee interview, speaking before a largely empty room, he also noted how he would work not only to spark dialogue but also to make it more effective.

“It’s very important that the superintendent of the school is a person who the community knows,” he told the Big Red earlier in the day. “[The community needs to] know that he or she can be accessed, and [they need] to have opportunities to have forums where they can actually have conversations with the superintendent.”

While sparsely attended, the conversations that HPS parents, staff and school committee members did have with Rodrigues centered around familiar topics from the past four months of the superintendent search — special education and the budget.

Rodrigues brings experience as a special education coordinator and executive director of the Central Massachusetts Special Education Collaborative among other things. He described his approach to special education.

“The challenge is that each individual is so different that you never have two students who are alike,” he told the Big Red after the Q&A. “Different students have different needs, and some are more extensive than some teachers can provide. So it’s a balance of understanding who the population is and our day being grouped together and us providing our teachers with the best resources for teaching those students.”

During the Q&A itself, he went on to apply his philosophy to Hudson and the system of state ratings of public schools.

“For Hudson, when you look at the aggregate data from the state, you don’t look the greatest,” he said. “But when you look at the high school and the middle school and Forest Ave and the other schools individually, the schools are different, and the needs may be different.”

Near the end of his school committee interview, he circled back to a topic that had come up at several points during the day. As Hudson faces the threat of budget cuts for a third consecutive year, Rodrigues tackled the topic of finances head-on.

“There’s not one district in the commonwealth that doesn’t have a budget issue,” he told the Big Red. “The cost of education continues to rise, and you often don’t have more revenue to support that increase in need.”

If selected for the Hudson job, he said he would bring a “zero base budget” approach from Worcester to HPS. The system, which he helps operate on a yearly basis as a WPS administrator, requires his district to draft the budget “from scratch” every year, allowing his district to regularly reevaluate its spending choices.

“It’s about looking at every dollar that is being spent and making sure that it is being spent in a way that is providing the students with the best experience that they can have in the Hudson Public Schools,” he said.

At the beginning of his closing statement during Monday’s interview, Rodrigues complemented HPS on the quality of both its instruction and its facilities. Speaking earlier in the day on a similar topic, he noted how those two assets could come together with the effective communication and engagement he advocates.

by Dakota Antelman
by Dakota Antelman

“A school like this is very open to activities through the evening,” he said of Hudson High. “That’s the way all the schools should be. We have all these structures for school. We have to use them for community purposes as well. That’s when you start that dialogue of ‘It’s OK to be here. It’s OK for you to participate, and it’s OK for you to know what your child needs to do and needs to have to be successful.'”

Their day with Rodrigues completed, the school committee will now host similar Q&As and public interviews with other finalists — Brett Kustigian, Laura Chesson, and Jamal Mosley — before they vote to appoint a successor to current Superintendent Jodi Fortuna on March 30.

The Big Red will be following the superintendent search until after the vote to appoint. Check back regularly for updates as the district holds new interviews and meetings!