News

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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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by Cheyenne McLeod

Principal Brian Reagan proposed an incentive for rising seniors to the school committee on April 11. His proposal would allow students with rigorous schedules to have a free “X’ block if they meet certain criteria. On May 9, the school committee voted and approved this schedule change for seniors starting with the class of 2018.

In the following weeks after Advanced Placement exams, qualified rising seniors will be notified and given the option to add an “X” block to their schedule for next year.

The criteria of a rigorous schedule is under discussion, but Reagan says that they will consider the amount of AP and Honors classes students take and their participation in activities.  

Since the introduction of the block schedule four years ago, Reagan said that many parents have become concerned about students’ course load.

Reagan supports this proposal.

“We don’t have a lot of incentives for seniors like a lot of high schools do. There’s not a whole lot that seniors get for almost making it to the finish line. If we put something like this into place, this can help promote academic rigor, excellence and responsibility among our student body.”

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To qualify for this opportunity students must meet the following criteria: a daily attendance rate of 95%, a GPA of 3.5 or higher on the 5-point scale, no disciplinary offenses, and as expected, a signed parent permission form*. Administration will be focused on the student’s junior year to determine eligibility.

 

Students have the option to choose “X” block as either a year-long or a semester course, and “X” blocks are not credit-earning electives. Senior students with an “X” block will be able to leave campus for that 70-minute block period, and on some days that includes coming in late or leaving early. Seniors are also given the freedom to work quietly in the library or receive extra help from a teacher during school hours.

Seniors with an “X” block must carry their student ID with them when they leave and return to campus, and students must sign in and out of the office, as well as comply with all of Massachusetts Junior Operator Licensing regulations. If any rules are broken, the administration can revoke a student’s “X” block privileges.

*Criteria for senior privileges are subject to change.*

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Sample layout for seniors with an “X” block

 

 

Since the approval of “X” block, this raises questions about the junior class. They take rigorous courses, too. Should they be able to have an “X” block?

“If it goes well next year for the seniors,” Reagan says, “we’ll consider a similar option for juniors.” Juniors would not be able to leave campus, but if they qualified, they could have a study hall period.

As for the underclassmen, Reagan has hope that this change will “encourage underclassmen to work hard” and earn better grades to eventually qualify for this opportunity.

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The Spike for MS sign hung up in the gym | by Brianna Cabral

by Brianna Cabral

Over the last two years, Hudson resident Andrew Perna has organized a volleyball tournament to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. By the end of the tournament on May 7 he had raised $2,731 ($6,000 including last year’s donations).

Fourteen years ago Perna’s wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease involving damage to the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that over time affects the function of the nerves and muscles. “The cause of MS is close to my heart. I know there’s a lot of people that are connected to the disease in the Hudson community,” Perna says.

To play in the tournament, each team must have five players, two of which are female. Each player pays $25 as commission.

| by Brianna Cabral
by Brianna Cabral

He also raises money through raffles. In addition to watching the teams play, people can check out the table displaying all of the prizes that businesses have donated. This year the Celtics donated a basketball signed by Isaiah Thomas, the Red Sox gave a signed photo, and DROXX (a local barber shop) donated a $50 gift card.

Eveh though Perna knows many people in the community, organizing these events can be challenging. “It’s hard to keep everyone happy because everyone has got to find something that they don’t like,” he says. “But it’s a lot of fun, and there’s really not a lot of stress involved because I have so many people that help out.”

This is not the only charity event they hold for the year. “We also do a walk every year,” Perna explains, “and a muck run. I just thought [the volleyball tournament] was another way to raise more money for a cause so important to me.”

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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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by Serena Richards

After learning about the Vans Custom Culture contest from Principal Reagan, art teacher Jenna Johnson and other art teachers encouraged students to create sneaker designs for one of five categories. Johnson’s fashion design class voted on the submissions in those five categories on March 24.

The art teachers loved how well the contest fit with the new fashion design class’s curriculum, Johnson explained. Since the class currently does not have a project planned around footwear, Johnson thought giving the students the opportunity to vote on our school’s submissions would be good for the class.

Several students entered. “Since so many of the students here are into their shoes, it was a good idea to give them an opportunity to design their own,” Johnson said.

The fashion class voted on four submissions, one from each category, to represent the school in the contest.  In the action sports category, they voted for eighth grader Ariel Bobe’s design. For the art category, they chose eighth grader Kaytlynn Butland’s design. Freshman Annalise Chaves was chosen for the local flavor category, and sophomore Chris Hatch was chosen for the music category. Savanna Fillmore also won for the textile design pattern.

After the fashion design students picked the winners, each contestant applied the designs onto a physical shoe. The school winners have been working on the final designs since March 24.

The window for submissions to the national contest opened on March 1 and closed on April 10, but national voting on the designs does not start until April 26. Van’s will create and sell the winning designs, and the art department would win $50,000. The top five national winners would fly to Los Angeles to celebrate the designs.

 

 

 

 

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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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Dr. Brett Kustigian conferences over his ideas about becoming Hudson's Superintendent; By HudTV

by Rebecca Shwartz

Dr. Brett Kustigian

Why do you want to be the superintendent of Hudson Public Schools?

I think Hudson is an up and coming community. Hudson is also very similar to Quaboag in the demographics; they’re almost identical. The major difference is that Hudson has more students and is located next to major highways. The location of Hudson is very appealing, and I feel that it is a perfect match. Hudson aligns perfectly with my beliefs of maintaining high standards of academic excellence, preparing all students to be intellectually serious, academically competent, and being successful, active citizens in competitive global environments.

 

How will you address the growing mental health issues that students are facing?

That is not unique to Hudson. That is an issue that I’m dealing with currently in my district. It’s also a state and nationwide issue, and let me explain how I’m addressing it in my district. When I first came to Quaboag, we had four advanced placement classes, and we currently have thirteen, and it’s an example of how we raised the academic rigor at Quaboag. When you raise the academic rigor, it causes stress for students, and we have a lot of students that are taking three, four, five, sometimes even six AP classes. With that amount of stress, you need to make sure that students are healthy, that they feel safe, that they feel supported, and that they have an optimal learning environment.

One of the things we’ve done is we’ve created a districtwide wellness program, and what we do at the high school is that we have a wellness coordinator. What she does is that she has these videos we play around five minutes long, and before certain classes, they’ll relax and run through a few mental exercises and stretches to make sure kids are in the right mindset as they go on to learn new things. If you’re not in the right mindset to learn, it’s very difficult. I can tell you it’s been very, very successful at the high school level, and we’re also starting to do it at the elementary level, so we have students from the high school like athletes, singers, students the younger students look up to running through these mental exercises on video and showing it to the elementary students. It puts them at ease, makes them feel comfortable and safe, and it creates a positive learning environment. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from the schools.

 

What do you see as strengths and weaknesses in our district?

I look forward to meeting everyone, as I’ve only met select people. I’ve been to the town many times. I like the downtown area, and it’s part of the appeal, the downtown revitalization project. I would have to wait until I get more information to make a determination on strengths and weaknesses. I can tell you that the community has a tremendous amount of strength, and it’s getting statewide recognition for the revitalization project. I think with the schools, the Level 3 school (one of the lowest levels a school can be) concerns me, and that would be something I’d really like to see the issues behind it there.

 

How does your experience make you a great candidate for this district?

So, I’ve been superintendent of Quaboag going on nine years now. My favorite author, Malcolm Gladwell, he’s written many books, and one of the books called Outliers is where he talks about the ten thousand hour rule. The rule says people need to practice at least three hours a day for ten years in order to master a craft, and whether the craft is athletics or academics, he argues it takes at least ten thousand hours to get good at something. I would say that I’m somewhere between ten to twelve hours of work a day since becoming superintendent, and as a result, I’ve put in thousands of hours, and I’m very well versed when it comes to issues in education, so I’m ready to take on a larger school district.

 

Do you have a transition plan for the district?

I would say that I would hit the ground listening, and, you know, my mother used to tell me, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason,” and that is basically how I would start. I would listen, listen, listen. I would go out to the students, to the teachers, to the community members, to the parents, to pretty much anybody that will provide feedback. From there, gather all that data, and then come up with a plan to make Hudson a Level 1 school district, and that would be my goal – to reach Level 1 and to become one of the best school districts.

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Dr. Laura Chesson speaks out about her ideas of improving Hudson's education

by Rebecca Shwartz

Dr. Laura Chesson

Why do you want to be the superintendent of Hudson Public Schools?

I actually taught in Hudson when I first came back to Massachusetts. I’ve lived in New York and New Mexico because of my husband’s work and my work. I worked in industry before I became an educator. I taught math for eighth grade when eighth grade was incorporated in the high school, math for ninth and tenth graders, and I was one of the first teachers in Virtual High School. When I became a principal in Maynard, I interacted with the people in Hudson and learned about the school district in the area. It has a good reputation for being an innovative district, having a strong community to support it, and diversity in the community, which makes for a rich learning environment.

 

How will you address the growing mental health issues that students are facing?

Unfortunately, it starts at a very early age, sometimes as early as elementary school, and in Arlington we’ve put in a number of programs to try to help students with social and emotional health right from the elementary school. We have a program in kindergarten called Tools of The Mind, which tries to help students do self-regulation to control their responses to situations and their anger or express themselves with words when they’re upset to handle problems.

We then expand that program in grades one through five with Responsive Classroom, which teaches both teachers and students about the strength of words and how the words you choose can make a difference with positive or negative outcomes. We’ve also incorporated social workers at the elementary schools, so students can go get assistance or talk to them about problems. Both of these programs at the elementary schools help to create positive relationships between teachers and students, so students feel that there’s always somebody to talk to.

At the middle school, we’re planning to bring Responsive Classroom in two years because we’re in the process of providing professional development for teachers to get an idea of what to follow. There are other programs in the middle school, such as World of Difference and Care Coaching that also help create relationships between students and students with teachers. All the guidance counselors are certified school adjustment counselors so that they have the ability to handle and support students.

At the high school, we put in numerous programs to try to support connections between students, and we’ve been working a lot at the high school recently, introducing the Harbor Program for students that have social, emotional, and mental health problems, who have possibly had significant outpatient treatment to help make the transition back to school. We also have a program called the Millbrook Program for students with social and emotional problems that are unable to attend to their issues in a residential placement; it’s a smaller environment to really support them with their mental health issues. There would be similar programs in Hudson, but since I’m not in Hudson, I couldn’t tell you exactly what I would do. It’s important to come in, learn about the community, and talk to the teachers, administrators, and parents to find the specific needs.

 

What do you see as strengths and weaknesses in our district?

I definitely think one of the strengths is the attentiveness of the community to the educational process, so it’s definitely the support from the community and from the parents regarding the education. They want good schools for their children. They want to be involved in the school process and the educational process. Good education comes from what’s called a “three-legged stool,” one of the legs being the parents, another being the community, and the third being the school system. If you have those three things, you have a good, solid foundation on which to build an educational experience for students. In terms of weaknesses, I’m not entirely sure I’d count this as a weakness, but it’s a challenge every district in Massachusetts faces with the rising cost of education and the increase of students with social and emotional problems or mental health issues. Both of these issues are rising across the state, and our funding from the state isn’t sufficient anymore to alleviate the pressure on these communities. You have to be creative in your problem solving, work closely with the community in order to communicate our priorities and make sure all of the funding is focused on those priorities.

 

How does your experience make you a great candidate for this district?

I have a very unique background, since I worked in industry for ten years before coming into education, and I’ve been in education for twenty years now. The reason I think that was beneficial is that the company believed in teamwork, creative problem solving, thinking outside the box, and the importance of the individual with development well before it became fashionable; thirty-five years ago, we were learning how to develop people and recognize that people were your most valuable resource. In addition, I’ve taught a wide variety of subjects, possibly more than others just because of the places I’ve worked in. I’ve worked in a very poor school district in New Mexico where I taught English, math, and science to eighth graders. When I came to Massachusetts, I taught math in Hudson, and I taught math, music, and writing in a Boston school. I have been an administrator in small cities, like Leominster. I was the assistant principal at their high school, which is very large and holds about 1,900 students. I’ve also been principal of Maynard High School, which was very small and had 303 students attending. I’ve worked in Boston, in a school which was the only public high school for the visual and performing arts, and now I’m the assistant superintendent in Arlington. In Arlington, our district is almost like a microcosm of all those other experiences for me, because two of our elementary schools are on the eastern side of the town, and they’re very urban with populations similar to what you would get in Cambridge or Boston, while on the other side of town, we have more suburban schools. We have seven elementary schools that are contrasting and are similar in some ways, but we feel like we need to be committed to providing them the same education, whether we have a school with more economical challenges and English being taught as their second language or even wealthy families that know English as their first language. My experiences have given me a strong background and let me look at a wide variety of solutions that I think would make me a valuable candidate to the town of Hudson.

 

Can you describe your districtwide teacher leadership program?

That is correct, as sometimes, teachers would like to have a chance at learning leadership skills, want to have an opportunity to share with their colleagues, but don’t want to leave the classroom, and often times these ideas are valuable in the classroom with other teachers, as it gives them an opportunity to have a growth in their career path.

Our teacher leadership program started in English Language Arts at the elementary level where we have teachers that would really like to be working with their peers, coach their peers, maybe offer others to join them in their classroom to see a new curriculum. What we do is we have teachers host other teachers in their room to see a unit, like opinion writing in third grade, and they’d watch the teachers teach, and the invited teacher would work with small groups of students until they finished with a debriefing session. The exemplary teacher would meet with the invited teacher after school or possibly an online discussion group and talk about what did or didn’t work in the lesson. The exemplary teacher would then videotape themselves and post the videos on the web, so other teachers could see the follow up lessons and teach that lesson to their own students. They’re there to provide coaching, assistance, provide professional development, and they get to spend their time in the classroom doing what they love while expanding their career.

We’ll be expanding that in the fall to include math and science at the elementary level. We chose to do the elementary level first because elementary teachers have to teach all the major subjects while laying the groundwork for social emotional development for students to learn how to study, how to behave in class, how to stand in a line correctly, ideas like that. By having these teacher leaders working with them on these challenging jobs, we give them a level of support we couldn’t afford otherwise.

We also have teacher leaders in technology, as some teachers offered to be trailblazers in the use of technology in the classroom, and they started this movement five years ago, and at this point, it’s spread across the district, but for the first couple of years when we had an influx of technology, these teachers would be the ones that would be using it in their classroom first, showing it every couple of weeks, talk about what was working, give back feedback to the IT department where there were problems, and ran development classes for peers. Our teacher leadership program really grew organically because these teachers really wanted to have this opportunity, and now, they’re eager to try all sorts of new programs for our peers. We like to sit and look at writing samples, talk about how we’d grade them, and they’re running with the ball while I’m just working on supporting them and getting them the funds.

 

Do you have a transition plan for the district?

When I was the principal in Maynard and when I became the assistant superintendent in Arlington, you developed a transition plan, so I developed a plan that involves really getting to know the community and listening a lot. For the first six to nine months, you’re basically listening and asking a lot of questions, and then playing back to the people that you asked questions and listened to make sure you actually heard them. Sometimes you might have some brief conceived notions about what’s going on, and that can color what you think you heard, so you have to say “I think I heard you say this, is that correct?”.

I’m meeting with people in the community, the town government, the town manager, the planning committee, going to community events, any senior centers or another organization in town that would be good to meet. In Arlington, I met with the Rotary club. I met with real estate workers to find out their opinion on the schools and what they tell their clients when coming to buy houses in Arlington, to really gather as much information as possible, even from teachers, the principal, students, staff members and people who work in the cafeteria. I often find the most interesting things from the custodians that work in my building, and they really know what’s going on and where some concerns are. Gathering information from all of those people and playing it back to them to make sure you heard them correctly is probably the largest part of my transition plan for the first year or so.

 

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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!