Another police officer will be assigned to schools

by Judy Stringer

April 13 board of education meeting

Hudson City School District will soon have one more School Resource Officer patrolling its buildings, following the school board’s unanimous approval of a three-year contract with the Hudson City Police Department to hire a third SRO. The department currently provides two SROs at no cost to the district.

For the additional officer, HCSD will pay $110,000 annually. The officer will remain an employee of the city.

The addition of an SRO comes at the recommendation of Police Chief Perry Tabak, according to board members.

Board Vice President Alisa Wright added that “based on the recommendation of Chief Tabak” and district administration, the plan is to have one dedicated SRO at the high school, one committed to the middle school, and a third that rotates between the three lower grade buildings “on a daily basis, essentially building relationships.”

“Also to emphasize, I think people think of resource officers in terms of reacting to an intrusion. Obviously, that’s a big part of the benefit that we have,” said board member James Field. “But really, their primary work is preventative … working as a team with teachers and staff in terms of identifying children at risk of harm to themselves and to others early on, and providing support before it becomes a situation where someone might cause harm.”

The board asked district leaders to consider how a service dog might be factored into one of the SRO positions. Board member Tom Tobin reflected on a presentation he heard from an SRO at Kent Roosevelt High School, who noted how much more approachable he was once a therapy dog accompanied him to the schools.

Wright and board President Steve DiMauro suggested the canine conversation be part of the ongoing strategic plan conversations and that community nonprofits might be interested in helping fund a canine program.  

Superintendent Dana Addis responded that the district “is working on it.”

Addis also gave the board a sneak peek into what will be a bigger discussion at the April 24 meeting. Addis said the district “has continued to add resources that build up our phonics instruction” since implementing new kindergarten through third-grade curriculum during the 2019-2020 school year.

Hudson’s early reading program has been scrutinized by a group of parents in recent months, who link reading challenges among young students to reliance on the “Units of Study” curriculum by Lucy Calkins.

Addis said the district is piloting the revision of that curriculum, “which migrates away from what is called the ‘cueing system’ to using phonics when first reading or decoding words,” as well as a phonics program called “Fundations.”

“Our team has been working for the past year to adjust our curriculum, namely increased phonics identified in the dyslexia law and also that align with Ohio’s plan to raise literacy achievement,” he explained.

Performing arts renovation project

Addis said more information would be forthcoming about potential renovations to the performing arts spaces at Hudson High School. According to the superintendent, administrators have had early discussions with GPD Group about upgrading the current band and choir rooms and/or the possibility of building a new orchestra room.

Currently, he said, they are “heading down the path” of renovations plus the orchestra addition. He believes the district might be able to get some financial backing from groups like Hudson City Schools Foundation and Hudson Community Foundation.

“We are working on actual design plans from GDP,” he said, “and then we’ll begin to talk about [financial] figures and we’ll begin to talk about support. I just needed the board to be aware that we are now fully engaged in this project.”

Assistant Superintendent Doreen Osmun noted that an orchestra room was in the original high school design but scrapped to cut costs. Having a dedicated orchestra room, she added, was something that came up during focus group discussions when the district was preparing for the latest bond issue. That bond was used to pay for the new middle school construction and other renovations across the district.

“I think we need to really keep that in mind that this is part of our student’s educational experience,” Wright said. “We should also be considering how Hudson Community Education and Recreation might use this or how our community might also use this space as we’re building it into our schools.”