Remarks prompt board to assess meeting minutes policy 

by Judy Stringer 

Feb. 12 school board meeting 

To attach written public comments to meeting minutes or not: That is a question two members of the Hudson City School Board will consider over the next couple of months.  

Board member Laura Jones broached the topic after Hudson resident Kathy Lowman accused the board of censorship by not including her submitted public remarks as part of the meeting minutes of Jan. 8 and Jan. 22, despite her request to do so. Lowman said a similar request went unfilled regarding the December meeting minutes.  

“All of you newly elected board members ran on the platform of improving board transparency with the community,” Lowman said during the public comment period. “Excluding public comments submitted for the written meeting minutes is not being transparent.” 

Board President Steve DiMauro said he did not see any reason to change the board’s current practice, in which it simply denotes “if someone had commented” during the public remarks section.  

“My concern, I’ll be quite candid, is this board of education and our meetings have often been used as a soapbox, and we do not have an obligation for items to be entered into the record,” he said. “The record isn’t a soapbox.” 

Other board members appeared more open to considering a change in practice. Board member Tom Tobin said making written comments available with meeting minutes “is commonly done” in other public boards and councils.  

“I honestly don’t see any problem with doing that,” he said, adding that he’d like to see the minutes “at least” reflect the names of people who made public comments. 

Several board members and district administrators noted that anyone can hear public comments by watching the meeting live or via archived videos. A link on the taped livestream even takes viewers to that portion of the meeting directly, they said.  

Weighing in, Superintendent Dana Addis said, “I don’t know of one other school district that puts anything out to its community beyond the minutes.” 

Board members Tobin and Alisa Wright, both of whom are policy representatives for the board, said they would be willing to examine the issue further from a policy perspective. DiMauro said any changes to the way meeting minutes are presented should be agreed upon “by all five board members.” 

Early literacy update 

Assistant Superintendent Doreen Osmun said the district is finalizing its selection of an early reading program, which would go into effect next school year. According to Osmun, the state’s latest budget bill stipulates that by the 2024-25 school year, all schools must use reading programs that have been approved by the state. Hudson, she said, is currently evaluating four of the state-approved programs.   

Osmun said the K-5 reading programs range between $10,000 to $12,000 per classroom. The district’s cost would be somewhere around $985,000 and over $1 million when factoring in professional development and training requirements. The state has said funding will be made available for the mandated materials, Osmun added, although no dollar figure has been disclosed.  

She also said the programs under review “align with the science of reading,” an educational approach focused on phonics, or learning to read by correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters. In late 2022, a group of parents began scrutinizing Hudson for producing struggling readers by relying on a reading curriculum that didn’t emphasize phonics skills. In a series of board meeting updates since, the district has announced the implementation of curriculum revisions and supplemental materials to boost its phonics instruction. 

HCER expansion 

During the educational focus portion of the meeting, Meredith Zaffrann, director of HCER, the district’s community recreation arm, shared plans to expand HCER’s adult programs, particularly those aimed at seniors. Zaffrann said she has been in contact with Hudson Senior Network, and the two groups are discussing how they might collaborate.  

The board later approved a promotion related to this expansion. Daniel Quallich, formerly HCER program coordinator, is now HCER assistant director. Zaffrann said the newly created administrative position will free her up to work on projects like senior, preschool and adaptive programming, such as starting a wheelchair basketball program.   

As part of the initial HCER discussion, Tobin had voiced concerns about whether HCER still belonged under the district’s umbrella. He cited “rumblings that the city might be interested in having HCER or some portion of it in their portfolio,” and said it might be time to consider “alternatives.” 

Osmun, in her reply, called HCER, “an integral part of what we do.”   

House hunting? 

Individuals interested in purchasing the district-owned, 130-year-old Saywell House may soon get that chance – with a few stipulations.  

“We would have terms of conditions, like disassembling the house, moving the house, things of that nature,” said Operations Director Tom Barone.  

Hudson wants the house – which sits adjacent to Hudson Middle School’s North Oviatt Street driveway – gone to make way for a planned widening of that driveway.  

Barone said the home would go up for public auction first, and the board would have the opportunity to approve the bid. A private sale would follow if the auction failed to produce a vetted bid. If those avenues of transferring ownership are exhausted, the final option could be demolition, he said.   

Each of those three steps would require a board vote, according to Barone. ∞