District adopts new early reading program

by Judy Stringer

June 10 school board meeting

Elementary and intermediate students will begin using a new reading curriculum in the fall. The Hudson Board of Education approved the adoption of “Benchmark Advance,” published by Benchmark Education Company, as the district’s K-5 literacy program.

Ohio’s 2024-25 budget bill required public schools to implement “the science of reading,” an educational approach focused on phonics or learning to read by correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters. The state’s Department of Education and Workforce, the new name for the Ohio Department of Education, later released a list of approved materials aligned to that methodology.

Assistant Superintendent Doreen Osmun said her team vetted “every literacy program” on the list and “had our teachers do deep dives into four different programs” before narrowing it down to “Benchmark Advance,” which she recommended for board approval.

“We will have extensive professional development [for teachers] this summer and throughout the school year, so we’re excited about that,” Osmun said.

During her state testing update, Osmun noted that the number of first-graders needing “intensive intervention” rose from 31 (10% of first-grade students) in the fall to 44 (14%) in the spring. Meanwhile, 52 (16%) second-graders fell into the intensive-intervention category in the fall – a segment that rose to 54 (17%) mid-year before falling to 47 (14%) in the spring.

While Osmun explained that the expectation for proficiency also increases from the fall to the spring assessment, she said Ellsworth Hill Elementary teachers, administrators and the district’s curriculum leaders are taking a closer look at intervention efforts aimed at those struggling readers.

“That is a work in progress,” she said.

Several other texts were approved for adoption along with “Benchmark Advance.” High School AP psychology students will use “Myers’ Psychology,” published by Bedford, Freeman & Worth; physical science students will use “Inspire Physical Science,” published by McGraw Hill; and Chinese learners will use “Go Far with Chinese,” published by Cheng & Tsui. The new middle school health text is McGraw Hill’s “Teen Health.”

Therapy dogs

Kelly Kempf, director of pupil services, said this summer, Hudson plans to reach out to districts with “more permanent therapy dogs” to get information on the policies and procedures that go along with that. Responding to a request by board member Tom Tobin to expand the use of therapy dogs, Kempf said Hudson doesn’t have a therapy dog policy in place, “in terms of the logistics and insurance.” Currently, she said, therapy dogs brought on school campuses are managed by “outside handlers” on a limited basis.

“We could definitely increase what we have with outside handlers coming in, but if there’s a [board] interest in doing something more often, then we can try to get that information and decide what that looks like here,” Kempf said.

“There are some burdens of having animals in your building,” Superintendent Dana Addis added, “and the administration wants to maintain a good balance between what these dogs and the outside presence can do while maintaining the pursuit of academic excellence.”

Felony fallout

Addis reiterated his comments from earlier this year that Hudson administrators did not have the authority to suspend or expel a former Hudson High School teen facing sexual assault charges. He also said district leadership relied on legal counsel with regard to student privacy laws and when and how they released information about the case. At the board meeting, Addis refrained from using the student’s name.

Addis’ remarks came on the heels of continued backlash for letting the student, former senior Jeremiah Stoehr, attend classes and extracurricular activities following his indictment on five felony counts related to a Dec. 2 incident. Court records of this case are sealed. At recent board meetings, several individuals have criticized Hudson’s handling of the student.

Sharing his concerns on June 10, resident Bill Klausman said court documents he retrieved before they were sealed suggest the district was not required to provide the student with on-campus education.

“Hudson alone has the right, power and authority to determine if a student’s attendance on campus poses a threat to the safety of the Hudson schools, students, teachers and staff,” Klausman said.

Resident Kathy Lowman said the district has “shattered and continues to destroy” public trust with its “untimely notification” about the indictment and “ongoing spin.” ∞