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District Insights: Book Festival celebrating 10 years

April 10, 2018 11:40 am Updated: April 10, 2018 11:42 am

Hello Spring! Although snow days bring joy to many, school superintendents in this region are particularly happy to have winter weather behind us. Snow days, delays, and early dismissals are never easy calls to make due to unpredictable weather patterns and shifting forecasts. I am pleased to say that Hudson stayed within the allotted snow days this year so our calendar will remain as planned.

As the saying goes, spring showers bring May flowers. One of the most beautiful flowers in our community is the widely known Hudson Children’s Book Festival (HCBF), which is celebrating its 10th anniversary on May 5, 2018. Raising awareness of the importance of children’s literacy has been a labor of love for our district. I am proud to have co-founded this event with my friend and colleague, Lisa Dolan. I am even more proud that it continues to flourish without my direct involvement.

Jen Clark and the countless number of volunteers and supporters have taken the festival to new heights. The HCBF Literacy Fund provides all HCSD students with a “Good For” coupon that gives them the purchasing power to choose a book by the author of their choice, get it signed, and bring it home after the festival. This has been a welcomed addition to what the HCBF has to offer. We thank community members Christine Jones and Susan Simon for their dedicated work in this regard. We also thank all of our sponsors and supporters who so generously give their time and talents each year. Mark your calendars for Saturday, May 5 — you won’t want to miss this milestone year!

Another important spring event is the annual school budget vote on Tuesday, May 15. We are currently completing the budget development process so voters will have a clear indication of our educational plan for the 2018-19 school year.

Part of the budget development process includes ensuring efficient use of taxpayers’ dollars while maintaining our improvement efforts. Since the majority of the district’s operating costs are staff-related, we conduct a careful analysis of staffing and student needs each year. We add or reduce staff as appropriate whenever there is a shift in our student or building needs.

This year, one significant cost savings comes from the Board-approved solar project erected behind the high school. The solar field is part of the K-Solar Program, which supports New York State school districts in accessing affordable solar energy, and is partially funded by NYSERDA, NYPA, NYSED and Tesla. No money from the school district was expended to fund this project, however we do stand to benefit from the cost savings associated with solar energy.

The installation was recently completed and National Grid turned it on in late March. Through a solar power purchase agreement with Tesla and National Grid, the district is able to receive a credit for all solar-generated electricity at a set price per kilowatt hour for the next 18 years. The use of solar power will provide the district with approximately 60% savings on our electricity bill, which will be considerably noticeable at the junior/senior high school. The Jr./Sr. High campus uses the most energy of all our schools as it is used in the evening, weekends and on special occasions to host many school and community events. The new solar array also positions the district as a leader in “green” and renewable energy solutions.

Although this year is not yet finished, we are already looking forward to the 2018-19 school year. It will be a particularly momentous occasion for our district as we complete the voter-approved capital project and finish the melding of our primary and elementary students and staff under one roof.

The newly renovated and expanded M.C. Smith building has been our chameleon school—it has transformed from a high school to a middle school to an intermediate school, and finally this September it will be home to our Pre-K through Grade 5 elementary community. We are excited to enter a new era of contiguous programming for our youngest students before they make the leap to the Jr./Sr. High campus.

Wishing you all a warm and prosperous spring.

Maria Suttmeier is Superintendent of Hudson City School District.