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Hudson principal retires after his position is eliminated

Steve Spicer said he was forced to resign as principal of John L. Edwards Primary School on Aug. 31.
May 3, 2018 11:35 pm

HUDSON — A Hudson City School District principal has resigned after he was told his position would be cut when the district merges its intermediate and primary schools in September.

Steve Spicer has served as an assistant principal of the Hudson City School District for 16 years. For the past seven years, he’s served as principal of John L. Edwards Primary School at 360 State St.

Spicer, 56, will be eligible to collect his retirement benefits after Aug. 31, when his resignation becomes effective.

The departure of Spicer, who is black, will leave an all-white administrative staff at the helm of Columbia County’s most diverse school district.

“My only regret in retirement is that the most diverse school district in Columbia County will no longer have any school administrators of color,” Spicer said. “And with Dr. Suttmeier and this school board having no specific plans or programs in place for future minority leadership recruitment, there won’t be any hope of another school principal of color in Hudson for many years to come.”

After Edwards closes this summer, pre-K, kindergarten and first-grade students will be housed in a new wing of the Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School, which is under construction.

With the closing of the elementary school, Spicer decided to resign after district administrators told him his position was being eliminated from the district on March 26, he said Thursday. He submitted his resignation April 26.

School Superintendent Maria Suttmeier and the school board gave Spicer an ultimatum to submit a letter of resignation, or he would be dismissed on June 30, which would cause him to lose his health care plan and summer salary, he said.

Spicer’s position would have been eliminated effective June 30, 2018, Suttmeier said Thursday.

“The district has for some time, dating back to the 2015-2016 school year, made it known to the public that through the capital project, John L. Edwards would be closed at the end of the 2017-2018 school year,” Suttmeier said in a statement. “As a result, in order to ensure that our taxpayers are only paying for what is absolutely necessary, an elementary principal position was to be abolished.

“There is no dispute, and in fact, Mr. Spicer’s union representatives have agreed that he is the least senior elementary principal, and therefore, his position was to be abolished pursuant to New York Education Law 3013,” Suttmeier added.

Spicer did not want to retire, he said.

“I am going to miss working with the children who I love very much and the teachers and the staff and their families,” Spicer said.

The district will merge the primary and Montgomery C. Smith intermediate schools as part of the final stage of its $19.9 million capital project. Pre-K through fifth-grade students will attend the intermediate school, at 102 Harry Howard Ave., starting in September.

Second-grade students were moved to the intermediate school last September. After Edwards is closed, the building will be put up for sale.

“I would have also liked to have been here to help the children and families to get through the transition that is ahead,” Spicer said Thursday.

When district administrators informed Spicer the board will eliminate his position, Spicer, speaking through his union attorney, requested to retire, Suttmeier said.

“The district graciously agreed to allow Mr. Spicer to retire on Aug. 31, 2018, which allows him two additional months of employment and retiree benefits under the collective bargaining agreement with the Hudson Administrators Association,” the superintendent said.

In the district’s 2018-19 budget talks, school board members considered having one elementary principal, one associate principal and one dean of students, or having one elementary principal and two associate principals.

On March 12, Spicer appealed to the Hudson City School Board of Education asking to stay employed for one more year to help the students’ transition to Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School.

After leaving the district in August, Spicer will be a consultant to school districts that want to improve the cultural diversity of their staffs, he said.

To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.

Mr. Spicer and I often disagreed on methodology. But that's no reason not to defend him in this situation. The Superintendent spoke often about how she'd like to get rid of Mr. Spicer on more than one occasion. The administrative contract I knew did not differentiate between Elementary and Secondary Principals regarding seniority. My position was cut when ALP closed after 4 very successful years and I was never threatened with not having a position to step into. I was never an administrator at Hudson high school and that's where I was placed.

This is an outrageous act supported by both Ms. Suttmeier and the entire BOE. It's illegal and underhanded, but why would that matter to them at this point. It's a road well traveled for them. I trhought they'd learned their lesson, apparently NOT!
Too bad that Principal Spicer could not stay to support his students with their transition to their new school.
I have to say that diversity goes well beyond skin color. The former NYS Commissioner was black, but he was the whitest black man every put on this planet. He refused to even put his kids in a public school. But he was the man in charge of public education??? Right....him and Betsy DeVos.
The claim that Mr. Spicer is suddenly being forced out is not accurate. Prior to the Capital Project agenda and vote, Mr. Spicer shared his plans to retire with staff and parents. The staff came together to purchase him a special gift during the 2016-2017 school year based on this information he shared, with the anticipation and impression of him electing to retire prior to the merge of the buildings.

Spicer's attempts of fulfilling personal and financial agendas at the expense of our district's reputation continue to be toxic to the school community and disheartening to parents and tax payers.
I am a retiree of the Hudson City School District. My entire career spanning 32 years were spent mostly at The John Edwards School. Me. Spicer was my most recent principal. When I was in the second grade one of my spelling words was Principal. Practicing at home, with my mom she said, "remember the principal is your pal, you will remember how to spell it". that is who Mr. Spicer has been. A caring and compassionate friend to all of the students and to the staff. Building morale amongst every person in the building, always aware of the qualities and skills the children would need to be successful in the future. I saw heartfelt love, on a daily basis, true caring for each and every student and adult. When Mr. Spicer asked to stay on for one more year to help with the transition of the students the district did not accept it. The John L Edward School is known countywide,for the love that is put into the students there. It is a sign of love and caring that Mr. Spicer would asked to stay on for one additional year more to help with the emotional transition of the children . This is not a ploy or a tactic. It is heart. It should not be about saving money. What is the most crucial here is what is best for the children. If you asked any child and took a poll, "Would you like to see Mr. Spicer in your school next year, with you? They would all say YES! This is what, Destination Graduation", should be about. Moving to a new building will be Trumatic for many of the students. Wouldn't it be nice if they saw Mr. Spicer there as a familiar face, someone they know so well and a person who cares for them so dearly? I decided to return to HCSD and substitute teach. What I found was that my 32 years of experience meant nothing to the school district. I was rarely called to sub, not one call for the first 3 months of the school year. I considered myself highly respected by the administration prior to my retirement. But once I retired, I thought I would go back in and have an opportunity to be in classes, to encourage and teach some of my past students but what I found was that, unqualified individuals were placed in teaching positions. I always believed in Destination Gaduation. I worked so hard toward it. But again what I saw was that retired teacher aides and people uncertified in New York State in primary school levels were being placed, in classrooms where they had no idea of the curriculum or the level of the students. I became so frustrated with the fact that the children were not being taught or cared for,in the proper manner, due to a $20 difference in salary, I have decided not to substitute teach anymore. It was so hurtful. I see the same is happening to Mr. Spicer. He has given so many years to HCSD and is the EXPERT on the PK-2nd Grade curriculum and student.Yet he is not being given the opportunity to continue. As I was not given the opportunity to continue,to be the expert substitute. The system is BROKEN. What sense does it make? Throw away the experts. I don't believe it is in the best interest,of the children,to do so.! What do you think? I believe all of us that have been there ,with Mr. Spicer over these years and have had such wonderful contact with him, in regard to his loving care and commitment to all of the students of the John Edwards School should rally on his behalf. Please contact a board member or Dr. Suttmeier and let her know that as parents you want better for your children. You want what is BEST! Having an expert is what is best and an expert with such love and devotion is even better!
I am sure I know you. What I am not sure of is why you're suprised that the current administration could care less about the kids and more about their personal agenda.
A person makes a big decision when they contemplate retiring, it is often filled with a great deal of emotion. I experienced that myself, where I wasn't so sure, I really wanted to go, after I had decided to do so. Mr. Spicer chose to stay on. He was given a gift and it is a "Forever Gift". No matter the year, it was our gift to him, for his retirement.
When ALP was cut Mr. Spicer had more seniority than I did as a secondary Principal. I was put at the high school as a co-Principal which pushed an assistant principal out of a high school position. That person then worked at the junior high and middle school. It appears that the reason I was forced to go there was to push Mr. Spicer out of that position. It's not only the Superintendent and BOE in on this game against Mr. Spicer. Most of the other building level administrators are in on this as well. It's a tight knit group that carry very big knives, but you never see them coming.
Well, unfortunately, I have been informed that this "I am getting cut" routine is just a hoax. It seems Mr. Spicer was planning to retire this year anyway. Can't say I am suprised. I remember a picture of him leaving the HPD station when he filed charges that I pointed my finer at him. He lost the backing of the black community after that farce. He also pretended that he dropped the charges in Jack Howe's office saying he wanted to "move on." The truth of the matter was that the DA refused to go forward with the accusation because there was no evidence, even with the video. Mr. Spicer got so upset that the DA was ready to throw him out of the office and file charges against him. Then he pretends to be all "lets work together" BS. Soooooo Mr. Spiced as the President said to almost all of his staff......don't let the door hit you in the ass.

Has the General public seen this nonsense??? This is a cry for attention from a man who know every fast food location on the east coast.

Dr. Suttmeier,

On 4/17 after informing you that I was on my way to an emergency room, in desperate fear of a stroke or heart-attack, I was shocked to open your email stating that, even though you knew, I was critically ill, if I delayed in delivering a promised retirement letter on that day, that you and the board would move ahead with a resolution to excess or fire me on June 30th (see emails attached). It was our agreement that in leu of being excessed or fired in June, I would provide an August letter of resignation on this day. But being in an emergency room very close to a stroke or heart attack, there was no possible way for me to get this letter to you, that day. I honestly believe that if it was any other district employee you would have simply told them, "I will immediately postpone all action regarding your retirement until you are well again. Just get better." But in reality, your email was closer to, "Sorry to hear about your impending stroke, but without your retirement letter, the district and I will be moving forward with a resolution, tonight, to excess or fire you on June 30th." As you recall I had to actually email you a picture of me in a hospital gown, in an ER bay, hooked up to an I-V and EKG machine before you would decide to delay board action. The desert of compassion I felt laying in that ER, all alone and struggling to write emails to save my position, was overwhelmingly depressive.

It was awful to be in an ER and be threaten with termination, but then I was completely devastated to read the comments in the Register Star, from I believe retired ALP Principal, Tom Gavin who stated "The Superintendent spoke often about how she'd like to get rid of Mr. Spicer on more than one occasion." Dr. Suttmeier, you have never actually denied saying to Tom Gavin or other administrators that, "You would like to get rid of Mr. Spicer." A specific, unequivocal denial like "I never told Tom Gavin or anyone that I wanted to or wished to get rid of Mr. Spicer," or a sincere apology would have sufficed, but neither of these was ever forwarded to me.

To conclude a 32-year career in education and 16 years of administrative service for the HCSD under such a cloud of disregard and disrespect is so disheartening. I just don’t think the events in this email represent the quality of compassion I have experience over the years, from the teachers and families of the Hudson City School District.

Everyone - Anyone deserves better than this,

Mr. Spicer