By Justin Roshak, Contributing Writer
HUDSON – Hudson Public Schools Superintendent Marco Rodrigues laid out his goals for this year at a recent meeting of the district’s Superintendent Evaluation Subcommittee.
Rodrigues described four priorities: delivering on the district’s improvement plan, improving professional practice, a new “sound” budget, and completing negotiations on new contracts with the district’s four employee unions.
Those unions include the teachers union, the paraprofessionals union, the secretaries union, and custodians union.
Hudson typically negotiates its union contracts on a staggered schedule that only has two contracts up for negotiation at a time. But disruptions and delays from COVID-19 have meant that all four contracts are up for renewal this year.
This will entail four separate sets of negotiations, hopefully working toward new contracts by June of next year.
In terms of improving professional practice, Rodrigues pledged to deliver a district-wide equity assessment.
Already a goal in Hudson’s district improvement plan, the assessment will aid leadership in planning action to address race and equity issues.
Rodrigues set a goal of March, 2022, to form a leadership team dedicated to his third goal — creating a balanced budget for the 2023 fiscal year.
“Certainly the pandemic has posed a number of challenges for us, budget-wise, but the infusion of funding through the state and federal governments, the grants that are supporting COVID- related deficits that may have occurred for the district… has really been a great asset for us,” Rodrigues said.
“It does cause us to be very cautious about how we produce a budget with soft money,” Rodrigues added. “This grant money will disappear steadily by 2024. We want to make sure about how we spend this money and not create any kind of cliff for us at the sunsetting of this new funding.”
This 2021-22 school year is the first since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in which Hudson students returned to entirely in-person classes.
Rodrigues has chosen not to make high school start times a focus this year, despite interest from members of the School Committee and the broader school community in beginning instruction at a later hour.
“It’s not in my plans,” Rodrigues said.
With four different union contracts to negotiate, he doesn’t believe he has the bandwidth for such a fundamental change.
“It’s not something I think we can afford to tackle this year,” Rodrigues told the committee.
Members of the School Committee were sympathetic to that concern but registered their interest in exploring the prospect of a later start time.
“I totally understand the COVID situation, but I wish there was a way we could pick that up and at least start the conversation,” said committee member Steven Smith.
Fellow committee member Adam Tracy suggested a community outreach survey to poll attitudes on a schedule change, so that “If and when we do pick it up in following years, we have some historic data from the community.”