Over at his must-read site, Seth Rogovoy has a good catch: a critique of the Hudson City School District’s apparent partnership with McDonald’s. An editor, writer, music critic, and fixture for years on the Berkshire media scene, Rogovoy moved to Hudson last year.
This 1932 photo of students at the Greendale School can be seen in person on the wall of Tanzy’s at 223 Warren Street. (Greendale is a neighborhood near Olana in the Town of Greenport). On the back of the picture is a key identifying the kids and their teacher, Miss Robinson.
Carole Clark, who organized and taught the popular Kids in the Kitchen class at the Hudson Youth Center until it was unceremoniously cancelled early this year, has shared the following submitted yesterday to the Register-Star.
To the Editor:
Your concern as stated in your editorial for the children at the HYC is warranted. The city’s policy for hiring and firing of department employees needs revamping. The city needs to establish clear and fair practices for hiring. The city’s Charter grants the power to hire and fire staff to the mayor’s appointed Commissioner of Youth, not to the Youth Director as you erroneously imply. Clearly this needs to change. Why would the city want to give a volunteer the power and responsibility of hiring staff for its youth center when it has a qualified, full time youth director professionally equipped to make these decisions?
Not only should a strict background check be included in a new hiring policy as you suggest, but jobs should be advertised as fair employment opportunities for all qualified applicants. The criterion for jobs that involve working with children should include appropriate education, knowledge, aptitude, enthusiasm and experience in the field.
While you acknowledge the “wonderful programs” that were offered at the center, you suggest that the person who created and supported them should resign. Because they were funded by a foundation, not by the city, Youth Department head Trudy Beicht was able to bring in competent, trained professionals to design and teach these specialized programs. The youth center “house staff” has been hired by the Youth Commissioner, not by the youth center director, Ms. Beicht.
Ms. Beicht’s understanding of contemporary thought about the value and importance of high quality afterschool activity inspired her to initiate specialized programs. Evidence shows that the expanded learning time offered by these kinds of enriched activities support children’s healthy and creative development. The children at the center were hungry for the classes and many signed up for more than two different programs. There were children on waiting lists that had not yet had the opportunity to participate when the Youth Commissioner canceled the programs. Although his reason was that he wanted to provide new activities, in fact, no new programs have been offered since.
While the center provides a safe place for children when their parents and guardians are at work, the children want and need activities that improve engagement, motivation, learning and achievement. Ms. Beicht’s programs offered opportunities and resources that the schools and families don’t.
The Hudson Youth Center should be directed and staffed by professionals who are child oriented, whose decisions for the Center reflect only the needs of the children not his/her own personal interests. The children at the Center have demonstrated that they want new learning experiences and relationships with qualified, respectful adults. Their eagerness to discover new interests and aptitudes should be an important factor in decision making on the part of those individuals or groups who are instrumental in determining policy for the center.
The Center can and should be more than a child care service featuring knock hockey, pool, foosball and computer games. Trudy Beicht has attempted to improve this situation and provide what the children of Hudson deserve. Yet it was her inspired programming that the city targeted and canceled.
The opportunity to establish fun, learning opportunities beyond the traditional school hours is nationally recognized as a mandate for afterschool youth centers. Why is it that only Trudy Beicht and the successful afterschool administrators at the Hudson City School District are cognizant of this guideline? Those supervising Ms. Beicht should be aware of the evidenced based practices utilized nationally in afterschool programs. Incorporating this knowledge in an effort to restructure the policy making at the Youth Center will allow Trudy Beicht to do her work unimpeded.
The intrepid Carole Clark—a longtime local volunteer, activist and former proprietor of the pioneering Charleston restaurant—has sent the following letter in response to this recent article in the Register-Star. (And there’s more to come soon at this site on the latest Boys & Girls Club controversy.)
Re: “Scalera Wants to Uproot Garden” by Jamie Larson
If Rick Scalera’s stated desire to dismantle the garden at the Hudson Youth Center is realized it would be a significant loss for the children of the Hudson Youth Center.
Since the raised-bed garden was installed last spring, through a generous grant from the Columbia County Healthcare Consortium, it has been a magnet, giving the Youth Center’s children a chance to grow and cook with fresh produce and to sit down together to a meal of their own making.
Ideally located outside the front entrance to the Youth Center, it is where the children are, and where the city has installed a kitchen so that the children can learn about food and cooking (This was also partially funded by the Columbia County Healthcare Consortium.) The garden served both the Oakdale Summer Day Camp and the Youth Center’s programs in the spring and fall of 2009. The kitchen was used by two afterschool programs: Healthy Baking and Kids in the Kitchen/Yoga Buddies, as well as a holding facility for the Senior lunch program.
When the garden was put in last May, there was great interest in participating in its planting by the children at the Youth Center. No one had to sign up in advance, anyone who was interested was able to participate, learning how to plant seedlings and seeds and understanding how plants grow.
Children enrolled in the Center’s Oakdale summer camp carried on with the care and harvesting of the garden. They saw the different ways that vegetables grow, (some as the fruit of the plant, and some underground), many were introduced to vegetables and herbs they had never heard of, and all became savvy gardeners picking from the plants without harming them. The garden’s produce was used in the menus; when additional vegetables and herbs were needed the children easily stepped outside to gather more and also snack on some cherry tomatoes.
In the fall, the much recognized, popular Kids in the Kitchen/Yoga Buddies program continued to tend, harvest and cook from the garden. Once per 6 week session the children produced a meal to which they proudly invited their families and city officials. On November 16, several weeks before the December 22 family dinner the youth commissioner visited the kitchen and announced that this program as well as the other enrichment programs were being terminated. He did agree to allow the session to continue through its last scheduled week,so as to include the family dinner.
In the cooking programs, vitally linked with the garden, the kids learned how to cook with, and eat unfamiliar fruits and vegetables, prepare a meal as a group, set a table, serve a meal, and enjoy eating it together. Having a mealtime conversation was a new experience for many children. Reading, simple math, nutrition and socialization skills were an important part of the learning. The garden was the lab and the source of fun, discovery, pride and excitement.
At the end of the growing season the garden was “put to bed” for the winter, cleaned out, planted with rye seed and covered with straw. Since the intention was to keep the garden attractive with seasonal displays as well as a source of creative fun for the kids, thematic scenes were created with the help of the Kids In the Kitchen/Yoga Buddies and Youth Center staff.
When the Kids in the Kitchen/Yoga Buddies program was terminated by the mayor and the youth commissioner, (along with all the other structured, content-rich educational programs at the Center) no one at the Youth Center took responsibility for the garden. In the absence of Youth Director Trudy Beicht, who was out on sick leave, the winter display was left to deteriorate. A commitment from the Center’s morning manager to have the staff clear the garden and store the decorations was not followed through on. In the interest of the neighbors and the Hudson business community as well as the children, why didn’t the city cooperate immediately and not allow the display to break down? Was this an attempt to make a case for the removal of the garden?
During the growing season the garden elicited many approving smiles and signals from motorists and admiration of passersby. The children took pride in their garden outside their “building.” Losing the garden at this site will be a loss for these children whose importance to the mayor is secondary to that of a parking space. Is this the message the city wants to send to its children and those who care for them?
Why, if the mayor is so against this garden, did he agree to accept funds for it to be built in the first place? Why are this garden and the other beneficial, successful children’s programs at the Youth Center being targeted?