An innovative and collaborative partnership is in the works involving three school districts in Columbia and Greene Counties and Questar III BOCES.
The Columbia-Greene Partnership Academy will serve approximately 40 high-risk students from Hudson City and Catskill Centralschool districts, beginning in September. A search is underway for a suitable site in the City of Hudson. Teachers from Berkshire Union Free School District (BUFSD) will teach the students, under the umbrella of Questar III BOCES. Berkshire's teachers have strong experience with high risk students, and are dually certified in both their educational specialty and in special needs.
Berkshire UFSD is located at Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth's campus in Canaan. Led by Superintendent Bruce Potter, the district worked with Questar III BOCES to set up a Special Education Task Force in 2012 to deal with the low graduation rate for CSE students. "We set up the task force to deal with this, because ultimately, it's about results," said Potter. "That task force led to the creation of a tri-county/Dept. of Social Services partnership, which ultimately led us to the creation of the Columbia-Greene Partnership Academy."
The new partnership’s nickname is “The Bridge” for two reasons, said Potter. "It symbolizes the connection between Greene and Columbia counties and it is the bridge for our students’ brighter futures. This will create a holistic program that these students so desperately need,” explained Potter during a presentation to the Hudson City Schools Board of Education recently.
Potter said the idea is “to leverage other resources in other communities.” New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, he explained, has earmarked competitive grant monies for just such collaborations, and the Partnership plans to go after the grant funding aggressively. Because Questar III serves Rensselaer County as well as Greene and Columbia counties, it will be a tri-county collaborative.
"Participating schools will be able to work better and smarter, together,” said Potter. “Education can't use the ‘one size fits all’ rule any longer. None of our districts could offer such specialty programming by ourselves.”
A steering committee will be comprised of stakeholder groups, the three superintendents: Kathleen Farrell of Catskill; Maria Suttmeier of Hudson; and Potter, plus Questar III Superintendent James Baldwin.
Potter attributes much of the concept and its progress to Kathleen Farrell, praising her “innovative thinking”. Farrell told the Board of Education members that the Bridge is for all students with gaps in their education and will be able to utilize existing transportation runs.
Potter explained that the Partnership initially be for grades 9 and 10, but will likely expand later. He said truancy prevention will be part of the effort, and the program will actively engage parents in their child’s education. “There’s no greater stakeholder than the parent,” he added.