Hudson Middle School is feeling the squeezeHudson Middle School Principal Dan Koch says the success of his school depends on one very basic idea, “teachers know your kids.” And for the 15 years he has led the school, the idea has paid off.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
Hudson Middle School Principal Dan Koch says the success of his school depends on one very basic idea, “teachers know your kids.” And for the 15 years he has led the school, the idea has paid off. But for the first time in his tenure, he feels what works at the school might be at risk.
He said the commitment of the staff of 158 adults including 94 teachers hasn’t changed. In fact, through the implementation of cooperative planning across grades and disciplines, his teachers are performing better than ever to ensure all students achieve.
What has Koch concerned is the sheer number of students at the school and the impact that has on the “house concept” the school is based on.
Enrollment at the school has grown almost every year since it opened in 1995. As of this week, the school has 1,218 students. That’s 93 over the capacity of 1,125. Classroom space is short and 13 of those 94 teachers do not have permanent classrooms. They travel throughout the school with their teaching materials on carts and teach their students in whatever classrooms are available. That means that sixth-graders don’t have some of their core classes like science and math in “their house,” but could end up in an eighth-grade house or somewhere else available in the school.
Classrooms throughout the school are filled to capacity plus. Hallways that run along the back of the individual houses have become storage areas. Computers have been placed in the common areas of the houses and a makeshift computer lab has been set up in the middle of the media center. Despite lack of classroom space, additional exploratory classes, now six weeks, rather than seven, are being offered this year in an effort to lower class size. Orchestra classes are held in the cafeteria and physical education classes utilize the adjacent Prairie Elementary gym.
Koch said that the Hudson School District was ahead of its time when it adopted the house concept for middle-age learners almost 20 years ago. He credits his predecessor Bill Hickox for promoting the idea and together they worked to advocate for the kind of learning they both believed was right for middle school students. Koch fears that because of the growing enrollment at the school which has increased class size, cut down on instructional space and the time teachers have with individual students, the house concept is eroding.
In addition to the lack of classroom space and teachers on carts, Koch outlined some of the other issues over-enrollment at the school is causing:
—teachers unavailable during P.A.T., personal assistance time, insufficient time to meet with all students
—teachers not knowing house students
—some core classes taught outside the assigned house
—counselor to student ratio too high—1 to 400
—student body too large to meet together at one time in the building
Despite his concerns, Koch assured school board members that the Hudson Middle School staff remains committed to maintaining the house concept as the best way to serve adolescent learners. “This is a marvelous staff who keeps kids at the center of all their decision-making. In my entire career in five different districts over the years, I have not worked with teachers more committed to this age group.”
Koch said that while the school is facing significant challenges when it comes to physical space, they have continued to meet and sometimes exceed academic goals, an outcome he again credits to the staff of the school.
Koch concluded his report by saying, “I don’t believe this community or the school board wants to see Hudson Middle School become Hudson Junior High School...I look forward to continued to support as we move further along the path of a high performing middle school. We do need to seriously consider how our growth and current space for learning needs are negatively affecting what are clearly the best organizational format and the most appropriate educational philosophy for middle level learners.”
The question of what to do about the Hudson Middle School space issue was on the agenda of the school board’s facilities and grounds committee meeting this week.
For more information about the Hudson Middle School go to www.hudson.k12.wi.us and click on Hudson Middle School or call (715)377-3820.