Superintendent addresses string of incidents at Albany High School
The superintendent of the City School District of Albany addressed concerns Tuesday after a series of incidents at Albany High School the week of Dec. 4 left some parents and teachers on edge.
NewsChannel 13 spoke to a parent on camera Monday who said the district was doing its best but needed more support to address the underlying issues causing tension at school. Attendance was down last week for a portion of the week after a student was arrested at school with a knife, and more fights were reported the following day.
However, attendance was back up by Monday, Dec. 11, Superintendent Joseph Hochreiter said.
“We’re proud of that, that’s a signal that tensions are quelling, and that students want to be in school,” he said.
Hochreiter is dealing with a unique challenge in his first year with the district, tasked with defusing tension at Albany High School. The incidents last week led some parents to keep their children home after threats of additional conflict surfaced on social media.
“Some things came to fruition. Thank God, many of them did not,” said Hochreiter.
Asked if parents should be concerned, he said, “No, they shouldn’t. What we’ve realized over the past couple weeks is that systems are working, that students, they see something that doesn’t look right, they’re reporting it.”
The district said it is working closely with law enforcement and community partners to validate each threat.
“We have outstanding technology resources, cameras, security, surveillance, and so all of those systems are working, all of those systems are readily accessible, the reality is that sometimes we’re responding to these tensions that manifest in school, and that’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not safe either,” he said.
Some of the tension has racial undertones, according to school community members familiar with the matter who spoke to NewsChannel 13 on the condition of anonymity.
“That’s a sad state of affairs, if that’s the case in our high school, and like I said, nationally and internationally,” Hochreiter said. “Turn the news on, and anywhere you get your news and information, you’re seeing that. That will necessitate and has necessitated some very serious conversations in our school community.”
Hochreiter said the student body reflects the diversity of the world, and it’s what attracts many families to Albany schools. According to the district’s website, in the 2021-22 school year, around one in every 10 students was an English language learner. At the district’s international center, students new to the country receive help adjusting. It’s nearly 9,000 students represent a range of ethnicities.
“It’s disheartening that when we review situations, and we’re able to talk to students about what triggered these behaviors and what is going on at home or outside of school, that either race or ethnicity or religious beliefs are part of this,” he said. “And we’ve heard a little bit of all of it. And that’s one of the reasons why we need to continue to speak to kids in a very thoughtful and honest way about how they feel and how we can support them to feel a little bit differently.”
Even after a slate of new safety measures and meetings between Principal Jodi Commerford and students, Friday after dismissal, a 14-year-old student was slashed in the face with a knife on Central Avenue. Sources told NewsChannel 13 the fight was between students and was a result of the conflict at school.
Asked whether that signaled continued issues, Hochreiter said, “Sure, there are issues. And the vehicle to identify those issues are going to involve students, family and community. And that’s why last week, our high school principal and members of her leadership team started meeting with students to create the environment to talk about these issues.”
Friday, the district is scheduled to meet with around 80 community partners to share more about what’s happening inside Albany High School.
Hochreiter also addressed parents’ concerns about students’ mental health needs.