Clifton Board of Education Meeting Full of Good News
Paula Raygoza, the district’s PBSIS (Positive Behavior Support in Schools) coordinator, shared a presentation from School 9’s PBSIS efforts. It was a welcome back message to students, stressing the start-of-school expectations for behavior so that students would understand clearly what they should do during different parts of the day. She also shared a music video that a group of students and the PBSIS team collaborated on over the summer, set to a popular Lizzo tune. You can watch it here at minute 17:24. Those students were all recognized and awarded certificates, as were the members of School 9’s PBSIS team.
There were several speakers, including two adults who continued to protest some of the LGBTQ education included in the Health Standards. One Clifton High School (CHS) student came to the mic to speak in support of this inclusion. She brought up the likely statistic that more than 200 students (and some unknown number of faculty) at CHS identify as part of the LGBTQ community and questioned why any adult would be arguing against education intended to help students stay healthy. “It sickens me that it’s being argued whether we keep our kids safe or not,” she said.
Donna Popowich, a former Clifton teacher, talked about her years of teaching students who were on home instruction. “90-95% of my clients were pregnant students…my youngest students were in the middle school.” Many of them did not know how they got pregnant, she said. Popowich thinks the Health curriculum does not go far enough. "If the adults are uncomfortable, they need to get uncomfortable because these kids need that info." She said that we need to get more information to them at a younger age because we don't want to have to open a daycare across from the high school like some other cities have done.
Dr. Robertozzi addressed the calendar survey, which is open for input here through Oct. 7th. It is becoming increasingly difficult, he said, to create a calendar and also to meet the 180 day requirement set by the state. He explained that he formed an advisory committee made up of a variety of stakeholders - teachers, parents, community members, HSA leaders, and students - to help him develop the formal recommendation that he will be making to the Board of Education at the October 20 meeting. The second meeting of this advisory committee resulted in an overwhelming majority opinion of “we should do whatever we have to do to end the school year earlier.”
Dr. Robertozzi explained that the group decided to poll the community, unlike other districts which sometimes make these kinds of changes independent of public opinion. There has been some controversy over this issue because some people mistakenly believed that a decision had already been made. “That is not the case. We are collecting information so that I can make a recommendation to the Board in the near future,” he said.
He asked the community to consider whether it would be better to stay in school and to learn about what Juneteenth is (for example) or to close school so close to the end of the year. “I don’t know; that’s what we need to discuss.” He invited the public to contact him with questions or thoughts and concluded with the observation that no calendar will please everyone but “it can’t hurt to try.”
The superintendent had plenty of positive news to share. Wellness Days are back in our schools to support the social, emotional, and academic health of our students and staff. Staff get to dress down on these scheduled days and homework is not assigned. The district hopes to schedule one such day per month.
The district just completed its annual Week of Respect; each school participated with schoolwide activities. School Violence Awareness Week and Red Ribbon Week both fall during the week of Oct. 17th. The theme of Red Ribbon Week this year is “Celebrate Life. Live Drug Free.” October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and National Principals’ Month. School principals are responsible for setting the tone and culture of their building and are ultimately in charge of everything that happens there.
The Clifton High School counseling department hosted the first of two financial aid planning workshops for parents of children who will be moving on to college or other higher education. The next one is on October 26th. and information will be emailed to parents of juniors and seniors. School 8 hosted an exciting PBSIS kick-off event, similar to a pep rally. The focus was to ensure that all students understood the expectations and what it means to care. School 11 received state recognition for implementation of the PBSIS framework in their building. School 14 is working to bring therapy dogs into the school with an organization called Creature Comfort. The dogs will visit the school, starting with first grade, and will serve as reading buddies for them. Dr. Robertozzi offered congratulations to teacher Marisa Kossoy, who published a book, “Principal for a Day.”
During the week of October 17 there will be a ceremonial ground-breaking for the new field at WWMS. The district will share details once the exact day and time have been finalized.
President Jim Smith commented on the many activities, presentations, workshops, and events happening around the district and reminded everyone to please read the emails from the district to keep abreast of these many opportunities to support our students. You can also check the district website for links to the current flyers.
Technology - Committee Chair Joe Canova updated everyone on several items. New wiring and security cameras have been installed in several schools. New clocks, strobes, and PA systems have been installed in a few locations and preliminary testing will commence soon. Nearly all referendum project work is running on schedule, despite some supply chain issues. 3,000 Chromebooks arrived in August and are being swapped in to replace aging models. Mr. Mountain will pilot a portable charging bank system in one school for students who forget to charge their Chromebooks at home. The Start Strong Assessment was completed with little to no technology issues. The technology committee discussed developing a unified template for staff email signatures. They also talked about tracking devices for contractors working on referendum projects as a way to monitor when they were on or off site as an added safety measure. Last, they discussed the call-in feature for BOE meetings and how to improve this mechanism.
HSA - Committee Chair Judy Bassford reported on a district wide HSA meeting, held virtually. All presidents shared information and veteran leaders worked with some of the new ones, helping them with getting their school HSAs off the ground. The purpose of the meeting was to bond the group across the district and that happened. She noted that it’s important to educate the public on what the HSAs do so that more families would want to be involved. They are responsible for organizing and running a variety of events and for providing special things for their schools. The modest HSA dues help all of this to happen.
Commissioner Fahim Abedrabbo read a district resolution for Breast Cancer Awareness. The BOE unanimously passed a resolution to recognize breast cancer survivors, those currently struggling with it, the family and friends of those affected, and the doctors working to find a cure.
Congratulations to Richard Rando, who was promoted to Supervisor of Special Services under the direction of Coordinating Supervisor Heather Rotolo. Mr. Rando started in the Clifton school district as a paraprofessional and worked his way up to this new position.
During President Smith’s closing comments he mentioned Steven Cohen, who volunteered as a photographer at many of Clifton’s sporting events for years. He was honored on the field at last week’s football game and this year will be his last as our unofficial district sports photographer.
He also praised the CAST crew who run the cameras and audio equipment for so many school events, including the Board of Education meetings.
October 29 CHS is hosting a robotics competition - come out to see the incredible work this team is doing.
There was no new business to address and no executive session and the meeting was adjourned shortly after 9 pm. You can watch the entire meeting here.
The next BOE meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 20th at 7 pm.
photo credit: Clifton Public Schools