Clifton Superintendent Says Goodbye to Outgoing Commissioners as LGBTQIA Allies Fill Room


Photo credit: Clifton Public Schools

The Board of Education meeting on December 8th was a little longer than anticipated, given that the agenda for that evening was fairly light and non-controversial. However, public recognition, which generally brings out a handful of people who want to address the board, this time included more than twenty speakers.

A couple of people showed up in support of the paraprofessionals, whose ranks have been disrupted by people leaving for better pay in other districts. The paras are integral parts of every school, sometimes acting as academic support for a student with learning disabilities and sometimes being responsible for a whole host of additional needs, including toileting, feeding, and communicating with assisted devices for students who do not yet speak.

The same two people who come to every meeting to protest the updated health standards were there as well, though one took a different approach this time and argued against social-emotional learning instead. This speaker expressed concern that teaching children how to take care of their mental health and how to work well with others was overstepping and should not be part of a public school education.

An overwhelming majority of the speakers came out on behalf of the LGBTQIA community, who have been subtly - and not so subtly - in the spotlight via complaints about the health standards. Teachers from Clifton High School, students, and members of the community all showed up to voice their support of the standards and more generally, of the LGBTQIA community. Some identified themselves as gay men and implored the Board to consider how devastating it is for a gay child to feel unwelcome or unloved just for being who they are. Some asked the Board why these people were permitted to disrupt every single BOE meeting with their repetitive concerns - concerns often based on misinformation.

Superintendent Robertozzi addressed the issue briefly by reminding everyone that our children don’t care what someone looks like, what religion they practice, or what their sexual preferences are. All they care about is that they feel safe and cared for, no matter who they are. He acknowledged that a few “outside forces” have been trying to stop the good things that we’re doing in our district but said that we won’t allow that to happen. “We are always going to do our best to provide a safe learning environment for our children.” Regarding the cultural war that has been spreading across the country and has made its way into Clifton’s BOE meetings, he said, “I’m not going to spend any more time on it.”

Robertozzi announced that on Instant Decision Day at Clifton High School, 13 colleges came, 64 students participated, and 63 of them received one or more acceptances at that event. An additional 11 students had already received acceptances to one or more of the participating schools and almost half a million dollars in financial aid was offered.

Robertozzi also took time to directly address and to thank two of our outgoing board commissioners - Dana Beltran and Jim Daley. “Please know that I will personally miss both of you very much.” Joe Canova, who is also ending his term, was not able to be present.

Four students-of-the-month from CHS were also honored at this meeting: Nadine Judeh, Alexander Jakimowicz, Brian Weglinski, and Paris Frederick.

The Board of Education will meet again on Thursday, January 5th at a special time - 6 pm - for its annual Reorganization meeting.

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