Clifton Public School District Celebrates Its Students and Staff


photo credit: Clifton Public Schools

Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Education was focused on celebrating the many excellent accomplishments and contributions of our students and staff.

Presidential Volunteer Service Award: Clifton High School (CHS) teacher and representative for the Key Club John O’Reilly made presentations to two pillars of the Key Club and winners of the President's Volunteer Service Award. This is a very prestigious award for outstanding students who are “using their time and talents to solve some of the toughest challenges facing our nation.” Albaraa Gebril earned the Bronze medal for his 108 hours of community service tutoring children, feeding the homeless, and providing care packages for service members overseas during his time at CHS. “He’s an amazing organizer, works incredibly hard, and brings out the best in all he works with,” O’Reilly said.

Jose Suarez Gonzalez reached a level that no other Key Clubber has in O’Reilly’s seven years with the Key Club, earning 271 hours of community service in less than two years and the Gold medal. He was named NJ Key Club Governor this year, which is the highest position given to anyone in the Key Club organization. As the Key Club Governor, he communicates to all Key Clubs throughout New Jersey and assists with organizing and coordinating efforts. Through his leadership, he has increased Clifton’s involvement in numerous state projects. “Mrs. Turk and I are astounded by the work ethic that this young man has done in such a short amount of time,” O’Reilly said. “Jose, we are very proud of you.”

Students of the month: President Smith introduced this next category by remarking on what a remarkable achievement it is to be chosen out of the nearly 3,000 students at CHS. For January, those students are Freshman Nicholas Norez, Sophomore Nazli Yildiz, Junior Cameron Zutic, and Senior Amelia Proszowski.

Mustang ACEs: Assistant Superintendent Mark Gengaro spoke about a new program, connected to the PBSIS program, meant to highlight students at Clifton High School who demonstrate academic performance, the display of pro-social behaviors, and everyday contributions to the classroom environment. These are students who exemplify what it means to be a Mustang. Students were nominated by their teachers for their various contributions and recognized with an ice cream celebration at school. “The Mustang ACEs is another reason why it’s a great day to be a Mustang,” Gengaro said.

PBSIS staff team members from CHS were also recognized - Principal Ahmad Hamdeh, Vice Principal Timothy Wacha, PBSIS high school coach Effie Kelso, PBSIS team member Wendy Angomas, PBSIS member Kathy Matryba, PBSIS team member Matthew Stuart, CAST director Michael McCunney who was responsible for all of the celebratory videos, and Vice Principal Susan Schnepf, who Gengaro called “the backbone of the PBSIS team.”

HIB reporting: Michael Doktor, Director of Operations, gave a brief presentation on Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying (HIB) and Violence, Vandalism, and Substance Abuse (VVA) data for our district. HIB training requires biannual reports. Compared to last year, incidents of violence went up very slightly but vandalism, weapons, and substance abuse numbers were down by more than half. Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying numbers were half of last year’s. The numbers are a little lower than even our historical numbers, looking back pre-Covid.

Following a question from Commissioner Bassford, Mr. Doktor clarified that the school typically does not discipline students for fighting off of school grounds unless there is an impact that carries over to the school. Counseling services are offered to any victim however, and also to the offenders when known, in an effort to prevent any further incidents. Bassford also asked what parents should do in order to follow a proper chain of command when such things happen. “The building administrator,” Doktor said, “is always the right person to reach out to.”

Janina Kusielewicz presented on Start Strong, a mandated assessment. Start Strong was meant to be a standards-based assessment to guide teachers in driving instruction but we rely more heavily on our local Clifton data. These short assessments showed that about half of students across all grade levels demonstrated a need for more support in ELA (English Language Arts) and half needed some support or less support with similar results in math and science. This data, along with data from local assessments, helped teachers to adjust pacing, led to an expansion of before and after school programs and the prioritization of reading foundational skills, among other interventions. The district has been prioritizing the mental health needs of our students using the PBSIS framework.

Imagine Learning came to Clifton and filmed a commercial for a nationwide campaign featuring Clifton students and their success using Imagine Math, Imagine Math Facts, and Imagine Robotify. Imagine Robotify, for grades 2-8, teaches students to code using its web-based gamified program. Imagine Math is an adaptive program for grades 1-8, adjusting to respond to each student’s progress in the program. Ms. Kusielewicz praised the educators who are using these programs, as well as many others, in order to help their students succeed.

You can watch the whole meeting here. The next meeting of the Board of Education will be on Thursday, February 9 at 7 pm.

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