Clifton Board of Education Honors Women's History Month and Explores Expansion


The Clifton Board of Education met on Thursday, March 2. If you missed it, you can watch the whole meeting HERE.

Several educators from School 13 were in attendance representing their school, whose motto is “Be kind, be respectful, be safe!” School 13 is a magnet school for Spanish bilingual and ESL (English as a Second Language) students of any language. Dr. Rachel Capizzi is the principal.

During public comments, Marcia Miller called in via Zoom. Miller has been a frequent speaker at Board of Education meetings and a vocal opponent of the state’s updated Health Standards. She has spoken at least twice at previous meetings and also sent an email regarding an LGBTQIA webinar that she says she was removed from and not allowed to rejoin. Lori Lalama, who is the president of the Clifton Education Association and was involved in organizing this webinar, spoke to The Clifton Times while the Board was in Executive Session. Lalama said that the issue in question arose at the presentation’s end, when all participants were removed so that the organizers could remain behind and speak to each other. Ms. Miller had not been removed during the webinar itself, she said.

Renee Holland, a longtime teacher at Clifton High School, was the first in-person speaker to address the Board. Holland said that she came out solely to offer a retort to Mr. Greg Quinlan’s testimony at the last meeting. Holland spoke in defense of the LGBTQIA students who are harmed, she said, by speech like Quinlan’s. “Shame on you,” she said, “Words matter, Mr. Quinlan…” Her remarks can be heard HERE, at time marker 12:46. 

When asked for comment, Holland shared this - "Quinlan's hate speeches will never silence the voices of Clifton's LGBTQIA+ community. Mr. Quinlan tries to use his words to divide us, but it cannot be done because love is louder than hate and love will always win."

As it does each month, the Board of Education recognized and celebrated four CHS Students of the Month: Freshman Anthony Stella, Sophomore Ava Acuna, Junior Neal Jariwala, and Senior Christian Grant.

Paula Raygoza, PBSIS Coordinator, gave a brief presentation to highlight two outstanding administrators: Mrs. Erin Zmuda (K-8 math Supervisor) and Dr. Valerie Kropinack (K-8 L.A. Supervisor). A key marker of the PBSIS program is embedding practices within all curricular areas so that its principles are carried throughout the day and across all classes. Raygoza stressed the importance of this integration but noted that many districts struggle with this “interlaced support system.” She recognized these two administrators whose enthusiasm has helped to make the PBSIS program so successful by embedding the framework into teaching practices, especially in math and Language Arts.

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Janina Kusielewicz talked about the necessity of engaging students in the curriculum and preparing them for 21st-century learning. The partnership with PBSIS is much more than extrinsic rewards, she said, though that is often what is highlighted during these presentations. The “fun stuff” is what hooks kids in and helps to identify the students who aren’t buying in to the program. Once educators note who those children are, they can get additional supports to them. That secondary tier, the reaching out to address those most in need, is the “meat” of PBSIS. We celebrate the hook, the fun, that represents the universal tier, she said.

In honor of receiving the Elizabeth A. Allen Women in Education Award, CEA President Lori Lalama was invited to read the district’s resolution on Women’s History Month:

WHEREAS, Women of every race, class, and ethnic background have made historic contributions to the growth and strength of our Nation in countless recorded and unrecorded ways;

WHEREAS, Women have played and continue to play critical economic, cultural, and social role in every sphere of the life of the Nation by constituting a significant portion of the labor force working inside and outside of the home;

WHEREAS, Women have played a unique role throughout the history of the Nation by providing the majority of the volunteer labor force of the Nation;

WHEREAS, Women were particularly important in the establishment of early charitable, philanthropic, and cultural institutions in our Nation;

WHEREAS, Women of every race, class, and ethnic background served as early leaders in the forefront of every major progressive social change movement;

WHEREAS, Women have served our country courageously in the military;

WHEREAS, Women have been leaders, not only in securing their own rights of suffrage and equal opportunity, but also in the abolitionist movement, the emancipation movement, the industrial labor movement, the civil rights movement, and other movements, especially the peace movement, which create a more fair and just society for all; and

WHEREAS, Despite these contributions, the role of Women in history has been consistently overlooked and undervalued, in the literature, teaching and study of American history:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Clifton Board of Education honors the contributions that women have made throughout history and commit to support efforts to improve opportunities for girls and women and declared March as National Women's History Month.

Following the adoption of this resolution, the Board went into Executive Session to discuss legal matters with special education counsel and to discuss a personnel matter, a student matter, and a legal matter. They returned at 9:20 pm.

Policies 1648.11 (The Road Forward Covid-19 policy) and 1648.13 (school employee vaccination requirement) were abolished on the recommendation of Strauss Esmay. Strauss Esmay is a consulting firm, paid by the district, to provide school policy and regulation suggestions.

Commissioner Alan Paris reported on many programs presented to educators, transportation staff, and other staff to help them understand various needs in the special education community and how those children might present in the classroom. “Referrals to special education have increased dramatically this year,” he said, “This will cause a need for more special education teachers and related services provided in the future.” The district, he said, is continuing its search for part-time paraprofessionals. If interested, you can apply HERE.

He said that ELL (English Language Learners) students have nearly doubled since 2021, requiring new sections, staff, and other support services for these students. The sharp increase in asylum seekers and refugees has contributed to the number of ELL students in the district. We may need a new bilingual program in Ukranian in the 2023-24 school year. A budgetary request for additional staff is being considered for the 2023-24 school year to address these needs.

In response to the expanded need for space for special education and ELL students and preschool classrooms, the district is exploring the possibility of using the former Pope John Paul High School.

Paris also reported on the Twilight Program Pilot, spearheaded by Assistant Superintendent Mark Gengaro and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Janina Kusielewicz. This after-school tutoring program, in its pilot phase, targets selected students for whom the traditional instructional day and the existing ASPIRE alternative program are not optimal. The program combines online instruction from home during the day with on-campus tutoring four afternoons per week to work with content area teachers, counselors, and other specialists. There is a budgetary request to the district to fund this program for the 2023-24 school year.

During commissioner comments, there were many congratulations offered to the Cheerleading and Hockey teams and thanks to the schools which hosted commissioners for Read Across America Day. Several commissioners remarked on the honor and privilege of reading to students and getting to see firsthand all the wonderful things that are happening in our schools. President Smith talked about how great it was to go into the schools to see the hard work of the Board in action. “You see education happening.”

The next Board of Education meeting is on March 23 at 7 pm at 745 Clifton Avenue.

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