Clifton Public School District Earns High Marks From the State


photo credit: Alias Ragsdale

The Clifton Board of Education met on August 24, 2023, at 7 p.m. for a regularly scheduled meeting. A medium-sized audience was present at the meeting, including Board of Education candidate Joseph Siano. This meeting was short compared to others, but promising for the future of the district and filled with great news.

Public Recognition
The meeting began with public recognition. Clifton Education Association (CEA) president, Lori Lalama recited the responsibilities board of education members have to the public. This was well-timed, especially in view of the upcoming board elections, where things can become messy and distasteful. Ms. Lalama also reminded everyone of the duties of students, teachers, and all district staff. Also speaking during the public portion was Alias Ragsdale on behalf of the new Albion Civic Association. Ragsdale presented the purpose of the association and is attempting to seek residents of the Albion area to join the association.

Positive Behavior Support In Schools (PBSIS) coordinator Paula Raygoza gave a presentation to the board regarding PBSIS’s implementation in schools. Specifically showcased was the success of the PBSIS program in the district. Nationally, the Clifton Public School District's successful implementation of PBSIS has been recognized in podcasts and at national conferences. Clifton was represented on a panel of national presenters as well. Leadership forums and statewide recognitions have included Clifton’s version of the program. Surrounding school districts have reached out to the school district to receive tips and advice on how to implement the program with such success.

Mike Doktor, the district's Anti-Bullying Coordinator, presented statistics relating to HIB (Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying) and VVSA (Violence, Vandalism, and Substance abuse) in Clifton Schools. Beginning with VVSA, Doktor and his team found that cases substantially dropped since the previous school year. He attributed this decrease to initiatives like the PBSIS program, administrators, and school counselors. A prime example could be found at Christopher Columbus Middle School. 2021-2022 saw 83 cases, while the 2022-2023 school year saw 47.

When approaching HIB, Doktor made sure to clarify the proper definition due to the complicated standards that must be met for a situation to officially be declared HIB. In elementary schools, HIB cases were cut in half compared to the 2021-2022 school year. At Woodrow Wilson Middle School, another substantial drop was recorded. All stats presented were compared to the previous year's records. Mr. Doktor’s team will move forward by continuing to engage principals, recommend professional development for all staff, and collaborate with anti-bullying specialists to make our schools safe for all.

Superintendent’s Report
Dr. Danny Robertozzi began by sharing the results of a New Jersey Department of Education assessment of school districts. This assessment is done every three years and is called the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC). QSAC is, “A single comprehensive accountability system that consolidates and incorporates the monitoring requirements of applicable state laws and programs and complements federally required improvements.” This system measures districts in five main categories, for which each receives a score.

Today, the state advised Dr. Robertozzi that Clifton was deemed a “High Performing School District,” the highest title given. Below are the scores Clifton received for each category and a description.

Instruction and Program (devised largely by student test scores): 82%

Fiscal (the district's finances): 100%

Governance (BOE properly assessing the superintendent and completing courses on the work of a BOE): 100%

Operations (daily operations of the district): 100%

Personnel (relating to faculty and staff of the district): 97%

Robertozzi also shared that since July 1st, about 1,100 new students have been registered into the district, with another 300 still in the registration process. Preschool registration is based on financial need and the amount of state aid available.

One of the important topics brought up by the Superintendent is the work done to protect the district's money. Over $350,00 dollars was saved due to a residency investigation team led by Mr. Doktor which found over 20 students falsely claiming to live in Clifton. Because they met certain qualifications to attend school out of the district, Clifton bears the burden of paying their tuition. However, those students were found to not genuinely live in Clifton, and the tuition will no longer be paid- saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Robertozzi provided a referendum update and explained that everything is going very well with the projects occurring at nearly every district facility. Robertozzi caught word of rumors on social media about portable bathrooms that will be present at certain elementary schools but said that the post was untrue. School One, he said, will be the only school with a “luxury” portable bathroom outside the school. To address safety and comfort concerns, he explained that a security guard will be posted at the site and a canopy will be built to protect individuals on their way to the bathroom. This is all occurring due to infrastructure concerns inside the school’s restrooms. The superintendent projects that this will last for about a month and expressed to all that social media is not the best way to receive information. The district is always open to emails and phone calls so that individuals can receive the correct information from 100% accurate sources.

Key parts of policy readings and committee reports

  • Corradino & Papa, a local law firm, has donated two more Mustang statues for Woodrow Wilson and Christopher Columbus Middle Schools. Currently, one sits in front of Clifton High School.
  • The finance committee agreed to sponsor the purchase of better sound systems for Clifton High School. These upgrades will last 2-3 decades and are worth the cost for the great benefit they will provide the school.
  • The policy committee is looking to form a policy allowing the board to vote for the removal of a member if they miss three consecutive regular public meetings without good cause. Through collaboration with the board attorney, proper verbiage for this is being created.

Board member comments
Members of the board recounted two other events that occurred on the 24th. - the ribbon cutting for the new Clifton High School marching band field, and the Ukrainian flag raising. Board members expressed their support for Ukraine and congratulations to the band. Commissioner Paris spoke about the proud spirit he has when it comes to Clifton holding music and the arts in such high regard. Commissioner Abedrabbo congratulated the many teachers being adjusted to the master's degree salary schedule due to their earning the degree and how students are better benefited by more experienced teachers. Also, he echoed the sentiments of Dr. Robertozzi in relation to the dangers of social media and misinformation. “Facebook warriors” and “keyboard warriors” he humorously called those who take to Facebook without reaching out to accurate sources for verification on certain topics. Commissioner Bassford recommended all people who have questions or issues locate the department that best fits their needs and attempt to contact them. If not, call the school or district.

This board meeting can be watched by clicking HERE.

The next Clifton Board of Education meeting is September 21, 2023, at 7 pm at the Board of Education building, 745 Clifton Avenue.


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