Snow Days, Substitutes, Scuffles, and Scholars at BOE Meeting


Image/Alias Ragsdale

The Clifton Board of Education met for its regularly scheduled meeting on January 18, 2024, at 7:00 PM at the Administration building. All members of the Board were present. The agenda for the meeting can be found HERE.

Awards and Honors: The meeting began with a host of presentations, recognizing students and staff. First, the Key Club presented The President’s Volunteer Service Awards (“PVSA”) to Mariam Gebril, Nazli Yildiz, and Crystalin Castillo for their community service. This award recognizes the important role of volunteers in America’s strength and national identity. For more, please see HERE. Students of the month from Clifton High School along with employees of the month from across the district were presented awards.

Mrs. Wendy Muñoz (Principal at School 8) was honored for making significant contributions in successfully implementing the PBSIS program. The students and staff at School 8 made a video honoring Muñoz, thanking her for all she does for them. In the board member comments, Commissioner Suarez, as a parent of a student at School 8, thanked Muñoz for creating a culture of kindness and collaboration.

School Safety: Michael Doktor, Director of Operations and Student Services, then gave the HIB (Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying) Period 1 Presentation, required by the state. First, he addressed Violence, Vandalism, and Substance Abuse (“VVSA”) saying that while violent incidents and vandalism are comparable to last year, there has been an increase in substance abuse incidents, linked to an increased availability of marijuana. 

Doktor explained how a Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying investigation (“HIB”) is done. To constitute a HIB, the incident needs to have two things - first the student must have a distinguishable characteristic (weight, gender, ethnicity) and second the incident must result in a substantial disruption (dropping grades, school refusal). Incidents that do not meet the criteria are treated as a Code of Conduct violation.

Public Comments: During the Public Comments section, CHS senior Alias Ragsdale mentioned that he read a post from a parent looking to move her child from a Clifton District School to a private school to avoid fighting. He suggested that fights are happening over very minor things because students are bored. His suggestion was to add more trade and shop classes to keep every student engaged and preparing for their future.

Superintendent’s Report: During the Superintendent’s report, Dr. Robertozzi advised the public of ongoing news concerning the district. He began by telling the community that schools do not call snow days lightly because they are aware of how much it impacts parents. They aim to give enough notice for parents to make alternative arrangements, but also ensure student and staff safety. He announced an Early Dismissal for all Clifton Public Schools for Friday, December 19.

He then segued into the proposed School Calendar (HERE), explaining that we have three snow days, and any additional ones needed will be taken from the Spring Break. The proposed last day of school will be June 20th. Bassford asked about Juneteenth, and was told that it is not proposed as a day off because it is the day before the final day of school, but that the school will host district-wide learning on the topic. The Board has the final say over the calendar.

Finally, Robertozzi mentioned a contract to be approved with Kelly Education, a staffing firm that provides substitutes. He stated that currently, Clifton is filling between 40% to 60% of its needs for substitute teachers, while surrounding districts that are using Kelly are able to fill 90% of their needs. Not being able to obtain substitute teachers and para-professionals results in stress on the staff who have to cover, and in learning loss. Kelly would do all the background checks and other procedures set forth by the State of New Jersey for their substitutes, and would manage a broader pool of applicants than Clifton currently has. The substitutes would be paid the same fee, and would also have the opportunity to buy low-cost insurance through Kelly, which they do not currently have. Kelly would be paid a 28% fee on all substitutes placed through them, which is standard. So a county-certified substitute being paid $175 a day would be billed at $224 with $49 going to Kelly. Canova raised questions on intellectual property ownership, to be sent to attorney review.

Robertozzi then closed with an invitation to the Superintendent's Scholarship Dinner tomorrow - named after his parents who valued education. For more see our article HERE.

Commissioner Danny read an Expression of Condolences for Clifton City City Councilwoman Lauren Murphy.

The Board approved the Kelly contract (subject to attorney review), the proposed calendar, and most of the other matters before them. Each Commissioner made a statement to the public, sharing memories of Councilwoman Murphy and their condolences to her family. They congratulated the Clifton Cheer Team, the award recipients, and then moved into Executive Session.

The next meeting will be on February 8, 2024 at the Board of Education building. You can watch the January 18, 2024 meeting HERE.

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