Recap of Board of Education Meeting - Sept. 23, 2021

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BOARD OF EDUCATION Meeting Recap 9.23.2021

The Clifton Board of Education met for their regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, September 23rd at 7:00 pm in the Clifton High School auditorium with all commissioners in attendance except for Feras Awwad, whose first child was born last night.

Following the Pledge of Allegiance and a brief moment of silence Vice President Frank Kasper read the district’s mission statement: “The mission of the Clifton School District, in an open and reciprocal community partnership, is to provide all students with a quality education to develop the skills necessary to become literate, life-long learners who are responsible and productive citizens contributing to a democratic society in an ever-changing world.”

RECOGNITION AND AWARD PRESENTATIONS

School #9 was recognized as the PBSIS Showcase School of the Month and they shared a fun music video, featuring several staff members. PBSIS is a statewide initiative that has been introduced to most of our district’s schools. It stands for Positive Behavior Support in Schools and focuses on promoting positive behavior, improving a school’s sense of community, and supporting students who may need extra help.

The following schools are currently using the PBSIS model: CHS Mustang Academy Grade 9, CCMS and WWMS, Elementary Schools 2, 4, 5, 13, 16, and 17. These schools are in the current PBSIS training cohort: Elementary Schools 9, 11, and 14.

Clifton has been invited to present at a national PBSIS forum as a result of our tremendous success with this initiative.

Michael Doktor, Director of Operations and Student Services, presented the Clifton Public Schools Correlation Report which tracks student safety data including data on incidences of violence, vandalism, substance abuse, harassment, intimidation, and bullying. These figures are presented twice a year.

He explained the definition of a HIB issue (Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying). Totals were down across all schools, due mainly to so many students learning remotely and explained that most occurrences from January to June were due to cyber bullying.

SECOND READING OF POLICY

There was a second reading of Policy 0167 – public participation – which was discussed in depth at the last meeting. The motion was passed with six yes votes and two no votes from Ms. Bassford and Mr. Canova, both of whom offered their objections during the September 9th meeting.

SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT

Dr. Robertozzi gave an update on School 16, which suffered significant damage during Ida. All ceiling tiles and classroom and hallway floors have been replaced. All walls have been painted and the building power washed. All Univents have been cleaned and the filters changed. There are a few things that still need to be done, including replacing the gym floor and conducting an air quality test. The new boiler will need to be replaced but a temporary one will be in place by October 16th. Next week Dr. Robertozzi expects to be able to report on a reopening date and thinks that we are on track for opening some time in October.

“Our students, as always, are incredible.” Dr. Robertozzi commended our nearly 11,000 students for the ways in which they have adapted to wearing masks, maintaining some social distancing, and generally behaving in exemplary ways.

Transportation has been difficult due to bus driver shortages, as it has been across the country. He acknowledged that there have been issues and asks parents to “please bear with us.”

Dr. Robertozzi reported that there are, to date, 58 cases of Covid in the district with 48 of them being student cases and ten being staff. Close contacts are not required to quarantine as long as they were wearing a mask correctly during that contact. This has meant that few students have had to quarantine as a result of the positive cases. The Covid dashboard, which tracks cases in our schools, can be accessed here.

He offered congratulations to the students and faculty who are being inducted into the Clifton Athletics Hall of Fame next month: Tom Acton, Michael Doktor, Kelly Douglass, Anthony Giordano, Jeremy Hernandez, John McClain, Jackie Pangilinan, Anthony Tuesta, and Jack Whiting. The 2007 softball team and 2005 boys’ volleyball are also being inducted.

PUBLIC RECOGNITION

Al DuBois, from Clifton, started by declaring that he does not believe in masks but that he will wear one in the building out of respect for the mandate. He spoke mainly about the district calendar and mentioned the two Jewish holidays that we had off in September. He wanted to know why Veterans’ Day is not mentioned on the calendar and then took issue with Winter Recess. “We should mention the name Christmas. Winter Recess is not good enough.”

Mark Brunciak, also from Clifton, said that he is looking for some normalcy. “We want safety for the kids” and relayed a message from a neighbor regarding crowded hallways between classes at CHS. Asked that our students be allowed to have some outdoor time. Said that the dividers and wearing masks is not normal and that he survived Swine Flu even though many did not. He asked to know what percentage of students passed their classes last year.

Gerard Scorziello of Clifton made an announcement about the Republican Club’s Candidates’ Night Forum. All nine candidates for the Board of Education’s three opening seats are expected to participate in this forum on Tuesday, October 12th at 7:00 pm at the Clifton Elks at the corner of Colfax and Clifton Avenues and all residents are invited to attend.

Vita Marlena Cowan, also of Clifton, spoke about continuity throughout our schools. Some schools are eating in the cafeterias and some are in their classrooms. If children cannot go outside, they are stuck in the same room for a whole day with no change in scenery. She suggested a rotating schedule for use of the cafeteria if space is an issue.

COMMITTEE REPORTS

Finance: Jim Daley reported on the Finance Committee meeting, where Mr. Ucci gave an overview on the damage caused by Ida. The district has a five million dollar policy with a 50,000 per building deductible. Mr. Ucci offered that FEMA, just today, confirmed that those funds could be used to help cover the insurance deductible.

Facilities: Dana Beltran reported on many different projects, including a discussion about School 16 and what might be done to protect it from future flooding. The committee also discussed plans to repair the tennis courts and the band field at CHS. Mr. Daley commented that natural turf would be hard to maintain and, given the heavy use on the band field, may not last for very long. Ms. Beltran said that the Welcome Center parking lot project is set to begin on September 29th
and that a temporary Certificate of Occupancy for the new kitchen at CHS is expected on Oct. 1. The Committee, she said, also talked about a School 11 parking and drop-off proposal, brought to the Board by a citizen. No action was discussed.

Technology: Joe Canova reported that all new students were provided with a Chromebook and that units destroyed in the flood were immediately replaced. Security camera upgrades, as per the referendum, will begin this fall. He said that we have the technology that would allow for citizens to call in to meetings but there is a question about who would monitor these systems.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

President Smith reviewed several items, including Mr. Canova’s previous request that committee meeting minutes be shared with all members of the board.

EDUCATION/ADMINISTRATION

No discussion on items. All were passed.

PERSONNEL

One item was pulled for Executive Session and the others were passed without discussion.

FINANCE/FACILITIES

One item was again pulled for Executive Session and the others passed.

BOARD MEMBER COMMENTS

Ms. Bassford – The next district HSA meeting is on October 6th at 7 pm. She asked that the agenda for the next Policy Committee meeting be made available to the entire Board so that questions and concerns could be brought forward ahead of the meeting. Speaking on behalf of some residents who had offered to help, Ms. Bassford asked Dr. Robertozzi if teachers at School 16 would be allowed to accept donations and he responded that everything they need would be replaced. She briefly addressed her “no” vote on the amended public participation policy, which passed early in the meeting and limits the public to five minutes each and each commissioner to three minutes during their comments. “I don’t like taking public comment away from anyone.”

Ms. Beltran – Thanked the speakers. Encouraged the Public to make plans to vote in the November election on November 2nd, either in person or by mail-in ballot. Announced several opportunities to learn about the candidates: a BOE Q&A on October 12th at the Elks Lodge, a virtual Q&A on October 13th in Clifton News and Community on Facebook, and the city’s Ballot Box is on October 16th, which will air on Clifton’s cable channel.

Mr. Canova – Back to School Night went very well, though it was virtual again this year. He said that students are happy to be back.

Mr. Daley – Alumni of St. John’s High School in Paterson are having a gathering on October 3rd in the cathedral. He asked to know how absence totals are impacted by Covid (cases and quarantines) as opposed to other reasons for absence.

Dr. Danny – Announced that there is a September 30th Municipal Alliance Committee meeting. PVWC customers in the boil water advisory may call for water delivery if you are elderly or homebound: 862.304.6232.

Mr. Abedrabbo – Commended Principal Rosetti of School #9 for her leadership. “Congrats to the 2021 Inductees to the Athletic Hall of Fame.” He asked about community members donating money to help CHS students pay for a yearbook. Dr. Robertozzi said that checks could be sent to CHS with a note indicating that they are to be used for this purpose. Announced that Commissioner Feras Awwad became a father last night and that is why he was not present. He also mentioned the mandate to wear masks in school buildings and pointed out that “most of us” were wearing them. Joe Canova was not wearing one although everyone else on and in front of the dais was.

Mr. Kasper – He offered his congratulations to Mr. Awwad and thanked everyone for the donations to Music Angels, which provides instruments to students who may not be able to afford their own. He is excited about the safety initiative in partnership with the city council, Safe Routes to Schools.

Mr. Smith – Explained that the Municipal Alliance Committee is a joint meeting between City Council and the Board of Education. President Smith extended his thanks to the staff and volunteers who run the audio/visual equipment for the meetings. He also thanked administration and the security team. Commended Dr. Robertozzi on the great opening of our schools and thanked all of the district’s administrators and secretaries. He also thanked the custodians and maintenance staff and everyone who helps our district to run so well.

EXECUTIVE SESSION

The Board retired to a private session to discuss a confidential Special Education item and a contract matter.

The Board returned after a short Executive Session lasting about 30 minutes and voted on the two confidential items. Both were passed and the meeting was adjourned.

The next Board of Ed meeting is scheduled for October 7th at 7:00pm.

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