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Letter to the Community from the Superintendent

Dear Clayton Community:

The past months have been challenging for all of us. The pandemic has forced us to change how we live and learn. However, as I expected, we came together and showed our strength as a community. We remained positive and strong in a time of uncertainty.

Now just as we are trying to re-open and establish a new normal, our country is in turmoil over the senseless killing of George Floyd. Unfortunately, this was not the first time our television screens have broadcast the unjustified murder of a black man at the hands of those who are sworn to protect us. These scenes keep playing out over and over again in our society. It is obvious to many we are still combating the legacy of racism and discrimination.  

I have spent the last several days reflecting and listening to a generation of young people screaming for change. People of all backgrounds have taken to the streets demanding justice. We are a nation born from rebellion that declared we have “unalienable rights” as human beings. Protests and demonstrations are part of our history.  I have hope for the future. I believe that this new generation of Americans will bring the change that is needed. I also believe that real change can be brought about peacefully. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela all fought against injustice and changed the world through peaceful protest and civil disobedience.

These events have also made me grateful to work with the Clayton Police Department and especially our School Resource Officers. Our SRO’s do more than just protect our schools. They have become an important part of our school family. They have volunteered as coaches, delivered food to families during the pandemic, and even gave students “curbside shout outs.” They understand that they must be part of the community they serve.

I am also proud to lead such a diverse district. From the time that I served as the Principal of both the High School and Middle School, I have marveled at the acceptance of all people in our school community. I take pride in walking visitors down to the cafeteria and having them see our diverse student body sitting together talking and laughing. I have learned just as much from the students as we have taught them. I am also not naïve, and I do realize that we are not perfect and change is needed to become even more inclusive.

In my role as Superintendent, I take my leadership responsibilities seriously as I endeavor to serve all our students. I find myself asking what can I do to make a difference?  How can I help our students feel empowered? One of our jobs as educators is to lead our students in positive discourse in order to help break the cycle of racism.

In order to begin the much needed but difficult conversations, I will be establishing the Clayton Equity Committee (CEC).  The committee will have a diverse group of educators and students working together to address systemic inequities. My hope is this committee can be a vehicle for change and give a voice to our students. I will be forming the committee immediately upon our return to school in the fall.

I look forward to moving ahead and continuing to make a bright future for all our students.

Clipper Strong,

Nikolaos C. Koutsogiannis
Superintendent of Schools

Posted in: District News, Herma Simmons Elementary News, High School News, Middle School News

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2020 Graduation Letter

June 1, 2020

Dear Clayton Students and Families:

Last week the Governor announced that outdoor graduation ceremonies would be permissible provided specific guidelines on social distancing were implemented. The Department of Education has released those guidelines, and I have included the link below for your information:

https://www.nj.gov/education/covid19/boardops/commencement.shtml

The Governor’s guidance reads “In accordance with the above, in-person commencement ceremonies are permitted only on or after July 6, 2020 and must occur outdoors. These ceremonies must meet the relevant capacity limitation on in-person gatherings in place at the time of the ceremony. Depending on the social distancing requirements in place at the time of the ceremony, varying restrictions will apply.” Currently that number is 25 persons with no information on what the number may be after July 6th.

Therefore, we will only hold our outdoor Clayton High School graduation if the number increases to a level where logistically we can graduate all our seniors and allow for parents to be in attendance. As previously communicated, we are maintaining July 29th as a possible date for our outdoor Clayton High School graduation ceremony. We feel that we have created a plan that would allow us to graduate all our students safely.

We are also keeping with our originally planned virtual ceremonies that will be broadcast on our website. We will move forward with our plan to virtually graduate the class of 2020 on June 18th. Because the Governor’s plan does not provide guidance for indoor promotion ceremonies, we are creating virtual promotion ceremonies for our 5th and 8th grade students. The promotion ceremonies will also be broadcast on our website on June 17th.

Finally, I would like to thank you for your patience and understanding as we try to navigate the end of the school year. The time during the lockdown has only reinforced my pride for the families and students of Clayton. On March 18th, just 2 days into Cyber School, I wrote a letter to the Clayton Community expressing my pride for my teachers, staff, and students on how well we handled the transition to Cyber School. Two and a half months later, my Clayton pride has only grown. We may be a small school community, but we have a big heart! Thank you again for your support and please stay safe.

Proud to be a Clipper,

Nikolaos C. Koutsogiannis Superintendent of Schools

Posted in: District News, High School News

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A Letter to Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Coughlin

On behalf of all fourteen Gloucester County superintendents who lead high school districts, we respectfully request the assistance of the NJ State Legislature with regard to planning voluntary, in-person high school graduation ceremonies next month. The attached letter formalizes our request and illustrates the safety measures established during the United States Air Force Academy’s Graduation Ceremony several weeks ago. This ceremony serves as an exemplar for what is possible and we are confident that we can conduct similar ceremonies for the Class of 2020.  While we have not been consulted as school superintendents on this issue, we feel compelled to advocate for our seniors and plan dignified ceremonies that ensure aggressive social-distancing measures. We would be ready to discuss these ideas in greater detail at your convenience.

Thank you for your tireless efforts on behalf of New Jersey’s citizens and thank you for your consideration of this request on behalf of our students.

 

Posted in: District News, High School News

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