June 15, 2021
Dear Clayton School Community:
What a school year this has been! As I reflect back on the 2020-2021 school year, I am amazed at what we have been able to accomplish under the most difficult of circumstances. Over the past year, people often would ask me “how is the school year progressing?” I would tell them that it was like trying to build and fly a plane at the same time. I am happy to report that we not only built the plane and flew it, but we also landed it successfully.
I want to recognize all the stakeholders who were involved in making sure that this past year was a successful one. First, our Board of Education, whose guidance and behind-the-scenes support was invaluable to me. Next, the staff at Clayton Public School District, whose hard work and dedication made this school year feel as “normal” as possible for our students. They became problem solvers who quickly adapted to ever-changing circumstances. Their efforts this past year proved to me that they are the best in New Jersey. Finally, of course, you, the Clayton community. I often tell people that I am blessed to be the Superintendent of Clayton Public School District. This small town has a lot of heart, and I have grown to appreciate its small-town feel. Thank you for your support and for entrusting my staff and me with your most valuable asset – your children.
Now is the time to move forward. During this upcoming school year, you will be seeing some major initiatives. First and foremost, we will be focused on closing the COVID learning gap. We will be attacking this issue in two ways, both academically and emotionally, by supporting our students through various programs. The efforts will begin this summer through our Summer Boost Program. The Summer Boost Program will focus on a targeted set of skills that our staff has identified in order to give students a “boost” into the next school year. We will also be increasing our basic skills and after-school tutoring programs through the next school year. Just as important as your child’s academic success, we will also be here to support them emotionally. The effects of COVID on our students’ emotional wellness will be felt for many years. Our District is committed and prepared to meet this challenge. I have always believed that children must be socially and emotionally equipped to learn when they come to school. Our Child Connection Center (CCC) at Simmons Elementary School has been recognized by the State of New Jersey as a model social and emotional learning program. We will also be expanding much of what we do at the CCC to our realigned Student Connection Center (SCC) in the High School/Middle School. Both of these programs, along with our Guidance Departments and Child Study Team, will give us the resources to support your child both academically and emotionally.
We are also committed to providing our staff and students with the safest and most updated facilities so that we continue to maintain a positive atmosphere to teach and learn. We have several capital projects that we will begin over the summer months and continue throughout the school year. At the High School/Middle School, our track will be resurfaced, and our auxiliary gym will get new flooring. The High School Television studio is being upgraded with the latest equipment. At the Elementary School, we will be installing a new outside basketball court and playground equipment. Our Elementary School Media Center will be remodeled as well. The HVAC and Security Systems in all three schools will also receive some upgrades. I am pleased to say that our upcoming school district budget will be able to support all of our school programs and capital projects without a tax increase.
As per the Governor’s recent executive order, in the fall Clayton Public Schools will be starting the school year with full-time in-person learning five days per week. Virtual learning will no longer be an option. I believe this will be the first step of returning back to some semblance of “normalcy.” As always, I will keep you updated throughout the summer months as I receive more information regarding our school opening plans.
Finally, I want to wish you and your family a wonderful and relaxing summer. I am looking forward to seeing all of our students back to school next year.
With Clipper Pride,
Nikolaos C. Koutsogiannis
Superintendent of Schools