red bank regional, rbr, risa clayrisa clay, red bankThe Red Bank council meeting Wednesday night began with an ending: a sendoff for Risa Clay, who’s retiring this summer as principal of Red Bank Regional High School.

Clay joined the school staff as a counselor in 1992 and founded the SOURCE, RBR’s youth services program, whose mission is to “remove all obstacles that impede students’ academic success.” She became principal of the Little Silver school, which serves Little Silver, Red Bank and Shrewsbury, in 2009.

Former RBR Superintendent Tom Pagano, addressing a council chamber packed with Clay’s colleagues and students, praised her for motivating students to prepare for adulthood and jobs that may not yet exist.

“To be motivated, they have to be engaged, and to be engaged, they have to feel like they belong, they have value, they have self-worth,” Pagano said. Clay’s “greatest strength,” he said, is that “she engaged students every single day, all day.”

Councilwoman Kate Triggiano, an advocate for immigrants, said that many of her young neighbors spoke of how Clay had “impacted them so much — you made them feel so at home at times when they do not feel at home, and I’m very grateful for that.”

Clay was brief in thanking the audience.

“Having the privilege to work with the students and staff, I’m the one that’s grateful,” she said.

(Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)