Essex County News

Meet Kendra Johnson, Montclair's First African-American Superintendent

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MONTCLAIR, NJ - Kendra V. Johnson, J.D., Ph.D., has been selected as Montclair’s permanent Superintendent of schools after an extensive search, the Montclair Board of Education announced at a special meeting on April 11. She is the district’s first permanent superintendent in three years, and the first African-American superintendent in its 144-year history.

Johnson, who currently serves as the district’s Assistant Superintendent for Equity, Curriculum and Instruction, will begin her tenure as Superintendent on May 1.

Johnson holds both her Doctor of Education and Juris Doctor degrees and is a former teacher, principal, and Title 1
officer, as well as having been the Chief Academic Officer in districts in Washington State and
New Jersey. 

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According to published reports, she obtained her Doctor of Urban Education Leadership and Social Policy (Ed.D.) from Morgan State University, a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Baltimore School of Law, a Master's degree from Johns Hopkins University, and bachelor's degree from Lincoln University.  

According to her bio, Johnson has served as Assistant Superintendent for Equity, Curriculum & Instruction Montclair Public Schools August from 2016-Present and Chief Academic Officer in the Trenton Public Schools from 2014-2015.

Johnson also served as Chief Academic & Innovation Officer in the Kent (WA) School District from 2013-2014 and as Instructional Director of Prince George’s County MD Public Schools from 2012-2013. She also served as the Director, Coordinator Title 1, Principal, Assistant to Area Assistant Superintendent, Assistant Principal Baltimore County Public Schools from 2003-2013.

She is also no stranger to the classroom, having taught Middle School in Baltimore Co. Schools from 1998-2003 and Baltimore City Schools from 1996-1998. 

According to her bio, while Johnson is a licensed attorney in the states of Maryland and New Jersey, she considers herself a career educator, having served in various capacities for over two decades in public education.

She stated that she has expertise in the areas of school reform and transformation and school improvement. Furthermore, she provided legal advocacy for the parents of students with disabilities and those facing inequitable disciplinary consequences. To that end, she maintains that she sees herself as a visionary leader in urban education because she is convinced that education is the vehicle by which many underserved student groups will realize social mobility.

In the nearly two years that Johnson has been with the district, she has led the Equity, Curriculum and Instruction Department with responsibility for Title I, II, III and IV budgeting and planning as well as budgeting and planning for the entire department. She oversees the District’s Evaluation Advisory Committee, has been developing and supervising textbook review and purchases to replace outdated materials, and provides information on curriculum and teaching to the PTA as requested.

In addition Dr. Johnson, in collaboration with the district’s educators, has worked on the district’s revision of curriculum to meet new student learning standards, as well as on curriculum writing and professional development. She has formed a SAIL committee and is developing a plan for making the program more robust and transparent. Johnson regularly attends community meetings, school performances and events, and speaks to student groups at their invitation to discuss topics of concern to them.

At the Board meeting, Board President Laura Hertzog shared comments from Dr. Johnson’s former colleagues, who noted that “Dr. Johnson is highly professional and very collaborative. She finds creative solutions, brings all to the table and seeks input from all stakeholders. She is a systems thinker and a strong educational leader who is passionate about education and giving kids the best.”

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