MONTCLAIR, NJ – Citing a desire to seek personal happiness, embattled Montclair Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kendra Johnson’s resignation request was formally accepted by the Montclair Board of Education during a public meeting on Monday, July 15 the George Inness Annex Atrium.
Johnson’s resignation from the superintendent position was green-lighted by the Board of Education members just one day after Johnson sent out an email communication to staff, students and families making public her intentions of leaving the job.
On Friday, July 12, Johnson submitted her official letter of resignation to Board President Eve Robinson, with the expectation the resignation would be formally accepted at Monday’s meeting, as required by the state.
“I realized that I was not putting my personal wellness first,” Johnson said while reading a statement during the meeting. “Since I traveled to this district to become a member of the Montclair community, I balanced a professional life here in New Jersey and a personal life outside of the state.”
Johnson continued, “my partner and my family live outside of the state, and I am putting my personal happiness first, and I want to say to everyone be unapologetic about putting your personal happiness first. I encourage everyone to find their happy place.”
President Robinson followed Johnson’s prepared statement, and she spoke fondly about the outgoing superintendent.
“It is with regret that tonight we will vote to accept Dr. Kendra Johnson’s resignation as superintendent of schools, but we congratulate you on your path to happiness,” said Robinson. “During her time here, Dr. Johnson’s passion, care and advocacy for the children of our district was evident in everything she did, and she made herself available to all within our community.”
As speculation swirls as to exactly what led to Johnson’s resignation, several parents who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting expressed concern and dismay over the constant leadership changes within the board.
“Now we find out Montclair is headed into a new chapter – sadly, my child and so many in Montclair have dealt with so many chapters, they’ve come fast and some don’t even get finished before others begin,” said Nicole Farjani, a concerned parent. “Many of you on the board have been around long enough to witness most of this. After a few years of chaos, we had our first interim and many changes, then another interim and not much happened, and then Dr. Johnson and many of us had such high hopes, but another chapter is left messy and unfinished.”
Farjani continued, “First it was the trailers, then it was the disastrous May 20th Plan, and most recently it was Glenfield’s Schedule – and thankfully that was halted – and now it’s the schedule change for the high school where 2,200 students will be having lunch at the same time.”
Other parents expressed similar concerns about board stability and the transition process to searching for, yet another leader.
“It is with a heavy heart that I read the news about Dr. Johnson, but the leadership change that has plagued our district over the years has been most detrimental to our special education students,” said Kathy Malloy. “We have appreciated that Dr. Johnson has included CPAC in the budget discussions, but we have great concerns about this change.”
Other speakers who made public comments to the board were several paraprofessionals from the district who expressed displeasure with their summer pay being cut by 30%.
In other happenings at the meeting, Johnson stated she will send out a written communication by the end of this week to all current and incoming Montclair High School parents and students regarding the schedule for the upcoming school year and the one community lunch that will include additional data so that everyone can review the information plan accordingly.
Glenfield Middle School has turned over the master scheduling to two educators housed at Glenfield who are looking closely to ensure all the required courses are aligned properly as the block scheduling has been put on hold for the upcoming year.
In an update regarding the Montclair High School staircase repairs, Johnson stated that the district is 100% on target as construction is underway. Once all stairs are abated by the first week of August, the district will host a tour with the board, members of the town council and board of school estimate to look at the building, check the progress, give feedback and report back to the community.
It was voted by consensus that the Watchung Athletic Field renovations and expansions will be put on hold as the money originally allotted for those improvements will be needed to make emergency masonry repairs at several schools. Recent inspections resulted in a recommendation that the masonry repairs begin as soon as possible, which will force a delay in upgrading Watchung Field to varsity-level standards.
Information was presented regarding the Jared’s Fund Youth Fellowship ‘Wellness Garden’ project, an Energy Savings Improvement Plan (ESIP) was detailed by Parette Somjen, and a Math Program Update was given by Jennifer Goforth, Director of K-12 STEM.
Presiding over the meeting in addition to Johnson and Robinson were Vice President Latifah Jannah, Business Administrator and Board Secretary Emidio D’Andrea, Priscilla Church, Anne Mernin, Alfred Davis and Jessica de Koninck.
The board will conduct a Board Retreat on Saturday, August 10, 9:30 am in the Charles H. Bullock Library at 55 Washington Street.
The next public meeting of the board is Monday, August 19, 5:30 pm in the George Inness Annex Atrium. The meeting will go into closed session until approximately 7:30 pm when it will re-open to the public.