MONTCLAIR, NJ - Embattled Montclair Superintendent Kendra V. Johnson, J.D., Ph.D., will be leaving. She has been appointed as a Community Superintendent in the Howard County Public School System in Maryland, HCPSS officials announced.
Approved at the July 11 Howard County Public Schools Board of Education meeting, her start date is to be determined.
Johnson was appointed by the Montclair Board of Education during a special meeting on April 11, 2018. She was the district’s first permanent superintendent in three years, and the first African-American superintendent in its 144-year history.
When appointed, Johnson had never held a Superintendent post. Some community members had concerns over her lack of experience, yet the community's quest for diversity seemed to overshadow the need for experienced leadership, community activists stated. During her appointment, three board members, who are still serving on the Board, Eve Robinson, Jessica de Koninck and Anne Mernin, did not attend the special April 11, 2018 meeting to approve Johnson as superintendent.
The four remaining Board members, Laura Hertzog, Joe Kavesh, Jevon Caldwell-Gross and Franklin Turner voted to appoint Johnson, despite concerns raised. Shortly thereafer, Caldwell-Gross left for a position in Indianapolis and Turner stepped down in September over residency issues.
In the spring of 2019, two more Board members were replaced. Kavesh was not reappointed by Mayor Jackson and Hertzog resigned from her position in May, citing concerns over 'toxicity'.
Since the mayor appoints the BOE members, who then selects the superintendent, then recent concerns over Johnson's leadership has also prompted calls for an elected Board.
Though some in the community rejoiced at her appointment, nearly one year later, she has come under continuous fire by parents for her handling of matters, including multiple student safety incidents and also her proposal to implement 3-hours of study hall at Montclair High School. After parents and students pushed back en masse on the study hall proposal, the decision was quickly overturned.
After hearing of her departure, parents took to social media to express their personal displeasure of the way she handled their particular matters. Though not everyone was opposed to Johnson, her supporters seemed to be outnumbered on social media.
Johnson, who initially came to Montclair in 2016 in the capacity of Montclair Schools Assistant Superintendent for Equity, Curriculum and Instruction, began her tenure as Superintendent on May 1, 2018.
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, according to her bio.
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 had also served as Chief Academic Officer in the Trenton Public Schools from 2014-2015.
UPDATE: Johnson responded to requests for comment by sending a letter to parents and guardians. She stated that her resignation will be accepted during the July 15 Board of Education meeting.
Johnson wrote that she decided to put her personal wellness first, stating, "It was with a heavy heart that I submitted my formal letter of resignation on Friday, July 12, 2019 to Board President Eve Robinson. The resignation will be officially accepted by the Montclair Board of Education at the Monday, July 15, 2019 Board Meeting.
During the 2018-2019 school year, the Montclair Public Schools focused on employee wellness. As a result of mindfulness minute exercises, I realized I was not putting my personal wellness first. Since my arrival to the District, I balanced a professional life in New Jersey with a personal life in Pennsylvania. My closest family members and partner live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. However, he and I have decided to relocate to another state together."