Dear Friends and Neighbors,

At the Montville Township Board of Education meeting on May 2nd, after deep thought and careful consideration, I announced my decision to not seek re-election this fall. I share with you all my deepest thanks for the support and guidance of my fellow board members, our dedicated administrators, our inspired faculty & staff, and our incredible student body. In reflecting on my experience as a member of the board, it is this last group that I would like to take a moment and address in particular. 

After being sworn in on a January evening back in 2015, I made a point of noting that I hoped to be a resource for all of the students in our district. I looked forward to joining the board as a young alumnus in the hope that I could strike a balance between a fresh, new perspective and one rooted in an appreciation for our hometown’s culture and traditions. More importantly, I hoped to set an example. When people look back on my time with the board, however, it is not the poised and professional figure that my peers so generously praised last night that I would like them to recall; I want them to remember the quiet, shy kid who preceded him.

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The Michael Johnson that graduated from the Montville Township High School in 2009 was a far cry from the Michael Johnson who sits on the board today. He was a timid introvert, just another face content to blend into the background. As a high school student, I shied away from leadership opportunities—except for when I was passed the baton to serve as the president of a struggling chess club. As a drifting wallflower, however, there was one thing that I became particularly good at: listening. 

This skill would serve me well over the next few years, as I embraced the looming promise of a collegiate career as a clean slate. In seeking to rebuild my struggling self-image, this trained empathy helped me to appreciate that it was an undertaking that I was not completely alone in pursuing. My time spent in the background of our adolescent social order helped me to recognize that there were plenty of other souls adrift in the shuffle. Helping them became the root of my transformation. I started out by organizing events and programs aimed at bringing people together. Building a spirit of community became my passion, and eventually a mission that guided me through opportunities to tackle collegiate student governance and the small town politics of my hometown community. By taking one bold step after another beyond the confines of my comfort zone, I discovered all that I needed to re-write my own story.

It was a process that helped me to appreciate the impact of a personal narrative. Stories, after all, have come to play an integral role in the human experience. Our stories give context to our decisions and meaning to our actions. Perhaps that’s why we use them to circle back to the halls and school yards of our adolescence in literature and film. They help us to make sense of one of the most arduous and trying periods in our lives.

From 13 Reasons Why to The Breakfast Club, we’ve come to look back on our high school days as somewhat of a cinematic experience. It’s a crucial stage for personal development across all spectrums, a decisive moment in defining our personal narratives. The influence of which has become all too apparent. Particularly when the mantra of modern adolescents has, unfortunately, become distinctively defined by three words: “It gets better.”

As I look back on my time with the board, I cannot help but think back to that younger version of me. Despite the laundry list of things that I would have happily changed about myself in an instant, I owe my current achievements to every last bit of him—every quirk, every foible. So, as I set my sights on the remainder of the year and the end of my term as it expires in December, he and I hope to share one final lesson with the students of our community. The power to write the story of your life rests squarely in your hands. For all of the twists and turns that surely lie ahead of you, the only limitations that separate you from your desired destination are those which you place on your imagination. Take pride in your quirks, forgive your faults, and brace yourself; the best has yet to come.

Thank you for helping to make this a truly unforgettable experience. It has been an absolute honor to serve this wonderful community of ours, and I greatly look forward to seeing how this journey continues to unfold under your stewardship.

Yours in Mustang Pride, now & always,

-Michael D. Johnson