Kendra Johnson
Superintendent Kendra Johnson speaks to the audience at the July 15 Board of Education meeting. Johnson will be stepping down as superintendent before the start of the next school year. ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Fear of what yet another transition in district leadership will mean for Montclair was an overall theme at the July 15 BOE meeting when members approved Superintendent Kendra Johnson’s resignation.

When it came time for the board to officially accept Johnson’s letter of resignation, however, none of the board members initially wanted to put forward a motion, or second it. Eventually board member Latifah Jannah put forth the motion and board member Anne Mernin seconded with the board voting unanimously to accept the resignation of the superintendent who served a little over than a year.

“Here we go again,” said James Harris, of the Montclair NAACP, as he wished Johnson success in the future.

Johnson was appointed in April 2018, replacing an interim in place for the three years prior. The last permanent superintendent was Penny MacCormack, who resigned in 2015.

Montclair conducted a nationwide search to find a new superintendent after MacCormack resigned four years ago, with two candidates withdrawing their names. and leaving Johnson as the only candidate. Harris told the board that the NAACP would be available for any assistance the board might require during the search for Johnson’s replacement.

“I think it’s clear we should all agree that the revolving door of leadership in this district is detrimental to our students,” said Debbie Villareal-Hadley, of the PTA Council.

Kathy Molloy, of the Special Education Parents Advisory Committee (SEPAC), said the frequent changes in leadership have been especially detrimental to special education students.

Justin Thompson said he was worried that certain factions in the community could use the change in leadership as a chance to overturn Johnson’s work on equity in the district, and to remove the student equity advocate position.

Parent Rayna Thompson said in the past, superintendents in the district were inaccessible, and not responsive to parents’ emails and phone calls. “You changed that,” she said to Johnson. “As far as I’m concerned, you have gone above and beyond the call of duty.”

In closing, Johnson said she is unbothered by “negativity,” and has a “warrior’s spirit,” adding she will give “110 percent” until her last day with the district, which has not yet been officially determined.

“It takes a community. We didn’t get here overnight, and we’re not going to repair it overnight,” she said.

Montclair teachers union chair Petal Robertson and vice chair Tom Manos thanked Johnson for her work on matters of equity and restorative justice.