Kendra Johnson named full-time Montclair schools superintendent
By ERIN ROLL
Kendra Johnson has been named Montclair’s new schools superintendent.
The board voted on April 11 to retain Johnson for the position open since 2015 during a special meeting of the board of education with only four board members in attendance.
Johnson will officially start work as superintendent on May 1.
She has been serving as Montclair’s assistant superintendent for equity, curriculum and instruction.
“I am honored to continue serving the Montclair Public Schools community in this new and expanded role as superintendent,” Johnson told the Montclair Local after the meeting. “I eagerly enter this new role with gratitude and optimism. Together, we continue the excellent work already underway with our outstanding school district.”
“As BOE president and a Montclair parent, I am incredibly excited that we have a permanent superintendent who is strong, and committed to Montclair’s children and excellence for all,” BOE President Laura Hertzog said on Thursday.
She noted that several audience members had expressed their thanks and appreciation to Johnson and the BOE, which Hertzog called “a lovely sign of things to come.”
Three board members- Jessica de Koninck, Anne Mernin and Eve Robinson - were absent during the meeting. They had informed Hertzog they would not be available on the alternate meeting dates that had been suggested.
“Dr. Johnson brings many talents to the work of education. I look forward to working with Dr. Johnson and ensuring that all of our children have rich and engaging experiences in our schools,” Mernin said. “I am disappointed that this important decision was scheduled on such short notice and on a day when three board members were known to be unavailable.”
Robinson said that it was unfortunate that she was unable to attend the meeting. “I was only informed of the meeting late Sunday night when we were asked for our availability during the week,” she said on Friday. “I was busy every evening this week, thus the meeting went on without me there.
Robinson said she wrote to Johnson to congratulate her on her appointment and wish her the best of luck in her new role.
“I’m extremely pleased that this long search is finally over and I believe we have hired the best candidate for the job,” board member Joe Kavesh said. “I have the utmost confidence in Dr. Johnson, and believe she will do an outstanding job for the Montclair school district.”
Kavesh said he would have liked to have seen all seven board members present, “so as to vote seven-zero for Dr. Johnson.
“Voting for a superintendent is probably the single most important vote that any school board member is asked to cast,” he said.
Johnson had been one of three candidates in consideration for the superintendent role. Ross Kasun, superintendent of the Freehold school district, and Rachel Goldberg, assistant superintendent for instruction in Passaic were both in the running but withdrew their interests in position in late winter.
Barbara Pinsak has been serving as Montclair’s interim superintendent for the past year. Prior to Pinsak’s tenure, Ron Bolandi served as Montclair’s interim for three years.
During a Q&A session with the media in March, Mayor Robert Jackson said he preferred that the district hire someone who had prior experience as a superintendent, saying that Montclair was not a district for someone who was new to superintendent work. Of the three candidates, only one - Kasun - had experience as a superintendent.
“I will work to ensure that Dr. Johnson is a success. Her success is our students’ success; her success is Montclair’s success,” Jackson said on Monday. “My conversations with Dr. Johnson since her appointment have been quite cordial and constructive. She’s participated in a number of community gatherings that I’ve attended and I’ve been impressed by the way that she’s listened more and talked less.” When asked about his prior comments on superintendent experience, Jackson said, “I have offered that an experienced superintendent has a greater chance of success in Montclair than a newcomer. That said, I’d like nothing better than to have Dr. Johnson prove me incredibly wrong.
“Simply, we owe Dr. Johnson a fair chance; a legitimate opportunity to beat the odds.”