By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Montclair’s assistant superintendent of equity is reported to be in the running for the superintendent position in Teaneck.

An announcement on that district’s website last week indicated that Kendra Johnson is one of the two finalists for the position, the other being Edwin Acevedo.

Montclair Board of Education member Joe Kavesh indicated on Wednesday, May 24, that the board was aware of Johnson’s candidacy, and that she had given the board advance notice.

“I’ve definitely enjoyed working with her over the past year,” Kavesh said, noting that he was speaking from his own perspective as a board member.

Montclair created the position of assistant superintendent of equity last year to help oversee matters of equity and diversity in the schools, including the achievement gap, and Johnson was tapped for the position in August.

He continued, “Dr. Johnson is exceptionally qualified and well-versed in many areas, especially in respect to equity and civil rights.” Kavesh indicated that she was well-qualified to serve as superintendent should she be hired for that role.

Teaneck has scheduled a meet-the-candidates forum at Teaneck High School on June 14 to introduce the community to the candidates.

Johnson declined to comment on the matter when the Montclair Local reached out to her on Tuesday.

Johnson has a Ph.D. in urban education and leadership from Morgan State University in Baltimore, a J.D. in public interest and business law from the University of Baltimore School of Law and a master’s in educational administration from Johns Hopkins University.

In April, Johnson delivered a presentation to the board on various aspects of the district’s equity plan, including a status update on how the district was implementing recommendations that an advisory board had made on equity issues in the schools. Some of the key points have included professional development programs for teachers, including the in-progress Undoing Racism program; curriculum development that was sensitive to the diversity and backgrounds of the student body; and ensuring that students are ensured equal access to honors and AP courses and other educational opportunities.

Kavesh said that besides her April 12 presentation, Johnson had met with the Montclair Civil Rights Commission, of which Kavesh is also a member, on one occasion. “In both instances I was very impressed,” he said.

Both Kavesh and Board President Laura Hertzog said that it was too soon to discuss what it would mean for the position of assistant superintendent of equity should Johnson be hired in Teaneck. However, Hertzog emphasized that should there be a change in staffing, it would not alter the district’s efforts on equity.

“The district’s efforts with regard to the equity that our children deserve are not and can never be dependent on any one person. The board is deeply committed to equity in our schools, and will continue those efforts whatever the circumstances,” Hertzog said.

“It’s readily apparent that this board is committed to addressing the achievement gap,” Kavesh said.

Matthew Frankel, a district parent, said that Johnson’s role in the district was a critical one. “Dr. Johnson’s presentation on our very real achievement gap a couple of months ago was a paradigm changing moment for our community. Her vision, intellect and poise is the kind of leadership rarely seen,” he said in an email. “It would be just terribly ironic if during the anniversary month of the release of the historic [achievement] gap recommendations that we lost our best hope for a stronger future for all our kids.”