The problem with uninformed and politically motivated public officials tinkering with public school mathematics textbooks.

Obviously, the governor of Florida (Ron DeSantis-R) does not have enough on his state leadership-management plate to occupy his time, so he has taken on the ill-suited role of state-wide “mathematics textbook evaluator”! 

The problem with his uninformed, not-pedagogically driven, cynical, and politically motivated actions are that the result will be to dumb down and make less effective Mathematics Education (ME) in the entire state, with a special harmful negative effect on those students who are not strong readers. 

Hitherto, the reason ME has escaped the fake and contrived “culture wars” (the way the “we’ll hold your coats while you’ll fight” news media lazily defines it) battle is because, unlike History and English Language Arts (ELA), the ME curriculum is highly characterized and driven by numerical, logical, quantifiable and immediately verifiable learning objectives; the only major “political” challenge that ME poses for those historical facts and language integrity deniers is them trying to “square” the word Algebra with the negative historical portrayal of the Arab and Muslim world. 

But there is an essential ELA component that is always connected to ME. And Mr. DeSantis did not need a psychometrician to explain that connection to him; any 3rd or 4th-grade teacher of mathematics working in Florida (had he asked) would suffice. And it is this ELA and ME connection and interaction that represent the major problem caused by his not-well-thought-out “textbook review” initiatives.

The end result of Mr. DeSantis et al. politicizing the teaching and learning of ME is that his efforts will weaken one of the most crucial efficacy components of ME textbooks —And that is, the teacher + textbook capabilities to help students to master the ELA aspects of ME classroom learning, and those same students being able to perform proficiently on external standardized assessments. 

For example, it’s the ELA components of ME that often “trip-up” those students who are Weak Reading Comprehenders (WRCs). It is these WRCs who struggle or fail with three fundamental linguistically-linked questions that must be read and interpreted correctly if a student is to successfully negotiate a mathematical word problem; they are:

(1) “What am I being asked to do?” (What is the correct process/answer this assessment is seeking?)

(2) “What are the correct operations or algorithms required to solve this problem; and in what correct order do I apply them to solve this particular problem or question?” (What kind, type or category of a “word problem” is this?)

(3) “Which ‘words’ or ‘phrases’ (and in what order) have been inserted into the question to distract me from the correct answer?” (Trying to assess if I really know the answer to the question, or am I just guessing.)

Helping students to connect culturally, practically, and linguistically to abstract mathematical concepts is an essential teaching tool utilized by all good mathematics teachers (see the film Stand and Deliver). But, this cultural-linguistic approach to teaching math is also necessary when developing students into being proficient and mastery level “standardized-test-takers” (a skill Mr. DeSantis used to get into Yale and Harvard).

An additional terrible by-product of Mr. DeSantis’s flawed drive-by textbook analysis program is that as students are conceptually and operationally weakened in elementary school mathematics learning, this ‘weakness’ will translate into greater numbers of those students not being adequately prepared to take on and master that tremendous STEM1-gatekeeper —Algebra! This will then result in many of these students not being able to later pursue a STEM college major and/or career after leaving high school.

There is a reason that we warn children not to play with any fire-related instrument or appliance; essentially, the issue is that they are not cognizant of the possibly dangerous or tragic outcomes related to their actions. Likewise, politicians should run for any office that interests them without ‘playing with’ the essential instruments (like textbooks) of public education. 

The critical components of public education should never be a careless throw-away strategy or a playing-politics-pawn in that politician’s political office keeping or higher office seeking plan; the result could be that many children can be permanently damaged educationally. And that’s because those aspiring politicians may not be cognizant of the destructive adverse pedagogical outcomes of their actions. We must let professional educators review and acquire the textbooks they determine that best support their professional work! Governors should manage states and leave entities like public education and Disneyland to those experts who have studied, trained, and practiced how to properly manage and have responsibility for the direct daily running of those institutions; and if you don’t know —Ask a professional somebody!

1. STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Your report from the principal’s office has arrived!

Report From The Principal’s Office: A 200-Day Inspirational and Aspirational School Leadership Journal:

Report From The Principal’s Office: A 200-Day Inspirational and Aspirational School Leadership Journal

The RFTPO Book: The second work in a unique series of school leadership books by a former teacher, science center director, principal, and superintendent; these books seek to explore, explain and propose solutions to the present challenges of identifying and creating great schools and (most likely led by) great school leaders. RFTPO combines the creative task of daily journaling with critical daily commentaries reflecting on the art, craft, talents, and skills required to be a successful PreK-12 educator, specifically, achieving success as a highly-effective school-building administrator.

Readership: Although specifically designed for current serving principals or assistant principals and professional educators who are aspiring or studying, or are presently serving in the capacity of a school-building and/or district level administrators, superintendents, district-level directors, coordinators, and supervisors, the language is structured to allow broader access to a diverse non-school based leadership public education stakeholder audience (e.g., parents, college professors, journalists, senior public education policymakers, elected officials, and tax-paying citizens) to find this Book accessible and “eye-opening” helpful in understanding the often “forgotten,” “unclear” or “hidden-from-public-view” inner workings of public Pre-K-12 schools. And the unique challenges the leaders of those schools are forced to correctly problem-pose and successfully problem-solve daily.

Why the focus on the principalship?

This Report From The Principal’s Office (RFTPO) book, in many ways, presents a concise daily compilation and an extended explanation of my professional interpretation of why some school-based administrators are incredibly successful (Day-103: “The highly effective principal’s toolbox will always contain these seven critical leadership skills tools”). And why, unfortunately, others are tragically unsuccessful. While still, others are committed to pursuing a mediocre/status-quo path, which is another way of being unsuccessful! (Day-152: “The not-so-good, the good, the great, and the highly effective school-building leader”).

First, because the emotional and educational well-being of students, staff members, parents, whole communities, and our nation is at stake, but also… Unfortunately (Day-47: “It’s not a matter of if it will happen; it’s only a matter of when will it be your turn!”) every year in the US, thousands of principals and assistant principals are either verbally or in writing (both are long-term career-damaging) disciplined or sadly in some cases removed for lack of knowing the “unspecified job requirements” expected of a school building administrator. (Day-54: “What you don’t know will hurt you: The hard truth about the “soft-skills” knowledge required for the principalship.”)

Leadership standards matter, and leadership quality matters the most at the operational core of a school’s success (or failure)!

Let’s face it, we are a ‘standards-based’ profession, so why would standards only apply to students and parents, but not professional educators, and specifically for the purposes of my work —School-based and district office educational leaders! So I start the RFTPO book off with two consecutive days of resolute affirmations:

“Day-1:The Principal is the single most influential difference-maker in a school’s success or failure.”

And then on,

“Day-2: The Principalship is a singularly unique position in PreK-12 education.”
These two opening chapters are in no way an attempt to minimize or dismiss the critical work of the other skilled essential personnel (custodians, cafeteria staff, teachers, paraprofessionals, etc.) required to operate a school; for even the best practicing principal could not function in a highly-proficient capacity if they had to (an impossibility) teach every class, prepare every lunch, as they kept the building clean and well-maintained; instead, my focus (and my intellectual interest), is based to a large extent on my experiential principalship praxis work; but, I am further inquiry-incentivized by my work-experience questions that were ‘planted’ and grew out of my time as a supervisor of principals, a superintendent. (Day-55: “Are highly effective principals born, or can good leadership skills and talents be taught and developed?”)

The Book is available on Amazon:

Paperback edition with notetaking daily journaling pages included:

eBook edition: (Note: The eBook will not contain the journaling pages)

I was glad to hear: “We’re returning to a Phonics-Based Teaching of Reading Instructional Approach.”

Breaking News: “Majority of freshmen tested at Baltimore City High School read at elementary level”*

Unfortunately, having entering 9th graders who are reading on an elementary school level is not “new (although it’s heartbreaking) news” to Title-1 high school principals. As happy as I am that some (kudus to them) news outlet has decided to bring this chronic and debilitating problem to the surface; it is essentially a public education “open-secret,” and further, it’s just a tiny fraction of the entire tragic story for too many of our public school children and their parents.

And, with some luck, who knows, this story could possibly inspire similar brave and revealing journalistic efforts on behalf of the “served the least” and “left out the most” children of our public school systems. Then, perhaps, a future news story exposé will proclaim something like: “Majority of freshmen tested at Benedict Arnold High School found to not have mastered the elementary school math (arithmetic) skills that will allow them to successfully engage 9th-grade algebra!” 

But beyond educational journalists finally being able to zero in and focus on the real academic challenges that cause so many of our public schools to fail to effectively educate their students. Sadly, what presently reigns is the: “We keep doing what doesn’t work cynical-cyclical-calcified approach” that is used so often by public school systems in our nation. This academic achievement “wall” can only be overcome by the actions of some brave educational saboteurs; that is the only way that the children that are harmed the most by public education’s lack of adaptive ingenuity have any chance of winning at learning.

I was happy to hear that the next NYC chancellor David Banks was looking to make phonics-based reading methodology a system-wide initiative. Having been a high school principal, he is fully aware of how serious reading deficiencies serve as a terrible obstacle to success in all academic subject areas. In the same way that algebra 1 mastery is that “great-gate-keeper” for having the ability to pursue a post-high school STEM college major or career. Those freshmen students who have not realized (being somewhere in the “zip code” of) on-grade-level mastery of elementary English Language Arts (ELA), e.g., reading (or mathematics skills), are facing a situation of not only possibly being unable to be fully successful in high school but also finding that their after graduation options are severely limited.

With all of the other challenges confronting our public schools (e.g., covid-19), changing lanes out of ineffectual instructional practices won’t be easy, even when it is something that must be done. For example, transitioning teachers (and principals) out of the “whole-language” approach to the teaching of reading is going to require a major professional development “lift.” Trust me, as a superintendent, I found it was extremely hard for a Community School District to make major pedagogical shifts, so for a school system of 1.1 million students, it will be a significantly tricky project to pull off. Still, it can (and must) be done.

(For the record: There are some specific situational/instructional conditions (e.g., standardized test-taking techniques) where “whole-language”(WL) methodologies are highly beneficial. In fact, when I teach these techniques to school administrators, I don’t use the phrase “whole-language” so that folks can focus on the pedagogy and not get “hung-up” on the phraseology… Further, I’m going to leave the “beneficial WL” conversation here because I don’t want to confuse my non-professional pedagogical readers, and I don’t want to write 2-3 more pages! My superintendent/principal/AP/teacher colleagues and mentees; we can talk about this off-line.)

The switching of organizational pedagogical thinking process will also face the powerful “headwinds” of the many different and multiple  “consultant lobbyists” who have undoubtedly already put their marketing powers to work. It is not unusual for many of these ineffective “school improvement” consultant forces to offer conflicting and contradictory advice (for a high price**)  as they give teachers and school administrators psychological whiplash when priorities and initiatives are changed from year to year. But sometimes and for some things, there must be a change because we know that in the past, regardless of the name of the “new approach,” the status quo’s over-arching philosophy remains the same, even if it is not working for the vast majority of our children. In any event, any significant educational change will take a reasonable amount of time. But for that academically struggling student (in math or reading), time is either a friend or an enemy, depending on the school’s teaching and learning effectiveness-adaptiveness culture. This means that high school principals can’t wait for the (phonics approach) change to “take full effect”; you should (I hope) already have a plan to teach students high school level work who can’t read at a high school level; while you also bring them up to middle and then high school reading levels, you must do both, teach high school level work & raise reading capabilities,  simultaneously! I know (I’ve heard it as a superintendent) that some high school principals will say that this approach is a “making bricks without straw” situation; it’s not easy, but it can be done. We must help students to successfully navigate high school course-work and also pass external (e.g., Regents exams) standardized tests; even if they can’t fully utilize the course textbook and/or they only read on an elementary school level; it’s has been done before: Assessing Accelerated Science for African-American and Hispanic Students in Elementary and Junior High School; Johnson, Michael A.; Journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science: Science Assessment in the Service of Reform; 1991. In our case study, many of the students who were the “real faces” and focus of my article, and who indeed passed the NYS science and mathematics high school Regents exams, were actually elementary school students!

High School principals with students who bring major academic deficiencies into their freshmen year need not  get “quick sanded” into a remediation-only approach. Students will naturally (and correctly in my view) resist this attack on their self-esteem; they know fourth grade work and they know they are not in the fourth grade! The only way to keep students emotionally engaged and inspired, and to insure that they achieve a quantitative (time/credits) and qualitative (knowledge/skills) high school graduation status, is to close their reading-comprehension, information-concepts, algorithmic-knowledge, vocabulary-phraseology, and test-taking-skills gaps; while at the same time, and this might sound counterintuitive, engage them in on 9th grade level and acceleration teaching-learning methodologies that can either neutralize or bypass the deleterious effects of  their reading deficiencies. This might require the unconventional approach of the teaching of a science course without or employing the selective use of a textbook; while at the same time the school’s ELA department races to raise the students reading comprehension levels. Any other approach for 9th graders with major academic deficiencies, will ultimately lead to principalship and (even worse) the students’ failure.


**“$773 Million Later, de Blasio Ends Signature Initiative to Improve Failing Schools”:

I hope my words can save the job of some good and sincere principal…

“A principal resigns after an investigation into the allegation that she slapped a student who cursed at her… the district will be notifying the state, a step that must be taken in cases in which there is a possibility an educator’s license could be in jeopardy…”

For some, their difficult and painful moments can often become teachable moments for them and others. But I always said to my students that they need not learn every life-lesson through direct personal experience; in fact, as a school administrator, there are many leadership lessons that you want to learn from an observation-only distance. Still, the key to maximizing the power of any lesson and minimizing the possibility of experiencing personal pain due to a “bad situational outcome” is to learn the lesson without becoming the lesson!

As an educator committed to standards and having been charged with supervising principals, I believe in the supervision and administration licensing and certification process. Much practical, necessary, and important operational and managerial information, knowledge, and wisdom are learned from graduate programs structured to prepare educators for licensing and certification as school-building administrators. But like most professional leadership journeys, your career-education learning process will continue up to and after your retirement.

My own awareness and understanding of the principalship deepened and expanded after becoming a superintendent, for it was only then that I was able to step back (from my “siloed” school-building experience) and engage a large number of schools with different “organizational cultural personalities,” led by a dramatically diverse group of principal personalities. As a result, a great deal of the superintendent’s coaching-leadership work challenge is informing principals of the unstipulated “soft-truths” of school leadership work that, when ignored or absent, can lead to some very not-so-good outcomes. This is the reason why when supervising multiple principals with very different “leadership and personality styles,” it will at times feel like one is leading a group of “mini-superintendents” with their own set of “district regulations” (It’s the payback you earned for all of the ‘grey hairs’ you either added or removed from your superintendent’s head when you were a principal!)

One of those critical “truths” I learned about the principalship is that many “professional behavioral” requirements are not stated in the “official” job description or employment contract. The so many “basic” things that I thought, before becoming a superintendent, that every principal knew, I found out that some didn’t know (and some, frighteningly, didn’t know that they didn’t know). Some of those “unwritten (but very much expected) responsibilities” are: identifying a “crisis” in its early developmental stages, staying above the day-to-day schoolhouse “mundane-mess” fray, avoiding having a “pettiness” or “payback” personality, the art of smartly and strategically “picking your battles,” and, critical, have that calming, assuring and “lighthouse-like” attitude during any school environmental storm. (alas, everybody is watching your reaction to/in a crisis for clues as to how they should act).

The principal must be a model and the model of “appropriate responses” whenever any inappropriate situations or negative behaviors express themselves. This “tension-reducing-nullifying” approach is particularly true in those many school-based human-to-human confrontational moments when the team/cooperative school mission seeking effort is in danger. Like a professional fireperson, you must always bring water and not gasoline to any fiery person-to-person situation, especially when you are one of the individuals “in the fire!” On several occasions as a principal, I was forced to have a “you’ve got to be the ‘bigger-person,’ the professional, and let this thing go” conversation with a teacher when they were demonstrably holding on too long to some negative feelings concerning them receiving a real or imagined slight from a student, colleague or a parent. Which meant (and I won’t lie, it was hard at times) I had to walk the “let-it-go” and “lets-move-on” talk I gave to others.

How do you see this situation ending?” I would further ask a student, parent, or staff person, knowing the answer to my question was to be found in three subsequent values clarifying questions: “Will this end that you are ‘designing’ make our school a better or worse institution?”— “Will this situation end with lesser or greater student academic achievement?”— “Will the end you envision decidedly place you closer or further away from your personal dreams and aspiration?” And then, I listen to their answers.

The “How do you see this conflict ending” question (and the three follow-up questions) was something at times I also had to ask myself as a principal. The answers faithfully (and fortunately) never led me to a place of slapping anyone (even in those times when I was angrily called some names, none of which existed on my birth certificate).

Perhaps there should be a series of “gate-keeper” questions before educators pursue a career in school building administration!

Imagine principalship candidates before pursuing a graduate program in school supervision and administration, and before sitting down to take their state school administration and supervision exam; would first need to answer a few upfront qualifying or disqualifying questions that could save them and ourselves a lot of grief, time, and money. 

Sample Question: “If you are ever cursed at (or out) by a student, staff person, or parent, would you ever avail yourself of the “slapping option” as a response?” Ans: Yes or No. If an applicant answers “Yes,” then that person should immediately stop taking the exam, for there is no need to answer any other questions, and further, that individual should be allowed to leave the exam room and receive a full refund for all exam costs; but they should never become a principal!

But on a serious and practical note, the principal (or AP) should be the last person in a school building to use violence in response to any act of verbal abuse on the part of any school family member. After all, you always have the “official” power option to punish or penalize any bad behavior. That parent who called me a bunch of not-so-nice names threatened and did call and complained to the superintendent that I banned them for a year from all varsity sporting events because of their offensive and possibly violence-provoking language-behaviors. Well, guess what, “you are still banned until you learn to attend games and present yourself as a positive parent role model!” Executive power, when exercised, is an expression of strength and confidence; hyper-emotional, personal-hurt responses are a sign of leadership fear and weakness.

School building administrators must always “be cool and courageous under fire”  and ask themselves that critical question: “If I do X, the following Y or Z events will likely occur!” You know that pre-action thinking “counseling stuff” we teach to young people when they are in danger of making a “bad” life-altering decision. That “counseling stuff” isn’t an abstract philosophical exercise; it’s ultimately a concretely real and necessary good human relations life practice. And in any event, why would you undermine your own legal authoritative power by engaging in some extra-legal act?

Finally, losing a job is one thing, but when a district formally requests that the state revokes your license, well, that’s another whole level of pain. This action is the profession saying that under no conditions should you ever be anywhere near working with a school or children. This license revocation action is a very serious process (so serious that school districts must meet a very high “justification” bar for seeking it). And further, there is very little “compassionate grey area” wherein the superintendent can work. In a few cases where an educator had a “moment-of-bad-judgment” in what was otherwise a stellar career, I felt very sad (yes, believe it or not, superintendents are human) for being on the requesting revocation side of this process, even though it was necessary, and I could not avoid my professional and ethical responsibilities to follow through to the (that person’s professional career) bitter end.

When they go loud and angry, you always go low-volume and calm…

In every highly-emotional negative school building person-to-person situation (especially when it involves you personally), stop, take your time, take multiple deep breaths (and as I learned in my Yoga practice: pay attention to your breathing). Try doing a visualization; for me, it was always ‘seeing’ my mother’s face, and thinking of all of the sacrifices she made for me to be where I am now; and also, me asking myself, “would she approve of the response I selected?”  Remember that there are hundreds or thousands of other students, parents, and staff-persons depending on your leadership presence. Put aside your ego and perhaps let another staff person calm the situation. The first move is not guaranteed to be the best move. A few “curse words” didn’t create your leadership, and a few “curse words” won’t make it disappear. Always know that you are never without alternative choices; and so, push-pause, step back or step away if you must; because the post-incident review clarifying “charging” statement from your superintendent is going to be something like: “I understand that the other person might have been wrong, but, you are the principal!”

This wasn’t my intent, but like the principalship—stuff happens!

“As a principal, the only chance you have of keeping your students and staff safe (especially if you don’t have metal detectors) is to be willing to make some tough decisions that will invariably make some folks uncomfortable or unhappy; you must always err on the side of keeping your school family away from serious harm and danger. If your professional aspiration is to be universally liked, choose another career. The parents who say that you are “doing too much” are the same parents who will be on the central committee of the: “Why can’t this principal run a safe school!” club. As a superintendent, the only chance you have of optimizing the safety of your district’s staff and students is to support (back) principals who make legally bold and decisive decisions to keep their school families safe.”

“Parents running away and hiding while their child is sitting in jail suggest that this young person had been emotionally abandoned long before the tragedy occurred. School administrators must know when & how to intercede, operationalize and humanize “In loco parentis” before a crisis erupts.”

I have received thousands of supportive and encouraging comments from all over the country (and world) concerning my two multi-social media postings of 12/5 on The unique school safety and security challenges principals presently face. And I wish I could respond to all of them. But this particular post from a principal brought back so many personal principalship memories:

“Thank you for posting. I am constantly being scrutinized as the principal who is too strict, or a “rule-follower.” Parents compare my decisions with those of other principals and complain that “Other schools are _____” but you aren’t letting us ____.” My barometer has always been what’s best for kids, and I never have to second guess or doubt my decisions.”

The focus of my 12/5 two postings was on the challenges that principals face as they try to navigate the immediate school safety and security issues. But we should not lose sight of the many daily difficulties principals face on so many (unknown to most) other fronts. And how one can easily feel isolated and unsupported; yet, at the same time, be expected to perform “miracles,” which many principals amazingly manage to do!

As a superintendent, I warned the district attendees to my “Pursuing the Principalship” class; they should not want to be a principal because they believe they will not have a “boss” in the building looking over their every move and decision. Unfortunately, the reality is that a principal will have (too) many “bosses” both inside and outside of the school building but (too) little management authority that matches the written and unwritten job description and requirements of the position. Many of the principal’s unofficial “supervisors” (not the superintendent) will, of course, know how to lead and manage the school better than the principal; and they are often entirely oblivious to the fact that most of the “directives” they send your way, conflicts with the “directives” of other similar faux supervisors. For example, as a principal, I was accused (in the same school year) by some parents of: “paying too much attention to the academically struggling students” and by another group of “paying too much attention to the high academically achieving students”(Or, perhaps in my way of seeing it, I was paying attention to both groups!) And on another topic from “supervisory” community stakeholders: “Black and Latino children aren’t successful on gate-keeping standardized exams!” —I get them to pass standardized exams; “You’re too focused on standardized exams!” Please, make up your minds, people! This brings me back to that principal’s post; perhaps the best approach to principalship professional success is to do that which is ethically right, just, and in the best learning and safety interests of children; and see everything else as background noise.

Some MAJ library naming event pictures for all my friends and colleagues who are not on any social media platform.

Mayor-Elect Eric Adams and I walking to the official ribbon-cutting area. Now, there were so many beautiful moments created by so many wonderful people yesterday, for which I will need to post a lot of appreciation pictures. But this particular picture resonates so strongly with my spirit. This scene took place outside of the hearing of the press or audience and was that moment when we were simply two Brooklyn brothers paying tribute to our mothers for making everything we achieved possible. Thank you, Pauline Johnson, for I can never repay you for all the sacrifices you made on my behalf. I can only try my best to do some lasting good in this world… Blessings on all mothers who believed in us.

Science Skills Center High School Library Naming and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.

On Friday, November 12, 2021, 1:00 PM ET, the Hon. Eric Adams, NYC’s Department of Education (NYCDOE) Science Skills Center High School (SSCHS), will ‘cut-the-ribbon’ on its new state-of-the-art Research Library and Media Center (RLMC). The RLMC will be named after the school’s founding principal, Michael A. Johnson*.

I would first of all like to thank Dr. Dahlia McGregor, the SSCHS principal, for developing a dynamically inspiring library facility and proposing that I be honored in such a fantastic way. I would also like to thank former NYC Chancellor Richard Carranza and present NYC Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter for graciously waving the NYCDOE regulation that prohibits the naming of any part of an NYC public school facility for a person who is still living (I am, by the way, very much alive, fully vaccinated + booster shot!).
As a former NYC superintendent, I understand the “political risk” of taking such a bold action; and so, I will always strive to honor their decision and work hard never to disappoint them.

Further, and in every significant way critical to this project, I would like to thank the Honorable Eric Adams (now mayor-elect of NYC), Brooklyn Borough President, who provided encouragement, material, and spiritual support for this new library facility. I am highly honored that Mr. Adams would recognize me, a humble son of Crown Heights Brooklyn, in this extraordinary way. And in addition, with all of the things he must have on-his-plate, that he has decided to attend the event personally. It is my hope and prayer that SSCHS will make his future public leader-servant mission work easier, and that SSCHS will forever remain (in the words of several former NYC Mayors and Chancellors, and specifically quoting one former NYC Chancellor Harold Levy): “One of the great bright and shining stars of the NYC public school constellation!”

I am also proud to announce that the Research Library/Media Center will be managed by the very competent and experienced hands of SSCHS Librarian, Ms. Sandra Echols. I sincerely hope that my former American Library Association and Brooklyn Public Library Trustees colleagues, and all of my many elected officials, corporate, private foundations, and city, state, and federal governmental agency friends will give this great new Library the support it deserves.

Finally, as you have probably noticed, the word “Science” is prominently situated in the school’s name; but it also takes the lead in the school’s extraordinary sense of respect for the principles of science; therefore, this event will be virtually broadcast so that we can encourage medically safe distancing. I am hopeful that at some point in the future, after everyone gets vaccinated (sorry, you know once a principal, always…), and we have defeated this Covid-19 scourge, we will be able to gather as a community and celebrate in this beautiful facility. But, until then, and with special thanks to SSCHS Technology Coordinator Mr. Andres Villar; here is the virtual viewing information:

Subject: Library Ceremony Zoom Meeting.
Time: Nov 12, 2021, 1:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting:

Meeting ID: 868 8115 0113

Passcode: 470375

One tap mobile
+16465588656,,86881150113#,,,,*470375# US (New York)
+13126266799,,86881150113#,,,,*470375# US (Chicago)

Dial by your location
+1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
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+1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose)

Meeting ID: 868 8115 0113

Passcode: 470375

Find your local number:
If you have any technical viewing questions please contact Mr. Andres Villar at: (718) 243-9413

For all those who are ever watching and forever watching over us from the ancestral realm, my mother, family, and friends; my growing-up-in church family, the community/neighborhood elders of my youth; my childhood Cub/Boy Scout, Sunday school, Acolyte, and P.A.L. leaders, the kind and wise Hasidic (a WWII Holocaust survivor) grandmother who daily provided me with warm milk, cookies, and words of encouragement during those very cold dark winter days on my before-the-start-of-school Eastern Parkway newspaper route (Oh my, route #18!).

To all, both living and dead, of my great K-12 NYC public school educators. Please know, all of you, that I have failed and fallen short of my own expectations at times, but rest assured that I have always strived to be worthy of your hopeful dreams and aspirational belief that the unfolding promise, “under-divine-construction,” ever inquiring, and in so many ways awkward and discontented adolescent you thought warranted your attention would someday make all of your hard work, support, and sacrifices worthwhile.

My young world was (and the world still is) full of many morally and efficaciously excellent, gracious, kind, and caring adults, wrapped in all colors, religions, nationalities, and ethnicities; these are those who sincerely want to see all of the children of this world survive, succeed and enjoy life to the fullest; and without them, our species is despairingly doomed.

I was that societally disenfranchised “latch-key” kid who was able to survive into adulthood because of two safe sanctuaries; P.S. 9 elementary school and the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), where I went every day after school and stayed until my mother came home from work. The BPL’s unofficial childcare program allowed me to escape the many dangers of the Brooklyn streets. And yet, (as the old folks would say: “the devil can’t know what’s on God’s mind”), that escaping danger experience allowed me to spend hours on hours of intellectual seed-planting reading time with great enlightening books, across many different topic areas. That “falling-in-love” with books period of my adolescence would lead to a life-long love of reading, learning, and enjoying the knowledge prizes that waited at the end of every intellectual inquiry. P.S. 9 (and later JHS 294’s Gifted and Talented program) and the BPL learning sanctuaries also provided a constantly in danger Brooklyn Black boy with that critically crucial safe space to be smart. I would eventually share my love-of-learning, and seek to protect and inspire that learning-love in thousands of young people; and who would imagine (surely not me) that the BPL free after-school “childcare kid” would one day serve as a Trustee for the entire BPL system; and as a professional educator, create a nationally and internationally highly acclaimed after-school STEM learning center in a wing of P.S. 9! It all almost sounds—well, miraculous!

To my many friends and supporters, my professional education community colleagues, in the U.S. and from around the world (especially my former students who, to my great joy, are now my professional colleagues), to all of my former students in whatever career they pursued, to all of the outstanding school staff members, school administrators, principals, teachers, and the many school district staff members I worked with as a superintendent. Having gained a more wise and greater time-granted experiential understanding of life, I can now, with profound and humble sincerity, fully appreciate the many years of love, support, and positive teamwork accomplishments we have seen together; for surely your names are forever joined to the single name on the wall above the doors of this library—Peace and Blessings on you all. And to everyone, please stay well, stay safe, stay smart and follow the science!

*Michael A. Johnson is a former teacher, principal, and school district superintendent. An internationally recognized formal (school-based) and informal (outside-of-schools) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Career Technical Education (CTE) educator; and a School Leadership Educationalist. He served as an expert peer-review panelist for “request for funding” proposals submitted to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Science Foundation. A member of the Educational Testing Service (ETS), National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Science Assessment Exam Development Committee, designers of the first NAEP national science exams. A presenter and panelist at numerous professional conferences, symposiums, and meetings like the NYS Governor’s Conference on Developing New York State’s Action Plan for Science and Engineering Education, Research and Development, Albany, New York; 1990, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Meeting: “Science and Mathematics Assessment in the Service of Instruction,” the National Press Club, the National Urban League National Conference: “Science and Mathematics Education, Tools for African-American development,” Philadelphia, PA, the New York Academy of Sciences, and as the keynote speaker at the International Conference for STEM Administrators and Educators, City College, Norwich, England.

The subject of many international books, dissertations, research studies, electronic and print media stories, and articles including PBS’s “Crisis: Who Will Do Science?” (1990) and the Nightly Business Report, PBS: “Phelps: An example of a school of the future”, 2008. The New York Times Magazine, “Scores Count.” Bulletin, National Association of Secondary School Principals – “Standards-Based Education”: Are Academic Standards a Threat or an Opportunity, 1997, Cross and Joftus pgs. 15-16; Savoy Magazine 2012: “CISCO/Phelps High School Developing the Next Generation of IT Leaders.” “Bridging the gap between cultures”; Li Xing and Tan Yingzi; China Daily; 2011. The Washington Academy of Science; Journal (v. 97, no 3); “STEM/CTE Education: Phelps as a new model”; Dr. Cora Marrett (NSF); Dr. Sylvia M. James (NSF); 2012. Johnson also serves as a consultant and grant writer/reviewer for universities and school districts’ STEM-CTE projects/programs funding proposals. In those efforts, he is working hard to build strong and sustaining STEM-CTE operational and systemic pedagogical “bridges and infrastructure” for the PreK-16 educational systems role in building and expanding the national STEM-CTE career “pipelines”.

The author of many newspapers, magazines, and journal articles, including two American Association for the Advancement of Science Journal articles: “Assessment in the Service of Instruction” and “Science Assessment in the Service of Reform.” Johnson was appointed a member of the NYS Education Department Commissioner’s Advisory Council on Equity and Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education (1989-1990). The recipient of hundreds of awards, citations, and proclamations, for example, Resolution of Recognition U. S. Senate Floor; Congressional Record-Senate; S9581; U.S. Member of the Senate; Mary Landrieu (La); The Global Diversity Innovation Award; World Diversity Leadership Council; Boston, Mass; U.S. Department of State Award: “For Contributions Fostering Global Understanding Through Language Learning and Support of the National Security (Chinese) Language Initiative,” Washington DC. Multiple Proclamations in Recognition of Dedication and Excellence in Education, U.S. House of Representatives, NYS Senate, NYS Assembly, and the City Council of New York.

As a principal, he created the first majority Black and Latino students national F.I.R.S.T. Robotics and Cyberforensics academic competition teams. As a superintendent, he extended STEM learning to the early childhood, elementary, and middle school levels by building dedicated applied STEM Labs and assigning specially selected and professionally developed science teachers to those labs. As a superintendent, he also provided access to larger numbers of Black and Latino students to the district’s expanded Gifted and Talented, International Baccalaureate (IB), and Advanced Placement (AP) programs; while building lower-grades “STEM capacity” by significantly “ramping up” the quality and efficacy of elementary mathematics education; thus having more students prepared to take 8th-grade Algebra (the “STEM gatekeeper”).

He is a former NYC Mayoral appointee as a Trustee of the Brooklyn Public Library. Instrumental in leading the designing, development, and building of two Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—Career Technical Education (STEM—CTE) high schools: Science Skills Center High School, NYC and Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering High School, Washington DC. In addition, Johnson has served as an adjunct professor of Science Education in the School of Education at St. John’s University. An author of a book on school leadership: Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership.; and is presently completing his second book on school administration and leadership: Report From The Principal’s Office (Fall/2021).

Report To The Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership

Report to the Principal’s Office (ISBN-13: 978-0692066317), 484 pages, $25, is available for purchase in hard-copy or Kindle on: Amazon at,

Barnes & Noble at

Books A Million at


  • The main category of the book: Effective High School Building Leadership.
  • Other subject categories: Preparation for the School Principal’s Certification Exam and the School Building Appointment Interview; School Supervision and Administrative Leadership; The Criteria for Selecting and Evaluating a School Principal, Job Requirements, and the Job Analysis of the Principalship; The Structure, Functional Components, and Organizational Elements of a High School; Effectively Managing Administrative and Instructional Practices That Raise Student Academic Achievement; Effective Organizational and Institutional Leadership.

About the Author…

Michael A. Johnson is a native New Yorker and a proud product of NYC’s public school system. This was also the city where he spent the majority of his personal and professional life. He has served as a Public School: Teacher, Science Skills Center Director, Principal and several years’ experience as a school district Superintendent. Over an 11 year period he led in the designing, building, and serving as the principal for two state of the art Science Technology, Engineering & Mathematics-Career Technical Education (STEM-CTE), Title 1 urban high schools. He also served as an adjunct professor of Science Education, in the School of Education at St. John’s University

His book: Report To The Principal’s Office represents a compilation of the lesson plan objectives’ & notes from a Teacher to Assistant Principal (AP), and AP to Principal courses that he taught as Superintendent of Community School District 29 in Queens, New York. It also serves as the working-reflection textbook from many years of serving as a principal and superintendent. During those 20+ years he was responsible for appointing, mentoring, professionally developing, supervising, evaluating/rating, and unfortunately, in some cases, removing school principals from their positions. This book is about focusing on and defining the best practices of an effective school-based leader (SBL), the principal.

Some of his appointments include: The New York State Education Department Commissioner’s Advisory Council on Equity and Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education, Albany, New York. Health Careers Opportunity Program, College of Health-Related Professions Task Force, State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn, New York The Pre-College Science Education Initiate for Science Museums Review Panel, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Bethesda, Maryland. Expert Grants Peer-Review Panel, National Science Foundation, Washington. Educational Testing Service, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Science Assessment Exam Development Committee, Princeton, New Jersey. Clarke Fellow in Science and Mathematics Education, Teacher’s College Columbia University. Charles H. Revson Fellow for the Future of NY, Columbia University, New York. Trustee Brooklyn Public Library System.

A Few Of His Awards: “Special Recognition Award”, Kings County Club National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club. “Recognition Award”, Women’s League of Science and Medicine. “Ailanthus Award” for Community Service, State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn. “President’s Award for Outstanding Educator”, Medgar Evers College of City University of New York, Education Conference. “Award of Excellence”, City of New York Human Resources Administration. Proclamation, The City Council of N. Y.; Council Member 35th District, Brooklyn. “1993 Bridge Builders Award”, Black Child Development Institute. “Humanitarian Award”, Youth Law Center. “Community Service Award”, NYEX – Minority Management Association. “Community Service Award”, Caribbean Women’s Health Association, Inc. The Evelyn Brown Clarke Memorial Scholarship Foundation, Science Educator Award. Brooklyn Public Library Board of Trustees, Award for Service. “The Faithful Servant Award”, Progressive Club of Concord Baptist Church of Christ. “Outstanding Service”, American Legion, Department of New York Zone 2. “Meritorious Award”, National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club. “Congressional Achievement Award”, Congressman Gregory Meeks. “School District Leadership Award”, Congressman Major Owens. “Dream of King” Community Service Award, Hip Hop Summit Youth Council. NAACP, Albany, NY; Albany Branch Award, April. Resolution of Recognition U. S. Senate Floor; September 14, 2006; Congressional Record-Senate; S9581; U.S. Member of the Senate; Mary Landrieu (La) Global Diversity Innovation Award; World Diversity Leadership Council; Boston Symphony Hall; Boston, Mass. U.S. Architect Of The Capital Appreciation Award. U.S. Department of State Award: “For Contributions Fostering Global Understanding Through Language Learning and Support of the National Security Language Initiative”. U.S. Department of State Appreciation Award: “For Dedicated Support Of International Education and Exchange For the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows Program”.