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 interests of children; and see everything else as background noise.
* “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.”
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.
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. Topic: MICHAEL A. JOHNSON LIBRARY RIBBON CUTTING CEREMONY & OPENING Time: Nov 12, 2021, 1:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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) +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC) +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma) +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston) +1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose)
Meeting ID: 868 8115 0113
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kqK1Chipy 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! M.A.J.
*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).
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”.