Yonkers, NY —The Honorable Regent Judith Johnson, member of New York State’s Board of Regents serving the 9th District of New York State and a powerful force in improving quality and access to education for diverse populations, will be this year’s inductee into the Biondi School Black History Wall of Fame on Friday, February 10, 2017. The announcement was made today by Dr. Angela White, Assistant Executive Director, Superintendent of Schools for Leake & Watts’ education programs.
The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. at the Biondi School Auditorium on the Leake & Watts Yonkers campus. The Biondi School serves special education students K-12 whose ability to learn is affected by an emotional, cognitive, or other disability.
Judith Johnson has devoted her professional life to public education—whether through her work in the classroom, leading local school districts, or helping to reshape national and local education policy. “Throughout her career, Regent Johnson’s focus has been on ensuring that children from all races and backgrounds receive the same access to high-quality education, and to encourage student achievement at every level,” said Dr. White. “She has been a powerful and vocal advocate, and is an inspiring role model for African-American youth.”
Regent Johnson commented, “It is an honor to be inducted into the Biondi School Black History Wall of Fame, and to be recognized as a role model for the diverse student body here. I know students in this school arrive filled with hope and resilience. They face many challenges, yet they remain committed to becoming contributing members of our communities. Biondi students have an opportunity to excel in this supportive educational environment.”
Emphasizing New York State’s goal to accommodate the needs of all students, Regent Johnson added, “This school has a distinctive mission for special education students—it is to ensure talents are recognized, nurtured, and celebrated. Every day each staff member enters the building, they are reminded of the importance of ensuring all students, without regard to race, socioeconomic status, home zip code, gender, or any protected class distinction, have the same educational opportunities available to every student in New York. In return, each Biondi student has the awesome responsibility to contribute to the ongoing narrative that defines the American story.”
Regent Johnson’s induction marks the sixth year The Biondi School has commemorated Black History Month by honoring accomplished African-Americans who have made significant contributions to society. Previous recipients of the award include former head of the National Urban League Hugh B. Price; New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins; civil rights attorney Mayo Bartlett, co-founder of Safe Passage; and Biondi School Assistant Principal Al Grimes, a member of the first African-American college relay team to win the National Invitational Two Mile Event.
This year’s induction will include remarks from Regent Johnson along with student presentations. Following the program, a plaque with Regent Johnson’s name will be hung on the Black History Wall of Fame in The Biondi School, where it will be visible to inspire students every day.
“Regent Johnson has consistently been recognized as an educational champion for struggling youth who can bring diverse groups together to innovate programs that help students rise to their potential, a commitment that mirrors the philosophy of The Biondi School, and every program at Leake & Watts,” Dr. White noted.
Bio: Regent Johnson was appointed to a five-year term with the Board of Regents in 2015. Her educational career spans seven very diverse city and suburban districts and includes both teaching and leadership roles. From 1997-2000, during President Clinton’s second term, Secretary of Education Richard Riley appointed her to serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary and later as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education. During her tenure, the department launched legislation that provided funds for initiatives that included Extended Day and School Choice Programs, Instructional Technology programs and Small Class Size initiatives. In addition, a major focus of the department’s work was the implementation of the 1994 authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act which produced the first national effort to introduce a performance-based standards framework for teaching and learning.
Regent Johnson also served as School Superintendent for the city of Peekskill from 2001-2011, becoming the first woman and African-American to hold that position. There, she was known for supporting initiatives that significantly improved the numbers of students graduating college and advanced career readiness. The district launched a dual language program aimed to graduate high school students fluent in two languages and saw enrollments in college level programs double from previous years. One of her most significant achievements was securing voter approval for over $70 million in bonds for construction projects, which resulted in a new state-of-the-art middle school offering advanced technology, swimming, science, and a wing devote to the Fine and Performing Arts. The project included renovation of high school science labs and the creation of a planetarium for K-12 instruction.
In 2012, Regent Johnson took the temporary helm of the Mount Vernon City School district during the search for a permanent superintendent. There she introduced a multi-year restructuring plan that included a transition from textbooks to tablets, the curriculum transition to Common Core Learning Standards, and a literacy initiative to ensure all students were prepared to be proficient readers by third grade.
An inspirational force for other educators, Regent Johnson has built a reputation as a trusted leader and mentor. She has served on many executive committees including the American Association of School Administrators, the New York State Council for School Superintendents, the Association of Small City School Districts, and the New Standards Project, a national initiative that launched the transformation to standards-based instruction, a concept that remains the framework for teaching and learning across the nation.
Regent Johnson was selected as one of the 100 Executive Educators in America in 1990. In 2008, she received the New York State School Superintendent of the Year award, making her the first African-American in the history of the New York State Council of School Superintendents to receive this honor. In 2009, she was honored as Alumna of the Year by Brooklyn College. In 2015, she was inducted into the Rockland County Civil Rights Hall of Fame. Regent Johnson has been tapped to offer testimony before state and federal legislative committees, has published many op-ed and professional articles, and presented the paper, “Energizing the Base: The Fight is not Over,” at the Black Women’s Political Caucus in 2011.
About the Biondi School: Leake & Watts’ Biondi School serves students K-12 whose ability to learn is affected by an emotional, cognitive, or other disability. It is a fully accredited non-public school that provides year-round specialized education services. Through the support of small classes with an individualized curriculum tailored to each student’s needs, students who have not had success in their local public school thrive at The Biondi School and go on to achieve high school graduation.
About Leake & Watts: Founded as a Manhattan orphanage in 1831, Leake & Watts operates programs serving more than 11,000 children, adults, and families throughout New York City and Westchester County. Programs include early childhood education, foster care and adoption, specialized education services, a home for teenage mothers in foster care, behavioral/mental health support services, and juvenile justice services. Leake & Watts also operates residences for adults with developmental disabilities and a Preventive Services program to stabilize at-risk families so children can remain in their parents’ care.
Leake and Watts Services, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the Middle States Association, and the Better Business Bureau. It is the recipient of the New York Community Trust 2014 Gold Nonprofit Excellence Award for Overall Management Excellence. The organization’s administrative offices are located in Yonkers. For more information, the public is invited to visit www.leakeandwatts.org, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
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