Interim Superintendent of Schools
Judith Johnson’s fierce dedication to educating all children to high and challenging academic standards has made a difference in many ways over the course of her career: on the local level as an innovative school administrator; in the Westchester, New York region as an educational leader; and on the national scene as a pioneering policy maker. Judith served as Superintendent of Schools for the Peekskill City School District from 2001 up to her retirement in 2011. She was the city’s first woman and African-American to serve in that post.
Peekskill is a diverse small city school district where over 60% of the population is eligible for free and reduced lunch. “I found a community that had high aspirations for its children and did not want poverty to be a barrier to their achievement,” She immediately engaged the community in developing a strategic plan. “What we have done in Peekskill is to level the playing field so that our children can have educational experiences comparable to those of children in wealthier districts,” affirms Johnson. This is especially reflected in Peekskill’s brand new 600-student middle school, which provides the latest technology for 21st century learning. The building was made possible by two historic bond referendums, which also enabled the transformation of Peekskill High School into small learning communities and the installation of high performance technology and science laboratories in all district schools. Johnson has also obtained over $20 million dollars in grant awards to support reforms, including a dual language program and a robust arts initiative. The changes Johnson led resulted in important student gains. The high school graduation rate has risen from 55% to 76%, and over half the high school population now enrolls in Advanced Placement and credit bearing college courses.
As a regional leader, she led a group of Westchester and Putnam school superintendents in 2007 to adopt a policy that affirms one of Judith’s strongest beliefs, that “education a civil right.” She was named New York State Superintendent of the Year in 2008. She has been recognized for her work and commitment over 27 times by state and national organizations. On the national level, in 1997, Judith was appointed as Deputy and then Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, providing leadership for federal education programs that addressed the educational needs of America’s 51 million students.
Among her many contributions to the education of all our country’s children, her proudest gifts are her two children, Paul and Pamela, and her granddaughter, Adhira.