Supporters of Superintendent Johnson to rally on Saturday in JP
Backers of Superintendent Carol Johnson will gather on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Bethel AME Church in Jamaica Plain to show support for her. Johnson went into damage control mode this week after the Boston Globe reported that she did not discipline a headmaster after he was accused of a domestic assault charge.
The church, run by Rev. Ray Hammond, is located at 40 Walk Hill.
In a series of interviews, Johnson acknowledged she made a mistake in not disciplining the headmaster, who would eventually plead guilty to "sufficient facts" and resign. On Friday evening, she sent a letter to Boston Public Schools staffers expressing regret and laying out next steps.
Johnson's moves -- allowing the headmaster to keep his job at the time and later writing a glowing review on his behalf to a judge -- drew criticism from some parents and elected officials at City Hall, including City Councillor At-Large John Connolly, the chair of the Council's Education Committee. But Mayor Thomas Menino has voiced strong support for Johnson, as has the chair of the mayorally-appointed School Committee, Rev. Gregory Groover.
UPDATED: Attached below is an email Superintendent Johnson sent out early this evening to Boston Public Schools staff.
Dear BPS staff,
I wanted to reach out to the entire BPS family today to update you on an issue that is on a lot of minds, including my own.
Many of you are hard at work this summer spending time with the record number of 11,000 students enrolled in our summer programs – twice as many as just four years ago - which offer enriching opportunities for all students and help eliminate the pattern of summer learning loss. Very soon, we will proudly support hundreds of students as they march across a stage to collect their diplomas in our annual summer graduation. Many of these students were just a few credits shy of graduating; others had many more challenges to overcome. This new tradition, which we only recently started, offers all of them a chance at a bright future.
At the same time, I have been grappling with my own response to a report of domestic violence involving a BPS administrator. I deeply regret that when confronted with this report I did not act in a way that sent a clear message to our students, staff, families and the entire school community that violence is never acceptable by anyone, inside or outside of school.
I have heard from many of you in the last week about the issue of domestic violence. I have spoken with community and state partners, the Boston Women’s Commission, the Boston Health Department as well as individuals who have personally confronted domestic violence in their own lives. These conversations have been personally very important to me and I am grateful to everyone who has reached out.
In reviewing this situation, we have identified the need to establish a clear procedure for personnel that will apply to those of us in leadership positions in the District and schools. The bottom line is this: Any employee in a leadership position who is arrested on suspicion of violence, or is faced with a serious complaint involving violence inside or outside of school will immediately be placed on leave.
We will discuss these new procedures with school leaders during our regular planning meetings next month. In the coming days and weeks I will be reaching out to advocacy groups and experts who have offered to help us further improve our efforts to confront and respond to allegations of violence. We will also work with our various bargaining units to develop procedures that can apply to everyone who works in our schools, not just those in leadership positions.
As difficult as the recent news has been for me personally, it also offers an important chance for all of us to take a strong, shared stand against violence in our community. We must signal to our students and families that we have zero tolerance for violence, especially domestic violence, whether it occurs inside or outside of school.
Our students look to us for leadership, and for their sake, we must do all we can to develop a broad and coordinated plan to respond to and prevent violence and ensure a safe and caring community. This is an opportunity to better educate students, and all of us, on this important issue.
Carol R. Johnson
(This blog post was updated at 11:38 p.m. with the inclusion of the letter to BPS staff.)