MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. - For the first time in two years, the Mount Vernon School District is poised to be led by organized leadership at the top, with permanent Superintendent Kenneth Hamilton preparing to take over officially from Judith Johnson.
Johnson came out of retirement and was hired on a one-year contract in June 2012 to help turn the district around,. She took the reigns from former Mount Vernon Director of Pupil Personnel Waveline Bennett-Conroy, who served in place of the suspended Walton Sawyer, who was embroiled in a scandal.
The soon-to-be former interim superintendent came to Mount Vernon having built an impressive resume in education. She served as the head of the Peekskill School District for a decade before stepping down in 2011, with her district twice earning “most improved” accolades from the State Department of Education.
Under Johnson’s guidance, graduation rates rose in every district where she took the helm.
In 2008, Johnson was honored by the state Council of School Superintendents as Superintendent of the Year. She also spent time as an education official under the Clinton Administration. Throughout her career, Johnson was a fervent supporter of “leave no child behind.”
“Students that come from impoverished backgrounds have every right to expect success in America,” she said. “(Hamilton) has a commitment to make sure every student realizes the ‘American Dream.’”
Johnson was supposed to spend only one year in Mount Vernon, until they found a suitable replacement to take the district in another direction. After the superintendent search stalled last year, she announced she would stick around for one final year before riding off into the sunset.
While introducing Hamilton to the community, Mount Vernon Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson took the time to praise Johnson for all the work she accomplished during her two-year tenure.
“Our outgoing superintendent came to us at a time we were feeling a sense of hopelessness about whether or not we were able to educate our students in the district,” she said. “She galvanized the community around the fact that our children require us to be a participant in their education.”
Hamilton inherits a district that has improved in two years under Johnson. Under her leadership, the district undertaken a multi-year restructuring plan, kicked off a technology initiative and worked to improve community relations.
Hamilton, who has been busy in the community since being announced as the new superintendent, officially begins his $250,000 per year contract on Monday Aug. 11.
“We want to thank Judith Johnson for her service to the district the last two years,” the Board of Education said in a statement. “She and her team of administrators have embarked on a transformation that we know will continue with our new superintendent.”