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Johnson officially named head of School Dist. 29

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District Administrator Michael Johnson was officially named superintendent of School District 29 amid cheers of support from parents, teachers and principals at last week’s community school board meeting.

The board voted unanimously at its Thursday meeting to accept Johnson to lead the district and its 28,000 students after he was appointed to the job by Schools Chancellor Joel Klein at the end of August. Johnson will be the district’s first permanent leader since Celestine Miller was removed from the position three years ago.

School District 29 stretches from Queens Village to Fresh Meadows and from Hollis to Rosedale and includes Cambria Heights, Rosedale, Laurelton, parts of Bellerose, Springfield Gardens and parts of Jamaica.

The hundreds of parents, teachers, students and principals at the school board meeting last Thursday joined in a standing ovation as board member Christopher Afuwah read the resolution to officially appoint Johnson as district superintendent.

“Thank you for your vote of confidence,” Johnson said after the vote was cast. “Thank you for your courageous and thought worthy actions.”

The new superintendent was showered with gifts of balloons, flowers and more as well as words of praise and congratulations by representatives from schools across the district, including PS 116 in Jamaica, PS 195 in Rosedale, PS 118 in St. Albans, IS 109 in Hollis, and others.

“You have done a wonderful job and we hope you’ll continue to do so,” said Farida Mooklel, co-president of the PTA at PS 95 in Jamaica.

Standing before the gifts lining the end of the stage, Johnson thanked the district community for helping him stay grounded during a “strange and difficult period.”

“I may have complained about how I felt, but somehow you stayed focused on the children,” he said. “You gave me the courage to be focused.”

The school district had been in flux since Miller was fired in February 1999 by then-Chancellor Rudy Crew for not immediately reporting that an 8-year-old boy had brought a loaded gun to a Rosedale school. She was indicted in November 2000 on bid-rigging charges involving computer sales to schools under her control.

After Miller left, District 29 had an acting interim superintendent, but Crew’s successor, Harold Levy, suspended the school board because of its inability to complete the search for a new superintendent and the low student test scores in the district.

Even though Levy appointed Johnson as the interim district head at the same time in early 2000, he did not name Johnson the permanent schools head when the reinstated school board nominated him for the job earlier this year. Levy sat on the nomination until he turned over the position to Klein in August.

The board also voted to change the name of PS 34 in Hollis to the Langston Hughes School, after the poet, novelist, and songwriter.

“Langston Hughes is a real role model,” said Patricia Bernard, a PS 134 parent. “Hopefully, it will motivate our children to get more involved with writing because reading and writing take you everywhere.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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