Johnson is a proud lifelong resident of Newark who currently resides in the West Ward. She also has two children who attend Newark Public Schools: Tyler, 18, who attends Bard Early College High School and Taylor, 16, who attends Arts High School. As a parent, Flohisha became more involved in her son’s school and the organization Ed-Reform. She also a member of several organizations including the African American Heritage Parade Organization, Arts High School PTO, BARD High School Early College PTO, My Son Is Me Mentoring Organization and an honorary member of Camptown Post 1942.
Flohisha currently develops and implements community-based strategies to preventing homeless for Essex County Division of Community Action and works part-time for Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin.
A member of the Newark Board of Education since 2017, Flohisha serves as Vice Chair of the Parent Life and Student Engagement Committee, Vice Chair of the Personnel Committee, and as Chair of the Legal Committee.
As a child Flohisha attended Newark Public Schools, Clinton Avenue Elementary School and Louise A. Spencer, where she was in the Gifted and Talented Program. Flohisha also attended Arts High School where she majored in Drama, and Kean University where she majored in Criminal Justice.
NOTE: This candidate was not available a recorded interview and was invited to submit written responses to the three questions.
2020 Candidates Forum Q&A
Flohisha Johnson Introductory Remarks
My name is Flohisha Johnson I was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. I attended Newark Public Schools Clinton Ave., Louise A. Spencer, Arts High and then Kean University. I have two sons Tyler and Taylor whom both attended North Star Academy, Tyler from K-10th grade who was a part of the founding elementary school and Taylor k-8th. Tyler now attends Bard Early College High School which he will be graduating with his High School diploma and his Associates Degree and Taylor attends Arts High where he is a 10th grade Media Production major.
My long-term vision for the Board is to keep moving the district forward. To be a student graduating High School in 1995 when we lost Local Control and to be a part of the Board when we regained Local Control is a success for the district that I pride myself to be apart of.
Currently the district has opened new schools as well as initiated new curriculum which is moving the district forward and I want to keep focusing on the direction that we are currently moving in. Being a Board Member requires a lot of time effort and dedication. You build relationships with the Board Members to keep moving the district in the right direction. You have to take all ideas and initiatives of all Board Members into consideration in order to be a functional Board. Working with the Community is also a big part of being a Board Member, listening to them and taking the ideas of the Community into consideration as well. We are elected to serve the students and the Community.
Q&A Round 1: Addressing the current situation confronting our educational system
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the educational landscape across the country. Schools in Newark are “closed until further notice.” Candidates will be asked three questions about the impact of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic on learning. Please connect your answers to the critical levers you have available to you as a school board member: Policy, Supervision of the Superintendent, and Budget.
1-A. As a prospective Board of Education member, what would you recommend to ensure continued learning for all students while school is closed?
The District has been doing an awesome job in such a short turn-around time frame. With anything there will always be some type of complications. Since school has been closed the Superintendent, Board Members, District Staff, Teachers, Mayor and all parties involved have worked days and into the night ensuring that the students have everything that they need to continue learning.
1-B. If the situation stabilizes by July 1, 2020, what recommendations do you have for the summer months to address any learning loss that might have occurred during the school closure? If students need to regain any learning that was lost over the past couple of months, I suggest summer learning sessions be continued. Students also currently have the access to obtain tutoring sessions from some of the teachers in the district that may not be from their school but are willing to assist.
1-C. What changes, if any, would you recommend for the 20-21 academic year to address the current interruption? All students should be assessed at the end of this year to ensure where they currently are in comparison to where they left off before the pandemic first took place.
Q&A Round 2: Articulating your stance on a specific area of responsibility
As an elected official to the school board, you are required to collaborate and make difficult decisions with the eight other members of the board, as well as build public support for your positions. These decisions focus on issues concerning your primary responsibilities: the vision and goals for the district, the development and enforcement of district policies, the performance of the superintendent, and the development and adoption of the annual budget. In this round, we ask you to select one area of responsibility and articulate what changes you would advocate and work for in your chosen area.
2-A. On which area of responsibility would you like to focus on for this round: Vision and goals, district policy, evaluation of the superintendent, or use of the budget? What changes would you like to see in that area, and why?
2-B. Describe, using an example from your professional career, how you build coalitions among your colleagues to make change happen. In my career role I am Intake Specialist for the Continuum of Care Division (COC) with the County of Essex. I support the chronically homeless population in the County of Essex and in this role, I have seen so many of our families and staff of Newark Public Schools who I have given support to. In my role currently on the Parent Life and Student Engagement Committee I have built coalitions with the County and NPS to provide supportive services as needed. Working with families to make sure they have stable housing, mental health services, grief support and what is needed to make them stable and able to function. Also collaborating with our Personnel Committee which I am VP to help families in my Community to secure jobs with NPS from a partnership with the County to host a Job Fair which 57 jobs came out of. These are initiatives that I would like to see continue to happen if I am re-elected again and if not.
2-C. What work do you imagine you must do to ensure the community understands and supports your position?
Q&A Round 3: Increasing student voice
Before the context changed so dramatically this year, the Trust worked with seven high school students across the district to prepare them to develop questions for and facilitate this forum. Due to the pandemic and the need for physical distancing, the Trust was not able to complete this work. We did hold two preparatory sessions with the seven students. The students wanted prospective school board members to speak to their plans for increasing student voice at every level of the system.
3-A. As a prospective Board of Education member, what current structures do you believe allow students to contribute to the decision-making that impacts their educational lives? Please be specific in naming the structure and articulating exactly how student voices are captured and used in either school or district decision-making? Also, speak to how you might strengthen this structure. So the district currently has a Student Representative and this year the work that he has done has been outstanding and the previous Rep’s that we have had since I have been on the Board have done extraordinary work as well. This year the Student Rep had the idea to invite all Schools Presidents of Student Counsels to join a partnership to work together as a whole committee.
With this process there is more insight from each school all in one. Different things, some good and some bad, came out of these meetings that all came back to the Board after each meeting was held. We have to listen to the voice of the students. Without the students we would not be able to function as a Board or as a district. This collaboration should continue to move forward. I think the Board should have listening tours for the students as we did for the Parents just for our students and this should happen in the beginning of the school year. I also suggest that Student Reps need more than a year to be effective in their role. A year is only a short period of time to really make an impact. A Board Member having a three-year term isn’t enough time to complete all the things that we set out to see happen either, so as a student, how can they?
3-B. What additional ideas do you have to increase the impact of student voice on decision making either at the school or the district level that are not currently in place? Do you commit to advocating for them if you are elected to the Board?
Flohisha Johnson Closing Remarks