Yolanda Johnson is a lifelong Newark resident who was educated in Newark Public School District and is currently studying for her bachelor’s degree in social and criminal justice with Ashford University. She is the mother of 6 children who spent over 20 years volunteering in Newark Public Schools. Yolanda believes that parental engagement and involvement plays an intricate part in a child’s educational experience and therefore the child is more likely to succeed. In 2014, Yolanda noticed that parent presence was zero to none at her child’s school, so she started a parent group named Eagles Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), based in George Washington Carver and Bruce Street School for the Deaf under the umbrella of the National Parent Teacher Association where she was the President. As a result of membership, volunteering and engagement, two parents were hired by the district as teacher aides.
Yolanda was chosen as the parent representative to join Mayor Baraka’s Education Steering Committee on tours to several Community Schools in other states and the results birthed the Southward Community School Initiative. As Yolanda brain stormed ways in which to increase parent engagement, she and another parents created a parent survey which was extremely instrumental in getting parents involved. In 2015, Yolanda took a deeper dive into increasing parent engagement and founded a parent organization named Parents Educating Parents, Inc. (PEP,Inc.) where she is the Chief Executive Officer. Parents and caregivers can reach out to PEP, Inc to be linked to resources and learn ways in which to navigate through the educational System.
Yolanda has worked with a community member to advocate for Pre-K 3 and 4 enrollment slots and was successful at filling 500 slots within 30 days. Because of the urgency of preschool enrollment, they both have negotiated expansion of Pre-K 3 and 4 inside George Washington
Carver and Bruce Street School for the Deaf for the 2018-2019 school year. Yolanda’s #1 priority if elected to Newark Public School Board, is to increase parent involvement and community engagement.
2021 Candidate Q&A
Q1: Members of the Newark Board of Education make decisions that guide the public school system. Please describe your process for decision-making, especially when working on a team of individuals with multiple points of view.
A1: The most important step in decision making is identifying the issue and considering a solution. The first step I take in deciding is research information to be better informed about the topic. Brainstorm with team members to think about everything that relates to our decision such as who will be impacted by the decision being made. I include all stakeholders in the process. My responsibility to the community when there is a different opinion include educating them on board responsibilities while allowing them to offer recommendations.
Q2: What is your top priority to address during your term if elected?
A2: My top priority if elected would be to increase transparency between the board, parents, students, and community members. Thanks to my continued input, the Newark Board of Education is evolving into the school district that I have envisioned it to be. My presence will encourage more participation from the public. A successful first year would be defined as accountability driven policies that increase student academic achievement.
Q3: What is the biggest challenge facing the young people of Newark today?
A3: The biggest challenge facing young people of Newark is securing pathways out of poverty. The Board of Education can use the schools for hubs of resources. Students can use courses in macroeconomics & microeconomics from K-12th grades. I will continue to ensure that the Sustainable Community Schools Model is thoroughly implemented after the bill is signed by Governor Murphy.