Principal will strive to see all of her students succeed


Donna Johnson Donna Johnson FREEHOLD – Above all, Donna Johnson loves children.

Johnson, the newly appointed principal of the Freehold Learning Center elementary school, Dutch Lane Road, said she does not remember one defining moment when she knew that teaching would be her profession. She said whatever it was that led her to teaching was “always there.”

Johnson was introduced to the community at a recent meeting of the Freehold Borough Board of Education.

Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth O’Connell said Johnson is a good fit for the borough’s K-8 school district.

“She has a great deal of experience in open-space schools, as well as experience with a bilingual population,” O’Connell said. “She is also well into work on her doctorate. We feel that she is going to be very good here in our district.”

Johnson said, “Everyone here has made me feel so welcome. I already feel as though I belong here. I don’t have one ounce of apprehension about starting my job as principal.”

Johnson will succeed Dennis Levinson as principal of the Freehold Learning Center.

Johnson was born in Nutley and graduated from Georgian Court College, Lakewood, with a bachelor’s degree in special education. She earned her master’s degree in education and her master’s degree in administration at The College of New Jersey, Ewing, and is currently working on her doctorate in education at Rowan University, Glassboro.

Johnson, who is an adjunct professor at Monmouth University, West Long Branch, spent 10 years teaching in Trenton’s public schools while also working as the after-care program director. She spent the last three years as assistant principal for the East Windsor Regional School District’s three elementary schools in Mercer County, and as an acting interim principal in the district for a part of that time.

She said her time in East Windsor was a “phenomenal” experience and one that allowed for learning and growth.

“I was very lucky to have worked with three different administrators and three distinct leadership styles,” Johnson said.

During her final year in East Windsor, Johnson worked at just one school, the Ethel McKnight School, which she said is an open space school much like the Freehold Learning Center. She said learning in an open-space school environment “instills creativity and imagination” in children.

“It is a very unique structure that also allows for the interaction of teachers in different grade levels, something you just cannot achieve in a school with traditional classrooms,” she said, noting it is her belief that teaching in an open-space school promotes more collegiality among staff members, something she strongly supports.

Johnson, who has lived in Freehold Township for eight years, said she is looking forward to working at the Freehold Learning Center. She said she chose Freehold Borough to work in because she loves the diversity in the community and knew she would see that reflected in the school system.

Johnson, who is the mother of two daughters and a son, said her goal now that she has come to Freehold Borough is to ensure the students’ success.

“We can achieve success for all students if we find the key,” she said. “We can achieve success for every student without exception. I believe that with all my heart.”