PRINCETON, NJ — A lifelong Princeton resident, Paul Johnson says he’s running for a seat in the Board of Education because he genuinely cares “about the outcome of my five children, three of whom attend Princeton Public Schools, as well as all the children in our community.”
A student-athlete coach, Johnson is running with Karen Lemon and William “Bill” Hare as a slate.
Read below to learn more about Johnson and his platform for the upcoming elections in Princeton.
Name – Paul Johnson
Age (as of Election Day) – 36
Position Sought – Board of Education Does anyone in your family work in politics or government? No
BA Anthropology, University of Virginia.
Student-athlete coach and mentor
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office – None
Campaign website –
Why are you seeking elective office?
As the late, great John Lewis so eloquently put it, “To get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.” We are at a crossroads in our society and we must be proactive rather than reactive. It is time for a change on our school Board, it is time we tackle our issues of equity/equality head on, without reserve. It is time for us to be honest with ourselves and admit we have fallen short of the promises we have made to our children in this town. We have failed to be leaders for social justice and reform. We have failed to have open and honest dialogue with our families and our community. I am running because I believe I can be part of the necessary change which will ensure our students and families a better tomorrow. I am running because I genuinely care about the outcome of my five children, three of whom attend Princeton Public Schools (grades 3, 5 and 11) as well as all the children in our community. Most importantly I will work tirelessly until every kid and every family in our town feels like they belong. I will make sure our schools remain diverse, our town remains affordable, and there will forever be trust and transparency between the Board and the public.
The single most pressing issue facing our community is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
The top priority is the issue of equity. It was and has always been the pandemic before the pandemic we call Covid-19. We must always begin with acknowledging that this is much bigger than a black-white issue, or a have vs have-not issue. It is an issue of humanity, an issue of moral code, and most importantly, an issue of self-preservation of the human race. It stretches far beyond the electives and a few online courses of racial literacy. It is that which binds us and ensures that every child can achieve their full potential and know they are loved. It is that driving force that allows our children to know their worth and that we value them. If elected, I believe it is essential that we begin to tackle this issue with our search for the next Superintendent, because they will be our leader, our captain who will drive and guide our faculty, staff, and students (our team) to a brighter tomorrow. They will uphold and maintain our goals and values. It is also essential that we use the scope of equity in everything we do from policy to educating and everything in between. It is essential that our efforts don’t fall to the wayside and that they are ingrained in the day to day operations of our institution. We must be diligent and accountable in these efforts. We can’t afford to waste a second with this polarizing issue. We have ignored it for too long. Every day that passes by is another day we become complacent. A complacency (or consistency as some have hailed it) that we can no longer tolerate. Our kids can’t wait any longer and we need to uphold our end of the bargain and deliver. I could go on and highlight many facets which need reform from our hiring processes to our curriculum, but the most important aspect in curing any ailment or affliction, is to first admit we have a problem.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
Voters should choose me because I am a 4th generation Princetonian, who is as much vested in this school system as anyone else in our town. Not only do I have skin in the game with three kids who attend Princeton Schools (Grades 3rd, 5th, and 11th) we have a blended family consisting of different races, religions, as well as a special needs child, which gives us insight to many of the issues kids and families deal with on an everyday basis. It has been my life’s work as a student-athlete coach and mentor to help kids from all walks of life reach their full potential. While we have many other issues, we must also tackle as school board members I believe it is essential that we always remember to keep the children at the forefront, because they are truly what matters at the end of the day. They are our driving force and our guiding light; they will lead us to a brighter tomorrow. I not only have the passion to drive PPS to become a leader and example to the rest of the world, I also have the fortitude to stand up to status quo when it falls short and hinders progress. I have always been a leader and captain and in this position, you can expect nothing less from me. What separates me from most is that I understand neutral thinking and I know that as Trevor Moawad put it, “Successful people simply do what unsuccessful people don’t want to do.”
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency).
The slate of Karen, Bill, and myself are running on a platform of diversity, affordability, and trust. The board’s first and what I believe to be most important shortcoming, has been the issue of equity. On this topic and many others, the board has been reactive rather than proactive, and in governance I will argue it’s a complacency one cannot afford. We have again and again heard of a “consistency”, but it hasn’t been one that has affected positive change. The board has lacked accountability to the very people that has gotten them elected often ignoring the concern of the families, students, staff, faculty and the community they serve. It is imperative that the board restore its credibility and trust, and this can be accomplished simply by conversation and transparency. It is time for PPS to become leaders and show the world what it means to provide education, what it means to be equitable, what it means to inspire. It is time the board uphold its end of the bargain. We are elected members and must always remember we serve at the pleasure of our community. We owe them truth and honesty, and to work tirelessly for each and every one of our families.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.
Equity, wasteful spending, and a major and concerning lack of transparency
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
I am a proven leader, having been a captain my whole life (University of Virginia Men’s Soccer team and US U17 Men’s National Team). I am raising 5 kids, as well as my proven track record as a student/athlete coach and mentor.
The best advice ever shared with me was:
“Take inventory of yourself; know your strengths and weaknesses; plan accordingly set goals; live your dreams; and make adjustments; as necessary. But mostly, love your life to the fullest – for it is your responsibility, this map is your blueprint. Plot out your adventures and destinations; plan ahead with the focus on the end product. Have the discipline to make sacrifices and work hard to achieve your goals and dreams.” -James Cipriano
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
I will work tirelessly to ensure every child and family’s needs are met!
In anticipation of the upcoming election, Patch asked candidates to answer questions about their campaigns. We will be publishing candidate profiles as election day draws near.
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This article originally appeared on the Princeton Patch