Kentucky School Advocate
Michael Johnson, Owensboro Independent
Q. You were elected to the Owensboro Independent’s school board in 2018. What motivated you to run?A. I wanted to serve the schools because I care about the education and safety, health and wellbeing of all our children. They are our future leaders and workforce. We want them to be college- and career-ready.
Q. You had been involved in the school system as a parent, hadn’t you?
A. Yes, and serving on the school-based council and youth advisory committees and coaching track gave me an understanding of the students and where they come from. I come from a single parent home – my mother raised me and my brother – so I can relate to many children, depending on what they have gone through in life.
Q. You are the first African American man elected to the Owensboro Independent board. Why is diversity important for school boards?
A. You have to reflect the community you are in. It gives a balance. It’s about seeing the whole picture. Also, students look (at a diverse board) and see they can achieve some of their goals in their life. I say, if they can see it, they believe it.
Q. How does your career in the U.S. Navy influence you as a board member?
A. In 23 years, I traveled around the world and saw a lot. The military gives us a chance to be ambassadors to other countries. For example, in Naples, Italy, we established a running track for children at an orphanage. That put a smile on kids’ faces and gave them hope. The other aspect of military service that is valuable in my board member role was the work experience I had. As chief culinary specialist, I had to make sure 20,000 meals were prepared a day. I was a budget analyst, in charge of a several million-dollar budget. I was also maintenance supervisor at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, in charge of 20 buildings. So, there are some similarities to running a school district, although it is a different world from the military and I’m still learning. But I love it.
Q. You’re president of a nonprofit, Truth Outreach, a mobile unit that provides food, clothing and other services to the homeless. How does that mission affect your work as a board member?
A. I wanted to be involved in the community after I retired. I saw that some homeless people weren’t getting services they needed because they couldn’t get to shelters. I began to pray about it and got direction from the Lord. As a mobile unit, we go to the homeless where they are. We have children who are homeless and in shelters and I know where they are. I know that the youth advisory committees have been tremendous in helping these students and because I have that insight, I try to make sure that program continues. I can speak to it because I am there.
Q. What advice do you have for new or aspiring board members?
A. To make sure that when they run, their focus is on the betterment of the whole community. To help the community move forward in positive ways and see the success of all students. To not have one agenda, but have an open mind and make the right decisions as a team.
Getting to know
Profession: President, Truth Outreach, a nonprofit serving the homeless
Spouse: Christie Johnson
Children: Mikayla Johnson, Michael Johnson Jr., Josiah Johnson, Devin Leonard, Cameron Wells, Destini Leonard, Lashon Leonard
Favorite subject in school: Science (Had a 100% average)
Hobbies: Independent gospel recording artist, plays piano by ear, runs track in USATF masters, cooking for family and homeless shelters
Book recommendation for board members: “Talent Is Never Enough” by John C. Maxwell
Interesting fact: In the Navy, Johnson cooked not only for captains and admirals but for President Bill Clinton when he visited the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.