My name is Mario Vicente Johonson and I’m a Brooklyn born, Afro-Carribean gay man who grew up in Santa Monica, circa 1970s – 80s . My mom is a retired African-American labor organizer, my biological father is a retired Puertorican attorney, and my stepfather is a retired Irish, Catholic chemist. During the ’70s and ’80s there were very few kids of color in the Santa Monica school system. We were mostly either met with suspicion by the White majority, or entirely overlooked, disregarded, and at worst, scorned. I personally know what it feels like to be “served” by educators who deem me and others like me as unworthy of enlightenment, wholeness, care, empathy, and most importantly personal liberation. I’ve always been a deeply emotional, intellectual, and relational person, yet I had no idea what that personal orientation would translate to as a post college graduation professional career.
To make ends meet during college, I began tutoring. At some point, I met a parent who asked me to work with her child at a newly established independent school called New Roads. There I came to meet one of the most pivotal individuals in my career, and by extension, my life. As founding Head of School, David Bryan was everything I ever imagined in an inspired educator. He was present, connected, caring, dynamic, funny, profoundly intellectual, creative, practical, and loving. The way David held space as a leader taught me some of my most prized lessons. He demonstrated mastery of the interpersonal ability to be authentically present with others, despite the plethora of other overwhelming responsibilities entailed in his role.
As one of the primary inheritors of his professional legacy, I carry with honor all that he has taught me and contributed to the flourishing of our beloved academic community. My conception of leadership is grounded in a deep love and respect for humanity, an abiding belief in the transformative power of philosophical and spiritual engagement, the health, wellness, and wellbeing of all, a clear sense of personal integrity, and a profound sense of commitment to the community I serve. I firmly believe that integrous leadership is all about the critical embodiment of affirmative values. An effective and authentic institutional leader must personally embody and manifest the values of the institution he serves, at the level of consciousness, awareness, and engagement in action. I hope to serve and support the reimagination of TOF by providing education, support, consultation, resources, guidance, and direct, firsthand access to our burgeoning, dynamic work around diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) and antiracism. In alignment with TOF, I believe that an abiding respect for nature and the environment are critical to our survival as a species, and listening and speaking from the heart are the foundations of authentic, healthy relationships. Having worked with TOF for many years, I firmly believe that my direct involvement with your organization will support the mutual realization of both our institutions’ expanding vision and evolution.