School classified employees, like Charles Durham and Marlon Byrd (pictured above), walk the school halls keeping our students safe every day. Daymond Johnson, who is president of Ánimo Classified Employees Association, the union representing Green Dot Public Schools’ classified workers, recognizes himself in the students he protects at Ánimo Pat Brown Charter High School. Like those attending Ánimo Pat Brown, Johnson grew up in South Los Angeles, and he recalls living on a fixed income with his grandmother. “We didn’t have much, but we had each other,” Mr. Johnson remembers.
All About the Students
Being able to relate to students is just one motivation for him as one of the school’s Campus Security Officers — and it is one reason he is ready to get back to work after the holidays. The two-week holiday break is a chance for staff, teachers and students to step away from the classroom and rest from the past semester. For some, the break can seem like an interruption from the support they receive every day within school walls. For Mr. Johnson, the community at Ánimo Pat Brown is part of his family.
“Relating to our students’ journey is gratifying by itself,” says Mr. Johnson.
Every day students are looking for me, Mr. Johnson, in the halls, before school, during lunch, and after school so that they can crack a joke, tell me a story, ask me for help, or advise in their school and personal lives because they know that I was once like them.
The only difference between them and me, Mr. Johnson adds, is “I did not have an Ánimo Pat Brown where all staff – whether teachers, classified employees, counselors, or administrators – all strive to put the needs of our students first even when some do not realize it.”
Seeing the positive impact he and his peers can make in the lives of students also encouraged Mr. Johnson, who has been with Green Dot for 10 years, to step into a leadership role for his union, which offered him the added opportunity to also have an impact on his co-workers.
“I believe that it is important to educate, empower, and organize my peers around issues that affect our quality of life such as employment, wages, and any issues that threatens the education profession in which we work,” says Mr. Johnson, a Crenshaw High graduate.
“I chose to become a union leader because employees have rights, and I knew that I could be that leader to educate our members on those rights. I would be the person on the frontline to build a healthy working relationship with organizational leadership and school site administrators while at the same time reminding them of our member’s collective needs,” he adds.
Being in that position has enabled Mr. Johnson to step up and be part of Green Dot’s ongoing improvement and refinement. “I had created working relationships with org-wide leaders and school site administration and all I had to do was bring up this issue and let the working relationship do the rest,” he explains.
At Green Dot, Mr. Johnson is empowered to be a strong leader and respond to the needs of the students. “He engages students in conversations about the reasoning behind school rules and policies”, says Ánimo Pat Brown Principal, Josh Hartford, who has worked with Mr. Johnson since the school opened in Fall of 2006.
“Mr. Johnson exemplifies our belief that all stakeholders are critical in the education process. What sets him apart are the less obvious things: the pat on the back to the kid having a bad day, the ‘cool down’ lap around the hallway for a student who is upset, or just a heads up to the teachers about what’s going on with a student, Mr. Johnson reads our students and gives each one what they need”, Principal Hartford says.
The relationships Mr. Johnson has with his peers and the students at Ánimo Pat Brown also has had a much more personal impact on his own life.
“In 2012 my wife and kids were in a terrible car accident not far from my school site,” he remembers. “Students started running back to the school screaming, ‘Mr. Johnson, your wife just had a bad accident down the street.’ Not thinking about anything, I ran to the scene of the accident to find the car crushed like a can and engulfed in flames. There were police and paramedics everywhere. A CHP officer walked up to me and said if it were not for this young lady I don’t know if your family would have made it out the car. The young lady the officer was referring to was one of my students who pulled my wife and kids out the car right before it went up in flames.”
“I have spent my career keeping our students safe, and this particular student kept my family safe by saving them and I am forever grateful for her swift actions.”