About Stuart

Stuart Johnson has been the Head of School at St. Bernard's School since 1985. St. Bernard's is an all boys K to 9th grade school located on Manhattan's Upper East Side. He is a member of the Early Steps Board of Trustees where he formerly served as Board Chair.
Early Steps Head of School
The Difference That Early Steps Makes

by Stuart Johnson

Former Headmaster St. Bernard's School

In 1997 Joseph Noel became the first boy from Early Steps to receive his school shield on his commencement from St. Bernard's, the boys' elementary school he had entered as a first grader eight years before.  At commencement St. Bernard's awarded Joseph the Faculty Prize, given to "the boy who personifies, in class and out, the integrity and cheerfulness that the school values and hopes to inspire."   Joseph went on to Browning for high school and then to New York University.

In 1998 Ijah Mondesire-Crump became the second Early Steps boy to receive his St. Bernard's shield.  Ijah was awarded the science prize at his commencement, then headed off to Riverdale and later to Harvard.   Both he and Joseph are now studying medicine.  Not a bad start to a productive and happy relationship between St. Bernard's and Early Steps!  At each commencement ceremony Jacqui Pelzer was there, to help us celebrate the success of the not-so-little boys whom she had sent to us almost a decade earlier.

Every year afterward, students from Early Steps have been part of our commencement.  This June four more-Kamil-Amani Bynoe, Nyall Islam, David Klestadt, and Malik Norford-join the parade of Early Steps boys whom we number proudly among our graduates.  We are their First Alma Mater, as we like to remind them in one of our school songs, and they are our Old Boys.  Like all our Old Boys, Early Steps students are different from one another and from everyone else.  Some sail through triumphantly; others struggle.  Most do a bit of both sailing and struggling.  Some are good artists, performers, or athletes, as well as students; we hope that they all know what it means to be a good friend.  Like children everywhere they owe a huge debt to their parents, who make sacrifices in time, effort, and emotion to help them along.  And they owe almost as much to their teachers, coaches, and friends, who give them the support and training they need to succeed in life, not just in school.

In other words, these children and their school are not fundamentally different from children and schools everywhere.  What is vital is that schools give all their children the chance to develop their potential.  All their children-and the great gifts of a good school should be available to every family that values them and is willing to get the most from the experience.

So what does Early Steps do for St. Bernard's and more than forty other schools?  Quite simple:  it develops our potential.  It brings us extraordinary children, whom we want and need to educate.  And then these children, with their families, show us how to expand our reach and understanding.  They are valiant little souls, and their parents are often little short of heroic.