Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson | Credit: Ally Markovich

It took the Crowden School exactly one year after a then-five-month-old controversy became public to settle the matter — although “confidentially,” not revealing the terms of the settlement.

It all started when Crowden School Principal Brad Johnson, an acclaimed 25-year veteran of the faculty, was summarily fired because of a complaint by parents and their threat to sue the school.

At the time of SF Classical Voice’s report last year, a popular Netflix series was The Chair, about a prominent professor fired over a misunderstanding, which in less combative times might have been handled with an apology or just an explanation.

In the real-life version in Berkeley, the charge against Johnson was about — and this is true — “a fill-in-the-blank vocabulary test involving crustacean jokes.” Underneath that, of course, were allegations from some students who felt they had experienced “years of being bullied” and what seemed to be a seething conflict between faculty and administration. All this in a school respected, even admired, for the music education it provides young students, hailed many times with articles in SFCV and other publications.

Unlike The Chair, at Crowden many students, faculty, and board members rallied to Johnson’s cause, some quitting in protest, but Johnson lost his position, and his reputation was damaged.

The Crowden School campus
The Crowden School campus

Now, after a year of silence about the matter, comes a Crowden press release with a joint statement signed by Board Chair James Marks and Johnson, “informing the community that they both sought to and ultimately achieved an amicable resolution with regard to the litigation filed last year.

“In the joint statement, Board Chair Marks expressed the trustees’ recognition of and appreciation for Brad’s 25 years at Crowden, and former Principal Johnson noted he ‘remains grateful to the many wonderful people who entered his life and for the rich memories formed during his years at Crowden.’”

Ally Markovich, of Berkeleyside, who originally broke the story, told me: “I talked to Brad, who seemed genuinely happy to be moving on. Everything I know is very vague though, due to the confidentiality agreement on the settlement.”

The joint statement includes this:

“We — Jim and Brad — share a deep commitment to the Crowden School and its unique mission. We want to see it continue to thrive and, to that end, have worked together to achieve a resolution to the disharmony and distress precipitated within the Crowden community by the sudden announcement of Brad’s departure in August of 2021 and subsequent events.

“The circumstances of that departure and the manner in which it was received, handled, and communicated by the school fell short of the gratitude and recognition that was his due as a longtime Crowden key administrator and faculty member.

“It is our hope that this joint statement of reconciliation will help heal the rifts that emerged within the Crowden community over the past 12 months and allow this wonderful community to look to the future as it celebrates the 40th anniversary of Crowden’s founding.”


Update (Sept. 3): While announcing the settlement with fired principal Brad Johnson, Crowden also notified faculty and student families that Executive Director Doris Fukawa, who fired Johnson, will “transition“ to director emeritus, staying with the school for a year and continuing to teach violin. CEO Marion Atherton is now interim principal and “will assume administrative leadership of Crowden.”

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