Question: Why did you want to be the superintendent at the Nevada Joint Union High School District? What drew you to Nevada County?
Answer: I love working with high school students — it’s such an exciting time in their lives — and Nevada County has been a draw as long as I have known about it. My husband has been coming here for years, and we both love the natural wilderness, art and fabulous community.
Q: What are your goals for the first 100 days?
A: My three primary goals for the first 100 days are as follows:
1. Developing a collaborative, trusting, productive relationship with the board of trustees.
2. Ensuring an effective, collaborative and orderly transition of leadership, keeping the focus on the priority needs of the students. During the first 60 days, I will be learning about and “feeling” the culture of each school through learning walks and listening and learning from students, faculty and support staff.
3. Creating opportunities to listen broadly and deeply to a variety of stakeholders and proactively ensuring that all voices are represented, heard and engaged.
Q: What do you think your biggest challenge will be?
A: My biggest challenge will, without a doubt, be the new state funding formula — California has recently made the most significant change to the school funding formula since the 1970s. The new funding formula is not kind to us in our district, and the budget will continue to be a serious concern.
Q: What have you done so far?
A: In addition to reviewing the board policy manual, the collective bargaining agreements with unions, the budget and the history of district, I have enjoyed meeting a wide variety of people. I’ve talked to school principals, union presidents and people in the community. I’ve met with four out of five rotary clubs and got to spend some time with the FFA and kids at the fair.
Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
A: Collaborative, innovative and compassionate. I am very interested in people’s input, especially teens. I am also interested in the role of technology in education, especially how valuable video conferencing can be in a remote area.
I’m excited about this year’s “bring your own device” policy and helping kids filter and think critically about information that comes over the Internet. When I taught chemistry and physics, I was the source of all knowledge. Now, all the answers are on the Internet. Our role is shifting to help kids make use of the knowledge they hold in the palm of their hands with their mobile devices.
Q: What do you love about your job?
A: The very best thing is being able to influence the educational experience of so many students. I love seeing the effects of my work years later, in teaching strategies or in physical manifestations. In Lake County, we were able to pass a bond to get rid of portables and build stick-built classrooms, new libraries and a gymnasium.
Q: What do you like to do when you are not at work?
A: Any chance we get, my husband and I are out hiking. Our most recent trip was to Yosemite, where we made it to the top of Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail.
Q: What do you like about Nevada County?
A: Concerts, plays, theater and wilderness. I am looking forward to having my two little granddaughters visit us here.
Q: What do you want people to know about you?
A: I grew up in Reading, Penn., a town that is the poorest per capita community in the U.S. I decided when I was 12 that I was going to study, go to college and make a different life for myself. My father still lives in the row house where I grew up, and 30 years later, I watch the kids playing in the street just like I used to play. My life’s mission is to bring the gift of school to the children who need it most.
If you would like to meet Johnson, call the NJUHSD office at 530-273-3351 to schedule an appointment. For more information about the district’s school sites and offerings, contact Karen Suenram (Ksuenram@njuhsd.com) or Trisha Dellis (firstname.lastname@example.org), assistant superintendents at NJUHSD.