CRESWELL – Mike Johnson grew up California’s bay area – in fact, on some of the toughest streets in that part of the country. Poverty, alcohol and drug violence, physical and domestic abuse, unstable housing, high mobility and environmental violence were all common conditions and the reality Johnson had to face every day as a child.
His only escape, he said, was school.
”During those years I was able to get what I needed from school,” he said. ”It was really the most stable aspect of my life, regardless of how often we moved from place to place.”
Throughout his life and career, Johnson has used that experience as a way to connect with students, especially children living under challenging circumstances. Now that he is Creswell’s school district superintendent, he looks forward to establishing that trust with the students.
Johnson was the principal at James Monroe Middle School in Eugene before being hired at Creswell. He has 28 years of administrative, teaching and coaching experience. Originally, he went to Houston Oregon University for a degree in corporate management, but he was later encouraged to go into education instead.
Although he wasn’t sold on the idea at first, he realized he could honor the teachers and administrators that helped push him through graduation.
”It has been my mission to repay those educators who gave me what I needed to become something,” he said. ”As such, I give the same care and concern consistently to all the kids that I meet or can work with.”
Johnson has worked as a principal at all three school levels and said his experience has helped him understand children at all levels, in and out of the classroom. That said, he still wants to continue his education as a new superintendent and has enrolled in multiple programs to help strengthen his skillset, one of which is through the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators.
”It’s a phenomenal program and it’s certainly working well for me,” he said.
Johnson’s transition and training at Creswell started in June, and since then he has launched headfirst into meetings with school board members and the community, to start developing relationships with them.
”Everyone has been very welcoming and supportive of me in my transition,” he said, ”and over the summer, my wife and I have enjoyed the festivity in the community and we’re looking forward to moving to Creswell in the future.”
One of the projects Johnson already has started began when he spent his first day in the district for the community forum. He said that while everyone was interviewing him, he was conducting his own needs assessment from a variety of perspectives about what residents said the district needed, ”So that if I were to be hired I could immediately start looking at those identified to me.”
The most common ”need” was the high school’s appearance. Johnson said the high school leadership group told him that they loved their school, but the school didn’t look like it was being loved and that stuck with him. When he was hired, he brought up those comments with Facilities Director Joel Higdon and Principal Adam Watkins.
”We collaborated to develop a plan to make improvements for the high school’s appearance,” he said. ”We want the students to know that they were heard. We also wanted the school appearance to demonstrate the pride and affection that the students expressed having for their school.”
He added that the outcome of the ”facelift” is to make a positive impression of the school and elevate attitudes about and perceptions of the school.
There have been a lot of changes in administrative staff and the school board going into the new year and Johnson said the change is exciting. He’s looking forward to seeing the new staff fit into the system, although it is bittersweet that a few members of the staff have moved on.
”But they’re moving on to better their own lives and we’re bringing people in to take this district to the next level,” he said. ”That’s the exciting part for me, strategizing with both people who have been here and the new people on how we can increase student achievement and success.”
Johnson said he enjoys building community, and as he continues on his first year at Creswell he is looking forward to opportunities to invest in the professional development of the staff to enhance the district’s instructional skills and strategies.
”The district is in great shape and our staff and students have been very successful over the years,” he said. ”As we move into the next year, I’m excited to work with the senior leadership of the district and develop a cohesive vision of success for all the stakeholders in our community. I just really look forward to the collaboration; that’s where my heart is at, getting people together and doing this as a community.”