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Superintendent Dr. Johnson nearing retirement

Dr. Louise Johnson, the Superintendent of the Nevada County Joint High School District, poses in the Bear River Community Theater. Dr. Johnson is retiring at the end of the year. Photo by McKenna Hisaw

On December 13, 2017, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Louise Johnson announced her retirement to the district.

After much consideration, Dr. Johnson made this decision for the good of her and her family. She talked about why she announced her retirement so far before the end of the year.

“I decided to announce early because I wanted to give the board a good chance to get out in the market early in the spring in order to secure the best possible candidate to replace me,” she said.

Dr. Johnson spoke of the joyous memories she has of the many different districts she has worked at.

I have been working with the Nevada Joint Union High School District for 5 years,” she said. “I have been a California school superintendent for 15 years, previously serving the Ripon Unified School District … the Konocti Unified School district for 5 years before that … the Dinuba Unified School District … and … the Corcoran Unified School District.”

She elaborated on what exactly she does as District Superintendent.

First and foremost, I am the professional educator who advises the Board of Trustees,” she explained. “Each month we prepare a packet of anywhere from 200 – 500 pages for them to review and study before they vote on each item at the meeting … I oversee all of the schools and supervise and evaluate the principals and other district administrators.

Students who have met Dr. Johnson reminisced about how she influenced their lives, whether she taught them kindness, or showed them how fun her area of work is.

“I’ve been influenced by her to be a leader and work hard,” said Marie Claire Desplancke, a junior who works with Dr. Johnson as one of our school’s representatives. “She (has) definitely worked hard since I’ve been here, not only with this campus, but with NU and all the other campuses… I think it’s just… wanting to be a part of student life, wanting to be a part of teachers lives, and being there for everybody. She was definitely here for Bear River when we lost Jude and Joe. She always came on campus every single day for a few weeks. She’d talk to a lot of students. I think that really helped.”

I got a chance to meet with Dr. Johnson once, and it was really amazing to see how much she knew about each one of the seven schools in the district,” said Sonora Slater, a sophomore. “It was awesome to see how much she cares about what she does, so I guess you could say that I was inspired to keep doing what I’m passionate about.

Camden Criesco, a senior and Bear River’s other student representative, described what he believes makes Dr. Johnson such an excellent district superintendent.

“I think one big thing I noticed when I was meeting with her would be she really weighs all of our voices, whether they’re teachers, students, staff, community,” he said. “All of that really weighs as an equal, she values each one importantly with what direction our school is going.”

Dr. Johnson explained what she does to make sure to work with students, staff, and the community.

“By planning and organizing the district as a whole, we are able to work together to do great things for students,” she said. “Each year, we convene a LCAP Steering Committee of 36 stakeholders to work with us on our planning for the following year. The committee is composed of 6 students, 6 teachers, 6 classified employees, 6 administrators, 6 parents, and 6 community leaders.”

As much as students don’t want to let Dr. Johnson go, students are curious about what the new superintendent will be like.

“I would like them to understand students, be engaged, definitely with student’s life,” Desplancke said. “I know if they have a family, it might be difficult to go around to each campus, not just stay at one school the whole time … I think when you get to know the students, you have a better idea how the district works.”

Slater added her hopes.

I hope the new district superintendent will continue the good work Dr. Johnson has done,” she said. “I also hope that they are excited about their new job and full of ideas for how to improve and upkeep our district.”

So if Dr. Johnson loves her job so much, and her students love her back, what caused her to make the decision to retire?

“Many people know that for the past number of years I have been struggling with my father, who is in dementia care in Pennsylvania,” she explained. “ … It was a long, hard process as we worked to get him into appropriate care and as they worked to manage his difficult behaviors in that stage of the disease. He is settled in now and appears at peace with where he is … He was there for me when I was small and vulnerable and through my whole life. I want to retire so that I can be there for them, now that he is in his most vulnerable phase of his life.”

As Dr. Louise Johnson wraps up her final year at Bear River, Criesco added a last little note.

“Thank you for all you’ve done, Dr. Louise Johnson,” he said. “Thank you. I mean, it’s been great.”

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Superintendent Dr. Johnson nearing retirement