Miller Grove names Steve Johnson to top school district post
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

April 30, 2004 -- Beginning Saturday, Miller Grove will officially have a new leader at its helm--high school principal Steve Johnson, who was selected one week ago by Miller Grove's board of education to serve as superintendent. The high school principal replaced Dr. Tommy Turner, who retired as superintendent after nearly 20 years service to the district three months ago to take a position with Region 8 Education Service Center.

"I'm really excited about that [being named superintendent]," Johnson said. "I do not foresee any big or drastic changes. I would like to continue the work done by my predecessor. We have an exemplary rated school and I'd like to continue that. I want to continue to strive for improvements. I think if we continue to raise the bar high kids will step up and meet it."

"When our superintendent of 19 years retired, no one on the board had any experience hiring a superintendent," board member Fred Moseley said Thursday afternoon. "We started the process and had to go through more than 50 applications. We selected Steve Johnson who comes to the district well qualified."

Johnson has served as secondary principal at Miller Grove for the past two years, and prior to that served three years as an assistant principal and two years as principal at other schools. He attained his superintendent certification in 2001 and is currently a doctoral student at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

While Johnson assumes the position of superintendent beginning May 1, Donna George who has been working concurrently since Turner's retirement as interim superintendent and elementary principal will step up to fill the high school principal's post vacated by Johnson. Board members are now beginning a search to fill George's former position as elementary principal at MGISD.

"We appreciate the service of Mrs. Donna George these past three months while we conducted the search for a superintendent," Moseley said. "She has been acting as interim superintendent while still doing her duties as elementary principal. She has done an extremely good job and we appreciate all she has done. We are very pleased with Steve Johnson and think he will make a good superintendent. Mrs. George will take over as high school principal and a new principal will be hired for the elementary. Mr. Johnson and Mrs. George work very well together and soon will be working ever closer together with their offices on the same campus."

"I've always aspired to be a superintendent in a small district. I'm a country person at heart. I came from Washington state where I grew up in what then was pretty much a farming community, pretty much like this one."

Johnson worked for Quinlan school district before accepting the secondary principal's position in Miller Grove two years ago, and before that both he and his wife were employed for a small 1A school in West Texas, with an enrollment totaling about 100 more students than at Miller Grove. Before moving to the Brownfield area in 1993, Johnson was a police officer in Washington. He was a patrol officer in his home state for 13 years, before having to retire due to an injury.

"I think the Lord was preparing me to go into education," Johnson said. "The problems I saw the kids on the street have then are like the problems the kids have now here. If the kids are not taught right from wrong at home, it's hard to tell them at school."

The pair have been driving to work from Greenville for the last two years, Johnson to Miller Grove and his wife, Robbie, to Como-Pickton Consolidated Independent School District where she is employed as an educational diagnostician. They are pleased to be moving into the Miller Grove area, which allows Robbie, a native Texan, to live in her home state and Johnson to live in a small farm community much like the one he grew up in. He said Miller Grove is the kind of place from which he'd be happy to eventually one day retire.

"Mr. Johnson will take over May 1 and he and his wife will be moving into the district in the superintendent's house right across from the school," Moseley added. "He has been our principal for two years. I think this will be a good fit him and his family and for Miller Grove community."

"We're excited to be here," Johnson said Tuesday. "This feels like home. It's what we've been looking for. When Dr. Turner told us he was resigning I applied. This is an excellent district. We have some good kids. ... There are still a lot of multi-generational families, more people, I've learned from listening to teachers talk, who grew up here and still live here."

He explained that knowing several teachers have taught only at Miller Grove, and some for more than 20 years before retiring, to him speaks highly of the district and community, especially since MGISD only has the resources to meet the state base pay salary for teachers.

Johnson, the father of three daughters and four grandsons, said he plans to remain directly involved with student activities as much as possible while still assuming administrative duties.

"I like to have a lot of interaction with the students, that's why I like this school district," he explained. "I'm blessed because my office is in the high school offices and I can continue to have coffee with the teachers and be in the halls with the students."

Three projects Johnson hopes to tackle in the near future are utilization of under-used facilities and classrooms, a continuing campus beautification project which would include a landscaping class for agricultural students and an addition to the elementary building to house more classrooms. The new elementary addition, if approved, would be constructed on the east end of the ground just south of the existing facility.

The PTO has also raised funding to provide a new playground for the elementary children closer to the elementary building so students do not have to walk as far for outdoor play activities.

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