Johnson takes interim role at St. Edmond

Will serve as high school principal for rest of school year

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson knows that, in education, little things often go a long way.

St. Edmond’s new interim high school principal won’t have a lot of time with Gael teachers and students between now and the end of the year. Forty school days, to be exact.

As such, Johnson will focus on quality moments rather than quantity, offering a helping hand and providing leadership from lessons learned during his four decades of experience as an educator.

“The key to being an effective teacher or administrator is always going to be building strong relationships,” the 66-year-old Johnson said. “Once a student knows you care, they’ll push themselves and find confidence in ways they don’t always realize until later on.

“You can’t fake it, though. You have to take a sincere interest in what’s going on both in and out of the classroom. Sometimes, you see the benefits right away. Sometimes, it comes 10, 20 or even 30 years down the line. But if you find a way to have a positive impact on a young person, it’s an educator’s greatest gift. It’s why we do what we do. So over these next 40 (school days), I’m going to try my best to help the students and teachers at St. Edmond High School reach that full potential.”

Johnson’s first day on the job was Tuesday. The long-time Fort Dodge resident, who moved to town and became a Fort Dodge Community School District teacher in 1979, was initially approached a few weeks ago by good friend and St. Edmond board member Mike Johnson about filling the position for the remainder of the school year.

“Tabitha Acree has been handling (principal duties) at the elementary, middle school and high school levels, which I’m sure has her spread pretty thin,” Mark Johnson said. “Mike indicated the school didn’t want to just ‘get by’ over the last 40 days, so I’m going to be able to help alleviate some of that pressure and take on the workload (Acree) had been facing (since the resignation of high school principal and St. Edmond president Mary Gibb on Feb. 28).

“We have one quarter left. I’m not there to make huge, sweeping changes. I’m there to be a positive outlet of support.”

This isn’t Johnson’s first time bridging the gap to a new tenure. After retiring from the FDCSD five years ago, Johnson — a long-time assistant principal and activities director at the middle-school level in Fort Dodge — served as interim principal at St. Paul Lutheran School.

“I really enjoy seeing the different perspectives and offering my own,” said Johnson, a graduate of Storm Lake High School, Buena Vista University and Iowa State University who also spent more than 25 years as a Division I football official. “I’ve been in the public school system. I was at St. Paul for a while. I’m looking forward to being at St. Edmond now.

“The one thing I’ve learned is a lot of the stereotypes are just that, and most people in this community have more in common than they realize. We all want what’s best for kids at the end of the day.”

Johnson added his main message is to make sure “we are all present for kids, and we don’t give up on them.”

“I sometimes had to learn the hard way that you have to find what works and what doesn’t on a (case-by-case basis). That takes a lot of patience, listening and positive energy,” said Johnson, who also plans to assist St. Edmond Activities Director David Flattery when necessary. “I’m almost 67 years old, so I have the benefit of having seen and been through a lot. I like to think that, during my time as a (full-time) teacher and administrator, I found ways for kids to enjoy the process of learning. Sometimes, you tend to take yourself too seriously. I want teachers and students to find a balance between working hard and having fun. To me, that’s when you are able to maximize the educational experience.”


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