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Revered APS principal Stephanie Johnson leaves Maynard Jackson High for state post

Over the years, the state Department of Education has either courted or poached – depending on your perspective – some key folks from metro Atlanta school systems. Former state school chief John Barge and current office holder Richard Woods, both from outside the metro hub, reached a bit farther and brought in some rural Georgia educators to round out their cabinets.

However, Woods only went two miles down Memorial Drive for his latest high-profile hire. Today, he announced Stephanie Johnson, the most well-known principal in Atlanta Public Schools, will oversee the DOE’s school improvement efforts. A finalist for National Principal of the Year in 2017, the effervescent Johnson will serve as the deputy superintendent for school improvement.

“Stephanie Johnson is a dynamic leader with a proven track record of beating the odds and eliminating barriers for students,” Superintendent Woods said. “I’m confident she will make a great addition to our team at the Georgia Department of Education as we work to provide all schools with the meaningful support they need to improve student outcomes and expand opportunities.”

In touting Johnson’s talents, DOE said Maynard Jackson’s College & Career-Ready Performance Index score increased from 53.8 in 2012 to 76 in 2016 under her direction.

Her job at DOE: Building capacity and providing supports for improvement to all schools, including those eligible for targeted and comprehensive assistance under the Every Student Succeeds Act. She will collaborate with the Chief Turnaround Officer appointed by the state Board of Education in response to House Bill 338, the First Priority Act.

It’s interesting DOE mentioned the new CTO in its release on Johnson as I thought the Jackson High School principal would have been a good candidate for that job. (Another good choice would be former Marietta High School principal Leigh Colburn.)

The low-key Richard Woods has a much different leadership style than the higher voltage APS superintendent Meria Carstarphen. In spending time with Johnson last year, I found her more akin to Carstarphen in approach than Woods, but that doesn’t mean she and her new boss won’t click.

Johnson’s bio: Prior to her work as a principal, Johnson served as an assistant principal, a school counselor, and a classroom teacher. Before coming to Atlanta, she worked for Clayton County Schools. In addition to being recognized as a 2017 National Principal of the Year finalist, she is the 2016 Georgia Principal of the Year, the 2016 Atlanta Public Schools Principal of the Year, and the 2017 Shining Star Leader of the Year, and in 2016 Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp recognized her as an Outstanding Georgia Citizen and Goodwill Ambassador for the state.

Johnson serves on the boards of the Georgia State Principals Center and the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and English from the University of Alabama, master’s degrees in secondary education and English, guidance and counseling, and educational leadership from the University of South Alabama, and a specialist’s degree in educational leadership from the University of South Alabama. She will complete her doctoral studies in December 2017. Johnson and her husband, Gary, are the parents of three children: Taylor, Jacob, and Stephen.



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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.