“All means all.” These were the words that Dr. William H. Johnson emphasized at every opportunity. In his 34 years as superintendent of the Rockville Centre School District, Johnson’s innovative leadership transformed the school district’s learning environment by creating equal opportunities for all students.
For all of his efforts, Johnson will be honored at the 30th annual Rockville Centre Education Foundation Gala on April 3 at the Allegria Hotel, Ballroom, and Beach-view Bar in Long Beach.
Never wavering from the concept of inclusion, “Dr. J,” as he was fondly called, helped the district become a leader in education by closing the achievement gap for poor, minority and special education students through access to the same level of rigorous programming for all students. Johnson was quoted in Long Island Weekly as saying, “The dream was that I wanted every child in this school district to have an opportunity to experience exposure to high-level curriculum.”
To create this exposure, he launched an effort to stop tracking in the district’s five academic tracks (special education, non-Regents, Regents, accelerated and honors) affecting all grade levels. He believed tracking contributed to the achievement gap in Rockville Centre. In the early 1980s, he instituted the International Baccalaureate program in the high school and throughout his tenure, Johnson continued to tweak the implementation and offerings so that every student had an opportunity to participate in at least one IB class. He said he believed the program provided the foundation to college and life success.
How did he know this transformation was successful? He spent hours pouring through data, a strong skill set he possessed, to show through meaningful numbers and percentages that students exposed to a challenging curriculum are successful. But he also used this data to re-examine what worked and what didn’t, and to determine what can be done differently. This exemplifies how Johnson operated as a leader. He never faltered from finding ways to do something better and was never so proud that he was afraid to admit that something didn’t work. He often spoke about learning from experience with the administrators and staff surrounding him.
With the proven success of the IB program in the RVC schools, Johnson paved the path for many other surrounding districts to implement the program as well. Not only has he had success in shaping curriculum locally, but he has also had tremendous influence on shaping the New York state curriculum. His influence on education has been so profound, that upon retirement from the district, he was appointed by the State Education Department as the state monitor for the Hempstead School District, a role he still occupies. His knowledge and skills as a leader in academic and financial issues that were learned and nurtured throughout his career and 34 years as Rockville Centre superintendent continue to be passed on to local communities.
In addition to his role as superintendent, Johnson also served as president of the New York State Council of School Superintendents, serving as a member of the state education commissioner’s Advisory Council and participated in two governor’s commissions related to education. He has also chaired the State Aid Data Analysis Group, which shares critical information and analysis on the impact of state aid with local and other state school districts and regions, chaired or co-chaired the Curriculum Committee for the New York State Council of School Superintendents, helping to define and articulate issues related to the implementation of the Common Core and the flawed testing system which has been used by the state.
Throughout his distinguished career, Johnson has received numerous accolades including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Long Island Association of TV Broadcasting, Phi Delta Kappa’s Educator of the Year, the Abraham Krasnoff Courage and Commitment Award and Education Week’s Leaders to Learn From award.
The Rockville Centre Education Foundation is proud to honor Dr. William H. Johnson at its 30th annual Gala. Johnson was integral in forming the foundation three decades ago as another example of his desire to help expose all the children of the school district to innovative programs. His deep understanding of the financial constraints imposed on school districts and his desire to achieve high levels of success for all children was and is the inspiration and the mission of the foundation.
His legacy of believing that all children can succeed will live on.
Courtesy Rockville Centre Education Foundation