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Education ‘must include everyone’

The community has a “vital role” in the success of public school students in Prince Edward County, according to newly hired school superintendent Dr. Barbara Johnson.

“I am absolutely excited,” she said. “I am honored. I am humbled by the opportunity to be the superintendent of Prince Edward County Public Schools. I am impressed overall by the community and the community’s willingness to be actively involved with the schools.”

Johnson said she wants to “build upon partnerships that already exist. I’m just thrilled.”

Johnson’s hiring was announced Saturday by Buffalo District Representative and School Board Chairman Russell Dove. Her experience includes serving as executive director of instruction in the Baltimore City School system in Maryland, assistant superintendent of a division in Illinois and a principal in Washington, D.C. Johnson began her career in Fairfax County, teaching English and serving as department chair.

“Overall, I’ve been in education for over 25 years,” she said, “and I have been a teacher, a department chairperson and assistant principal, principal … I am traditionally trained in that I have gone through every single step that allows me to understand schools very well. Those experiences help me to understand schools on the various perspectives on the important people who touch our children.”

Johnson received her Doctorate of Education in educational policy from George Washington University. She has two master’s degrees — one in administration and supervision from John Hopkins University and another in curriculum and instruction from the University of Virginia. Johnson received her Bachelors of Arts in rhetoric and communication.

Dove noted Johnson’s strengths as her experience with divisions with similar demographics as Prince Edward’s, her collaborative vision and her optimism and excitement.

“The combination really has prepared me,” Johnson said of her experience and education. “I’ve worked with parents and community groups successfully. I’m very collaborative in spirit. …”

Success for students “must include everyone in the schools, the parents and community members,” she said.

“We have to operate with a total vision, and that vision being that we want our children to be absolutely the best and the brightest (and) well-prepared for their next steps post K-12,” Johnson said. “Having said that, one way to ensure that they’re receiving quality and rigorous instruction is to be very vigilant, and to have one vision around what we’re going to do for our children.”

She said the school division needs to be transparent “with our community members and our parents about what’s happening in our schools. I think we need make sure that we celebrate all of our fabulous things that are happening and that we clearly share those focus areas for improvement.”

Johnson said she intends to be responsive, and plans to use existing advisory groups.

“I want to make sure that everyone feels welcome and that everyone understand that they have a vital role in the success of our children,” she said.

In mid-June, Johnson said she’ll be in the county for a public visit.

“I can envision many, many, many opportunities,” she said of the presence of Hampden-Sydney College and Longwood University. “I will know more once I actually get there and meet people. …”

She said she hopes to build positive relationships with the colleges “so that we can share resources and so that our children will have the opportunity to experience or have dual enrollment in those universities, or just understand what university life is like and that they could perhaps provide us with mentors. …”

Johnson said education is “about being prepared for the wealth of choices that are out there for young people. I went them to be able to choose well and to choose wisely. And I want to make sure … all of our children are prepared to do that.”