We have a situation. Four, possibly five, students were just been seen by a community member outside of Sheldon High School participating in what appears to be a drug transaction. Officer in pursuit. Administrator back up requested.
Michael Johnson, Assistant Principal at Sheldon High School, moves quickly. As the disciplinarian for the eleventh and twelfth grade students, he has to check out what’s going on. He slings on his jacket, turns up his hand radio and walks swiftly through the door.
Outside the school, campus monitors have already arrived on the scene in case Officer Savage, the School Resource Team Police member, needs assistance. The students in question can be seen walking west on Willakenzie Road. Since Sheldon is an open campus there is not much Johnson can do at this point.
“You really have to keep your eyes and ears open all the time,” Johnson says. “It comes with the job and you take it, it’s a responsibility of it.”
Originally from California, Johnson was recruited to Eastern Oregon University to play football. At the time the team was ranked 11th in the nation for Division III. The university is historically known for being a Teacher’s College.
“Eastern Oregon was a training ground for teachers. I didn’t know this at the time because I really was not headed into the field of education. They just had so much going on around the field of education that I kind of fell into that,” says Johnson.
He received his Bachelors degree from Eastern Oregon and continued his education at Portland State University where he received a Masters in school administration.
Johnson never returned to California. He has spent his entire career in the Eugene Public School District 4J, serving at Thomas Jefferson Middle School as an Assistant Principal for eight years before transitioning to the high school in 2002. Johnson is now one of the highest paid employees in the school district making just over $90,000 a year and for good reason. His job responsibilities include the role as disciplinarian, as well as curriculum advisor.
As curriculum advisor Johnson asks, “What will make kids successful in college?”. To find an answer he came to the University of Oregon to learn about Dave Conley’s method of “Knowledge and Skills for University Success”. A program adapted to give high school students the tools to academically make a smooth transition to college.
With Johnson’s revised curriculum in place Sheldon senior students are graduating having met 14thgrade requirements.
Currently the high school has a 98.5% graduation rate among seniors. Of those who continue their education at the University level 85% of Sheldon graduates complete grade 14.
The reward from Johnson’s hard work and implementation of this new curriculum came in 2010 when Newsweek recognized Sheldon out of 27,000 public schools as being in the top 6% in the nation and the second highest achieving high school in the state of Oregon.
“The high school is the pillar of the Sheldon region. This is a pillar of the community, all eyes are on this school,” Johnson says.
If being the support that the community, students and faculty need is a burden to him, he doesn’t show it. As Johnson makes a loop through the hallways at Sheldon, he smiles at teachers, stops to chat with students and holds doors open for passers-by. Returning to his desk, he takes a seat, if only for just a second, until the hand radio goes off again.