A Retirement Letter from Superintendent Mark Johnson

A Retirement Letter from Superintendent Mark Johnson
NV Media

The below is a letter written by outgoing NV Schools superintendent Mark Johnson announcing his retirement after serving in the district since 1987

School Board, Staff, and Community,

The purpose of this letter is to formally retire from my position as superintendent of the Nooksack Valley School District, effective June 30, 2021. Ever since we drove from Wenatchee/Cashmere to the Nookack Valley high school for an interview in 1987, we have made the Valley our home and a place to raise our children.

I have been driving on the same roads to work for over 30 years here in the Valley. What I see is history and tradition; the challenge; the diversity; the opportunities and opportunity gaps; the awesome children, families, and community; friends and neighbors; and the potential fulfilled and potential still yet to be realized. Some would say I should have thought about taking on a new road or path, somewhere back in time. But this was the right road for me and our family. I was called to this road, this path, this community. I have been able to have a “firm persuasion” to my work; the opportunity to do the right things for my community and the right things for me and my family, all at the same time.

As the shadow of my career grows longer behind me, and my time left at Nooksack Valley dwindles, my overriding feeling is one of gratitude. Gratitude for:

1.     A supportive school board who remained true to our mission of each and every child succeeding, regardless of any “label” or distinction. Thank you for taking a chance on a 34-year-old“whippersnapper”, as one of you referred to me as!

2.     An amazing staff (classified, certificated, admin) who pour themselves into the work, knowing what theydo matters, always searching for ways to improve, and never flinching from “standing in the breach” on behalf of children.

3.     A community that always put children first and demonstrates their support in so many ways.

4.     A family who loves me and whom I love with all my heart.

5.     Friendships and relationships that have sustained us through the years.

As I reflect on my time here, I am at times able to affirm some meaningful contributions in at least parts of my public life. Other times, things seem somewhat flimsy. I am proud of our culture of collaboration and continuous learning and growth, commitment to mission, leadership by guiding principles and values, ensuring a constant and relentless focus on each child, and the proof that results and relationships can live side by side. The adults in our system understand that we need to be at our very best, every day, for our children and community. All that aside, my most fond memories will be of relationships with current and past staff and students, and the work we did on behalf of children.

I want to know that as I retire, I have been faithful to my limited and God given gifts. The ways I have attempted touse those gifts, was to help meet the needs of those sent along my path, particularly children. I want to have been faithful to the value, rightness, and truth of offering the best I had, as best I could. My dad was a long-time public-school superintendent. His legacy for me was to always be my/our best and do what is right for children, period. I have attempted to follow his lead and legacy to this day.

Perhaps the hardest sentence for me to say is, “It's time”. Letting go and admitting “it's time” is more challenging when you love so much of what you do, especially the people.  However, it is time for me to let go of this current trapeze in order to be able to grab onto to next trapeze of my life. I won't be asking myself “what do I want to hang onto?” I am asking myself “How can I best serve and live my purpose?” My identity is intertwined with being a “superintendent”.  That will go away, but my core values will remain- faith, family, community, children, service. My heart will always be with the “least of these” and my service to neighbor and community. As I look forward to some simplicity in the other side of complexity, and some distancing from the stress, a few areas of focus and next steps will become clearer. You can bet that this includes these values and continued service of some kind, but more importantly, increased time with family.

Even though my title has changed over the years, my vocation has always been “teacher and learner”, specific to meeting the needs of children and families. I would imagine my future might hold the chance to continue being a “teacher and learner”, with only the students and content changing. Being a teacher/learner has been more challenging these past five plus years as they have been filled with endless facilities committees, bond campaigns, construction projects, and of course our favorite friend, COVID 19.

Being the wife and children of a “public” person is never easy, and it was a role they didn't necessarily sign up for. This may be particularly so in a smaller community, and with the advent of social media, where the occasional stinging criticism meant for me, would spill over into their lives. They never flinched or shied away but were always supportive and there for me when I needed a shoulder or an occasional kick in the pants to “get back in the arena”. Our home was a place where conversations about work didn't take place too often, allowing me to separate from the action and focus on what matters most.

I have grown older, grayer, and a bit more blind during my service and time here. However, I'm not so old that I can't watch from a distance, admire, and cheer for you all in the future. I am looking forward to seeing the next chapter for Nooksack Valley unfold, and I'm confident it will be a complete success so long as we keep our eyes and hearts focused on always doing what is best for our children.

With Love and Great Gratitude, 

Mark Johnson, Teacher and Learner