Joyce Johnson returns to leadership role

Published 12:01 am Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat A book of devotions and inspirational sayings may be the one thing on Natchez-Adams School District interim-superintendent Joyce Johnson’s desk that stays put on her desk from day to day. It is the first thing Johnson turns to when she gets to the office each morning for inspiration an perspective.

NATCHEZ — After seven years spent in retirement from a 41-year career with the Natchez-Adams School District, Joyce Johnson said she initially had mixed feelings about taking over the corner office as interim superintendent in July.

“I was very nervous, but it was refreshing to come back in a setting where I felt comfortable,” Johnson said.

Johnson was hired as interim superintendent for six months starting July 1. But Johnson won’t have to spend that time matching names with faces because she has either worked with much of the NASD staff or taught them in a classroom.

Johnson knows what its like to be an administrator, teacher, parent and student of the Natchez Adams School District — because she’s played all of those roles.

“She taught me in third and fourth grade,” Natchez High School Principal Cleveland Moore said. “You have to love (Johnson) because she’s definitely and educator at heart.”

The open arms Johnson received from those who knew her helped her put nerves at ease, she said.

“I was taken aback at convocation when I was introduced and (the audience) applauded,” Johnson said.

And while she has enjoyed re-acquainting herself with the staff, Johnson said she recognizes the responsibly that now lies in her hands.

One of the first tasks Johnson was given days after taking over the district was to slice the district’s budget to avoid a tax increase.

In a month’s time, Johnson and her staff found a way to cut $380,846 from the budget by spending federal dollars more efficiently.

“I’m not telling you this job is a piece of cake, but I’m up to the task,” Johnson said.

Johnson said her experience as a principal at Morgantown and Frazier elementary schools taught her how to take full advantage of every dollar within the different funding sources.

Johnson most recently served as director of curriculum and instruction for the district until 2004, and her other jobs with the district include teacher, assistant principal, principal, administrative assistant to the superintendent, and interim assistant superintendent.

Aside from her experience, Johnson said her support staff has been a key factor in helping her lead the way.

“I have the most supportive staff I could possibly have,” she said.

Johnson said her goal for the next six months is to encourage administrators and teachers to do whatever they can to prevent drop out students and improve test scores. And her job is to make sure they have the resources they need to do that, she said.

Johnson’s ability to listen — even though she may not always agree — enables her to be a successful leader, she said.

“I know we have a hard job ahead of us, but then I think of how we all knew this when we went into education,” she said.

The district knows where it is as far as achievement, she said, and where it wants to be, and Johnson said her job is to help make a roadmap for how to get there.