It’s the end of an era. After more than 40 years of service to the Rockville Centre School District, Superintendent Dr. William H. Johnson will retire next June. Johnson made the announcement last week during Superintendent’s Conference Day on Aug. 29, less than a week before the start of the new school year.
“I’ve been at it for many years, and felt that it was time to move on and perhaps ex-plore new opportunities,” said Johnson, 75. “You just know in your gut when you’re ready to retire. I’m not getting any younger — I want to be able to spend more time with my family.”
Johnson began his tenure in the Rockville Centre School District in 1978, and has been superintendent since 1986.
“His accomplishments are unprecedented in our community and throughout New York state,” the district school board said in a statement. “The Rockville Centre Board of Education would like to express its sincere gratitude to Dr. Johnson for his many years of service. His hard work and dedication to the children of our community have truly made Rockville Centre an exemplary district.”
Board President Tara Hackett described Johnson as a visionary leader on Long Island, a proponent of education and an advocate for children. Even outside the district, he has made an impact, she said, describinghim as a “legend” and noting that people across the state are familiar with him and the work he has done.
“I have such an appreciation for who he’s been and what he’s done not only for our district, but for others following his lead,” Hackett said.
She has worked with Johnson for the past four years, through her involvement with the PTA as well as on the school board over the past two years. “He’s unlike any other person I’ve ever worked with,” Hackett said. “The volunteer work is some of the greatest I’ve ever done, and it’s in debt to working with someone like him.”
She said she has been impressed by his advocacy for children of all learning abilities. “His primary goal has been to offer all students the same opportunity and access to the same curriculum despite any differences in background or ability,” Hackett said. “He’s made us a lighthouse district — one that others can look to and model themselves after.”
Johnson’s position against new state tests and the implementation of the Common Core curriculum has helped him gain recognition across the state. According to Hackett, Johnson took a “hard stance” and believed the tests to be unfair when they were rolled out.
“He’s not afraid to be an advocate for fair testing,” she said.
On a personal note, Hackett said, “It’s been a pleasure working with him, and I learn from him every day. The board truly respects him and will miss him very much.”
“It has been such a privilege to work with Dr. J. over the past 10 years,” said board Trustee John O’Shea. “Under Dr. J’s leadership, Rockville Centre schools have become the model school for many districts throughout the state. He has created an environment for outstanding student achievement, strong community spirit and a sense of family for staff and students. For the past 10 years, I’ve admired how he treats everyone with respect and handles every situation as a learning or teaching moment. He is a great leader, teacher and a true visionary in education and in life. He has built the foundation for thousands of children to go out in the world and achieve greatness. I’m grateful my children have had the opportunity to attend the school district that Bill Johnson has had his hand in creating for the past 30-something years.”
At the Board of Education meeting on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at South Side High School, Hackett said, the board will address the steps of the hiring process for the next superintendent. She encourages residents to attend to stay informed.
“We are about to embark on an unprecedented journey,” Hackett said, noting that the the district has not had to hire a new superintendent for many years. “This is a new experience for the community, the staff, students and the Board of Education. We have a lot of work to do, but we will make sure the process is well laid out, and all of the information will be shared publicly to ensure transparency.”