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School District Hires New Superintendent

Board caps intensive month-long process by hiring Paul Johnson, superintendent in Placer County, to succeed Ken Benny.

The Mill Valley School District Board of Trustees met 11 times over the past month in an effort to find a new superintendent to replace the .

On Tuesday night, the board said they'd found their man.

At at a special board meeting in front of a few dozen parents, teachers, school administrators and staff, the district announced the hiring of Paul Johnson, head of the Loomis Union School District in Placer County, as Benny's successor.

"His track record demonstrates a commitment to educational success for all students, collaborative leadership with staff, fiscal prudence, and active community involvement," board president Raoul Wertz said.

Johnson, 49, will start July 1, taking over for Benny, after six years with the district effective June 30. Johnson, whose annual salary with the district will be $195,000, will be relocating to the area with his wife over the next few months. The couple has three children who attend college outside of California.

Johnson has spent the past six years as superintendent of the Loomis Union School District, overseeing seven principals across the district’s K-8 schools.

Johnson said Loomis shares a number of similarities with the Mill Valley district, including a booming enrollment amidst the ongoing state budget instability. Loomis’ enrollment has risen steadily to 2,560 students in recent years, while Mill Valley’s enrollment has risen by an average of 100 students for each of the past six years and now stands at approximately 2,815 students. That enrollment is expected to jump by another 80 to 100 students in the 2011-2012 school year.

“I have an expertise in dealing with the state budget crisis, and I’ve dealt with a growing enrollment along with that,” Johnson said.

The announcement caps off an intensive search process that the board began almost instantly after it with its teachers and employees in early February. Once it began the process, the board met 11 times in less than a month, including four closed session meetings in five days in which it interviewed candidates and whittled down its list.

The search culminated with a site visit to the Loomis district, “where staff, principals, administrators and board members confirmed that he is a collaborative leader with integrity, visionary ideals, great listening skills, and high expectations for student achievement and staff engagement,” the district said in a statement.

“(Johnson) consistently demonstrates a quality that is necessary in the success of any district superintendent – integrity,” Gayle Garbolino-Mojica, Placer County Superintendent of Schools, said in a statement. 

Several attendees at the Tuesday night meeting hailed the board’s intensive effort to find Benny’s replacement.

“I know that you put in an extraordinary amount of work,” said Paula Reynolds, who served as president of the school board when the district hired Benny in 2005. “It’s the most important job you have and it’s your legacy. I speak for many people who are not in the room when I say how much we appreciate the wisdom, the work and the time and commitment.”

Mill Valley Mayor Ken Wachtel compared Johnson’s hiring to the last spring.

“I truly appreciate the work that all f you put into this to find someone of the caliber of Paul,” Wachtel said. “We look forward to working with you and with Paul and going forward together.”

Johnson said the board itself was one of the things that drew him to Mill Valley, having watched the interaction among its members during the interview process.

“It’s very important for a superintendent to have a quality board of education to work with and I’m looking forward to working with you,” Johnson said.

The district hailed Johnson’s creation and implementation of an innovative strategic plan-driven culture in Loomis, which saw student achievement scores rise to the highest level in the Sacramento region.

Before helming the Loomis district, Johnson served in the Washington (West Sacramento) Unified School District as assistant superintendent for three years and as superintendent of the South Bay Union School District in Eureka, Calif., for four years.

Johnson holds a master’s degree in educational administration from Azusa Pacific University and a Bachelor of Arts from Brigham Young University. He is an accomplished pianist, vocalist and composer, and is also an avid swimmer, having been world ranked in the butterfly event and qualifying for the United States Olympic Trials in 1980.

The board will welcome Johnson at a community-wide reception later this spring.

Magoo March 23, 2011 at 04:51 PM
I see the Board took my advice (from an earlier comment) and hired someone under 50 so the hiree can't retire that early without putting in a fair number of years.
Magoo April 02, 2011 at 01:15 AM
You don't think about it, but what about the Loomis school district. Mr. Johnson did not give his resignation until he was assured of the MVSD job? This gives Loomis district not that much to search for his replacement.
Michael J. Osborne October 22, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I worked for Paul at South Bay School District as the District Maintenance and Operations Director. I have worked for 5 Superintendents during my career and Paul was the most outstanding. He was great to work for and with. I wish him and Debbie the best in their newest challenge. Mill Valley School District has made a great choice.

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