During the next four-plus months, Susan Johnson will be doing a number of things in preparation of succeeding Dr. Jill Janes as superintendent of the Hannibal public school district. At the top of Johnson’s “to do” list is listening.
“What my intention is is to spend the next several months being a good listener,” said Johnson Thursday morning, one day after it was announced she had been chosen to fill the vacancy created when Janes retires at the end of June.
What Johnson wants to hear are suggestions on how to make a good school district even better.
“I’ll be talking to people that I’ve talked to in the past about our school district and collectively coming up with what those ideas are,” she said. “Yes, I’ve got my own ideas to build on what we’ve already done, but I really want to be a good listener of ideas.”
One of Johnson’s objectives is to get more technology into Hannibal classrooms. She acknowledges that such an objective will require a financial investment.
“Technology is not cheap,” she said. “But again I think it goes back to using our fiscal resources wisely and making sure we’re spending our money on things that are going to be the biggest benefit to students, and technology is a big part of that.”
Johnson applauds what Janes has done to help prepare students to compete in a global market.
“I think Dr. Janes has done a wonderful job of being a leader and getting our school district to the place it is, and I certainly want to honor that,” she said. “I have so much respect for Dr. Janes. It’s been wonderful being her assistant for 10 years.”
As assistant superintendent, Johnson has watched Janes and learned.
“I think what I’ve learned from her is patience, being a listener, the value of being collaborative and just really always wanting to think about what’s next,” she said.
Janes is confident the Board of Education made a sound selection in picking Johnson from a talented pool of candidates.
“She has the qualifications to do a great job. There’s no doubt in my mind she’s going to,” she said.
Words of wisdom
Janes has few words of wisdom to pass along to her successor.
“She (Johnson) knows the job; she knows the expectations,” she said. “At this point I don’t think there’s any advice I’d give her except work hard and do the best she can.”
Page 2 of 2 - An educator for 21 years, Johnson admits being a superintendent wasn’t always an objective.
“When I started my career I would not have suspected being a superintendent would have been something I would have aspired to. But I think because of the jobs that I have held throughout my career, and with working in education and getting an education myself, I think it’s become a natural movement toward that’s what I wanted to do,” said Johnson, who was a teacher at Eugene Field Elementary School in Hannibal for seven years and that school’s principal for five years before being promoted to assistant superintendent a decade ago.
Since earning her bachelor's degree in Elementary Education at Hannibal-LaGrange College in 1999, Johnson’s professional career has been spent as a member of the Hannibal public school district. She acknowledges that during that time her roots have gone deep.
“I think I found my niche. I just love being here. I love the people I work with, the people that work with our students, the families, community … every bit of it. It’s home and that’s where I want to be,” said Johnson.
Johnson expressed her appreciation to the Board of Education for its “confidence” and to the “community, staff and administrative staff” for their “ongoing support.”
“I’m just pleased to be able to serve this community in a new capacity,” she said.