PORTLAND — The pending reassignment of Portland High School Principal Mike Johnson to head Portland Arts and Technology High School drew protests at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

Several students and parents voiced their support for Johnson as a respected, fatherly administrator who has led Portland High for a decade.

While some students wiped away tears, others said they were disappointed that Superintendent Jim Morse had decided to move Johnson without consulting the school community.

“Mr. Johnson loves Portland High School and works hard for every student in the school,” said Justin Zukowski, freshman class president. “There is no one out there who cares more about Portland High School than Mr. Johnson. His experience and passion for the school cannot and should not be replaced.”

Senior Carl Szanton, the Student Council president, said, “Students enjoy coming to school because of Mr. Johnson.”

Bill Weber, a parent, questioned the cost of hiring a new principal and the reasons for moving Johnson.

Several speakers said that Johnson is unhappy about the move, and that he is being moved because standardized test scores and graduation rates at Portland High haven’t improved.

“I think (moving Johnson is) really going to hurt the school,” Weber said. “We should have been given some consideration.”

Johnson will replace PATHS Director Dana Allen after he retires from the half-time position in June, The Portland Press Herald reported March 10. Johnson will be full-time director of the regional vocational facility, which serves students from 23 high schools.

Reached by phone Tuesday night, Johnson said the comments on his feelings about the move and the reasons for it were incorrect, but he appreciated his students’ passion, support and respectful demeanor at the school board meeting.

“They validated why I do what I do,” said Johnson, who is a Portland High graduate.

Board Chairwoman Kate Snyder thanked the students and parents for speaking and assured them that their concerns had been heard.

After the meeting, Snyder said she believes Morse’s decision to move Johnson was a personnel matter on which no public input or board consideration was warranted.

Morse declined to discuss what students and parents had mentioned as reasons for Johnson’s reassignment. He said he expects Johnson to bring new insight to the district’s effort to increase student participation at PATHS.

He also said he wouldn’t move Johnson to PATHS if he thought Johnson was an ineffective administrator.

“I think Mike Johnson is an awesome advocate for kids, and I think he will do for PATHS what he did for Portland High,” the superintendent said after the meeting.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:
[email protected]