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Middle school principal picked for new job

Mike Johnson1 / 2
Mike Johnson says this will be just one reason he will miss being principal of Meyer Middle School: He won't be able team with his colleague and good friend Assistant Principal Mark Chapin and do the rope pull during a school assembly. Submitted photo2 / 2

In a special meeting June 14 the school board voted unanimously to hire Mike Johnson to become the district's new academic services director. He replaces Rick Osterhaus, who retired.

For the past four years Johnson has been Meyer Middle School principal. For three years before that he was River Falls High School assistant principal.

Johnson was one of 16 applicants for academic services director. He was the only applicant from the River Falls School District.

A 13-member committee reviewed the applications, interviewed the finalists and recommended Johnson. That recommendation was approved by Superintendent Tom Westerhaus and passed to the school board.

Johnson is already transitioning to his new job that officially starts July 1. He will be paid $105,362 annually.

Westerhaus said Johnson brings a "futuristic outlook" to a job that requires overseeing K-12 curriculum development and staff/teacher training. More emphasis, Westerhaus said, is being made to align the curriculum of all grades so that it's "consistent" and "uniform."

"Mike has the ability to look at skills that students will need to succeed in the 21st century," Westerhaus said. "He also has excellent people skills with the ability to get along with and bring various groups together to work. He's a strong communicator, and well-networked both within the district and outside it."

Westerhaus said that Johnson exudes leadership and integrity: "People are willing to follow because of the way he leads."

Westerhaus said Johnson faced stiff competition from finalists with impressive resumes as curriculum directors and one who was an education technology director.

Westerhaus said promoting a skilled employee from the River Falls School District helped tipped the scale.

Johnson described his new job as "a natural progression." He said he's been heavily involved in the middle school's "curriculum and instructional assessment."

"I'm passionate about teaching and learning. What I find intriguing about being academic services director is that I'm responsible for a broader range of students," he said. "We had 670 students at Meyer Middle School, but now I'm working with teachers at all the district schools and it's 3,000 kids."

Read more on this story in the June 17 print edition of the River Falls Journal.