Rebecca Johnson named new St. John the Baptist Parish superintendent

Published 9:44 am Friday, December 16, 2022

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RESERVE — Rebecca Johnson was selected as St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools’ new superintendent during a meeting Thursday night in Reserve.

Johnson, who has served as the interim superintendent in St. John Parish since Dr. Lynett Hookfin’s departure in Spring 2022, was one of two applicants for the position. The School Board conducted interviews with Johnson and Dr. Esrom Pitre earlier this week.

Johnson was moved to tears as she stepped up to the microphone Thursday evening as the new permanent leader of the school district.

“I’m feeling blessed. I feel like the Lord placed me here for a purpose, to earn trust back into our school system and to make sure our kids get the best education,” she said.

Johnson was also thankful to her family for understanding her passion for education and remaining supportive even when they are sometimes put second to her commitment to her job. She recounted how her mother comes to her home daily to wash clothes and cook, while her husband steps up just as much to bring the children to and from practice every day. What makes Johnson most proud is that both of her children want to be educators because the importance of quality teachers is something that has been instilled within them from a young age.

Johnson has been with St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools since 2021. Before becoming interim superintendent, she most recently served as director of federal programs and assistant superintendent. She has also served as a school support specialist for the Louisiana Department of Education, as an ESSA Executive Coordinator, and as a principal and assistant principal in the Lafourche Parish School District for more than 10 years. She began her career in education as an elementary and middle school teacher.

Having experienced the field of education from a number of settings, Johnson said what makes the St. John the Baptist Parish school system special is resilience from all stakeholders.

“It’s the resilience I see in everyone, in the kids, in the parents, the teachers, the administrators, and the community. They have gone through so many hard times with regards to COVID, the hurricane and change in leadership of the school system, and they have persevered through all of it. That’s what I admire the most,” Johnson said.

According to Johnson, the biggest challenge that lies ahead will be ensuring children in St. John Parish are afforded the same opportunities as children in other school districts while taking steps to increase student achievement.

“We want to make sure that we are on top and that people look at St. John as a place of opportunity and success,” she said. “We need to restore trust in our school system and community. We need to be transparent, have open communication and receive feedback and input from all stakeholders to make sure they know they have a voice.”

Just before the School Board voted to name Johnson superintendent, longtime Board member Ali Burl expressed that he will hold her accountable to make difficult decisions. He commended her communication and fast response time during her time working with the board as interim superintendent.

“I’m waiting for you to make those decisions that the board does not necessarily agree with, but you know it’s the best decision to be make. I hope you have the courage and tenacity to start making those decisions, and don’t be scared of any retribution that may happen. As long as you put the children first, I want to wish you the best,” Burl said. “It’s incumbent upon you to succeed for us to succeed.”

“We have a lot of work to do,” Johnson said. She agreed with Burl’s advice, reiterating, “We need to keep the children at the center of every decision we make.”

A special School Board meeting will be held next Wednesday to ratify the new superintendent’s contract.