Reprinted with permission from the Waitsburg Times
WAITSBURG - The Waitsburg School District will be looking for a new superintendent following the announcement recently by Robbie Johnson that he will retire in June after 30 years in education.
Johnson, 52, came from Naselle to Waitsburg for the 2000-01 school year, with a three-year contract. In June, his contract was extended one additional year.
Having been in education for 30 years, Johnson feels it is time to move on to a new purpose in his life.
"I knew my timeline when I came in the door, and I talked with the board in June as I began my 30th year. I agonized through Christmas vacation, trying to make a decision, and though not easy, I finally made it.
Other perspectives on Robbie JohnsonThe Walla Walla Union-Bulletin also published a story on Johnson's retirement. It stated, "Johnson came to Waitsburg four years ago, after serving as a teacher and superintendent in the Naselle-Grays River Valley School District for 26 years. He was also principal of the Naselle Youth Camp School, a juvenile corrections institution which houses 150 juveniles.
"Johnson arrived in Waitsburg just as renovations on the high school were under way. 'They were just going into construction when I got here and now its an accomplished fact,' he said.
"Besides completion of the building project, Johnson said other achievements include leaving the district in 'a good sound financial situation. I found it that way.'
"Johnson admires the community (Waitsburg), especially the school community for for its ability to face challenges. One example of this is the drug testing program now in place in the district for students who participate in activities.
"'I think it was a very measured response to a difficult situation, and I'm proud that the board stepped up, and the community has responded well to it,' he said.
"'That took an awful lot of courage and energy within the board and community to look at it (drug use) and say 'Hey, we've got a problem,' Johnson said."
A resident of the Naselle-Grays River Valley School District, when informed of Johnson's impending retirement and the Johnsons continuing to live as Waitsburg residents, said, "Waitsburg's gain continues to be Naselle's loss."
- Phil Raistakka"It dawned on me around Christmastime that school may not be the only purpose for my life," Johnson said. "I've thought an awful lot about that. I think God may have brought us to Waitsburg for another reason."
Johnson and his wife, Marilyn, plan to remain in Waitsburg. The couple are in the process of buying the American Legion building at 128 Main. Plans include possibly operating it as a youth activity center. Johnson and a dozen parent volunteers recently hosted an informal Super Bowl Party for almost 50 middle-school-aged students and are considering incorporating plans for the building with fledgling Wyld Life youth group. Wyld Life is the middle school version of the nondenominational Young Life Christian outreach organization for high school-aged students.
On a verbal agreement, the Legion is letting them rent the hall until deal is closed.
"There's too much important stuff to do around town here to leave now," he said. "There's things I feel I need to do relative to church projects, somebody is needed who is able to both beat a nail and knock out a spreadsheet. I think I'd be a pretty decent set of legs in that capacity."
However, Johnson doesn't plan to turn his back to education. The Waitsburg School District, through Johnson, will this year take on grant management of the 21st Century Grant, something which may fit nicely with his availability as a consultant following his retirement.
Reflecting on his arrival here, Johnson remembered when Gil Sharpe took his hand when they met. "He shook my hand and looked me in eye, and told me God had brought us here for a purpose.
"When we left Naselle, we left a lot of friends and family. It has just stunned me to have so many new friends - people I value. Although I may have not known them as long, they are just as dear as the people I knew in Naselle. We're in no hurry to leave," he said.