NORTH BEND — “We have a motto of ‘Best in the West,’ so we are doing what we can to make sure we live up to that,” said the new North Bend High School principal.
Darrell Johnston reclined in a guest chair in his office, which he has only had for a month and a half since his promotion. It is still waiting for him to move in, but he laughed that perhaps he needs to at least put out a ceramic bulldog for decoration, which is the district mascot.
New North Bend High School Principal Darrell Johnston is implementing a Distributive Leadership Team to help guide the school forward, part of…
“Honestly, initially, my plan is to learn,” he said. “My first year here, I plan on learning. Every meeting I’ve sat in so far, my eyes get bigger and bigger. There are so many amazing things happening here and opportunities we give to kids, unlike anything I’ve seen before.”
Johnston stepped into his new role after two years as principal of the North Bend Middle School. But he began his education career 23 years ago after earning a bachelor’s degree in education back in 1995. Once getting his degree, he worked as a counselor and teacher for the Anchorage School District in Alaska.
He made his first move into administrative work when he was drafted as a principal in rural Alaska, where he also taught elementary, secondary math, and shop class.
“This was before I had my administrative certificate,” Johnston said. “So, in Alaska I was working on my administrative certificate, then went to Washington to rejoin my family and moved into larger schools.”
He worked as a principal at an alternative school in Olympia, but credits his time at North Bend Middle School preparing him for his new role.
“Being at the middle school meant I got to know those students, families and the instructional program they went through, and I got to know the administrative team,” he said. “That has prepared me to come into this facility to keep good things going and build an even stronger program.”
However, the road to North Bend was a journey. When he and his family first moved out of Alaska and into Washington, they decided to start a farm so they had moved inland.
“But every time we went to the coast, everyone asked why we don’t live on the ocean,” he said. “We always lived on the ocean in Alaska and spent a lot of time on the water. When I was ready for a change and the kids were growing up and starting to move away, I started looking around for an opportunity.”
He and his family had a tradition of visiting the Oregon coast every summer, so when he checked to see if any jobs were open in the family’s vacation spot he found a position in North Bend.
Now that he is principal at the high school, he is facilitating a Distributive Leadership Team for the new school year.
“This means we will have more stakeholder voice in where we’re going as a school and community,” he said. “If we have teams of stakeholders looking at needs and designed interventions or initiatives to improve in certain areas, listen to them and apply them, we will have a lot of success.”
This new team is, in part, one of the requirements for the North Bend School District through its settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. This settlement was established after two students brought forward allegations of discrimination on sexual orientation and that the former principal, Bill Lucero, forced a student to read the Bible as punishment.
The mandated piece is the Equity and Diversity team, which looks at needs in education through addressing safety, climate, culture, and inclusive opportunities for every student.
The Distributive Leadership Team has four other teams, including Family and Community Involvement, which welcomes and engages families and the community as large as stakeholders in the school, as well as Teaching and Learning, which works on improving instruction through data assessment.
The other two teams are Educator Effectiveness, which insures professional development, and Technical and Adaptive Leadership, which insures that the school is responsive to emerging student needs.
“The entire staff has to be part of one of those teams, everyone has to play a role,” Johnston said.
Other than that, Johnston is excited to see the new trade building start construction. It is expected to be finished March 15 of 2019.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to step into a new role and share in the parents in helping their kids find the greatest opportunities for success,” he said of his promotion.
He looked at what happened with the high school when Lucero was demoted as part of the ACLU of Oregon settlement and explained that though there were challenges for the students, that it “was a trying, emotional time at the end of the year, what’s amazing is that these students are resilient,” he said. “They take summer vacation and come back energized.
“We will keep moving forward and we will keep providing amazing opportunities here in North Bend.”