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The Geyser

New Superintendent strives to produce prepared graduates

Walking into the Livingston school district administration offices you wouldn’t expect arguably the most important person in the Livingston school district to be tucked away in the small building just outside the hustle and bustle of the main Park High building. However, that’s exactly where new superintendent Chad Johnson resides for most of his working hours, easily accessible and open to meeting with anyone who needs their voice heard.

The Livingston district school board hired superintendent Eldln Chad Johnson in February 2023 after a three-part interviewing process described by Johnson as a “really really strong interview process. Not only was I put in front of the board, I was put in front of a …public/school partner group, and then I was also put in the administrative group”. Johnson started his career teaching middle and high school science for six years before being recruited into administration. He has worked in the education system for about 25 years in smaller C schools around Montana including Stanford, Twin Bridges, and Havre before coming to Park High. Johnson said he was originally inspired to teach science by his science teacher James Powell. 

The superintendent’s job is to shoulder the responsibility of overseeing and managing the entire school district. Johnson is responsible for the overall well-being and management of schools, students, and faculty, and for orchestrating the collaboration of the school board, staff, students, parents, and the community as a whole. In order to increase communication Johnson has implemented the new “School News” app and encourages parents and the community as well as students to check social media, especially the district’s Facebook posts, to acquire up-to-date information about happenings around Livingston school district.  

Bryan Beitel, a veteran teacher at Park High for 27 years, notes that despite changes in leadership, there have been no direct impacts on the classroom or curriculum that he has noticed.   “Really it feels like the superintendents don’t have a real direct impact on what goes on in the classroom ” Beitel comments, echoing Superintendent Johnson who trusts the school principals with a lot of the direct curriculum decisions. Both Beitel and Superintendent Johnson emphasize that the superintendent’s role revolves around the bigger picture of school management.

As the person responsible for day-to-day management, he oversees the administration of the school district like allocating resources, budgeting, and overall decisions that will impact the functions of the schools in the district. This year the budget is a hot topic with the loss of the COVID relief federal funds.  It is important to Johnson to plan ahead for potential emergencies while continuing to balance the current budget in weekly budget meetings. 

Johnson is the chief executive officer for the whole school district, a large part of this is crisis management and decision-making. Johnson adopts a multifaceted approach which starts with preparing for the unexpected to mitigate potential risks in the event of a crisis, secondly, Johnson believes in maintaining open lines of communication among the board, staff, principals, and emergency responders. Under Johnson’s leadership, the Emergent3 app has been implemented, Emergent3 allowing real-time alerts, updates, and communication among faculty members throughout the district as well as alert first responders. In his so far short tenure, one of the unexpected events that changed the district was a problem with the sewer lines at Winan School which he handled by getting in touch with the right people to fix the problem and orchestrating communications with school faculty. 

Superintendent Johnson enjoys community involvement, attending sporting events, competitions, performances, and spending mornings at the high school. He visits every school at least once a week to talk with the populations he serves. The superintendent is tasked with advocating for the school district at both the local and state level so it’s important to be involved. Johnson is self-described as “a firm believer in early education,” which is why he traveled to Helena last year to show support for the Early Childhood, House Bill 352 that allows four-year-olds to be enrolled. Advocacy for the school district at both local and state levels is a crucial part of his responsibilities.

Shaping and managing the district’s overall educational vision is a key responsibility for the superintendent. As part of the superintendent’s job to shape and manage the district they must choose an overall vision they believe is best for all the students in the Livingston district. Johnson’s focus in his own words is to “prepare our students for any or whatever aspect of life they choose”. He wants to foster an environment that produces highly educated and employable people without major debt, and dual credits and work-based learning are integral to accomplishing this. Johnson continues to elaborate, “If we can get you graduated from Park High with almost an associate degree in something else that means you’re about to go into the workforce debt-free and highly trained” In his ongoing tenure at the Livingston school district, Superintendent Johnson’s  main hope is to establish an academically enriching environment that will prepare students for what is to come in the adult world. Johnson strives to provide graduates with valuable skills and a debt-free entry into the workforce.


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