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Board of Directors Approves New Superintendent
On Monday, March 13, 2023, the State College Area School District Board of Directors unanimously approved Curtis Johnson to be the next SCASD superintendent.
Johnson had been serving as interim superintendent for the past 10 months. His appointment as the district’s first African American superintendent capped the Board’s national search for a successor to Bob O’Donnell, who left the district after 11 years to be the Downingtown Area School District superintendent.
After the vote, the Board, district employees present, and people in attendance gave Johnson a standing ovation.
“As an employee of the district for 20 years, Mr. Johnson has an in-depth working knowledge of the district and has already developed positive working relationships that will allow him to get to the tasks of a superintendent quickly,” Board President Jackie Huff said during the March 13 Board meeting. “In addition, Mr. Johnson’s vision to make SCASD the best district it can possibly be inspires the board as well as many who work with him. While we all recognize that SCASD is a great district with many strengths, Mr. Johnson sees that it can be even more exceptional and is ready to do the work to move the district in that direction.
“Finally, Mr. Johnson has the ability to see each student as their own person who has their own unique path through school and beyond. His appreciation and support of the individuals who make up the district means that Mr. Johnson will support the flourishing of all students in SCASD. Mr. Johnson, you have the full support of the Board and we are thrilled to have you as the new superintendent of the State College Area School District. We will do all we can to support your work and vision.”
After coming to the district in 2003 from the Reading School District, where he began his career as a high school assistant principal, Johnson served at State High as an associate principal, assistant principal, interim principal and, from 2016 to 2021, principal. During his tenure as State High’s principal, Johnson steered the school through both growth and tumult, starting with the massive $140 million State High Project to construct a new school and then with the myriad disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under his leadership, State High launched its International Baccalaureate program, focused on building a more inclusive and welcoming school climate, and improved educational equity with such initiatives as the acclaimed Everyday Algebra class for students needing intensive instruction.
In 2021, he was promoted to assistant superintendent of secondary education. As such, he assisted schools with adjusting to the pandemic, addressing academic and school climate issues, and strengthening equity and inclusion initiatives.
“I am profoundly grateful to the Board for having the confidence in me to fulfill the role of the interim superintendent and, even more so now, after being selected as the next superintendent for the State College Area School District,” Johnson said. “Our shared beliefs and values, which are encompassed within the district’s strategic plan and comprehensive plan, will allow us to continue to build on a proud tradition of high standards and student achievement established over decades. During my many years with the district, I have appreciated this community’s commitment to education, and I look forward to working with families, students, staff members, and residents to grow our strengths, address our challenges and make an outstanding school district even better.”
Joining the district marked Johnson’s return to State College. In 1991, he graduated from Penn State with a communications degree after playing on basketball teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament and reached the National Invitation Tournament Final Four. Subsequently, he earned a master’s degree in education with a focus on secondary school counseling from Penn State, as well as secondary school counseling and K-12 principal certifications. He also has been pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership at the university.
Johnson has served on the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, including as NASSP’s state coordinator. His professional affiliations include four years on the Big Ten Advisory Commission Board of Directors, including on the commission’s Athletics Council for Diversity and Inclusion, and he has authored or co-authored articles for educational publications.
As also the first person of color to serve as the SCASD superintendent, Johnson will lead approximately 6,800 students and 1,900 employees across eight elementary schools, two middle schools, State High, the alternative Delta Program middle and high school levels, the K-12 Virtual Academy, the Panorama Village Administrative Center, and other programs. He and his wife, Susan, reside in State College and have an eighth-grade daughter in the district.
“Over the past 10 months, the board has worked in conjunction with a consultant, Tom Templeton, to conduct a nationwide search for a superintendent,” Huff said. “This included gathering input from many stakeholders in the community so that we could hear what attributes our community desires in a superintendent. Thank you to everyone who participated in this process; your engagement was inspiring and your input assisted us as we met with candidates. I am proud to live in a place where everyone is so invested in their schools.”
By Chris Rosenblum
Photos by Nabil K. Mark