After 34 years, Mike Johnson announces retirement from Hastings High School

Posted 1/12/22

Feb. 24 will be end of 19 years of leadership People had always said, throughout my career, ‘Hey, there’s something special going on in Hastings. If you ever get a chance to apply in …

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After 34 years, Mike Johnson announces retirement from Hastings High School


Feb. 24 will be end of 19 years of leadership

People had always said, throughout my career, ‘Hey, there’s something special going on in Hastings. If you ever get a chance to apply in Hastings, do it, you won’t regret it.’

Hastings High School Principal Mike Johnson

By Bruce Karnick

[email protected]

CHICAGO, Jan. 13 — Michael Jordan, sitting beneath six championship banners and accompanied by dozens of friends, former teammates and other admirers, announced his retirement from the NBA this morning, saying he could no longer muster the mental energy to play a 14th season. (Richard Justice, Washington Post, 1999.)

HASTINGS, Jan. 13 — Mike Johnson, sitting beneath the glow of fluorescent lights and accompanied by hundreds of memories and stories, announced his retirement from Hastings High School this afternoon, saying it is a bittersweet decision to not lead HHS for a 19th year. (Bruce Karnick, Hastings Journal, 2022.)

Yes, we are losing our own MJ. Not the way Peter Parker lost his MJ, or the other Peter Parker lost his MJ, we are losing ours to retirement just like the NBA lost its MJ.

Hastings isn’t losing one of the good ones, it’s losing a great one.

“My last day is Thursday, February 24,” explained Principal Johnson. “It’s bittersweet and exciting. I have a lot of mixed feelings. But it’s time to think about myself, my interests and my family.”

February 24, 2022, Johnson will turn off his lights at HHS and close his door for the last time. He will be closing the door on a 34year run in education that started as a teacher in Chisago Lakes where he was a coach and teacher. After three years in Chisago Lakes, he moved to South St. Paul where he also taught Chemistry and Physics as well as a coach. It was at South St. Paul where he became Dean of Students and realized he could have a broader impact on youth by moving to the administrative side of the school system.

Johnson explained the evolution of his career. “My first assistant principal job was at Elk River High School for one year. And people had always said, throughout my career, ‘Hey, there’s something special going on in Hastings, If you ever get a chance to apply in Hastings, do it, you won’t regret it.’ So then, in 1996, I became assistant principal here at Hastings High School and continued to still coach hockey. Then in 2004, when Rich Clymer retired, I interviewed and was fortunate enough to be named principal. So, the last 18 years I’ve been principal at the high school.”

18 years, pause and think about that longevity for just a moment. The mind-blowing piece of that is, Hastings has been lucky enough to have not one high school principal last that long, but two. Mike Johnson and Rich Clymer. Yes, Hastings has had just two high school principals in the last 36 years.

“I think it speaks to the support of the community and school board, that when you look at some of the really strong programs in fine arts or athletics, or if you look at Lin Warren in our choir program, here our community values longevity, and you need to do a good job. So, I think, yeah, just I’m sitting here looking around my office, and there’s so many wonderful memories, and those will always be there. And it’s been a great ride,” added Johnson.

Logistically, the plan is to have Assistant Principal Scott Doran take over as interim principal until the end of June. Athletic Director Trent Hanson is tentatively slated to move into Doran’s spot as an interim assistant principal, also until the end of June.

“The idea is can we utilize the talents within our school district and put them in the best possible spot? So, we’re still in the process here of making sure, ‘Can we can we fill behind Trent?’ So, that piece hasn’t been nailed down yet. But the idea here is let’s really capitalize a lot on the longevity and let’s keep things moving in a good direction and utilize the leaders within our school district,” added Johnson.

If Hanson moves into the interim principal spot, that means a search will begin for an interim athletic director until the end of June. One thing is clear, this is a case of staff all over, stepping up and raising their hands to help however they possibly can. Director Hanson will be returning to his athletic director position once July hits.

So, why end the run in February, why not finish out the school year, and eliminate some of the disruption to the end of the year, especially with the volatility of spring sports schedules and the athletic department needing Director Hanson?

Johnson explained that too. “I think there are two things. One is, I’m a year-round employee and all administrators are. There’s never an easy time of the year, for a yearround employee to leave. If you look at past superintendents, past Directors of Special Education, and other people who work there, really, there really isn’t a magical time or the end of the year. So that that’s part of it. The other part of it is, you know, this is part of my plan with my family. After 34 years of public service, it’s time for me to put my family and myself first. Part of that then is saying you’ve worked really hard to get to your retirement date. You’ve had a successful career and in a blessed community. It’s just the right time.”

With the knowledge of how crazy the That spring sports season is for high schools, weather never cooperating, fields never being ready when you need them too be, last minute scheduling adjustments and so on, the question of pulling AD Hanson away from the AD duties at the worst possible time was discussed.

“It comes down to a licensure to making sure for evaluation. Everything said about the spring sports is true. And we have a lot of people on staff that have had experience, from a coach standpoint, and we have some with previous administrator’s experience. Then we have other people that are just willing to serve. Jackie Kranz is obviously still here. Trent Hanson is still in the building. Scott Dorian, an assistant principal is still in the building,” explained Johnson.

Further discussion revealed that not anyone can step into a vice principal role. Tthat takes a special license, a license that Hanson still has from a previous stint as a vice principal, and he does have an amazing staff in his part of the building that can and will step up to continue the hard work around the spring sports season if the move is made to interim vice principal as is currently planned.

Johnson reminisced about the time he has spent getting to know students.

“You get to know a lot of different kinds of students, but they’re, doing what they’re supposed to be doing. They’re kind. They’re trying to become adults. They make mistakes. They support each other, they have school spirit. Honestly, there are a wonderful, wonderful group of students. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have problems. My heart goes out to students that have mental health concerns, chemical health concerns, family concerns, but we figure it out together, and these are the people that now are the adults that are bringing students here that understand how important it is for whole community to support people. For me, it’s just the school is a huge partner. We partner with the ministerial association, the athletic associations, we partner with the with the Chamber of Commerce with the Dakota County Government Center. We are all partnering together, and no one has a big ego. We want to serve students and families. That’s why I just think this is just, this is just the best school district and the best school in the state. I really do. The students have fun. COVID has been so hard for everybody. Yet, we still have expectations, we still find ways to make school what it’s meant to be. These kids have pride in being a Hastings Raider. They’re proud to be a member of the school. That’s pretty cool to me.”

Principal Mike Johnson had this to say as his parting words, words that need to be heard in this community and remembered. “Like I said, this is the best school district in the state of Minnesota, and this is the best high school in the state of Minnesota. It all comes down to the people. I am so proud of our students. I’m so grateful for our community and their support, and I have so much care and respect for the staff. And when I say staff, I mean, the entire staff of teachers, cooks, custodians, administrative assistants, bus drivers, everybody puts students first. And it’s palpable, you can feel it. It’s not that way in every school district and, for me, it’s just been a complete honor. Believe me, this has not been an easy job. Nor should it be. There’s a lot of responsibility. But it’s incredibly, incredibly humbling. When I look at, for example, in the graduation program, and it says Mike Johnson, principal Hastings High School, I’m just so filled with pride that I’ve been able to be in this position for 18 years and have been a public educator for 34 years. There were people along the way that helped me out both as a student and then as a staff member. And I think back on my career, not necessarily in what I did, but the people who we’ve been able to work with and been able to do things for students. Hastings is a special place. And to that extent, I’m not going anywhere, Shelly and I live in town. I want to stay connected to the school. Know this, we’re not going anywhere.”

Thank you, Mike, for giving Hastings more than two decades of service and leadership for our kids. Enjoy the next chapter in your life!