Recognizing excellence

Dr. Eric Johnson acknowledged as Missouri's 2020-21 Principal of the Year

Elizabeth Payton and Anthony Gann

As he entered the main gym, greeted with cheering students, surprise confetti cannons and his very own drumline, Dr. Eric Johnson was announced as Missouri’s Principal of the Year on Feb. 10.

The Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals (MoASSP) selected Dr. Johnson for the award out of over 900 Missouri high school principals.

“Under Dr. Johnson’s leadership, Winnetonka became the first high school to be deemed an AVID National Demonstration Site in Missouri,” MoASSP wrote in their immediate release. “He has created a college-going culture where all students have the opportunity and are expected to succeed at their highest level. Additionally, Dr. Johnson has developed and facilitated diversity and social justice training in both Columbia and North Kansas City Schools.”

Johnson was announced as Winnetonka’s new principal in February 2017. Previously, he worked in Columbia Public Schools, where he served as an assistant principal from 2010-14 and then as head principal from 2014-17.

At the surprise assembly, Clemens reflected on when he realized Johnson was the right choice for Winnetonka.

“A few short years ago when I met Dr. Johnson, he was principal of Columbia Hickman, and at that time I knew he was something special,” Clemens said. “It took- three, four, five- different lunches and dinners with Denisha [his wife] and Dr. Johnson to finally ensure that he [was] going to come home to Kansas City and be the principal of Winnetonka. One of the best decisions we have ever had to make was to bring Dr. Johnson back home, to Winnetonka High School.”

After a series of guests announced Johnson’s accomplishments and gave their congratulations, Johnson gave a speech, recognizing the school as the source of his own excellence.

Principal Dr. Eric Johnson speaks to guests, students and staff at his recognition assembly on Feb. 10 in the main gym. Photo by Derek Walsh.

“This is not about me, y’all,” Johnson said. “This is about you guys. I just have the privilege and honor to serve this assignment at Winnetonka High School. I love this place like no other place and no one can tell me anything different. Y’all kids are the best kids in the state, the faculty [are] the best faculty in the state.”

The assembly was followed by a few minutes for students and staff to take pictures with Johnson.

Senior Logan Murray said Johnson’s recognition and involvement in academic programs, such as the AP Capstone diploma option, helped him become a distinguished student.

“I’ve been able to recognize that not only are we appreciated by the principal, but we are also valued by the principal; we are not only just students walking around the building trying to get our education, but we are almost like a family,” Murray said. “He’s brought together many, many activities and clubs that previously wouldn’t really have much standing and created a helpful environment out of that.”

Murray was one of 16 KC Scholars traditional scholarship recipients at Winnetonka, which amounted to $800,000 in total for all 16 students, as well as an AVID student since his 6th-grade year.

Dr. Johnson will officially be presented with the award on March 30 during the annual MoASSP Spring Conference. He will represent Missouri for the 2020-21 National Association of Secondary Schools’ Principal of the Year program.