Mark Johnston

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County School Board members Thursday evening unanimously approved the renewal of schools Superintendent Mark Johnston’s contract for another four years.

The new contract increases Johnston’s base pay to $150,000 from $136,589. The contract goes into effect July 1 and runs through June 20, 2023. 

“I love my job because of the students and staff I get to work with on a daily basis," Johnston said. "Shenandoah County Public Schools is a world-class school division and I'm happy to be a part of it. I'm also pleased to have the School Board's confidence and appreciate working for a highly functional and engaged School Board."

Johnston said after the meeting that he is proud that during his tenure the schools became accreditation, teacher and licensed staff retention rates have increased to about 90 percent after being at 85 percent for the last three years, and of the shift in the school division to a more career-oriented, authentic learning experience for students so that they graduate career- and college-ready.

Johnston said the biggest challenges he sees for the upcoming years is to meet the increased need for mental health services for students.

“Our challenge in this regard extend well beyond the school walls and into the community,” Johnston said, adding that means productive partnerships between the school and community agencies.

Another challenge is remaining competitive among teacher and professional staff to attract the best during an era of increasing shortages in those fields.

Board Chairman Karen Whetzel stated in a news release that during Johnston’s leadership all of the Shenandoah County’s Public Schools achieved accreditation for the first time in five years. She pointed out that dual enrollment opportunities for students have increased and on-time graduation results are at 96.7 percent, well above the state average.

“Dr. Johnston has been a steady leader at the helm,” she said. “He is an advocate for the school division’s students, staff and its most pressing needs. In this age where the job of school superintendent has become so much more complex and difficult as have many of the jobs in public education, we are fortunate that Dr. Johnston desires to continue to serve Shenandoah County Public Schools as its superintendent.”

Whetzel, who has known Johnston for more than five years, on Friday said she had enjoyed working with him.

As a member of the School Board, she said she does not hear many complaints about Johnston, and she attributes that to his calm demeanor and his experience that allows him to talk to and explain things to people.

He is open to and brings new ideas to the board, she said.

Whetzel also said she likes how he is instruction-oriented – focused on the teaching occurring in a classroom – because of his years teaching in a classroom and in supervising instruction in other school divisions.

Also at the Thursday meeting, board members approved the appointment of Tiffani Utz as principal at Ashby Lee Elementary School, effective July 1. Utz has been acting principal at the school since October.

Diane McLean, Jodie Long and Elizabeth Hopkins were appointed assistant principals at W.W. Robinson Elementary School.

Monica Hinegardner, who is assistant principal at W.W. Robinson Elementary, will transfer to Ashby Lee Elementary where she will be an assistant principal.

Johnston said he was happy with the staff now in place at the schools, explaining everyone had to go through interviews and compete for the positions.

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