Nipomo High School principal's departure saddens students

clambert@thetribunenews.comApril 21, 2014 

Nipomo High School Principal Michelle Johnson speaks with senior Annalise Ketz as as school lets out Monday, April 21.

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As the afternoon bell sounded at 2:45 p.m., Nipomo High School Principal Michelle Johnson headed for the parking lot to supervise students as they streamed off campus Monday afternoon.

Johnson had only reached a crosswalk before she was approached by senior Annalise Ketz.

“Can I ask you a question?” Ketz asked. “What are you going to be doing?”

Johnson, 48, recently broke the news to students that she plans to return to teaching after the end of the school year.

She’s worked at Nipomo High since the school opened in 2002, first as an assistant principal before being named principal in 2007. Prior to that, she taught physical education at Arroyo Grande High School and coached girls’ soccer.

Later this year, Johnson explained to Ketz, she’ll become an adaptive physical education specialist, working with students with special needs of all ages throughout the Lucia Mar Unified School District.

Johnson said she decided to leave for professional and personal reasons.

“Being principal at Nipomo High School has been a privilege and a joy, but it’s very demanding,” she added.

The news surprised and saddened some students, who gravitate to Johnson’s energetic personality.

“It’s so sad, she’s the best principal ever,” Ketz said. “She disciplines but she’s positive at the same time. Everyone is intertwined; there’s not anyone left out.”

When asked about accomplishments, Johnson mentioned the school’s burgeoning FFA program, also known as Future Farmers of America, and its drama program.

In addition, she’s proud of the school’s familial culture, she said, adding that her five-person administrative team works together to provide students a place to put aside outside distractions and connect.

“I dig kids,” Johnson said. “They’re stinking fun.”

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

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