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In the midst of a season of great change with the pandemic, distance learning, and a renaming process, ISD 197 names Al Johnson as the new principal of Henry Sibley High School. Johnson currently serves as the principal of McKinley Area Learning Center in the St. Cloud school district and will replace Ron Monson.
Monson has served as the principal of Sibley since 2014 after more than 20 years at Minnehaha Academy. He took a leave of absence for medical reasons in January. In March, Monson announced he wouldn’t be returning but would retire effective June 30.
Johnson will start July 1.
“My goal, overarching, is to change the world one kid at a time,” Johnson said in a 2019 article.
Johnson started his career in sales, but realized he had a passion for education. He returned to school himself for a bachelor’s degree while his kids were in school. Revamping an after school program as part of his course work made Johnson rethink his career.
Johnson has worked for the last seven years in the St. Cloud school district in various roles, including principal at McKinley and Apollo High School and director of equity services. He also has roots closer to ISD 197, having spent two years as the site administrator at Humboldt High School on the West Side. Johnson also served five years as the equity integration specialist in Hopkins. Johnson has experience facilitating after school programs and worked as a student advocate.
Johnson has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Northwestern University of St. Paul and is currently completing research for a doctorate in education from Bethel University.
It takes more than credentials to succeed as a school administrator, and Johnson has faced those challenges. As assistant principal at McKinley, Johnson led a student advocate group to address bullying of Somali students after a student walkout and federal intervention.
Johnson has written about implicit bias in education and had to work through those realities. The St. Cloud School District has more than 50% students of color, a similar makeup to ISD 197.
At the same time, Johnson also understands the value of bringing a smile. In February, he shared his unconventional morning routine, which includes a pair of roller-skates:
“I am excited to continue the legacy of academic excellence and use it as a foundation to build on in a culture where every stakeholder feels cared for and welcomed,” Johnson said in a district email announcing his appointment.
Johnson has seven children and five grandchildren. He enjoys cooking, biking, and playing the drums.
March 24, 2022 Update: More Skating
Fox 9 did a story on Johnson skating at Two Rivers High School: “I made a vow I would not be a traditional principal,” Johnson said.
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