In passing, Ms. Kimberly Reeves mentioned Johnston High’s history of 10 principals in eight years yet neglected to highlight the role that selfish personal irresponsibility on the part of the administrators has played [“The Slow Dying of Johnston High
,” News, Nov. 30].
Al Mindiz-Melton prioritized his personal desires (leading to arrest and imprisonment on drug and child-sex charges) and left a newly energized campus reeling.
Successor James Richardson lasted a couple of months, before being hit in the head with a plastic bottle. He essentially never returned to the campus, shortly thereafter retiring due to medical disability. (Once relieved of his Johnston contract, Richardson underwent a miraculous recovery and is today the principal of Genesis High School in Bastrop.)
Two hapless interims later, Sal Cavazos took over. To secure the position, he made a three-year commitment to Johnston, but few on the ground sensed a sincere commitment. In October of his second year, Cavazos announced to our hastily assembled staff that he was leaving for another job. Once again, the interests of Johnston students were sacrificed for the immediate needs of their latest leader.
Meanwhile, the district fiddled away. A handful of high-profile (and résumé-building) initiatives were proposed, inefficiently implemented, and abandoned. During my final year, the principal du jour (with full Austin Independent School District backing) announced that students would have half of their absences erased for merely attending school on the day of Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills testing. The message was clear: These children were data, problems to be sugar-coated, rather than young people to be developed.
Teacher turnover at Johnston has been one of the problems. But the rotting of the fish begins at the head. The leadership at Johnston and those overseeing that leadership have consistently pursued their own selfish agendas, and the train wreck over which we mournfully wring our hands today began with that failure of principles.