Johnson attends last board meeting as Shawnee Mission superintendent

Dr. Gene Johnson was at his familiar seat for the last time at the Shawnee Mission School Board meeting Monday.

Starting Monday, a few seats in the Shawnee Mission School District will be off limits to Dr. Gene Johnson — like the superintendent’s seat at the board table, for example. But his lifetime pass to all school activities in the district gives him lots of other choices. That was the parting gift as he attended his last board meeting Monday as superintendent before Jim Hinson takes over July 1.

Dr. Johnson called Shawnee Mission one of the renowned districts in the country, not just the state, and a district where people still want to move. Despite the decline in student population from more than 46,000 at its height to 27,000 at present and an increase in students qualifying for free or reduced lunch from 5 percent to almost 40 percent, Johnson said families still want to be here. He noted his own children went through the district and that many former students are raising their families here now.

“Our teachers know what it is they are supposed to teach,” he said. He cited the stable leadership with only five superintendents in more than 40 years, great PTAs, the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation, the NEA and school boards that have faced “tough challenges” among other contributors to the district’s success.

“It’s going to continue Monday when Dr. Hinson takes over,” he said. Johnson retires after five years as superintendent.