Johnson takes a hands-on approach at Blair

Oct. 7, 2011, 7:06 p.m. | By Katie Pohlman | 12 years, 8 months ago

New principal outlines plans to be involved with student and staff community

Those new flowerpots by Blair's front door are not just there to mark a new school year; they are there to announce the coming of a new principal and the changes that she is bringing with her. Principal Renay Johnson has big plans in mind and is putting some in action as she begins to leave her mark on Blair.

Currently, Johnson is implementing a new service at Blair that she believes will improve student safety and stop bullying. She calls it the Blazer Hotline, a number that students can either call or text if they see "something happening in school or [with] our Blazers out in the community.” The hotline is completely anonymous and the texts are sent to security team leader Cedric Boatman. Once Boatman receives the text, he and Johnson will read it together and decide what to do next.

Johnson is also working with the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) on grant writing. These grants would guarantee every student at Blair access to a TI-83 graphing calculator. They are also working on having the computer labs available after school for parents to use. To encourage reading, Johnson is looking into buying Kindles for students. Johnson and the PTSA are also seeking a technology grant to get smaller and more efficient radios for the Blair security team.

Johnson is going to buy as much for the school as she can with the budget that she is given. "If we have it, I'm going to spend it,” she said. She added that the county has allocated a certain amount of money for the students and she plans to spend it to their benefit.

Along with everything else she plans to do, Johnson has already made some big changes. She has implemented a new cell phone policy, allowing students to use their phones at lunch and before and after school. Johnson said that once she came to high school and found out that it had the same cell phone policy as her previous middle school, she had to change it. She believes that phones are now more than just phones: they have calendars and access to the Internet and other resources that are beneficial to learning, and high school-aged students are old enough to use them responsibly. Johnson has also introduced Senior Unity Day, a grade-bonding event full of games and food for seniors to enjoy, which she had when she was a student in high school. Johnson hopes that Senior Unity Day will allow students "to do senior class business and to kind of bond and have fun and to get to know each other.” Senior Richard Zhang said that he believed Senior Unity Day fulfilled its purpose. "It was so fun. It was a great experience,” he said.

Several Blazers already know Johnson from Takoma Park Middle School, where she was principal for five years. Johnson has worked in Montgomery County Public Schools for over 20 years. Some Blazers, like sophomore Ryan O'Connor, are confident that Johnson will be more involved with the student community than was former principal Darryl Williams. O'Connor said that he has seen Johnson many times, unlike Williams, who "was just never around.” And many teachers, such as social studies teacher Anne Manuel, agree that Johnson is building a stronger connection with the school than Williams did: "She's really hit the ground running,” said Manuel. But for other Blazers, like freshman Cecilia Bergman, Johnson has yet to make an appearance. "I don't really know her, like, at all,” said Bergman.

Johnson plans to make a point of being out between classes and visiting some as well. "At times I can be a little bit disruptive [to classes] because I say ‘Hey Blazers!'” Johnson said.

Many students and teachers agree that the new principal is bridging the gap between administration and the student body. Johnson is involved with the community and attends as many sports games as she can. O'Connor, a member of the Green Club, which has worked closely with Johnson to make Blair a green school, believes that she will continue to be prominent in the community.

Johnson says that high school is her favorite stage of education. She contrasted it to middle school, where she only got to see the students go off to high school, but not to finish their education. "I like to know that they finish,” Johnson said. "It's really watching young people mature into young adults, and I really like that.” Johnson says she is very happy to be back in a high school and does not plan on leaving anytime soon. She is willing to work at Blair until retirement if county officials allow her to do so. "I want to stay here as long as Blair will have me,” she says.

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