Essex alum gets opportunity as interim principal

photo-42Romekia Johnson will be the interim principal at John Essex for the 2013-2014 academic year. The latest chapter in her nine-year career, Johnson will now preside over the halls that she once roamed as a student.

“When I first heard the news, I was very elated because it gives me an opportunity to actually see how I’ve grown personally,” Johnson said of her latest opportunity to enrich her alma mater. “I was a child here in the same classes. I was in kindergarten with Mrs. Springfield and then to walk across the stage, then to come back and work at this school and be a second grade teacher and after being a second grade teacher, to be a literacy coach to help children with reading and then just this past May I was able to be a senior adviser. So the same stage I walked across, I was able to stand there and give out diplomas to students that were graduating from my alma mater. It just means a lot for me professionally to see how I’ve grown and to see how kids grow from beginning to end. The opportunity really means a lot for me.”

A member of the JEHS Class of 1999, Johnson did her undergraduate work at the University of South Alabama before ultimately returning home to continue her career.

“I think what makes John Essex special is that we are a family. The kids know it. The faculty knows it. I think that is why I love being here,” Johnson said. “The staff is awesome. They’re always there to help you with your needs. We try to tackle obstacles together. We’re all about the needs of the children. We’re always trying to make strides for them.”

Johnson’s opportunity comes in the wake of the departure of Tiffany Davis, who left her principal post to accept the same position at Skyland Elementary School in Tuscaloosa.

After spending time as a teacher, a literacy coach and as the former principal’s unofficial apprentice, Johnson will take helm of an educational vessel she believe still holds great value for her community.

“We’re in a school with a small enrollment. There are many challenges just by having a small enrollment. Everybody has to do extra work because everything is based off your enrollment. A big challenge is trying to improve the school enrollment and get everyone to buy in that we’re not just a school where people feel that it is a dumping ground just to dump kids. This is a school that is functioning and trying to run properly for the success of our kids,” Johnson explained. “I want to be clear that challenges do not define who we are at John Essex High School. How we handle them, how we respond to them, that is what helps us.”

With those challenges in mind, Johnson has set out to accomplish a laundry list of goals that begins with attempting to increase student population and keep the long-standing institution operational for many years to come.

“The goal is to increase student enrollment by letting everyone know who we are and what we stand for at John Essex High School. One of our goals is to promote our athletic program. We’re including volleyball this year. We’re including track and field. We want to come up with other organizations that are K-12. We want to get more community members aware of and involved in our programs. Those are some things that are top priority on our list. The top one should be that all of our students have academic success,” Johnson said. “Everybody is on board with Plan 2020, so we’re putting that in place and making sure that every student is a graduate and every student has success in college and in the workforce.”