West Jordan • On the mend after a difficult breakup with Canyons district, Jordan School District did something Tuesday that it has never done in its 105-year history.
Jordan hired a superintendent from outside its own ranks.
Patrice Johnson, associate superintendent of Clark County School District in Nevada, also is the first woman to hold the top job at Jordan School District.
"My mother would have been very proud," Johnson said in an interview. Her late mother, she noted, was an orphan and a "self-made woman" who worked her way through college and became a bank administrator.
Currently, six of Utah's 41 superintendents are women, but two are retiring this year.
Johnson, 57, takes the helm of Jordan district June 1 with an annual salary of $185,000. She replaces Barry Newbold, who retired in January after spending his entire 35-year career in Jordan, including 14 years as chief. Newbold, who earned $229,000 last year, also was a graduate of Jordan schools.
It's a common practice in Utah for districts to promote internal candidates when they pick superintendents. In a survey of 32 superintendents (the other nine did not respond to a Salt Lake Tribune request), 12 were hired from outside of their districts.
Murray and Granite Utah's largest district both picked new superintendents this year from within their own ranks.
In Jordan, some parents pressed the district to bring in outside candidates.
"They wanted new blood and a fresh start," said Rick Bojak, president of the Jordan board.
Jordan initially planned to hire a new superintendent before Newbold retired, but the Board of Education extended the search and formed a community search committee in response to calls to delay the process so that two newly elected board members could be part of the decision. The board also extended the application deadline and beefed up its marketing after an initial deadline returned only four applications. The extended search drew 23 applicants.
David Stoddard has been serving as interim superintendent.
Bojak said the board leaned heavily on the search committee's advice and on feedback from the public.
About 350 Jordan parents and employees attended an open house last week where they got to meet the three finalists for the post and cast their vote.
"I'm ecstatic," Bruce Monson, a father of two children at Jordan Ridge Elementary, said after the board meeting. "She's going to work well with the community. We're looking forward to some changes in the district."
West Jordan Mayor Melissa Johnson, a member of the search committee, also praised the choice, calling the new superintendent a good listener and a dedicated educator.
"It's a new chapter," said the mayor. "There's an impression that we were given the short end of the stick in the district split [two years ago]. Nothing is going to change that. What we need to do is put that behind us and focus on where we are and where we want to be. … There's limitless possibilities for our district."
About Patrice Johnson
Age • 57
Family • She and her husband John have five children and 10 grandchildren.
Education • Doctorate in public school administration from the University of Southern California
Career • Associate superintendent of Clark County School District, Johnson also has been an elementary school teacher and a high school principal.