Johnson hired as new Clearwater superintendent


By Travis Mounts 


CLEARWATER – Jason Johnson has been announced as the new superintendent for Clearwater USD 264. The announcement was made Tuesday morning.

Johnson was chosen at a Monday night board of education meeting. The search for a new superintendent culminated with interviews last week with four finalists. The Kansas Association of School Boards assisted in the search.

Johnson will replace Chris Cooper, who will retire at the end of June. Johnson will take over on July 1, although it is common for new hires to do some work ahead of time to acclimate themselves to their new districts. Cooper came to Clearwater from the Abilene School District. 

Johnson visited Clearwater last week on Thursday. He is currently in his second year as assistant superintendent at Garden City, a large district in an otherwise sparsely populated part of Kansas.

Before going to Garden City, he spent three years as high school principal at nearby Holcomb. He was with Holcomb for a total of eight years. Previously, Johnson was a senior leadership consultant for the Southwest Plains Regional Service Center. He grew up in the Plains and Kismet area of southwest Kansas.

Johnson’s wife, Jenna, and daughter, Korryn, will stay behind for this year. Korryn is in her senior year at Holcomb High School. Johnson said last week that there was a family promise that Korryn could finish her education at Holcomb. He stated online Tuesday that the Clearwater Board of Education supports this decision.

Johnson said taking this job is a year ahead of the schedule that the family had planned, but that he applied for what he called “highly desired positions.”

Looking at the numbers, Clearwater is considered a large district, Johnson said, based on a median of 500 students per district. However, Clearwater is significantly smaller than Class 6A schools.

At Garden City, he is in four different school buildings once a week, which feels less connected.

“Things move at a slower pace in a large district. There are more layers of bureaucracy to work through,” he said. “At Holcomb, I knew all the grade school and high school kids. At Garden City, I know maybe 100 kids.”

Johnson told those attending the meet-and-greet that students need literacy early on to succeed later in their education.

“If we don’t read, understand what we read, and problem solve what we read, we don’t have the foundation for learning later on,” he said.


Last week kicked off with interviews with Christopher Look, superintendent at Crofton Community Schools in Nebraska, and Jason Cline, superintendent of South Brown County, based in Holton. They were featured in last week’s TSnews.

The final candidate, Clinton Shipley, interviewed on Friday. Shipley has spent the last several years of his career in close proximity to Clearwater. He is in his 11th year as middle school principal in Derby. Before that, he was an assistant principal at Haysville Middle School for four years. Before that, he taught social studies for seven years at Derby High School.

He graduated from Kansas State, and earned his master’s degree from Baker University. Shipley is from northeast Kansas, and graduated from Gardner-Edgerton High School.

Shipley’s meet-and-greet was a bit different from the others, in that he took an early initiative to ask attendees what they thought he needed to know about the school district and the community.

Shipley had several family members who were educators. He shared a story about traveling to a K-State basketball game with his grandfather. He asked his grandfather, “What is it you look for when hiring teachers?”

Rather than getting an answer about discipline, which he expected given his grandfather’s generation, he received a surprise.

“He said, ‘It’s the ability to motivate kids,’” Shipley said. He said superintendents and principals need to be able to motivate the people who work under them.

He said he believes it is his responsibility to build people up and empower them.

“They have to own the work,” he said, adding that principals need to grow teacher leaders.