Marc Johnson: 2011 National Superintendent of the Year

Mar 12, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Education

by Toni Pacini

On Friday February 17, 2011 Marc Johnson of Sanger Unified Schools was honored as the 2011 National Superintendent of the Year at the opening ceremony of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) National Conference on Education in Denver Colorado. Johnson received great accolades from the Executive Director of AASA, Daniel Domenech.

After all the much deserved fanfare and extensive media coverage I was grateful and impressed when he agreed to allow me to interview him for Kings River Life Magazine. I went to the interview concerned that there might not be anything new that I could say about Johnson’s many great accomplishments and recent honor that had not already been reported repeatedly in the past two weeks. However, I found him to be an eclectic energetic man who comes at life and education from many angles, depending on the need of the moment. He is a man who keeps unfolding so there is never a risk of the story having been told.

Johnson clearly believes that “leadership is a form of service” and he leads and serves from his heart as well as his mind, always seasoned with a quick wit. His business model for his district, facility and staff is simple: “Our business is the kids.”

The success of Sanger Unified is testimony enough of Johnson’s efforts but he does not take the credit, instead he points to the many great men and women he surrounds himself with on his staff and on the faculty of all the schools he represents.

During our interview Mr. Johnson recited a brief synopsis of the “Starfish Story” written by Loren Eiseley. “The Starfish Story” is about how one person can make a difference, even change the world. The story goes that a writer is walking on a beach in the morning seeking inspiration when he comes upon a man picking up starfish and throwing them into the ocean. The writer asks the man why he is bothering throwing the starfish back into the water, one at a time, when there are miles of beach and starfish. The writer said, “There is no way that you can save them all, what you are doing will not make a difference.” The man, undaunted, picked up another starfish and tossed him back into the waves and said, “I made a difference for that one.”

Marc Johnson with starfish

Johnson is a “rescuer of starfish” and our children’s minds and futures are the starfish that he saves, one at a time. His office décor is as expansive as his ideas. Family photographs, a portrait of Albert Einstein, inspirational words, books, memories, and in his display case, one starfish.

Public Testimony:

Sanger’s Mayor Joshua Mitchell said he is very proud of Johnson and grateful for all that he has done and is still doing, directly and indirectly, to move Sanger Unified forward and spread the word that Sanger is a great place to live and raise a family. “Because of Marc and his team’s tireless efforts, I have no doubt that Sanger will soon be the most sought after place in the Valley to live and grow.”

Margaret MacDonald, President of Sanger Woman’s Club has known Johnson for years (along with her husband Lee) and is inspired by his enthusiasm. “Marc comes to our Woman’s Club often to share with us and he frequently attends our VFW Award Ceremonies for eight graders. He is an amazing man and we are fortunate to have him working with our kids and in our community.”

Jim Baker, Sanger Chamber of Commerce Community Relations Director said,
“I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Johnson in several arenas, Sanger School District, Sanger Chamber of Commerce, and the Chamber Ambassadors. As a community we could not ask for a more positive role model than Marc Johnson, a man who practices what he preaches. I look forward to working with Mr. Johnson in the years to come.”

Delores and Rene Gonzales: Delores is retired from Sanger Unified School District.
Rene served as a Sanger City Council Member and Mayor and retired from PPG Industries. “In our opinion, Marc Johnson just won the Academic Superbowl. He is our community’s Quarterback and we are honored to have him on our team.” Delores stated that she is grateful that she had the opportunity to work for Johnson and that she always found him fair, upright and respectful. “He stands up for his employees, his kids and the community. Marc is a great man to have on your side. Sanger is very fortunate.”

Pete Filippi, President of Sanger Unified Board of Trustees:
“Marc understands the role of a leader. He hires good people, gives them the resources they need to succeed and then he allows them to do their jobs.”

Marc Johnson lives in Reedley with his wife, three cats, and an Asian legless lizard. He has also been a part of several productions of Reedley’s River City Theatre Company.

Toni Pacini lives in Sanger where she started Sanger Open-Mic “Writers, Readers and Storytellers” Group, which meets once each month at the Sanger Library. She is an author, poet and storyteller who is writing a memoir of her childhood in Alabama called Alabama Blue. Toni covers all things Sanger.


  1. Thank you for the follow up article on Superintendant of the year. Yes it was covered with facts but your addition showed the MORAL FIBER of this awesome man. He is so down to earth while continuing to be humble. Thanks again for a look at that side of Marc Johnson.

  2. Dear Dawn,
    Thank you for the positive feedback. I found Marc to be a delightful and approachable man and I wanted other folks to see that side of him.
    Your comment made my day.
    Be well,



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