Sara Johnson

The High Desert Education Service District board of directors announced on Thursday, April 18, 2024, that Sara Johnson will be the organization’s next superintendent. Beginning in July, Johnson will lead the HDESD team in the delivery of Central Oregon’s early childhood education (0-5 years), special education (0-21 years), mental/behavioral health, substitute teachers, driver education and other specialized programs. Johnson, who served as superintendent for Crook County School District from 2018 to 2023, brings more than 25 years of experience as a K-12 educator, and was named Superintendent of the Year in 2023 by the Oregon Association of School Executives and the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators. HDESD’s current superintendent, Paul Andrews, is retiring in July after 25 years with HDESD.

“We were looking for a proven educational leader with a heart for kids,” said Matt McGowan, HDESD’s board chair. “She was Superintendent of the Year for a reason.  Everyone who has worked with and for Dr. Johnson confirmed that she was instrumental in creating an amazing culture.  Her passion for kids and her ability to lead and collaborate, with the main goal of improving student outcomes is exactly what we were looking for in a new superintendent. We couldn’t be more excited to have such a wonderful person with an amazing track record joining our team.”

 According to McGowan, experience as a superintendent and knowledge of the Central Oregon region were key considerations in the search that began in January. Input from HDESD staff, school district partners and community members helped shape the criteria for the selection process.

 “The majority of my 25-year career as a K-12 educator has been rooted on the east side of the Cascade Mountains so this region truly feels like home to me,” said Johnson. “The superintendent role presents an incredible opportunity to apply everything I’ve learned throughout my career. As a former district superintendent, I also have a first-hand understanding of the vital role Education Service Districts play in supporting school districts in their mission to provide equitable, high-quality, cost-effective and locally responsive educational services.”

Prior to leading Crook County School District as superintendent, Johnson served as director of assessment, equity and school improvement for Klamath County School District.

 “I am eager to step into this role and serve as a leader within the ESD. The opportunity to collaborate with diverse stakeholders, leverage innovative educational initiatives, and optimize resources to drive student achievement resonates deeply with my personal and professional mission and values. I am passionate about making a profound impact on the lives of students, educators and systems in the region, and I am fully committed to this endeavor,” said Johnson.

Johnson holds an education administration certification from Lewis and Clark College (Portland, OR), a bachelor’s and master’s of teacher education degree from Eastern Oregon University (La Grande, OR), a doctoral degree of education – education leadership from George Fox University (Newberg, OR) and a doctoral degree in school psychology from George Fox University (Portland, OR).