It surprised Dee Dee Johnson.
The longtime Pasco County Schools teacher and administrator was named 2021 Principal of the Year in November and all of it came as a shock, especially when Superintendent Kurt Browning showed up with a bouquet of flowers.
“Oh, it was very unexpected,” said Johnson, who has been with Pasco County Schools for 18 years. “It was pretty cool that my peers nominated and voted for me. There are so many great leaders in the area and so many great leaders that I’ve learned from and still reach out to. I felt great that everyone recognized that I worked hard and want to do what is best for the kids.
“I was very surprised to get the award.”
Those who know Johnson and her work, however, weren’t as surprised. As someone who worked her way up from math teacher to principal of the soon-to-be-opening Kirkland Ranch Academy of Innovation, it was a long time coming. Especially to one of those leaders who has witnessed Johnson’s career firsthand.
“We are just blessed beyond blessings to have her,” said Dr. Kim Moore, assistant superintendent for Career and Innovative Programs. “She is a phenomenal leader with a proven track record. Every school she has gone to has improved because she is that phenomenal leader.”
Johnson is a product of the school system where she works. She attended Quail Hollow Elementary, Weightman Middle and Zephyrhills High.
At Zephyrhills High, she was a soccer star — earning a scholarship to Florida Atlantic University, where she graduated in 2000.
“She is from the community and knows the community,” Moore said. “So everyone knows her and she’s earned that trust as a person from the community.”
Johnson began her career as a mathematics teacher at Centennial Middle and then moved on to her alma mater, Zephyrhills High. Next, she became assistant principal at Wesley Chapel High, where she was named principal in 2017.
In the 2018-2019 school year, she became principal at Pasco Middle.
Superintendent Browning named her Kirkland Ranch’s first principal in September.
“I couldn’t think of a better person to be that school’s principal,” Moore added.
Johnson’s ties run even deeper with Pasco County’s school system, as her husband, Mike, is the football coach at Cypress Creek High in Wesley Chapel.
Now, Johnson’s days are filled with planning to open Kirkland Ranch, which includes visits to the construction site until the work is finished this summer.
“I’m ready for August,” Johnson said.
“But the kids will come and tour it in July, so I really just can’t wait until then,” she said.
Published April 13, 2022