Keller ISD trustees hire new superintendent; contract not yet finalized

dfwnewsa | December 18, 2023 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Keller ISD trustees hire new superintendent; contract not yet finalized

Tracy Johnson, the new Keller ISD superintendent, center, sits among trustees after the school board hired her at a special meeting Dec. 18, 2023. Johnson’s first day is Jan. 2, 2024. (Dang Le | Fort Worth Report)
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As Keller ISD trustees finalized their votes, interim Superintendent John Allison invited new Superintendent Tracy Johnson to take his seat. 

“You saw me run up there. I couldn’t wait,” Johnson told the Fort Worth Report. 

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Johnson’s dream for seven years has officially been realized, she said. Keller ISD’s board of trustees voted 6-0 to approve the hiring of Johnson as superintendent at a special meeting Dec. 18. Johnson has been with the district for nine years and will be Keller ISD’s first woman superintendent. 

Trustee Ruthie Keyes was absent from the meeting. The district said it has not received a formal resignation letter from Keyes, who announced she was stepping down during the Dec. 11 meeting.  

Johnson’s contract is not yet finalized, chief communications officer Bryce Nieman said. 

Trustee Chris Coker said getting to know Johnson has been an honor, and he looks forward to what she will do for Keller ISD. Since Johnson was named the lone finalist for superintendent, she has already accepted responsibilities like looking at the budget, he said. 

“Dr. Johnson, you’re a breath of fresh air,” Coker said. 

Johnson already has her plans ready. Her first day is Jan. 2, and she has scheduled quite a few meetings — starting off with her cabinet to sort through the district’s budget and establishing priorities during her tenure. 

Keller ISD is facing a potential $27 million budget deficit in the 2024-25 school year. 

Johnson’s priority is the budget, but she’s also looking to continue developing relationships with the district’s leadership and principals as she strategizes for the future. 

“Got a lot of work ahead of us. But I think right now, I’m just feeling really excited,” she said.

Johnson was named the lone finalist Nov. 27. Before that, she was the district’s chief human resources officer. Johnson has been in public education for 22 years, working at Northwest ISD and Grapevine-Colleyville ISD before joining Keller ISD.

She was selected from a pool of 12 candidates to succeed Rick Westfall, who announced his retirement as superintendent in June. Allison has worked as interim superintendent since Westfall stepped down.

Tracy Johnson, the new Keller ISD superintendent, third from left, sits with her parents and husband as trustees officially announce her hiring at a special meeting Dec. 18, 2023. Johnson credits her husband for motivating her to teach over two decades ago. (Dang Le | Fort Worth Report)

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Allison, now the associate superintendent of education, will help Johnson in different areas as she transitions into the role, he said. 

“She’ll be a fantastic leader,” Allison said. 

While trustees met in a Dec. 18 executive session before voting to hire Johnson, she was using her experience at Keller ISD to her advantage. Johnson bounced between groups of district staff, chatting about professional and personal matters. 

Her colleagues have been texting her since she was announced as the lone finalist, Johnson said. There is excitement but also a sense of relief — they know her, they know her leadership style, and they know that she “leads with heart.” 

“This is the beauty of bringing an internal person in,” she said. “I have had four and a half years to develop relationships with district people.”

Trustee John Birt, first from the right, shows appreciation to interim Superintendent John Allison, center, at a special meeting Dec. 18, 2023. Allison is now the associate superintendent of education. (Dang Le | Fort Worth Report)

The district previously held community meetings where residents, parents and students could voice what they wanted to see in the district’s next superintendent. The law firm Leasor Crass assisted the school board with the search process. The district issued two checks — totaling up to more than $8,000 — to the search firm in December. 

Johnson views the school board as the bridge between the district and the community, she said. 

“I’m excited about the work and just truly being a team of eight,” she said. 

Trustee John Birt said of all the applicants, Johnson met all the criteria established by the board and citizens participating in the community meetings. 

“We have a lot of work in front of us, and I know, Dr. Johnson, together with your team, you are going to help us all to navigate through that,” Birt said. 

Dang Le is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at dang.le@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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