By Elaine Weinreb
Press Staff Writer
Q. Why do you want to run for another term on the NHUHSD board?
Dan Johnson: It’s really about the kids. As a citizen of any community, you’ve got to volunteer, and I try to put my emphasis on children, because I have three of them. I enjoy the school board. I’ve been on it for about a year, and it’s a place where I can make an impact.
Q. Do you support trying to get a school bond passed to improve the McKinleyville and Arcata High School campuses?
Johnson: There’s a lot more information I need before I could vote yes or no. I don’t know how much the tax would be, or what impact it would have on the school. It’s ultimately the decision of the public.
I think the community needs sports fields, and it needs a good performing arts facility in Arcata, given that arts are such a huge part of the curriculum. I don’t know of any other way that they’re ever going to get it. There aren’t a lot of other opportunities to fund construction on schools any more.
Q. Why do you want a bond as opposed to a parcel tax?
Johnson: I’m not familiar with the parcel tax, what the difference would be.
Q. Would you support splitting the district into two “virtual” districts so that only McKinleyville voters will be able to vote on a bond that would benefit Mack High, and only Arcata voters will be able to vote on a bond that would benefit Arcata High?
Johnson: It seems like a reasonable approach. That might be the biggest decision that the board makes, because at the end of the day, we have to let the voters decide whether or not they think the community needs this.
Q. Would you allow companies and individuals that might directly benefit financially from the passage of the bond to contribute money to the election campaign committee?
Johnson: My inclination would be to limit the contributions that people can make to $99. We did that when we were trying to pass a school bond in Jacoby Creek. That way you don’t end up with anybody that feels like they’re buying off the situation.
Q. The state budget is still very unstable. In case further cuts are necessary, what programs would you reduce or eliminate?
Johnson: My big push is to not affect the kids. If we had to cut, we’d look at everything – athletics, the arts, the academics, and make the cuts equal across the board.
One way we’ve been able to do budget reductions but keep programs is by increasing class size. Nobody likes to do that, but at least it still keeps the program there.
In L.A., the average class size is 45-50 kids per class. Here we’re just over 30. Even if we had to go to 35, we’re still way below state averages.
Q. Do you have any other ideas for raising money or improving the finances of the school district?
Johnson: We do a fantastic job of going out and getting grants. This year alone, we got a grant for working with homeless kids, and grants to let our kids travel to Costa Rica.
Another idea would be to create a foundation for both high schools. Jacoby Creek has done that quite successfully. Last year they had a foundation auction, and earned $40,000, money that went right back into the school for computers and classroom supplies.
Q. What would you do to improve vocational education for students who choose not to attend college?
Johnson: Keep giving it! The school district right now does a great job. We have a culinary program, a shop, the building trades program. Our company has hired a number of people out of that building trades program over the years.
Identify vocational needs – computer technology, bookkeeping, and make sure we’re offering them to our kids, so they can make a contribution to society when they graduate.
Q. Students who are members of various minority groups often drop out before graduation because they do not feel accepted within the school. What, if anything, would you do to make students who are:
people of color; gay or lesbian; or physically or mentally disabled,
feel safe and accepted in school?
Johnson: I didn’t realize we had a problem with that. Our drop-out rates are 7.9% over a four-year period. That is half of the state average, which is 15.6 %. The county average is 15.5%.
The diversity on our campuses is amazing. I would continue to identify pockets of populations who feel like they don’t fit in, and make sure that there are opportunities for them to fit in. We live in a very diverse world, and it’s critical for everybody to have the ability to co-exist.
Q. In the past two years, what decisions of the board have you agreed with? Which have you disagreed with, and why?
Johnson: In the ten months that I’ve been on the board, I believe all our decisions have been unanimous, either for or against. The board that is there now works very well together. There really haven’t been any controversial issues.
Q. What is your occupation?
Johnson: I own Danco.
Q. How long have you lived within the area encompassed by the NHUHSD?
Johnson: I’ve lived in Arcata for eight years. I’ve lived in Humboldt County my whole life.
Q. If elected, what changes, if any, would you try to make? Why?
Johnson: There aren’t any changes I’d try to make right now. I think the administration does a good job, and the board gets along very well. I don’t have an agenda. I just want to be there, to offer my knowledge of the community, and to serve as a sounding board for the parents and the kids.