Jordan School District
Jordan School District Superintendent Patrice Johnson

SALT LAKE CITY — A nationwide search is underway for the next leader of Jordan School District after Superintendent Patrice Johnson notified the school board that she plans to retire effective July 1.

Johnson, who has led the district for eight years, was the first superintendent hired after the split of the Jordan District and the creation of the Canyons School District.

"She brought us through the district split and there were lots of hard feelings. So she's been great. She brought us through that and has been a great leader. She's leaving at a high point where things are running well," said school board vice president Tracy Miller, who is leading the search for Johnson's successor.

Johnson is the district's first woman leader and the first superintendent hired from outside the suburban school district. Johnson came to Utah from Clark County (Nevada) School District, where she was an associate superintendent.

"Morale was down. She's been a great cheerleader. She's very encouraging. She's very supportive and very warm and that's what the district needed. She's very well-liked," said Miller.

Working in Las Vegas helped prepare Johnson for the dynamics of Jordan School District, which has many young families and a rapidly growing school population. The district is in the process of opening another new high school next fall in Herriman along with four elementary schools. Enrollment has increased about 13 percent during Johnson's helm.

Her successor will inherit similar circumstances, Miller said.

The Jordan School District has 57 schools and 54,865 students, according to the district website.

One of the school board's highest priorities is investing in its educators, she said.

"We started out the salary wars in the state two years ago. It's something we're still focused on, being able to attract and retain high-quality teachers and also give them the support that they need," Miller said in an interview Monday.

The selection of the next superintendent has been a collaborative process that has involved parents, elected officials, community leaders and employee associations, she said. Community members were surveyed regarding the characteristics they would like to see in the district's next superintendent.

One of the things that ranked high was finding a person of integrity, character and high moral standing.

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The community also indicated it wants a veteran educator to lead the district who "values and supports students and families and is inclusive and able to interact with the diversity of different populations and is able to create a welcoming environment," Miller said.

The board is also seeking someone who is "open to creative and innovative ideas and has the ability to evaluate those ideas," Miller said.

Applications will be accepted through April 8. Top candidates will be invited for interviews and the school board plans to announce the new superintendent at its meeting on May 28.