HISD Principal Says Goodbye After Fifty Years

The school year doesn't officially end until May, but for one HISD employee today really was the last day of school. Billy Joe Johnson is retiring after fifty years with the district. Bill Stamps talked with her about her career that spanned five decades.
"50 years of working for HISD."

(Sound of clapping)


Her name is Billy Joe Johnson, but students, teachers and fellow employees call her Ms. Johnson. Many of them gathered in a break room Friday afternoon to have cake and to say goodbye.

Billy Joe Johnson started working for the Houston Independent School District back in 1959. Back then the average yearly wage in the U.S. was 5-thousand dollars. Ben Hurr was the big movie on the silver screen…and Barbie was introduced to young girls for the first time.

Ms. Johnson says her leadership skills started to show up at an early age when she organized kids in the neighborhood.

"At the age of twelve I organized children on my block for children to go to the public library, because our school did not have one. Everybody on my block, I encouraged them to come and go with me. Believe it or not,  you would have this group of children walking on Saturday mornings to the library and check out books."

Years later she would find herself working as a clerk and then a teacher for HISD. Those organizationals skills paid off as she became the principal of Thompson Elementary and held that position for 33 years. Billy Joe Johnson has seen a lot of things over the years, but she never thought she'd see what took place a week ago.

"But I must say who'd have thought in my lifetime that an African American would be elected president of the United States of America, and of that I am delighted."

"50 –years that's amazing and we haven't heard the last of her."

That's HISD's regional superintendent who's sad to see one of her best employees leave. Everyone had great things to say about MS. Johnson…and as you can imagine it brought tears to her eyes.  And although she'll miss them, she says is not the end.

"This is not the end of my story. This is just the beginning."

Bill Stamps, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.