CEDAR FALLS - As Valley Lutheran School's new principal, Bruce Johnson has the experience officials were looking for.
He has worked as a principal for 18 years, most recently in Van Horne, and was a teacher for 15 years before that. He also was immediately available when the job was advertised following predecessor Dan Cox's sudden resignation this summer for a position at Waterloo East High School.
But it's not what Johnson, 55, expected to be doing when he and his wife, Deb, moved to Waterloo in early August to be closer to their family. He had just retired as principal from Benton Community School.
"I definitely was going to do something," said Johnson. But, he added: "I didn't think it was going to be in education."
After he saw the opening, though, "things just sort of fell into place."
"I just think we're excited to have Bruce Johnson on staff for his experience and leadership and moving us toward accreditation," said Duane Woebbeking, chairman of the association that operates Valley Lutheran, at Greenhill Road and Rownd Street. "I think it's good stability for our staff, to go to someone with years of experience."
Johnson graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1974 and worked as an English and speech teacher. He earned a master's degree in educational administration from Iowa State University in 1989.
Johnson is the fourth person to head Valley Lutheran, which opened as a high school in 2003 and added middle school students a year ago. Buzz Tewes, the first principal, resigned in December 2004. The Rev. Roger Twito led Valley Lutheran for the rest of the school year, until Cox was hired.
Woebbeking noted the job is part time, and Johnson is expected to hold it for a limited time.
"It wasn't something he wanted to do full time," said Woebbeking. "It's kind of a good fit to give him some flexibility."
School officials will begin searching for a permanent principal later in the year. Woebbeking expects Johnson to be in his position at least through the end of the school year.
Officials are also searching for a possible second administrative position, a dean of students. That person would cover duties that don't necessarily have to be done by a certified principal. They are hoping to find someone with skills in recruiting and admissions, as well. No date is set to fill that position.
Despite his quick return to education after retiring, Johnson has been happy with the job since starting just days into the new school year.
"It's a great, great bunch of people to work with," he said. "The atmosphere here is like no other school I've been in."
He sees an uncommon level of commitment among the staff of four full- and six part-time teachers along with volunteer staff members.
"Students are here because they want to be here, to have a Christ-centered education," said Johnson, noting they get an abundance of personal attention. Valley Lutheran has 35 students, 10 in grades six through eight and 25 in high school.
"The challenges for me right now are to find out how everything works," he added. "Again, folks have made it easy for me. There are very few issues with students. It makes it easy to come in and be principal."
Valley Lutheran's four full-time teachers and a part-time teacher shared with the Janesville school district are certified. Some of the part-time staff are retired teachers, so Johnson said the core subjects of English, math, science and social studies are all taught by certified educators.
The school's small size "presents challenges within itself," noted Johnson. "But there are benefits to being tiny, and we hope to keep growing."
Contact Andrew Wind at (319) 291-1507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.