Matt Johnson was in his fifth year as principal at Westridge Middle School when he heard that long-time Shawnee Mission District athletic director Rusty Newman was retiring in June of 2013, after 16 years in the position.
“When the position of Director of Student Services and Athletics came open, I knew right away that it represented the next step that I was ready and eager to take,” he said. “I have a passion for athletics and the benefits they provide for students.
“In the end, this was really as close to a dream job as I could have imagined.”
And the job that Newman did in his 16 years in the position has helped his replacement.
“Rusty Newman did so much for this district, and when he retired, I was able to walk into a very favorable situation,” Johnson said. “I believe that the work that Rusty invested has allowed me the flexibility to focus so much on implementing middle school sports.
“Without the contributions of Rusty Newman, our athletic programs and facilities would not be at the status they are today.”
Johnson looks to continue what Newman started.
His big emphasis now is the addition of middle school sports in the Shawnee Mission District. Both the Olathe and Blue Valley school districts have middle school sports.
“That will dominate my landscape,” he said. “We are adding cross country, wrestling, basketball and volleyball.
“Preparing facilities for those sports, in addition to acquiring uniforms, equipment and coaches will be my focus in the coming months.”
And he can’t wait to get the sports started in the 2014-2015 school year.
What is his job as Director of Student Services and Athletics?
“I wear many hats in this position,” he said. “I oversee all athletic programs and facilities at the high schools.
“Other responsibilities that I have include serving as the district’s hearing officer, overseeing student records, rental of district facilities and working with the coordinator of our school nurses.”
His philosophy of high school athletics is simple.
“I believe that we have an obligation to provide an experience that is positive, educational and at the same time competitive,” he said. “We owe it to our student athletes to prepare them for life by using the field of play to shape them into productive future leaders.”
Johnson played tennis at Shawnee Mission North.
He coached freshman, sophomore and junior varsity boys basketball at SM Northwest from 1997-2003. He also assisted with girls and boys golf at SM Northwest.
Before coaching at SM Northwest, he coached freshman and sophomore girls basketball at Blue Valley High from 1995 to 1997.
As a teacher he taught sociology and psychology at SM Northwest for seven years, and for two years he was the Cougars’ athletic director.
Then he got into administration.
He served three years as associate principal at Hocker Grove Middle School and five years as principal at Westridge Middle School before taking over the district athletic director's job.
Why did he choose to get into the field of education?
“I chose education as my career path because I love working with kids,” he said. “In this position, I miss that day-to-day interaction with students.
“In my current role, I thoroughly enjoy attending sporting events and watching our students compete at every level.”
Johnson is looking to start a student advisory committee next school year.
“I look forward to again work with students on the advisory committee,” he said.