Bush’s Big Plans

New principal sets goals for increased student, school success, recognition


Tegan Fannin

Working at his desk on a Monday morning, Principal Johnny Bush organizes papers. Bush was previously the principal at Robinson High School.

Jake Criser , Copy Editor

Q: When did you realize that you wanted to go into education or do something that helps kids?

A: Originally, I never wanted to be an educator. I thought it was kind of monotonous. (Laughs) It’s horrible to say, but I thought it was same thing every day…School of Social Work was going to be my gig. I kind of wanted to help kids out from that standpoint…I always worked with kids.

At the age of 14, I was a dishwasher at a camp (Florida Lions Camp for the Visually Impaired) for blind kids and went on to be a counselor…I wanted to work for the Division of Blind Services, and I needed a degree in social work. I was driving home from work after graduating from college, and I stopped by the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, and I wanted to apply for a job…They made a House Parent for 10th grade boys, and we had a blast. It was great…I would run with the kids, play football with them…I came back to the School for the Deaf and Blind in 1988, and I was a Recreation Director, which I enjoyed doing. I started coaching football out there; we had a great time. Believe it or not, there was a deaf football team…, and we did some amazing things with those kids…

The first group of kids I ever taught were 2nd grade deaf kids under a Visiting Teacher Certification…, and I taught, and I coached every sport I could possibly coach…As soon as I got my Masters in Deaf Education in the summer of ‘97…, I came here and started teaching at Brandon High, teaching deaf and hard of hearing kids…At the end of 2003, I was hired at Riverview to be an AP…until 2006, then I went back to Brandon to be the Athletic Director for

three years, then I went to Robinson to be their Assistant Principal at Curriculum. So I’ve done every position of all the administrators, and I eventually was named Principal of Robinson. I was offered a unique opportunity in 2016 to be a District Administrator, and I did that, and Plant comes open…, and I was all over it so I was blessed with this opportunity to come here to become the principal at Plant.

Q: So I guess from a young age you wanted to help out children with needs?

A: …I’ve always had a passion for working with people who are less fortunate than I am, or I was at the time…I grew up one of seven kids to a single mom, but my mom always taught us that there was somebody who was less fortunate than we were…I definitely have a passion for people who have conditions beyond their control.

Q: While you were at Brandon, did you take charge of any clubs or sports there? A: (Chuckles)…We had a Surf and Skateboard Club over at Brandon. So I did the A.L.S. club, the American Sign Language, but I think my most proud club that I ever started was a Surfing Club…We would meet in Cocoa Beach…, and kids would come surf with us…It kind of grew into a Skateboard Club…It was pretty neat…

Q: Do you feel that having been first a teacher and then going through all the administration post really helped you understand the school better when you became Principal at Robinson? A: Absolutely…Even coming here, the administrators are amazing…Being in all the different roles, I’m able to emphasize a little more with people…And I will say on record here that there are some of the administrators here that do their job a lot better than I did (chuckles).

Q: Coming from Robinson whose IB program has a block schedule to Plant who has a traditional schedule, what do you find are the differences between those two and which one helps more with certain aspects of high school?

A: Well the block schedule is built for the IB program, but the rest of Robinson is on a traditional schedule like Plant…It is kind of whatever your preference is. It’s much more expensive if the whole district was to go on block schedules for high school….because you need more teachers…Now for the IB program, it is designed that way… I like the traditional schedule because the teachers touch the kids every day.

Q: What would you say are your three main goals for your first year at Plant and how do you plan on implementing those goals?

A: First and foremost, my number one goal in anything that I do…is safety. Being the principal, knowing that everyone’s kid is on your watch right now. You want kids to be safe. I can’t promise anyone that their child is going to be 100% safe…I can promise you that we will do everything within our power to make sure your kids are safe, make sure you kids are safe. We will accomplish that by being visible and communicating and seeking feedback from you all as students. I would think one of the proudest moments of my principal career at Robinson was when we had the highest percentage kids that felt their school was safe in the entire district…So I will push safety…

Our graduation rate is 96%, almost 97%…, what’s going on with that other three percent? Why can’t a school like this be 100% graduation…?

The other thing is I want kids to enjoy their high school experience, be a part of clubs…I want kids to enjoy it, and I want you all to say I graduated from Plant High and that’s my alma mater, kind of like what people do when they say Florida, Florida State. So I just want you to enjoy your education…I want you to see that you are the future…We also want to make sure that we create a blueprint for yourselves that when you get ready to go to college, a college is not looking for a way to weed you out, a college is looking for a way to say we want that young man or woman in our school.

Q: The Plant schedule has gone under some changes the past few years with last year getting rid of homeroom and this year having lunch as its separate period. Do you see any additional changes in the upcoming years such as making school start 15 minutes earlier?

A: …I want to see how the year goes…I think the lunch period, the three 50-minute blocks; it’s going to be challenging because most people are done eating in like 25 minutes so what are you going to do for the other 25 minutes? There is going to be time for tutoring sessions for kids, and kids will hopefully use that time to get their homework done and stay ahead of things and get with buddies and things like that…We are looking at that…to see how that’s going to work out because you guys had 38 minutes before, and now, you have 50 minutes…

But as far as the time change for next year…, there is great research out there that shows different things, and we are going to do what is best for kids, and we are going to do the best we can with what we have to work with. In a perfect world, we want all you guys to be able to go to school form about 8:30 until about 4:30 and be done with it, but it’s not a perfect world like that, and I think our district is doing a very good job of vetting it and asking for people’s input and everything, so we’ll so what happens with it.

Q: Where do you see Plant in 5-10 years?

A: Do you see a reason why this school shouldn’t be the number one school in the nation? Does this school have potential to be the number one school in the nation…? It has to be a goal to shoot for…I definitely want to see it (this school) work to its potential in academics. As far as putting kids of character into college; absolutely…I just want to continue to be a school that is looked at as an amazing institution, which you guys have built out here.

Q: What do you see as Plant’s greatest attributes or challenges?

A: I think one of the biggest attributes you all have here is your parent involvement…When a school has a high level of parent involvement, that school is going to be successful. I don’t look for bad things in a situation like this, but I think you have high performers…, and there is a support there that you all have here…to overcome adverse situations.

I think the kids here have incredible volunteer opportunities. I think they are highly involved in many, many different things here; and those are the kind of things where you get to touch and experience and say, ‘Hey, this is what I want to do in life.’ Sometimes, when you are limited, you kind of go in a direction that life pushes you…You kind of make your choice where you want to go in an institution like this.