Dr. Howard O. Johnson
A Friend of APTS
Dr. Howard O. Johnson, Director of Special Services Administration (DOSSA), announced her retirement from APTS, effective June 30th, 2021.
She has played a monumental role in the rooting and success of Alternative Paths Training School in her years with us, and prior to working with us as a friend and mentor to our founders.
Although we will surely miss her warm presence and comforting guidance on a daily basis, we are elated to know she will be enjoying life to the fullest.
APTS’ and Dr. Johnson’s friendship is one that will never cease.
We wish you all of the best in your retirement, Dr. Johnson!
Dr. Johnson has been an educator in the field of special education for over 25 years and has served in multiple capacities during those years. She first served as a special education teacher of students with varying exceptionalities in the Florida public school system and used those skills in the Hampton Public Schools, Hampton, Virginia where she also served as a teacher of students with intellectual, emotional and learning disabilities. Dr. Johnson continued her career, eventually moving into Central Administration with Fairfax County Public Schools. During her time with FCPS, Dr. Johnson served as an Educational Specialist and was promoted to Coordinator of Contract Services (renamed, Multi-Agency Services). As the Program Manager, she was responsible for overseeing the monitoring of all special education student placements in non-public schools across the nation. She also provided guidance to her staff of specialists in the management of students’ non-public school placements. In addition, Dr. Johnson provided guidance, training and consultation to colleagues in the local government, non-public schools and public schools throughout the state.
Dr. Johnson has won multiple awards, at the local, state and national levels in the field of education and outside the field. Among her awards are the SALLIE Mae First Class Teacher award; Teacher of the Year; Disney’s Doers and Dreamers award; Readers’ Digest Education Hero; and Florida’s Finest, awarded by the Governor.
Dr. Johnson holds a B.A. degree in Speech Communication and Theatre Arts from Hampton, University; a M.A. in Special Education (Varying Exceptionalities) from the University of South Florida-Tampa; and a doctorate in Special Services Administration from Nova Southeastern University.
Dr. Johnson has announced her retirement from the work force, effective June 30th of 2021. She has known APTS’ CEO, Alan El Tagi for 22 years. Read on to learn about just a few moments in her career.
As her formal work career began at age 14, she has served in the work force for 54 years. And at age 14, she interviewed for a job as Office Assistant at her high school-a job which she worked during the school day learning office procedures and skills; she worked concession booths during football and basketball seasons on Friday nights, selling and serving up snacks. During the summers, she visited her sisters who lived in New York City, and was hired by Personnel Agencies to venture temporary office assignments with companies like Sterling Drug and Consolidated Edison (ConEd) and others.
A summer visit to Chicago where another sister resided, she landed positions with Michael Reese Hospital, the Chicago School Board and by her first year of college, the Chicago Board of Trade. She specifically worked for A. G. Edwards & Sons, a commodities brokerage firm, where she gained knowledge and experience learning about the markets.
Dr. Johnson married and through a military move, relocated to Mesa, Arizona where she was able to transfer to the local A.G. Edwards & Sons’ brokerage firm. The next adventure was a clipping bureau in which she researched articles for, and about, a variety of corporations, celebrities and other entities. Info researched kept clients abreast of published reviews.
A few years later, she developed an interest in the insurance field and managed to work successfully as a Marketing Coordinator for an insurance agency, before deciding to earn a license as a Virginia Allstate Insurance Agent.
The loss of Dr. Johnson’s second son (who, through a brain hemorrhage) developed severe disabilities, would eventually inspire her to enter the field of Special Education and advocate for services to both students and their families.
She did this in multiple ways, first of which focused around the need for respite care for parents like herself and her husband of children with disabilities. To this end, she and her husband were among the first families to support the Respite as a Family Therapy (RAFT) initiative in Hampton, Virginia, and was featured in the local press. Her advocacy continued in Florida as she worked on her Master’s Degree in Special Education, while establishing support systems for parents of children with disabilities. She provided sensitivity training to high school juniors and seniors by introducing them to her students who had a range of developmental disabilities. For those who showed promise and great interest, she continued their training where they eventually accompanied families of children with disabilities to community settings: movies, restaurants, shopping and other outings in the community. This initiative was so successful that it she was recognized by her school district with the SALLIE MAE Teacher Award.
Immediately after completing her Master’s Degree program, she entered a doctoral program. Believing there was more that could be done for her students and their families, she formed an initiative where she engaged with local clergy to discuss options to better support families of children with disabilities who couldn’t attend their faith communities for a number of reasons, including discriminatory practices.
Linking arms with professors from 3 local colleges/universities including: Southeastern College (now university), Warner Southern College and Florida Southern College and a small group of other advocates who had children with disabilities, she decided to offer training to any clergy who were receptive to being able to provide better supports to parishioners who had disabilities: both children and adults: to improve their facilities and bring them up to ADA standards, to integrate church services by allowing students to participate, to the degree they could.
Dr. Johnson arranged to provide 12 weeks of training to both students who were majoring in Religious Studies (future Pastors) and Pastors of local faith communities. This training was so successful that after the training, the Pastors agreed to implement what they had learned. She established a 501 (c) 3 organization with a group of 15 members, including a journalist who was disabled. The group held annual conferences and seminars to promote the grassroots work. Among those who supported and/or attended these conferences were Ginny Thornburgh, who was then vice president in the National Organization on Disability and whose husband was a former governor of Pennsylvania (Dick Thornburgh). During this time, and for the next several years, Dr. Johnson was asked to become a Consulting Editor for the Journal of Religion, Disability and Health, for which she accepted.
She was praised for her work both in the classroom and the greater community, and state, winning the school, district and region’s Teacher of the Year; featured as a Reader’s Digest American Hero in Education; and later, recognized by the then Governor of the state of Florida with the “Florida’s Finest”-an award that had been given only 7 times in Florida’s history, for her work. Also, she was honored and recognized by the Florida House of Representatives with H.R. 9543 for her work and has been featured in numerous news articles and t.v. interviews.
Dr. Johnson relocated with her family back to Virginia in the Fall of 1998; first, back to Hampton before moving to Northern Virginia. Her work in Fairfax County Public Schools moved her in a new direction of advocacy for youths and families, from placing students in private special education schools and further supporting them with much needed ancillary services to overseeing their placements, nationally. She would eventually provide trainings and consultations to counterparts throughout Virginia.
Throughout the years, Dr. Johnson has worked as a humanitarian in Mexico, Jamaica, China and the Phillipines. She has also coordinated supplies and provisions for a Kenyan community; supported humanitarian groups to Belize and Haiti. She continues to support several international organizations providing care to youths and adults.
Her retirement from Fairfax County Public Schools brought her to the doors of APTS. Since working for APTS, Dr. Johnson has established and developed a central education department. In the early days of her arrival at APTS, Dr. Johnson was informed that I, (Al El Tagi) would pull from every area of her expertise that I could; I’ve just about succeeded in doing that! While establishing a central department, Dr. Johnson has supported each of her colleagues, sometimes voluntarily, and at other times, upon their requests. Her decision to retire from the workforce does not mean that she ceases her work efforts. She says “there’s plenty to do” and will, in her retirement, continue to support APTS in various capacities, such as the Graduate Cohort Program.
To quote her, she says that perhaps the greatest privilege bestowed upon anyone is to serve others. After all, she says, rendering services with joy to others requires a robe of humility and humanity.
She also says that as she moves on to another aspect of her life’s adventure, that with God’s help, she hopes to continue encouraging and improving lives.
Dr. Johnson sees herself as a friend of APTS’ for life.
June 1, 2021
My Dear Friends and Colleagues:
After 54 years as a career person, I am retiring. These have been some incredible years, working with marvelous people like you from across several professions, including the corporate world.
But I venture to say that the most rewarding times of my life have been delivering services to students and their families, from Virginia to Florida and back to Virginia. For it was through very personal lens that I realized I had something to offer the students with disabilities that I once taught, and their families. So I did; and how rewarding it has been for me! I have sat in meetings many times with families, (not only IEP meetings), celebrating the gains that their child made, despite the odds; I have wept alongside parents while listening to them express their concerns and fears for their child as I too, understood this kind of reality. I’ve tried to imagine with parents what possibilities and opportunities could be had to obtain what their child and they would benefit from: first, as a teacher, and later, as an Administrator.
All of you have been such a vibrant and rich part of my professional life; you’ve managed to weave a lasting fabric of friendship which I consider to be one of the greatest treasures.
What an immense pleasure and privilege it has been to work with you all. It is said, and I concur, that “parting is such sweet sorrow.” So, I will forego the good-byes, and in my travels, anticipate saying hello!
Howard O. Johnson, Ed.D.
Director of Special Services Administration