JENNINGS, Mo. – During a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday afternoon, Jennings Junior High School was renamed to Johnson Jennings Junior High, which honors school board president Rose Mary Johnson.
Johnson is a veteran, has served on the Jennings Public School Board of Education for 27 years, and was a St. Louis Public School Principal for more than 30 years.
Johnson cut the ribbon to unveil the new school’s name in her honor. It was also Johnson’s last day serving on the board.
“I want to first give honor to God for everything he’s done for me,” Johnson said during her speech Monday.
“Mrs. Johnson has had the heart of gold to say let’s create a homeless shelter for our kids and she actually did it, she’s brought calmness and understanding like in a motherly way to our students, staff, and to our board and constituents,” Art McCoy, Jennings School District superintendent, said.
Johnson said of all schools, this means a lot because it is the school her children graduated from.
“Things like this, getting a building, just doesn’t happen while you’re alive,” Johnson said in her speech Monday.
“We look up to her and say if she can do it and her family can do it, all of us can do it,” McCoy said. “It’s an honor to have her in our community,”
McCoy said this is the first school in the district named after an African American.
“It means a lot because the district here is like 90% African American, so when kids turn around and say, ‘wow that is an African American, we have hope, I can do something too,” Johnson said.
“She’s given us a student-first mentality like any great mom would and as a veteran and as a retired principal and as a bord member she exemplifies students first better than all of us and so it’s an honor to follow in her footsteps and to stand on her shoulders,” McCoy said.
She has blazed a trail for others in the district, but she said one of her biggest accomplishments was bringing breakfast to kids in the Jennings School District decades ago.
“The one thing I noticed out here was the children didn’t have free breakfast and the parents either had to send them to school either hungry or they had to make sure they tried to provide something for them,” she said. “So I decided to run on the platform that we were going to have breakfast out here.”
She hopes her name on this school will inspire others.
“People when they see me and see my name, they have respect,” Johnson said. “This building is not going anywhere, its going to stay fixed in our community.”