Manassas Journal Messenger 2/12/01



to dedicate learning center:

Former chairman to be honored


Tiffany Schwab




MANASSAS – The school board will officially dedicate the Joseph B. Johnson

Learning Center at 4:30 p.m. today. The center, which houses the school

system’s alternative education program, is located next to Osbourn High

School on Tudor Lane.

On hand for the dedication will be the center’s namesake, Joseph Johnson,

who served on the Manassas City School Board for 25 years, 10 of those as


Johnson said he’s still deciding what kind of remarks to make at the

dedication, which will include the unveiling of a plaque, comments by Interim

Superintendent Dianne Mero and a few words by Johnson. The school board

will be present, as will Manassas Mayor Marvin Gillum.

“It is quite an honor,” Johnson said of the naming. “I’m

very appreciative of it.”

He’s also modest about it.

In his opinion, school buildings should be named after educators, which

he is not, Johnson said. Nevertheless, his colleagues on the school board

voted to name the building after him shortly after he retired from the school

board last year.

“I was not a part of that decision,” he said with a smile.

His name was a good choice, some say.

Sam Wilfong, supervisor of the alternative program at the learning center,

said Johnson has always been a fervent backer of alternative education.

“He was just a good friend of this program – a strong, strong supporter,”

Wilfong said.

The new learning center opened in September to rave reviews from students

in the alternative education program.

Before the center was built, students attended classes in an older building

that wasn’t in such good shape, Wilfong said.

“The new building has made a remarkable impact on the students,”

Wilfong said. “The overall attitude of the students is so much better.”

Students take pride in their bright and spacious new building and attendance

is up, he added.

The changes have been for the better, he noted, but one thing has always

been a constant – a caring and dedicated staff. “That’s what makes

this program work,” he said.

That’s what Johnson is interested in – success.

“I’ve always believed in programs that keep … students involved

in something that they really care about,” he said.

He said the school system has a variety of enrichment programs, like

art and music, but the alternative education program isn’t geared toward


“We started the alternative program in 1993. Really its main purpose

was to deal with students who really weren’t functioning in the regular

classroom environment,” he said. “It’s a program that strives

to keep these children in school and get them an education,” he said.

Wilfong agreed.

“They’re kids who for one reason or another do not function well

in a traditional school program,” Wilfong said. “We try to provide

them with a foundation … to improve their social skills as well as academic


The Johnson Learning Center houses five programs and serves students

in grades 7-12. Programs include the Options program, which has an academic

and vocational aspect for certain 16-year-olds pursuing a GED; the 17-year-old

GED program; a high school completion program for students in grades 9-12

who are on track for graduation; a middle school redirection program to

develop necessary social skills for students to be successful in a traditional

school environment; and a ninth-grade academy for students working to transition

back to the high school.

The alternative education program began with about four students in

1993. This year about 80 are enrolled, Wilfong said.

· Contact Tiffany Schwab at [email protected]



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