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Sandra Johnson

A versatile scholar, educator and administrator, Sandra Ford Johnson has been a proactive advocate for children with special needs. Born in Chicago in 1938, Johnson was one of the first African Americans selected to attend the University of Chicago's prestigious Laboratory School.

At the age of fifteen, Johnson enrolled at the University of Chicago, where she earned a B.A. in 1958. After graduation, Johnson moved to Los Angeles, where she taught in Hollywood and Studio City. Seeking new challenges, she moved to Heidelberg, Germany, in 1967 as part of the Department of Defense's Overseas Dependent Schools program. Johnson later earned her M.Ed. from the University of Southern California and in 1976 received her Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Kansas, specializing in improving communication and networking in the public school system.

Johnson put her knowledge and experience to excellent use as assistant superintendent of the Washington, D.C. school system. As an administrator, she implemented programs in social work, school psychology, health, counseling, guidance and attendance for 140,000 students. Additionally, she created and produced Positive Plus, a cable TV program that featured school success stories. Johnson ultimately was promoted to state director for special education, with oversight of all policies and programs for students with disabilities in the District of Columbia.

In 1997, Johnson formed her own consulting company, SE3, providing services to both government and business. She has consulted and advised Native American tribes; performed research in Kenya for the U.S. Agency for International Development; and worked as a legislative liaison and public policy advocate for the National Association of Pupil Services Administrators. Her well-respected work also earned her an assignment in the office of New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Johnson lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, Harry Johnson.

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University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

University of Chicago

University of Southern California

University of Kansas

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Favorite Quote

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.

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District of Columbia

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Spaghetti, Ice Cream

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Education consultant and special education administrator Sandra Johnson (1938 - 2010 ) is the former director of special education for the Washington D.C. public schools and is the owner of an educational consulting firm.


United States Department of Defense

University of Kansas

District of Columbia Public Schools


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Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sandra Johnson's interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sandra Johnson lists her favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sandra Johnson states her parents' names, birthdates, and places of birth</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sandra Johnson talks about her paternal family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sandra Johnson talks about her lack of knowledge about her family history and her family's ties to the Episcopal Church</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sandra Johnson describes her close relationship to her maternal grandmother and extended paternal family</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sandra Johnson explains how her parents met</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sandra Johnson talks about her maternal family in Missouri</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sandra Johnson describes her childhood in Chicago, Illinois and her acceptance into the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sandra Johnson talks about the area of the South Side of Chicago, Illinois that she grew up in</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sandra Johnson talks about sports she participated in and other activities</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sandra Johnson remembers her time at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sandra Johnson talks about difficulties in history class at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sandra Johnson talks about how she learned to read quickly and her love for reading and writing</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sandra Johnson talks about attending the University of Chicago as an undergraduate</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sandra Johnson talks about her studies at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sandra Johnson explains her childhood career ambitions</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sandra Johnson talks about beginning to work after graduating from the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois at nineteen</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sandra Johnson talks about moving to Los Angeles, California and working as a counselor for juveniles</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sandra Johnson talks about working as a counselor for juveniles</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sandra Johnson describes being discriminated against while trying to find teaching jobs</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sandra Johnson remembers being hired to teach in Studio City in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Sandra Johnson talks about her experience teaching in Studio City in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sandra Johnson talks about teaching in Studio City in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sandra Johnson recalls a student trying to set her up with an actor and advice from her principal</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sandra Johnson talks about applying to teach overseas</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sandra Johnson recalls being accepted as a teacher for Overseas Dependents Schools in Germany</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sandra Johnson talks about living in Germany and teaching</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sandra Johnson describes meeting her husband</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sandra Johnson recalls the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sandra Johnson remembers her return to the United States in the early 1970s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sandra Johnson talks about studying and working at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sandra Johnson recalls becoming principal of a high school in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sandra Johnson talks about moving to Washington, D.C. in 1978 and being a position at the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sandra Johnson talks about advocating for students with disabilities and special needs</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sandra Johnson recalls working with HistoryMaker Floretta McKenzie and how D.C. politics affected her work</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sandra Johnson talks about starting her own educational consulting firm in 1996</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sandra Johnson recalls returning to the White House when Bill Clinton was elected</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Sandra Johnson recalls Bill Clinton's infidelity and going to work for Hillary Clinton</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sandra Johnson talks about her participation in Democratic politics</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sandra Johnson describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Sandra Johnson talks about her current activities</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Sandra Johnson reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Sandra Johnson considers what she would have done differently in her life</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Sandra Johnson narrates her photographs</a>







Sandra Johnson talks about working as a counselor for juveniles
Sandra Johnson recalls returning to the White House when Bill Clinton was elected
But now I'm meeting people that for some reason, and I'm, I'm, you know, like nineteen or twenty, and they're like eighteen. At eighteen that's when juvenile hall stops, and you go to adult detention. You see, so I'm not much older than them. And--but I couldn't believe what I was hearing half the time. Well, I must say, I was very successful though, in that job, because I was a good listener. I mean I've never heard stories like this, so it's like hearing somebody tell you a, you know, they're telling you a novel. It's almost unbelievable. And--but I was just very cool about the whole thing. And the more you--the more I acted like I really, this was just water, water off, you know, the ducks back, the more they'd tell. I was very--and, and I don't know if it was because I had this kind of yeah, so what attitude, or because I was almost their age, that they spilled things to me that they wouldn't tell to some of these older pe--older women in the place. And so I was very successful. They list--see, I'd just had these, all these psychology classes. And so they would listen to me, you know, in trying to counsel them, and I was very successful.$Tell us about your return to the White House and--$$What happened was that, of course, Jimmy Carter lost that election in, was it '80 [1980]? Anyway--$$Yes, '80 [1980] to Ronald Reagan.$$And at that point, it wasn't that I left the White House because I--you know, another person was elected, but the--Ronald--during the Reagan years and the Bush years, they didn't have volunteers that worked in the evenings. All of their volunteers came in the day. They, they were women that didn't work. And so, consequently, I couldn't work in the day, so--'cause I had my job, my, my wonderful job--and so, therefore, I, I, wasn't there during those years. But the minute Bill Clinton was elected, I called the White House. That was in November, and I called the White House. They said well, he hasn't gotten here yet, so. They said call back after the first of the year, so I did. And I had a desk in the White House before Bill Clinton did. I was back there as a vol--as a nighttime volunteer, because immediately he started getting lots of mail, and they wanted somebody to handle it. I read the president's mail. I mean, I read it, and I answered it, and I, I still sometimes can't believe that, you know, I was doing this. I really enjoyed my job. I made a lot of friends while I was there. I'm still in touch with them. And most of us stayed for all the eight years that he was in office. Toward the end, as we all know, things got a little--matter of fact, I didn't always work in the Office of Presidential Correspondence. I worked in the gift shop. I worked in, worked in several other places in the White House. There are lots of different job assignments. But toward the end, I, I wasn't so much enjoying Presidential Correspondence. The mail got ugly. So I sought out another job, and I, I stumbled into a job. They said they, they would love for me to come work in the office of the First Lady. So I went to work in Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton's office.