Rodney Johnson lives by a few simple principles. As principal at Lead Academy Charter School, he is devoted to instilling those values in his students as they grow in both knowledge and character.

“Be nice, work hard, serve well and have fun,” Johnson said.

Those words serve as the school’s core values and they play an important role in how the school functions for its students in grades K – eight.

“We are an expeditionary learning school,” Johnson said. “Expeditionary learning requires academic learning with character education.”

Johnson started his career as a social studies teacher. He taught for three years in an Atlanta charter school before coming to Lead when it began six years ago. Lead is a public school chartered through the South Carolina Public Charter School District. It began with grades five – eight and added kindergarten – grade four this year. It is free to attend. Students wear uniforms and are held accountable for teamwork and their contribution to a positive environment.

“I’ve taught off and on in our classes as well,” he said. “From our inception, everybody involved in the school has been very mission minded. We are there on purpose. We have a rock star group of teachers and a rock star group of students.”

Much of Lead’s mission and Johnson’s work focuses on what students will become. The goal is to see them succeed academically and to be better members of the community.

“Martin Luther King has a quote: ‘Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education,’” Johnson said. “Of course the academic side is enormously important. Who you are is more important than what you can do and who you know. A school should promote that.”

Johnson is a father of two, but a guide for many. He said the school tackles issues that are important to students and in the process, the school’s core values are discussed every day.

“When the kids leave us, we want them to have grown academically, of course,” he said.

But that is only a part of what Johnson stresses in his role, not as a principal only, but as the creator of future leaders.

“We strongly believe in a diverse community,” Johnson said. “We look different. We come from different parts of the county. We grow together and we make each other better.”

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