“Johnny Law” has decided to hang up his badge.
Chanute High School Principal John Lawrence will be retiring at the end of this school year. His retirement was accepted at the board meeting Monday.
There has been a lot of change at CHS in recent memory: a new building, a new stadium, and numerous advances in technology. For the last 20 years, Lawrence has been a constant presence, both as the assistant principal for 17 years and as head principal for the last three.
After retiring from CHS, Lawrence has ambitions to step up to a superintendent position and to finish his doctoral degree.
When he began at CHS, Lawrence did not expect such a different educational culture. He received multiple warnings about the notorious north wall at the old high school. On the first day of the school year, he decided to observe what was going on there.
“Man, was that an eye opener! We had kids on school property smoking, and there were guys with their shirts off,” he said. “It was like, ‘Holy cow, what did I get myself into?’”
He stuck around and made a considerable impact at CHS according to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kent Wire, the former principal of CHS who worked with Lawrence for 16 years.
“Mr. Lawrence has been a staple to the success of the high school for 20 years,” Wire said. “We have made tremendous academic and behavioral gains. We were a low-performing school and we went to a consistent standard of excellence year-in and year-out and Mr. Lawrence has played a huge role in that. He has provided a huge service to the district and the community. He will be missed.”
CHS secretary Karen Graham will also miss working with Lawrence.
“He has been a part of this school for so long,” she said. “He loves this school, students and staff.”
Lawrence is proud of how students have taken an active role in bringing changes to the building to create a welcoming, familial atmosphere. He also credits the CHS staff for making that goal a reality.
“Our teachers are very passionate and they will come to me to fix obstacles. Everyone rolls up their sleeves and gets it done,” Lawrence said. “It’s the most amazing thing. They’ve done a great job. There’s no way that I could have done this by myself.”
During the Thanksgiving feast held at the high school to foster that family feel, students write what they’re thankful for on post-it notes. Lawrence collected them all and keeps them in a binder in his office, with several mentioning how thankful they are to have such a great principal.