Musical chairs, secretary style


Duncan Christakos

New counseling secretary Mindy Johannsen helping a student. After a series of temporary secretaries, Johannsen accepted the position on Jan. 15 and began working on Jan. 21.

Duncan Christakos, Staff Writer

Multiple changes have taken place in the administrative, guidance, and accounting offices since winter break.

Sarah Marckmann was the former guidance office secretary. She worked at the high school for eight years before switching positions. “I have about eight years until retirement and I was not sure I wanted to be the JHS Counseling Secretary for that long,” Marckmann said. “I had been thinking about [switching jobs] since May 2018, when my youngest child graduated from JHS. I could have left my job several times in the last few years, but I wanted to stay at JHS as long as my own children were attending school there.”

Her new position is as the Administrative Assistant to the Director of Community Education. “I saw the job opening and thought, ‘I could do that!’” Marckmann said. “I was up for the challenge of learning something new and I was thrilled that I could stay within the Johnston School District.” She said the Administrative Resource Center, the district building where she now works, has been quiet by comparison to the high school, as she went from a building of almost 2,000 to a department with barely ten.

“No bells ring here, so I lose track of time,” she said. “It is a bummer that Snow Day and Late Start do not mean anything in this job.”  She enjoys the new job, but it has been challenging because she is not familiar with the technology they use. “It is hard to learn all new stuff,” Marckmann said. “I enjoyed knowing people and having answers when I worked at JHS. Now, every question I get – I don’t know the answer yet. Slowly but surely – I’m learning!”

Replacing Marckmann as the new guidance office secretary is Mindy Johannsen, who introduces herself to students as ‘the new Mrs. Marckmann’ in light of the fact that most students referred to Marckmann and the position she filled interchangeably. Still getting familiar with the students at the high school, Johannsen enjoys when students stop by her office to say hello. “I like when students pop in, and I get to meet new people and put names to faces,” Johannsen said. “When you guys are asking questions, it’s a really good opportunity for me to learn also.”

Johannsen was offered the position on Jan. 15, and began working six days later on Jan. 21. She accepted the position because she was interested in working in secondary education, and felt that her background would help her with the job. “I thought it would be fun to work with high schoolers, and I worked in sales for many, many years before,” Johannsen said. “With that job, you have a lot of variety in managing people and projects… so I felt like that was probably a really good background to step into this role.”

The transition from a Wallace associate at her prior job to the guidance office secretary at the high school was smooth for Johannsen. She said that some notes left by Marckmann were very helpful, answered many of her questions, and gave her many helpful tips.

Sharon Von Hagen was the former finance specialist for the high school. Better known as the accountant or bookkeeper, she retired over winter break. As her school email was deleted when she retired, she could not be reached for comments.

Terri Spencer, the new financial specialist, took over for Von Hagen almost immediately. Spencer went to college for business management, which included accounting. She decided that that was not what she wanted to do. “About a year into [college] I decided that I didn’t really want to do be an accountant because back then, all journaling was done on paper,” she said. “[Von Hagen retired over winter break] so I just thought, ‘I’m going to apply for that position.’ The interview went really well, and I didn’t hear [anything] for a long time and thought, ‘Oh, I’m probably not going to get the position,’ and I was fine with that because I loved my job and the people I worked with. Then they called, and they offered it to me.” She accepted knowing that accounting was largely electronic now, and wouldn’t have to deal with doing everything on paper.

Spencer was reluctant to leave her previous post, as she loved her job. The higher salary plus her relevant background convinced her that the new post would be worth the change. So far, she is finding the new position to be a good fit for her. It was strange at first, because she doesn’t see as many people as in her old position. In addition, her new supervisors are not located at the high school – they are at the district office. That gives her much more room to manage her own schedule as she sees fit, as long as she does what she needs to do. She acknowledges that the freedom is a double-edged sword, but feels she is capable of using it effectively. “I am excited to be learning new and challenging aspects every day!”

The new secretary to the associate principals is Kristin Stromer. She decided to apply for the position because she had always wanted to work in secondary education. Prior to Johnston, Stromer worked for Buena Vista University at Mason City. Her job was as an academic advisor, and included meeting with transfers, going over admissions and graduation requirements and crafting their schedule. “I felt like I’d conquered being an adviser,” Stromer said.

Stromer had been looking to get a new job for about two years, but was not sure what she was looking for. She applied to both high school and college positions, but when the initial searches came back fruitless, she decided to reevaluate what exactly she wanted to do. When she started looking again, she had decided she would be going into public education at the high school level. When she found the job opening in Johnston, she knew that it would be a match.

So far, Stromer is enjoying her position. “It has been a great fit so far,” Stromer said. “This is my dream job.”