Nyssa schools superintendent leaving district with $137,000 payout

By Elizabeth Miller (OPB)
July 18, 2023 11:38 p.m.

Darren Johnson’s contract was renewed earlier this year, but the school board voted to end the district’s relationship with him Monday.

Just a couple of weeks into a new two-year contract, Nyssa School District superintendent Darren Johnson is no longer with the school district.

Monday night, the school board in the Eastern Oregon district unanimously approved a separation agreement between the district and Johnson, agreeing to pay Johnson one year’s salary: $137,486.


During the board meeting, which lasted for less than 15 minutes, there was no discussion or reason given for the decision.

But after the vote, Johnson spoke briefly, saying he “respected” the board’s decision and was “honored” to serve as superintendent.


“I have worked really hard to try to do the right things for the district,” he said. “We’ve lived through some challenging times here.”

Johnson, who has been superintendent for four years, said he tried to “operate with integrity” during his tenure.

According to the agreement, both Johnson and the school district made the decision to part ways and the agreement “does not constitute and may not be construed as an admission of liability or wrongdoing by either party, or of any misconduct or unsatisfactory performance” by the former superintendent.

Back in April, the board voted to renew Johnson’s contract for two years. That new contract went into effect July 1. But over the last few weeks, the board has met in closed door meetings, including meetings on May 22 and July 3 “to consider the dismissal or disciplining of, or to hear complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member or agent.”

District officials did not respond to a request for more information about any complaints against Johnson. The Teachers Standards and Practices Commission said there are no investigations related to Johnson.

The Malheur Enterprise has tracked several issues during Johnson’s tenure, the biggest being a state investigation into the district’s migrant education program. According to the Enterprise, the state found several students “improperly enrolled” in the program, including the children of district staff. In June, the Enterprise reported the state was pulling federal funding for the program from the district. It’s unclear if this issue is related to the decision to end Johnon’s contract early.

Board leaders did not respond to a request for comment from OPB. There was no discussion at Monday’s meeting about who would now lead the district. Board members made plans to meet again Thursday, where board vice chair Patricia Morinaka said they will discuss “leadership, as well as things that we’d like to see happen in our district.”