Dwight Johnson cropped

Dwight Johnson

BOISE — The head of career and technical education for the state of Idaho announced Monday that he’s retiring, and the state Board of Education launched a nationwide search for a replacement.

CTE has been a growing focus for state lawmakers as a way to provide higher education — and a route to better jobs — to students who won’t go on to earn full four-year college degrees.

Dwight Johnson has been administrator of the Idaho Career & Technical Education Division for the past five years. He said Monday he’ll retire this fall once a successor is named.

Johnson previously was a longtime division administrator at the Idaho Department of Labor; he also served as interim executive director of the Idaho State Board of Education in 2006-07.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my five years at ICTE and I think we’ve raised the division’s visibility and created a talent pipeline for businesses to grow and expand in our state,” Johnson, 61, said in a statement. “I feel like we’ve made a difference and that is very gratifying for me personally.”

Debbie Critchfield, president of the state board, praised Johnson’s work at the division.

“He worked tirelessly to raise the profile of CTE and helped set the stage for further growth in career technical educational opportunities, which are so vital for Idaho’s economic future,” she said, adding, “I wish him the very best.”

The CTE division has more than 580 employees and a state general fund budget of nearly $70 million a year; just 27 of those employees work under Johnson in the division’s administrative office, with the rest out at schools or other state institutions. The division administers career and technical education programs at the state’s high schools and colleges, along with workforce training centers, adult education, and GED programs; it also administers some programs funded by federal grants.

This year, the Idaho Legislature approved a $319,600 addition to the division to expand nuclear energy and advanced reactor manufacturing studies in Eastern Idaho.

Johnson’s current state salary is $123,510 a year.

Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, vice chairman of the House Education Committee, said, “I really appreciated Dwight and the energy that he’s brought to CTE the last few years. I think he’s improved the product. We have a lot more hands-on courses in high-demand, high-wage jobs. He’s really tried to bring those to the high schools. He’s been easy to work with. And he’s brought the department a long ways. So we appreciate what he’s done.”

Kerby said he’s glad to hear the board will do a nationwide search for a replacement.

“Now, they might end up with someone from Idaho and that’d be great,” he said. “But CTE in high schools is an area that we need to do a lot of thinking and retoooling.”

Idaho currently does a good job of offering advanced courses for college-bound students, he said, but “not nearly enough for the CTE kid. So if we can get a cutting-edge person from out there who’ll bring some good ideas and help us to reach many more kids in the secondary schools, that would be very exciting.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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