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Introducing JWJ's New Principal

Click Here to Read His Letter to Parents


Dear Parents and Guardians,

I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself and provide a short bio of my experiences that have led me to becoming the Principal at James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School.

First, I am married to my high school sweetheart, Darcey and have 5 amazing kids (Jay 27, Kayli 26, Ryanne 21, Anna 16, and Brooke 14). In addition, I have 2 grandkids (Loren 2 and Emmy 2) and 1 on the way. Another fun fact is my dad was my high school principal.

I received an NROTC scholarship where I attended the University of Southern California and graduated with a B.A. in History in 1987. Upon graduation, I was assigned to the USS Enhance, home ported in Tacoma, WA. I deployed twice to the Persian Gulf to support mine-warfare operations during the Iran-Iraq War in 1988 and 1989.

I left active duty in late 1990 and spent the next 19 years in the Naval Reserves until retiring after 22 years of service. In 1994, I earned my teaching credentials from Western Washington University. For the next six years, I taught math and history and coached football and baseball at Mariner High School, Voyager Middle School, and Harbour Pointe Middle School in the Mukilteo School District located north of Seattle, WA.

In June 2000, I earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from City University and accepted my first assistant principal position at Monroe High School, a community north of Seattle, WA, where I also served as district athletic director. In 2004, I moved to Southern California to become an assistant principal at Capistrano Valley High School. After two years, I returned to Washington where I accepted my first principal position at Ridgefield High School, a school of 650 students located near the Washington Oregon border. Ridgefield High School was recognized for some of the highest passing rates on state testing in Clark County. In 2008, I moved closer to Seattle and accepted the principal position at Hazen High School in Renton, WA. Hazen High School was a school of nearly 1,500 students and was recognized multiple times for Overall Excellence by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction during my tenure. In 2013, I accepted the principal position at Kentwood High School in the neighboring Kent School District, where I spent 5 years. Kentwood High School is one of the most diverse school districts in the country with over 130 languages spoken. Kentwood is one of the top high schools in the State of Washington as measured by academic, athletic, and co-curricular performance.

I accepted the principal position at Mandarin High School in July 2018 in the Duval Public Schools in Jacksonville, Florida. During my time at Mandarin High School, the graduation rate averaged around 95%, they won the school’s first-ever State Championship (8A Football), I led a positive change in school culture and climate by focusing on building positive relationships as reflected in the 5-Essentials Survey, and I facilitated the implementation of Social Emotional Learning Classes for Freshmen.

I am very excited to take the helm of James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School and work alongside the staff in making a great school even greater. I look forward to meeting all our staff, students, parents, and community supporters. It takes a village to get our students to graduation. Middle School is important in helping prepare all our students for high school and beyond.

Please email me at if you have any questions.

There will be a virtual meet and greet on Thursday, June 25. Stay tuned for more details.

Please complete the survey here as we plan for the virtual meet and greet:

John R. Kniseley II, Principal