School of the Week: Hutchinson Elementary-Middle School at Howe!

If you’ve never seen a lop-eared, lion-faced rabbit, stop by Hutchinson Elementary-Middle School at Howe.

It’s one of the many rescue animals that Principal Stanley Johnson and his team have adopted to bring science to life for students.

The cuddly rabbit was donated to Johnson by a friend who knows of his passion for animals. In fact, Johnson established a partnership with M&M Pet Shop on E. Warren, which has donated many of the school’s pets.

Just stroll through teacher Darlene Scherer’s science class and you’ll see live crickets, different species of fish, leopard frogs, red tail boa constrictors, giant turtles, guinea pigs, chinchillas and more.

The pet shop once tried to give Johnson a three-foot-long alligator, but he decided not to take it.

“I bet there isn’t another school in the district that has critters like we do,” Johnson said. “Our Science Department is pretty unique. We don’t just want our students to learn from text books. We want them to see real animals and learn about where they come from. It makes a difference.”

The students aren’t the only ones who interact with the animals.

“Sometimes I’ll use him (the red tail boa constrictor) at the Parent-Teacher Conferences. I’ll turn down the lights really low, and then show off my friend here. Let’s just say it changes the entire tone of the conference,” Johnson said jokingly.

A leader with no limits

Taking in stray rescue animals to ensure his students have a real-life learning experience isn’t the most unique thing Johnson has done in his 34 years with the district. Before Hutchinson and Howe schools were combined in 2011, Johnson was the principal at the older Hutchinson building. He was known to keep a bucket of roof tar in the attic of his old school.

“If he had a roof leak, he was the type of principal that would fix it himself,” said Steven Wasko, Assistant Superintendent of Community Relations.

Simply put, Johnson said he doesn’t believe in asking for help with problems that he can handle. He even recalls asking the school’s security guards, and sometimes the older students, to come in on a Friday dressed for repairs. They worked together to complete small tasks like fixing locks and assembling donated tricycles for the pre-schoolers.

If students had nowhere to go after school, Johnson would allow them to stay and help with the building repairs.

“I have no problem with getting my clothes dirty,” he said. “I like fixing things, that’s my personality. I wish I could do the same things that I’m capable of doing mechanically with students’ minds. I have to help them want to learn. It’s not always the easiest task, but I’m up for the challenge.”

Click below to view a video highlighting Hutchinson Elementary-Middle School at Howe!

The ‘Apple of the Eastside’

Hutchinson and Howe schools were combined in the summer of 2011 due to low enrollment.

Johnson served as principal of the original Hutchinson school for 10 years before becoming principal of the new school, which opened in the fall of 2011 as Hutchinson Elementary-Middle School at Howe. The school has roughly 560 students.

The original Hutchinson was a PreK-5 school, then gradually advanced to a PreK-8 school in 2005 by adding one middle school level each year.

The old Howe school building was torn down and rebuilt 11 years ago. The current PreK-8 school was uniquely constructed with no lockers or bathrooms in the hallways.

The classrooms have shared pods, where lockers, bathrooms, sinks and water fountains are easily accessible for students inside of the classroom.

“There is no need to have kids hanging out in the hallways, so it cuts down on problems tremendously,” Johnson said. “This makes for a better learning environment. We’ve been called the best kept secret this side of town, the ‘apple’ of the eastside.”

Some Thing(s) You Didn’t Know…

Johnson is a proud DPS graduate, having attending elementary through high school within the district at schools including: Campbell Elementary School, Marxhausen Elementary School, Saint Clair Elementary School, Joy Middle School and Cass Technical High School.

Although many of his former schools no longer exist, his strong connection to the district and community may explain his hands-on approach to learning and taking care of his school building.

When making the transition over to the new building, Johnson personally went to speak to gang members in the neighborhood.

“I went over to talk to them and asked if they have any sisters or brothers in the school. I told them that I need them to look out for the students, and I asked if they would partner with me to keep the school building safe,” Johnson said. “I haven’t had any problems since coming here. Now had I told them to ‘Get off of our school property,’ then I’m sure it would be different.”

Some Offerings:

Hutchinson places a strong emphasis on the core academic subject areas, while infusing technology into differentiated teaching strategies. Some of the school’s offerings include: Art, Foreign Language Classes, Tutoring/Extended Day Program, Accelerated Reading/Math, Computer Courses, Dance, Girls Scouts/Boy Scouts, Glee Club, Honor Society, Recycling Program, Science Club, School Garden, Sports, Drama, Cheerleading, Basketball, Baseball, Volleyball, and Community Volunteers/Partnerships.

If you would like your school featured, send submissions to with the subject line “School of the Week candidate.”

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