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Elna Johnson receives Nebraska Press Association’s highest award PDF Print E-mail
Written by Russ Pankonin, The Imperial Republican   
Elna Johnson, longtime co-publisher of The Holyoke Enterprise, received the Nebraska Press Association’s highest honor Friday, April 17, when she was named Master Editor-Publisher.

She received the award in front of her peers at the Nebraska Press Convention held in Lincoln, Neb., last weekend.

The announcement of the award came as a total shock. “I had no idea,” she said in accepting the award, which was presented by Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts.

After the announcement, she was joined on stage by a host of family and friends.

Elna Johnson, pictured second from right, accepts the Master Editor-Publisher award at the Nebraska Press Association convention in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, April 17. Pictured from left are Johnson’s daughters, Brenda Brandt and Lori Pankonin, Johnson and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, who presented the award.  

—Johnson Publications photo

This marks the first time in the 44-year history of the award that a woman publisher has been honored.

It also marks the first time the award has been conferred to both members of a husband-wife publishing team. Johnson’s late husband and co-publisher, Loral Johnson, received the honor in 2001.

The couple was also the first husband-wife team to serve as NPA presidents. Loral was NPA president in 1981, followed by Elna in 1993.

In 1990, Elna was honored by the National Newspaper Association with the Emma C. McKinney award. This award represents the association’s highest award to newspaper women who have exhibited distinguished service to the community press.

Purchased Imperial Republican in 1968

The Johnsons published newspapers in Holyoke and Imperial, Grant and Wauneta, Neb., from 1968 to 1999.

Loral began working at The Imperial Republican in 1952 while Elna attended Central Business College in Denver. The Wiggins High School sweethearts were married in April 1954 and made Imperial their home.

In her early days at the paper, she ran the Linotype hot lead machine to set type.

The couple purchased their first paper, The Imperial Republican, in 1968 from Ruth Naylor.

It was then that Elna joined the paper full time. She was involved in the weekly operation from the business management side.

In 1977, within a period of several months, Johnson Publications Inc. became a three-newspaper operation.

They purchased The Holyoke Enterprise in March from Max and Hazel Starbuck.

In July, they purchased The Grant Tribune-Sentinel from Allan Fillingham.

In 1982, they added the Wauneta Breeze to their family of newspapers.

The Johnsons continued to operate the organization until 1999, when children Lori and Russ Pankonin and Brenda Brandt purchased Johnson Publications Inc. from them.

Throughout their journalism careers, Elna and Loral were active in the NPA, attending many district, state and national press conventions and functions. They never missed a state NPA convention during their tenure as owners.

Service to community

As publishers, the Johnsons placed a high priority on service to their community.

During her career and subsequent retirement, Elna has been a devoted member of the Imperial First United Methodist Church, serving in a number of leadership roles.

Her belief in the future of Imperial is evidenced by her strong passion and work for the Imperial Community Foundation Fund, and she presently serves as chair.

In 2009, Elna and Elsie Newman led a successful drive to obtain a $50,000 matching grant for the foundation by raising $150,000.

In addition to those activities, Elna has been an active member of Eastern Star and Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge and a volunteer at the Chase County Food Pantry and Meals on Wheels.

Children in the business

Loral and Elna raised four children — Brenda, Randy, Lori and Kurt. Three of the four have pursued newspaper careers.

Brenda is publisher of The Holyoke Enterprise and co-owner of Johnson Publications.

Randy works in the fire prevention sales and service industry in Olathe, Kan.

Lori and her husband, Russ Pankonin, serve as co-publishers of The Imperial Republican, The Grant Tribune-Sentinel and The Wauneta Breeze, and are co-owners of Johnson Publications with Brenda.

Kurt and his wife, Paula, own and operate the Aurora News-Register newspaper in Aurora, Neb.

Holyoke Enterprise April 23, 2015

Grin and bear it PDF Print E-mail
Written by Holyoke Enterprise   

Pies in the face and more raise $5,500 at PIE Carnival

Holyoke elementary P.E. teacher Scott Dille, pictured above, braces himself for a whip cream pie in the face from seventh-grader Emily Jelden. The pies were just one of the many popular attractions at last week’s Partners in Education Carnival for Classrooms, Friday, April 17, at Phillips County Event Center.

A variety of carnival games, food and a silent auction all helped raise approximately $5,500 for PIE, which will be used primarily for mini grants applied for by teachers at Holyoke schools, as well as scholarships for graduating seniors.

Hungry Hungry Hippo, a new game to this year’s lineup, involved capturing the most balls in a basket, all while being pushed on a scooter, as demonstrated by second-grader Matthew Murray.

Kindergartner Jacob Quintana, bottom right, dives into the blow-up obstacle course, one of three inflatables that grew excitement from local and area kids of all ages.

—Enteprise photos

Holyoke Enterprise April 23, 2015

Re-1J to be recognized for achievement gap closure PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

Department of Education to present award at Emerald Awards program

As one of two rural Colorado school districts to have experienced achievement gap closure for economically disadvantaged students over the last six years, Holyoke Re-1J will be recognized by the Colorado Department of Education.

Tina Goar, rural field support manager with CDE, will attend the Emerald Awards program Thursday, April 23, at the Peerless Theatre to make the award presentation to the local school district.

Economically disadvantaged students are identified by free or reduced-price lunch status.

The Colorado Rural Education Council decided to define rural as any district with fewer than 6,000 students. Districts were deemed eligible if at least 35 percent of their students qualified for FRL status.

According to the 2013-14 enrollment report published by CDE, 152 districts had fewer than 6,000 students, and 120 of those had at least 35 percent FRL students.

The proportion of students scoring proficient or advanced in mathematics, reading and writing, as well as the proportions of students catching up and keeping up in each subject, were downloaded by district and FRL status for the 2008-09 through 2013-14 school years from the CDE SchoolView Data Lab.

Composite ACT scores for FRL and non-FRL students in each district for the 2010-11 through 2013-14 school years were obtained through a data request to CDE. The proportion of students making adequate growth was calculated from the catching-up and keeping-up data.

Districts were eliminated if they experienced an overall decreasing trend in proficiency or growth for FRL or non-FRL students.

Seven districts with no decreases in achievement or growth in any content area demonstrated gap closure.

A composite proficiency and growth gap closure score was created by using gap closure averages across the three content areas of math, reading and writing for proficiency and growth, separately.

Over the six-year period, these scores were obtained from CSAP and TCAP results.

So there were status scores for percentage of proficient and advanced scoring students in math, reading and writing.

And there were growth gap closure scores for each of the three content areas.

Using these scores, districts were sorted according to the composite gap closure score.

Holyoke’s composite closure score was ranked No. 2 amongst the rural districts, following the criteria for identification.

Of the districts with identified gap closure according to the selection criteria, only one experienced true gap closure on composite ACT scores.

Four of the seven districts were then disqualified, as they did not meet the criteria for overall graduation and dropout rates. A fifth district was later disqualified, as well.

Holyoke School District was identified for having gap closures in all six areas: both status and growth scores in each of the three content areas.

Holyoke Superintendent Bret Miles said the district has looked at each test result individually in all of the grade levels tested but has never had the ability to look at a datapoint for the district — pulling all data into one score.

When asked when the CDE representative could come to Holyoke to make the award presentation, Miles suggested the Emerald Awards program, which is set up to recognize excellence.

Holyoke Enterprise April 23, 2015