UPDATE: DMPS was informed by the Caldwell-Johnson family that Teree Caldwell-Johnson passed away early on the morning of March 31, 2024. A statement of condolence from the school district is available here.

A mix of sadness and celebration was in the air at the School Board meeting on March 5, as the end of an era was being marked. Teree Caldwell-Johnson, the Board’s longest-serving member since at least 1950, submitted her resignation.

“As you may already know, my focus is taking care of current health challenges,” Teree wrote in a letter read aloud by School Board chair Jackie Norris. “It has been my privilege to have been elected to serve on the Des Moines Public School Board over the past 18 years, and my greatest honor is to have served three terms as the Board Chair.”

First elected in 2006, she was a proud Southsider – including that her children are Lincoln High School alums – and for several of her years on the Board represented the district that included Lincoln.

A lot happens at an organization as large as Des Moines Public Schools over the course of nearly two decades. There were challenges – from state funding to a global pandemic. During that time she worked with four different superintendents. But there was much to celebrate, including a generation of new high school graduates who earned their diplomas during her tenure.

In 2023 alone, during one of her years as Board chair, Teree was involved in enough initiatives that would have made an entire career for many School Board members. For example, along with then-interim Superintendent Matt Smith, she relaunched the annual State of the Schools event; saw the opening of a new stadium built in partnership with Drake University; and led the Board as they selected a new superintendent, Dr. Ian Roberts.

An area she was especially broad of was the focus on student outcomes, something she advocated for until the very last minute of her time as a School Board member.

“Our district’s commitment to student outcomes and policy focused governance has created a win-win for our district and our current and future students,” she wrote in her resignation letter. “It is my hope and expectation that with the continued support of our Superintendent, Dr. Ian Roberts, this will remain the Board’s top priority.”

The dias at Tuesday’s School Board meeting was full as several former members joined current ones to share their respect and remembrances of Teree.

Mayor Connie Boesen – herself a longtime School Board member – share her gratitude: “All I can say is thank you. Thank you on behalf of the City of Des Moines. Thank you for what you’ve done, not only for the Des Moines school district but also your role at Oakridge, and making our community a better community.”

State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad – another former School Board member – added: “Teree, you have always been the shoulders a lot of us have stood on, and an inspiration to a lot of us. You always inspired us.” He always shared a certificate of recognition from the Iowa House of Representatives in honor of her service to the school district and community.

Following in-person remarks, a brief video was shared featuring Teree, in her own words, talking about her work. Always the optimist, at last year’s State of the Schools event she closed with this pledge: “If you come to Des Moines Public Schools, there is no question that you will become the best you, right here.”

At the very end of the Board’s meeting, they discussed selecting someone to complete Teree’s term, a process that will take place over the next month. Needless to say, that person will be filling some very big shoes.

Video Tribute to Teree Caldwell-Johnson

School Board Meeting Announcing Teree Caldwell-Johnson’s Resignation

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