In 1959 an employee and resident began working at the Rialto Unified School District. She came “back home” last week, and said, “I’m so honored and I feel like I’ve come full circle.”
During the recent Rialto Unified School District Board of Education Meeting, Board Member Stephanie E. Lewis presented the esteemed Key to the District award to Nadine Johnson Franklin, a retired school secretary (from the 1950s) in a heartfelt ceremony.
The recognition was a tribute to Johnson Franklin’s remarkable dedication and service to the RUSD spanning from 1959 to 1982 and her work with the classified union, locally, regionally and Statewide.
Johnson Franklin, set to turn 85 in April, made a special trip from Chino Hills, where she currently resides, back to Rialto to receive the Key to the District during the January 17 Board of Education Meeting. Alongside her were her husband Reece and daughters Sheri and Laurie, making the occasion a family affair.
Beginning as a library clerk at Dunn Elementary School in 1959, Johnson Franklin transitioned to Kelly Elementary School, eventually becoming a school secretary. She was known as a friendly presence in the office, always willing to assist students, families, and staff. She said she was shocked when she learned she would be receiving the Key to the District, but looked back at her time with the RUSD with great pride. She was not only an employee but also enrolled her two daughters in the RUSD and they each graduated from Dwight D. Eisenhower High School.
“I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed working for the District,” Franklin Johnson stated during the board meeting. “I was so excited when I was hired. I enjoyed so much working with the students, the administration, and the faculty. As I worked in the District for 23 years, I continually felt richly rewarded for having the opportunity to be a part of the community and a part of the school district and to help people somehow. As an employee, it seemed like the opportunities to learn and grow were just endless. I learned from everyone and I truly enjoyed the association with the staff.”
Lewis selected Johnson Franklin for the prestigious Key to the District honor after learning of her back story and commitment to service in the District from Chris Cordasco, California School Employees Association (CSEA) Rialto chapter #203 President. Franklin Johnson began working for CSEA at both the regional and state levels after leaving the RUSD and remains a strong CSEA advocate.
“It gives me great honor and pleasure to introduce a phenomenal woman who had her start right here,” Lewis stated as she welcomed Johnson Franklin during the board meeting. “We talk about Rialto Pride and you are the definition of it.”
Born in 1939 in Denver, Colorado, Johnson Franklin’s journey led her to Manville, Wyoming, where she was adopted and raised. In 1959, she moved to Rialto, initiating a career that would leave a lasting impact on the local education system.
Reflecting on those years, Johnson Franklin fondly recalled the simplicity of the time, away from excessive technology and gadgets. “Rialto was full of orange blossoms then,” she reminisced. “We looked at our District with kindness, and helped anyone who needed it. I decided that everybody who walked through that door needed to feel welcomed. And I tried to make that happen and tried to make them happy about being there.”
Her journey with CSEA included roles in San Diego, La Habra, and Orange Counties, culminating in her retirement in 1989 as a Senior Member Benefits Coordinator after 31 years of service. In June, Johnson Franklin and her husband will celebrate 40 years of marriage, marked by extensive travels across all 50 states in support of CSEA initiatives. Despite retirement, she remains an active volunteer and continues to lend her expertise to CSEA events when called upon.
Acknowledging the profound impact of her early career in Rialto Unified, Johnson Franklin expressed gratitude to her past Principals, including Don Olinger, Gene Newton, Dr. Mick Brown, Dr. Ernest Garcia, and Bob Baversfield, for mentoring and guiding her through their exceptional leadership styles.
In an overwhelming moment of humility, Johnson Franklin extended her heartfelt thanks to Board Member Lewis for bestowing upon her the Key to the District. “Tonight, I feel like I have come full circle in my career, and I am overwhelmingly honored,” she remarked. The Key, she added, would be cherished as a symbol of her lifelong commitment to education.
The RUSD celebrated Nadine Johnson Franklin, as a true advocate for students, families and classified employees, whose legacy continues to inspire.