Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Priceless: 21 years of tuition checks

SCHOOLS | By Katie Murdoch
Herald writer
Dwight Johnson (right), of Edmonds, will see his youngest child graduate in June from St. Thomas More Parish School in Edmonds. All four of the family...

Purchase Photo Reprint Weekly Herald/CHRIS GOODENOW

Dwight Johnson (right), of Edmonds, will see his youngest child graduate in June from St. Thomas More Parish School in Edmonds. All four of the family’s children have attended: Madeline (from left), Daniel, Jay and Bradley (in picture frame). With Dwight and a statue of St. Thomas More are Johnson’s children, Madeline (from left), 17; Daniel, 15; Jay, 26; and Brad (in picture, who lives in Seattle), 23. Photo taken Saturday, May 20, 2012 at St. Thomas More Parish School and Catholic Church in Edmonds.

Watching their youngest son graduate from St. Thomas More Parish School on June 6 will be bittersweet for Dwight and Holly Johnson.
The couple has had at least one of their four children attending the private Catholic elementary in Lynnwood continuously since 1991 – back when George H.W. Bush was president and a gallon of gas cost less than $2.
“When we started, there was no Internet,” Dwight Johnson joked.
For the last 21 years, the Johnsons have made 210 monthly tuition payments, totaling approximately $85,000.
“It was worth every penny,” Johnson said. “I appreciate what they’ve done and the quality (of their education) shows. That’s priceless.”
To show their appreciation, the Johnsons delivered a cake with “thank you” scrawled on it, along with their final tuition payment, earlier this month.
It’s the parents’ way of thanking current and former administrators for taking care of their children. And to celebrate, too.
“It’s a sacrifice for parents to send their children to a private school,” Johnson said. “But over the years it becomes less of a financial struggle.”
“I’m extremely happy all of our kids went there and had a fabulous education,” Holly Johnson said.
Dwight Johnson grew up in a household where education was valued. His parents, who didn’t get to attend college, instilled in him that his education was his job and that his responsibility was to focus on his studies while his parents worried about the financial aspect.
“And that’s what we did for our kids,” Dwight Johnson said. “People said you could’ve bought fancy cars and trips. But what better place to spend than on their education?”
Their oldest son, Jay, 26, is graduating from the University of Washington this June. Bradley, 23, graduated from St. John’s University in New York and now works in information technology in Bellevue. Their daughter Madeline, 17, attends Archbishop Murphy High School with plans to attend university.
Their youngest son, Daniel, 15, said St. Thomas More is a welcoming school. “They make it fun to learn.”
The couple remember being young parents struggling to make tuition payments. Their advice to parents in that position is to hang on because the investment is worth it.
Many events have occurred during the last two decades. The Johnsons recall when the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 occurred, the entire school community gathered at the school where they held a mass. “It was instinctive,” Dwight Johnson said. “We all knew where to go.”
Their experience with St. Thomas More has defined their family, Dwight Johnson said.
“It’ll be the first in 21 years we’re not dropping off a child there in the fall,” he said.
“It’ll always be our parish and we’ll still go to mass there,” Holly Johnson said.