Bexley school board members unanimously approved extending Superintendent Mike Johnson's contract by three years Monday night.

Bexley school board members unanimously approved extending Superintendent Mike Johnson's contract by three years Monday night.

Board president Andrew Sutter asked his fellow board members to grant the extension. Johnson is about to complete the third year of his five-year contract. He has been with the district since 2001.

"We need to retain for the long haul a superintendent who is intimately familiar with Bexley and its schools and who will not shy away from the challenges that will confront the educational community in the years to come; someone who has experience in delivering high quality educational services in a cost effective manner," Sutter said in a prepared statement.

Johnson said he was pleased with the board's decision.

"I couldn't be in a better school district than Bexley," he said. "I think that it will allow all of us to really focus in on the needs of our children and offer the highest quality instruction possible given the downturn in the economy."

Johnson said he expects the downturn to last a number of years and have an effect on the school district.

District treasurer Chris Essman said that in one motion, the board of education accepted Johnson's resignation effective July 31 and awarded him a new contract starting Aug. 1 and running through July 31, 2014.

He said all the details of the contract are the same except the beginning and ending dates.

Johnson is well thought of in Bexley and Ohio education circles. Last year, he was among the six finalists considered for the position of state schools superintendent.

The Bexley school district has received an Ohio Department of Education rating of "excellent" every year that Johnson has been superintendent.

The school board recently reviewed Johnson's performance, praising his leadership and willingness to address difficult issues.

"Dr. Johnson has done an excellent job in the eight years that he has been with us," board member Steve Grossman said. "We hired him to take a strong school system and make it even stronger."

Grossman said it will be important to have Johnson as superintendent as the school district moves toward putting a levy on the ballot sometime in the next year.

"He is best suited to help us lead the way," Grossman said. "He earned the contract."

Board member Joan Fishel said she supported the decision to extend Johnson's contract because of the timing. The previous contract would have expired July 31, 2011. Negotiations for a new contract would have had to start 18 months ahead of time, meaning the beginning of 2010, Fishel said.

That fell within the timeframe of working on a levy. Fishel said board members believed it was important to retain Johnson's leadership during the levy process.

"We needed no doubt of his leadership during these potentially challenging financial times," she said. "I think that he has provided very professional, consistent and stronger leadership for the school district."