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'A lot of things to celebrate': Atkinson reflects on time as state superintendent

Posted November 14

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— A bittersweet change is ahead for State School Superintendent June Atkinson after losing her reelection bid last week.

Atkinson is the longest serving state superintendent in the country and was the first woman to hold the job in North Carolina. She said the thought of leaving the job has been tough for her.

“One thing that I have are the memories of working really hard for each student in our state, so I find that very rewarding,” she said.

Election night was a shock to Atkinson, who lost the position she has held for three terms to Mark Johnson, a school board member in Winston-Salem.

“I was really saddened and shocked that I lost the election,” she said.

Atkinson has led the North Carolina Public School System since 2005, but there was more she wanted to do and she said the fight for more school funding must continue.

“Now, with technology, we can move to the place where testing is not overtly invasive,” she said. “Teachers are struggling with not having the necessary resources they need.”

Common Core instruction was a topic of the recent election. The Common Core curriculum is unpopular in some circles, but Atkinson said she supports it and believes it helps students to think critically but is misunderstood by some adults.

“I have yet to meet a person who is against the Common Core standards who have read the Common Core standards,” Atkinson said.

Over the years, Atkinson has dealt with a contested election and fought a governor’s appointment of a CEO to oversee her department.

As she leaves her office at the end of the year, Atkinson has concerns about privatization in politics and education. She leaves feeling proud as well, pointing to graduation rates and gains in some science and reading scores.

“So, there are a lot of things to celebrate,” she said.

Atkinson said she eventually plans to write a book that will include many things she has wanted to say publicly over the years that her job did not allow her to say.

Johnson was not available for comment Monday night.

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