Education

'It'll be several months' before new NC superintendent reveals specific plans

Posted January 6

State Superintendent Mark Johnson
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— An adviser to new State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson said Friday "it'll be several months" before Johnson reveals any specific plans he has for the state's public school system.

Johnson began his new job this week and spoke at the State Board of Education meeting on Thursday, where he announced that he is embarking on a year-long listening tour across the state. At the end of the year, he plans to "present a vision of action items."

During his remarks, Johnson said urgent changes are needed to fix the state's "outdated" public school system, which he says was "designed for students in the 1950s ... or even earlier."

WRAL News spoke with the chairman of Johnson’s transition committee, who's also serving as an adviser, and asked what specific things the superintendent thinks are outdated.

"We don’t want to get into any more specifics than what he said in his remarks the other day," Jonathan Felts said.

Johnson may reveal his plans sooner "if something becomes apparent," according to Felts.

WRAL News also asked about the possibility of staffing changes and whether Johnson plans to dismiss or reassign any employees at the Department of Public Instruction.

"Everything is kind of in a little bit of limbo with the pending litigation that the Board of Education chose to pursue," Felts said.

The board has filed suit to challenge a new state law that transfers power from the board to Johnson. Under the law, Johnson will have more control of the state's education budget, senior level employees and charter schools. Those powers were previously under the board's control.

A Superior Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the law from taking effect until courts can determine whether it is constitutional.

Still, Johnson will not say whether he'd like to make any staffing changes.

"He will probably talk to the staff over here first," Felts said. "He’s not really had a chance to get to know a lot of folks over here, which is something he’s looking forward to doing, getting out visiting with staff. That’s why I think any kind of comments beyond that before he’s had a chance to really get to know folks over here probably wouldn’t be appropriate at this time right now."

Felts said the staff members Johnson has met so far have been very welcoming and helpful.

In September, Johnson wrote an article for EducationNC entitled "Our American dream" where he outlined his thoughts about North Carolina's "education crisis."

"We face a status quo education crisis in North Carolina. Too much testing. Teacher shortages. Perpetually underperforming schools. If we ignore this crisis, we betray thousands of students and teachers," he wrote. "The education establishment and its political allies have one answer that they have pushed for the past 40 years – more money for more of the same."

Since his election, Johnson has not offered many details about his vision for education in the state.

The past few months have been a whirlwind for Johnson, who ousted longtime State Superintendent June Atkinson in the November election. He has been busy moving his wife and 3-year-old daughter from Winston-Salem, where he worked as an attorney and served on the local school board.

They have bought a house in Raleigh and are living out of boxes at the moment, according to Felts.

"He’s been having to disengage from his corporate job, find a house, sell his old house and also in the midst of all that put together Christmas" for his daughter, Felts said. "But the family’s here in Raleigh. His daughter is enjoying things so far."

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  • Kevin Schneider Jan 7, 5:40 a.m.
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    It would seem that if you were running for office in this position, you would have an agenda and plan and not get selected and then figure out what you wanted to do.

  • Stacie Hagwood Jan 6, 8:08 p.m.
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    It is such a goofy picture, but that being said, I did NOT vote for this guy; I couldn't vote for a Republican given all the sins they have committed against education in NC. But everything I am hearing from this guy gives me great hope. I fully agree that our whole system is broken and desperately needs restructuring. I just don't want children and teachers thrown to the wolves in the process. Further, he needs to investigate the schools that think outside the box and are successful, and then get teachers and schools the tools and resources they need.