New NC superintendent can suggest dismissing, reassigning dozens of senior staff

Posted November 21, 2016
Updated November 22, 2016

State Superintendent Mark Johnson

Correction: After this story ran, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction emailed WRAL News a corrected list showing how exempt positions within the department should have been categorized. The initial list WRAL ran on Monday was verified by DPI as accurate, but the department later deemed it to be incorrect. The corrected information is posted below.

When Winston-Salem school board member and lawyer Mark Johnson becomes North Carolina's new state superintendent in January, he can suggest to the State Board of Education that certain senior level employees within the Department of Public Instruction be dismissed or reassigned.

It's unclear if he will do that, though. In an interview with WRAL News last week, Johnson said he hasn't thought about how he wants to handle staffing yet. He hopes to meet with outgoing State Superintendent June Atkinson, state school board members and other leaders within the department before sharing any plans.

A spokeswoman for DPI said "this kind of thing is routine in a state capitol during transition times." It primarily affects those who are in exempt policymaking and exempt managerial positions.

"This is just a part of holding one of these positions," spokeswoman Vanessa Jeter told WRAL News by email. "For example, four years ago, the governor's administration converted more than 1,000 positions to be exempt, so this is pretty routine."

"In most cases, except for those positions that either answer only to the state board or the superintendent, personnel decisions are made collaboratively between the superintendent and the board," Jeter added.

Under the State Personnel Act, the exempt positions within DPI are as follows:

Employees who can be dismissed with the approval of both the state superintendent and state board of education:

Deputy state superintendent
Chief of staff
Chief information officer
Chief academic & digital learning officer
Chief financial officer
Achievement School District superintendent (position has not been filled yet)
Director, communication & information services
Director, office of charter schools
Director, human resources

Employees who report solely to the state board of education (and without superintendent involvement):

Executive director, State Board of Education
Director, State Board of Education operations

Employees who can be dismissed solely by the state superintendent for any reason:

Special assistant/correspondence
Senior policy advisor
Special assistant/scheduler (current employee holds priority reemployment rights)

Employees who can be dismissed by the state superintendent, but also subject to board review:

Legislative affairs program director
Director, career & technical education
Director, exceptional children
Director, NC School for the Deaf
Director, educator effectiveness
Director, digital learning
Director, curriculum & instruction
Director, financial services

Employees who can be dismissed by the state superintendent, and subject to board review, but who have "one-time" priority reemployment rights, meaning they have priority over external candidates for a vacant state government position for a period of 12 months or until satisfied – equal to the same grade at their most recent position:

Director, NC Virtual Public School
Director, Residential Schools
Director, federal program monitoring
Director, testing & accountability
Director, school support
Director, office of early learning

Employees who can be dismissed from their current position, subject to board review, but who have "mandatory" reemployment rights within DPI, meaning they have a mandated right to a job at the same grade and salary as their most recent position, including all legislated salary increases.

Director, data, research & federal policy
Director, technology services/assistant CIO
Director, school business


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  • Alfred Barnes Dec 15, 2016
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    State employees fought McCrory tooth and nail over those exempt positions, so, no, it's not "routine", although it should be.

  • Jacob Smith Nov 21, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    Makes plenty of sense - slow news day so we need to "stir the pot".

  • Matt Nickeson Nov 21, 2016
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    Slow news day? A story built solely upon speculation? Every election brings change in personnel and processes. This is a good thing. WRAL decries the state of schools in NC but then cries because the people who have run it are leaving? This makes no sense.