Education

Who will choose NC's new Achievement School District leader? 'We are unsure'

Posted January 5

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— More than 50 people from across the country have applied to lead North Carolina's new Achievement School District, which will serve some of the lowest-performing schools in the state. But those hoping to land the job of superintendent of the new school system will have wait even longer to see if they are chosen.

That's because it's unclear whether the State Board of Education or newly elected state superintendent will get to decide who gets the job. For now, the answer is tied up in the courts, and state leaders say they don't know what to do.

The goal of the new Achievement School District is to take five of the state's lowest-performing public elementary schools and put them under new management. Outside entities, such as charter school operators, will take control of the schools and supervise, manage and operate them with the goal of improving their performance.

Classroom 5 things to know about NC's new Achievement School District

When lawmakers passed a bill last summer creating the Achievement School District, they asked Lt. Gov. Dan Forest to create a committee to help choose a superintendent for the new school system. The committee interviewed applicants this fall and was supposed to make a recommendation to the State Board of Education, which would have the final say over who was chosen.

However, the committee has still not recommended a candidate, despite multiple assurances that they were close to making a decision.

WRAL News emailed the lieutenant governor's office in September to see how the process was going. A spokesman responded, saying: "We are confident that a recommendation will be brought to the State Board by the October meeting."

No recommendation ever came.

In October, WRAL reached out to the lieutenant governor's office again and was told: "We are hopeful an announcement will happen within the month." But it never happened.

WRAL asked again a few weeks later.

"Hopefully we will have an answer by the November board meeting," the spokesman said.

But there was no answer in November.

A few weeks later, the spokesman said the committee was having trouble getting together due to the election and holidays but was hoping to interview more candidates in the coming weeks.

Then, in December, lawmakers passed House Bill 17, which transferred power from the State Board of Education to newly elected State Superintendent Mark Johnson. Among the many changes in the law, Johnson would now have the power to choose a leader for the Achievement School District.

School board members balked at the new law and filed a lawsuit to block the transfer of power to Johnson. Last month, a Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the new law from taking effect.

This week, WRAL checked with the lieutenant governor's office again to see where the Achievement School District superintendent selection stands. A spokesman said the committee had narrowed down the field of applicants but that no official recommendation had been brought to the state board for a vote.

"Now that law is tied up in the courts we are unsure who is supposed to make that decision," the spokesman said.

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