North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mark Johnson, has been given $700,000 to hire a new staff for his office. According to Lynn Bonner of the News and Observer, his allowance was not easy to come by, as in June of this year; the North Carolina School Board of Education fought this budget through lawsuit claiming the legislature was violating the state constitution. A panel of superior judges ruled that the board was not able to prove a violation, permitting Johnson’s budget. Conflict arose between the superintendent and the state board regarding the new budget as Johnson claims the board is, “limiting his authority and ignoring his requests,” according to WRAL. With Johnson’s motivation in getting the $700,000 budget for his new team, many changes will be underway in the upcoming weeks with new positions and members assisting Johnson in his term as superintendent.
WRAL reported that Johnson has already begun selecting his new team, beginning with his first hire, Isaac Ridgeway. Ridgeway is a recent NC State graduate who will act as Johnson’s administrative assistant; the official job title being research assistant and project coordinator. The superintendent has many more selections to make, including a new communications specialist, chief of staff, chief innovation officer, a possible associate superintendent and many more positions which he has declined to inform the public as of now.
Although Johnson was faced with a major lawsuit, he claims to be prideful in his position being able to testify why the budget is necessary and lawful. On several occasions, the superintendent has expressed his gratitude for his position and passion in finding success for North Carolina’s educational system. With North Carolina holding so many large districts, Johnson is responsible for overseeing over 1.5 million students and 180,000 full-time public school employees.
Johnson has been in Raleigh for 10 months now serving as superintendent. The state has shown mixed feelings on his capabilities. Some find him charismatic, energetic and a fresh face to education, while others find him inexperienced and difficult to work with. Some educational professionals criticized Johnson’s actions in the workplace, including the fact that Johnson and his team “strikingly always keep their doors closed.”
Johnson’s plan to better the educational system in North Carolina includes a focus on promoting early childhood learning, advancing personalized learning in the classroom, and teaching high school students that college is not the only option after graduation.
Along with the lawsuit involving budget, Johnson has been head-to-head with the school board and intends on “fighting the status quo.” The superintendent has publicly bashed the school board and acknowledges that he has critics. Johnson’s main talking points typically include promising to bring urgency, ownership and innovation to the public school system. In an interview with the Charlotte Observer, Johnson stated, “All learning in school occurs in the classroom, between teacher and student. If we can focus as much as possible on supporting that relationship then we’ll get better results. We’ll make the environment better for teachers and we’ll get better results from students.”
Due to the North Carolina School Board’s lawsuit delaying Johnson’s steps into hiring his new team, we are just beginning to see his journey in searching for qualified experts to assist him in his position.