“Where, oh where, are you tonight?
Why did you leave me here all alone?
I searched the world over and I thought I’d found true love.
But you met another and pthhp! You was gone.”
– Roy Clark, “Where Are You Tonight?” From Hee Haw
Gloom, despair, and agony on me! I just made an allusion to Hee Haw. And if you don’t know what I am talking about, then go to YouTube and enjoy.
My Saturday nights were filled with Hee Haw as a child in the farmland of the Georgia Piedmont.
But if I simply changed a few words in the chorus while keeping the spirit of the song, it might be an exact anthem for the first two months of Mark Johnson’s tenure.
If I as a teacher walked into a classroom full of students without a lesson plan and declared that I would take the first quarter just to find out what the students were like and what they might want to learn, I would probably be dismissed (yes, I can be dismissed even though I have due-process rights) from my job or at least severely reprimanded.
Simply put, I would not have done my job. I would have short-changed my students, my fellow teachers, my administration, the parents, and really the community at large.
Billy Ball’s recent account in NC Policy Watch entitled “Unofficial DPI spokesman raises questions of accountability, transparency,” reports on a PR executive, who is not an actual employee of the state or an appointee of the Department of Public Instruction, and how he has become a de-facto spokesman for the state’s new superintendent Mark Johnson.
Ball says concerning this person named Jonathan Felts,
“Felts, a former George W. Bush White House staffer, professional GOP consultant and senior advisor to former Gov. Pat McCrory, says he’s taking no pay for his work in the office of new Superintendent Mark Johnson.
That includes providing updates and statements to the press on behalf of Johnson’s state office and offering scheduling details for the superintendent as he embarks on a statewide listening tour. Felts emphasizes his official title is transition chairman for Johnson, nearly two months into the new superintendent’s tenure in Raleigh” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/02/21/unofficial-dpi-spokesman-raises-questions-accountability-transparency/).
Yes, it is a little weird that a “transition chairman” be performing this “labor of love” to help out the new superintendent. And yes, it raises questions about accountability and transparency. But there is a bigger question here.
Where the hell is Mark Johnson and what has he been doing to help “reform” our antiquated public school system?
“Where, oh where, are you today?
Why did you leave us here all alone?
I searched the state over to just get some answers.
But you met another and pthhp! You was gone.”
Oh, right. He’s out “listening” to people.
Does it not seem that THE leader of public education in the state of North Carolina, the instructional leader for the unit on transforming what he called an antiquated system, be up in front of the class that is this state leading the discussing and execution of the lesson plan.
Even he talked about the urgency of the situation especially in his first words to the state board of education in early January.
“There will never be another Jan. 5, 2017 ever again. No matter how we use this day, if we make the most of it, if we waste it, it’s gone. Every day we don’t take bold actions for our students is a day we lose. Every day we don’t take bold actions for our teachers, is a day they lose.”
“If we don’t act with urgency, we’ll continue to betray students. And we’ll continue to lose teachers and have difficulty recruiting them and retaining them” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/01/05/new-superintendent-public-instruction-highlights-urgent-need-transform-outdated-school-system/).
Johnson even lauded the exchange of power from the state board to the superintendent with bills like HB17. On December 18, 2016, the Winston-Salem Journal reported,
Among the provisions limiting the power of Gov.-elect Roy Cooper, House Bill 17 strips power over the state’s vast public education system from State Board of Education and transfers it to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Starting in January, that will be Johnson. The 33-year-old lawyer was two years into his first term on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education when he beat incumbent June Atkinson, a 40-year veteran of DPI. The Democrat was seeking her fourth-term. Johnson’s previous education experience includes two years in Teach For America, where he taught at West Charlotte High School.
After the bill’s passage Friday, Johnson commended lawmakers for passing “straight-forward, common-sense reforms.”
“HB 17 will help usher in an era of greater transparency at DPI by eliminating the more confusing aspects of the relationship between the N.C. superintendent and the N.C. Board of Education,” Johnson said.
“This will better serve constituents visiting Raleigh as our working relationship will be more similar to how local superintendents and their respective boards of education work together across North Carolina.”
HB17 would actually give the State Board of Education considerably less oversight of Johnson’s decisions at the Department of Public Instruction, though, than Johnson had as a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education over the district’s superintendent.
One example: hiring and firing.
Yet, what we have mostly heard from the state superintendent are words from a non-paid spokesperson who still has some sort of title that applies to transition chair.
Mark Johnson says he plans to spend the rest of the school year on his listening tour to come up with a list of action items to present as part of his vision to transform NC public schools.
That’s January through June, or:
- Six months.
- 180 days.
- One/eighth of his term as state superintendent.
- One/fourth the amount of time he spent in an unfilled term on a local school board.
- A little over 25% of the amount of time he was a teacher.
Billy Ball also made a point of how Johnson seems a little “press-shy” often declining interviews with media outlets concerning his “urgency.”
It seems as if the teacher at the front of the room is refusing to answer a question concerning the lesson from a student who really wants to know what is going on.
Teachers are always available to students, especially during class at while at school. One would expect the same from the instructional leader of the state’s teachers.
At least that was what he was elected to do when people assumed that he had listened to them while campaigning and was ready to start his process as soon as he took office.
And he should because there will never be another February 23, 2017 ever again.
Or a February 24, 2017.
Or a February 25, 2017.
Or a February 26, 2017.
Or a February 27, 2017.
Or a February 28, 2017.
Or a March 1, 2017.
Or a March 2, 2017.
Or a March 3, 2017.
Or a March 4, 2017.
Or a March …
Or a …