The State Superintendent and the Elephant in the Room – Mark Johnson’s Refusal to Drive the Bus

State Superintendent Mark Johnson has mentioned many times that he draws upon his “years” of teaching as casting perspective in his new role as the leader of the public schools.

And as an “instructional leader,” he should know that questions asked in any “class” should be answered in a straightforward manner with honesty and integrity.

That is what makes the situation that occurred in his October monthly report to the State Board of Education so unsettling and disturbing.

The exchange between Greg Alcorn and Johnson after the presentation definitively displayed how unqualified Johnson truly is in leading the state’s school system. Why? Because Johnson is not acting like a real teacher.

From WRAL’s report entitled “State board member asks NC superintendent to address ‘the elephant in the room,’”

But after 11 minutes of good news stories from the superintendent, state board member Greg Alcorn wanted more.

“I appreciate the good news, but the elephant in the room is the budget cuts,” Alcorn said.

“I’d like to request, Superintendent Johnson, that if possible next month you put a couple things on your presentation that will help us with our clarity and consistency of message,” Alcorn said. “One is the budget cuts and how we’re handling that from your perspective, being able to hear as much as we can on that.”

Alcorn explained that the board also wanted to hear the superintendent’s thoughts on principal pay and how state lawmakers are handling that topic.

“You’re the face and the voice for the state … and I would encourage you to take this precious time to be able to support those two things so I can be in unison with you,” Alcorn added. “Please help us with that.”

Johnson listened quietly, then pulled his microphone in close.

“Yeah. Thank you for that feedback. I’m sure you’ll make the same request of Chairman Cobey for his (monthly) report,” Johnson said, and pushed the microphone away, ending the conversation (

If Mark Johnson was a real teacher, then he would address any “elephant” in his classroom because it is disturbing the progress of the class. In fact, addressing elephants in the room is the job of any teacher because of the “urgency” involved.

When you choose to become a teacher in a public school, you choose to be the person to whom the toughest of questions are asked inside of a classroom setting. And the answers a teacher gives to inquiries concerning the curriculum, the climate of a class, or the actions of a student will always be heard, especially the ones that are not given but are dismissive.

Furthermore, in this day and age, those answers may be communicated quickly to others through social media and technology, hence this report.

Imagine having a student challenge an answer in class or a point of view. A real teacher offers an answer and acknowledges the questions asked.

Johnson once chose to become a teacher. Then he chose to become the leader of schools, at least in name. But this episode says that he again chooses not to lead by action.

Earlier in that meeting he even presented a picture of himself as the person in the driver’s seat of a bus.

Johnson bus

He even jokingly said, “”For some reason, they let me get behind the driver wheel. Luckily, the bus was not turned on.”

Yet, as the metaphorical driver of the entire school system’s bus, he is responsible for the upkeep, maintenance, running, and financing of the “bus.” When he is asked if the “bus” has enough “gas” to make all of the “stops,” he needs to answer. Urgently. But yet….

What Johnson did was to purposefully not answer the question. It’s like the teacher who deliberately ignores a student’s request or inquiry because it might expose a lack of preparation in the lesson planning.

So why does Johnson do this? Because he refuses to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

It is not what a real teacher would do. It’s not what a real leader would do. It’s not what someone elected to state office should do.


One thought on “The State Superintendent and the Elephant in the Room – Mark Johnson’s Refusal to Drive the Bus

  1. Johnson’s smug, even defiant response proves he has neither the knowledge nor the good sense to answer a legitimate question from the Board. All the more proof that he is in that position for one reason — to do the bidding of the jackals in the GA who seek to destroy PUBLIC EDUCATION.

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