This past week the North Carolina General Assembly emphatically snubbed the state’s public school system again when it refused to send a statewide infrastructure bond to the ballot in November to let voters decide on a 1.9 billion dollar package to help rebuild crumbling public schools around the state.
It is also toying with the idea of imposing an income tax cap that may hurt public school funding in times of recession and economic downturn.
Two vitally important issues concerning the health of public schools. So where has State Superintendent Mark Johnson been? Has he said anything? Has he pushed back for the sake of the very schools that he is supposed to lead?
When nearly a fifth of the state’s teaching force showed up in Raleigh on May 16th, where was Mark Johnson?
Not in Raleigh.
But he will show up for “campaign” events like the one this week for Grow Great NC conversing with ALEC aligned politicians like Jeb Bush who might be one of the biggest privatizers in the nation.
So why is Mark Johnson being so “private?” That’s because we have an elected official who refuses to be part of the public.
Imagine you are an official of the state elected by the public. Your job is to lead the state’s public school system. You are the head of the Department of Public Instruction. You are the lead public school instructor. You control public information. You oversee taxpayer money that comes from the public.
Should you not be publicly available? Because that’s a lot of public involved – six “publics” in the first paragraph alone.
From the “Organization” page of DPI’s website (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/organization/):
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) is charged with implementing the state’s public school laws and the State Board of Education’s policies and procedures governing pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public education. The elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction leads the Department and functions under the policy direction of the State Board of Education.
The agency provides leadership and service to the 115 local public school districts and 2,500+ traditional public schools, 150+ charter schools, and the three residential schools for students with hearing and visual impairments. The areas of support include curriculum and instruction, accountability, finance, teacher and administrator preparation and licensing, professional development and school business support and operations.
The NCDPI develops the Standard Course of Study, which describes the subjects and course content that is taught in North Carolina public schools, and the assessments and accountability model used to evaluate student, school and district success. In 2016-2017 Department staff are developing North Carolina’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan. This work is being informed by public comments collected in 12 regional meetings and through feedback collected from educators and others. The states ESSA plan will be submitted to the US Department of Education in September 2017.
The NCDPI administers annual state and federal public school funds totaling approximately $9.2 billion and licenses the approximately 117,000 teachers and administrators who serve public schools. The NCDPI’s primary offices are in Raleigh, with four regional alternative licensing centers in Concord, Fayetteville, Elm City and Catawba. Approximately 30,000 new teacher and administrator licenses are issued annually from these centers. The NCDPI’s work extends to the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching with locations in Cullowhee and Ocracoke, and the NC Virtual Public School – the second largest virtual public school in the nation. The state agency also works closely with nine Regional Education Service Alliances/ Consortia and six regional accountability offices.
There’s a lot of duties in that job description. But is it not ironic that many of those duties seemed to have been ignored? Look at the above job description again (first three paragraphs) with what is known to have happened and what is still happening.
There is no other office in the state of North Carolina that has the word “public” associated with it more. The job description alone has the word “public” in it TWELVE times. And the web address has the word “public” in it – http://www.ncPUBLICschools.org.
That’s unacceptable. As the head of DPI and as the overseer of the “assessments and accountability model used to evaluate student, school and district success,” Johnson would be familiar with the distinct standards that teachers and educators like himself would have to show at least proficiency in.
One of them is communication with stakeholders – students, parents, administration, others.
If you were to look at the North Carolina Teacher Evaluation Rubric (easily found in .pdf form on the web), you could do a “find” for the word “communicate.”
It occurs over 20 times.
Add the word “communication” to the search.
You get over 40 hits.
Communication means being “public” with those who are stakeholders. For Johnson that’s everybody in the state of North Carolina, but if he were being measured by the rubric that he actually is responsible for and should model as the instructional leader of the PUBLIC school system, then he may not be proficient.
When a teacher is evaluated, there are certain pieces of evidence that can be introduced to verify and validate rubric scores.
Imagine how Johnson should be scored. Consider the following pieces of evidence.
- Mark Johnson, the state superintendent of public instruction, may be violating state law by failing to respond to a public records request, according to an articleby N.C. Policy Watch’s Billy Ball, a former INDY staff writer (https://www.indyweek.com/news/archives/2017/06/06/nc-policy-watch-state-superintendent-of-public-instruction-may-be-violating-the-law-by-ignoring-records-requests).
- WRAL News requested an interview with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson to discuss the Senate’s budget. Instead, he emailed a statement, saying he looks forward to “continuing our work with the NC House and Senate as they transform education in North Carolina” (http://www.wral.com/senate-proposes-cutting-8-state-education-staffers-including-42-year-employee/16707728/).
- Johnson has declined multiple interviews with Policy Watch since January, although he has spoken to a handful of other media organizations in the first six months of his term. He also did not respond to Policy Watch communications regarding this report (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/06/06/state-superintendent-may-violating-law-ignoring-public-records-request/).
- The tour will begin at a Winston-Salem high school, although press will reportedly not be allowed to join. Prior to his election as state superintendent, Johnson was a corporate attorney in Winston-Salem and a local school board member (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/02/02/state-superintendent-mark-johnson-begin-listening-tour-winston-salem/#sthash.YoYxJcaT.dpbs).
- In an interview with WRAL News last week, Johnson declined to say what other positions he would like to hire if the bill passes (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-hopes-to-hire-chief-innovation-officer-other-positions-with-help-from-lawmakers/16684497/).
- Johnson isn’t sharing what those ideas are just yet (http://www.wral.com/ousted-nc-superintendent-on-successor-how-do-i-help-an-infant-in-public-education-/16236296/).
- Johnson did not agree to an interview this week, but the superintendent—a Republican who defeated Atkinson in November’s election—said in a statement Tuesday other exceptions have been allowed in the days since. Johnson did not provide specifics, but those exceptions apparently include updates from the department’s finance office, which has continued to post reports (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/07/12/state-school-superintendent-muzzles-communication-dpi/).
That’s not being very public.