Supt. Mark Johnson’s Empty “Authority”

On July 2nd, State Superintendent Mark Johnson sent the following letter to upper level leaders at DPI.


Alex Granados of recently released a report on Johnson’s letter.

With the 8 June 2018 North Carolina Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of Session Law 2016-126, I am now exercising my authority under that Act to manage administrative and supervisory personnel of the Department. Accordingly, I am changing your position appointment from “dual report” to reporting [only to the Superintendent directly] or [to the Superintendent through the Deputy State Superintendent]. The change in your appointment is effective immediately,” Johnson wrote (

It should not be forgotten that literally the week before this letter was sent, Johnson had his HR department deliver pink slips to over 40 DPI staff members whose jobs were compromised by the very same people who gave Johnson his “authority.”

Earlier today, a brave person working at DPI shared a perspective of what it is like inside the very place where Johnson has “authority.” It is found as a comment to a previous post on this blog –

We’re told ‘shh, be quiet; this is a sensitive time’ for all our colleagues who were laid off, when in reality there should be a loud leader fighting for his folks every step of the way, even if the jobs could not be saved. You see, that’s how the damage really occurs here in our agency — not by vocal or visible action of those who ultimately have to answer to their supervisor every day, month and year, but by the SILENCE and joint inaction of the only ones in the agency who AREN’T supervised. The superintendent has no official boss and writes no annual work plan like the rest of us; instead, he gets a four-year ride and won’t have a whiff of accountability for another two and half years, long after the damage has been done. Meanwhile, scores of good people continue to walk out the door, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and the Public Schools of North Carolina will continue to suffer for it.

Johnson’s authority is maintained by his “SILENCE and inaction.”

It would be interesting if a viable and wide-spread poll could be carried out over the entire state that would measure the public’s approval of Johnson’s job. It would also probably be even more damning if that poll was given only to public school teachers.

Consider this – a corporate attorney who taught for two school years through a program that historically does not place many long term teachers into the public schools, who did not complete a full term as a school board member and has never had a child in the public schools was elected in the most contentious election year in recent memory to become state superintendent. After he was elected and before he took office, he was granted more power as a state superintendent by a gerrymandered legislature in a special session that was thought to be called to repeal HB2. He then spent the first sixteen months of his term “embroiled” in a legal battle with the state board of education that is controlled by the same political party and literally has been a non-public figure while a budget that expands vouchers, keeps charter schools from being regulated, lowers per pupil expenditures for traditional public schools, and cuts the budget for the very department he is supposed to run.

All on the taxpayers’ dime.

And he is now exercising his empty authority.

If a principal ran a school in this fashion, the negativity would blot out the sun. If a teacher facilitated a class in this manner, student achievement would be stifled.

Voting out Mark Johnson’s enablers in November would go a long way into restoring integrity as an ingredient in the way we are treating those who directly support our public schools.