Remember that time in March of 2018 when Mark Johnson all of a sudden distributed $200 to each elementary reading teacher in the state?
As reported by Liz Bell of EdNC.org at the time:
The Department of Public Instruction is distributing a total of $4.8 million from funds allocated by the state in 2016 as part of its Read to Achieve initiative for “literacy support” in early grades. Johnson, in his time as superintendent, has emphasized the importance of reading proficiency and early literacy education().
Yes, this seemed like good news. But it seemed rather little when looking at the bigger picture. And it seemed a little empty in the bigger conversation. In fact, it looked more like a publicity stunt.
That money was part of funds originally provided in 2016, yet its allocation in 2018 is something that Johnson seemed to want to get credit for.
Remember the iPads?
Last August, right after a slew of positional layoffs at DPI, Mark Johnson made the improbable announcement of a six million dollar purchase of iPads.
How that money was obtained and how it was immediately spent on Apple products has never really been revealed.
From Travis Fain at WRAL last August 7th:
Reading teachers across the state, from kindergarten to third grade, will get computer tablets from the state this school year in an effort to track and improve student reading.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson announced the plan Tuesday morning, holding up an iPad for the media, the governor and other members of North Carolina’s Council of State. Johnson’s office put the statewide pricetag for the devices at about $6 million.
There was also a video attached to the story. Take a look at it. Judge for yourself.
Apparently that money came from a “discovered” account of unused funds that DPI had from years past. Johnson claims that it is money that previous DPI officials just sat on. Dr. June Atkinson said differently in this piece from NC Policy Watch that Fain cites within his report.
North Carolina’s former public school superintendent June Atkinson says the state’s current K-12 leader “misled” the public when he blasted the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) last month over $15 million in unspent Read to Achieve dollars.
Atkinson criticized Superintendent Mark Johnson in recent interviews with Policy Watch, nearly a month after Johnson slammed the K-12 bureaucracy for “disturbing” spending practices, including its alleged failure to dole out state cash in 2015 and 2016 intended to boost elementary reading proficiency.
“Mark does not understand or has not in all candor or transparency pointed out that a substantial amount of that unspent money would be a direct result of (local) school districts not using the dollars,” says Atkinson.
And now we have the iStation situation – a unilateral decision to award a contract to a vendor not recommended in the selection process.
And there is one link between these three rather surreptitiously conceived “purchases” – Read To Achieve.
So, when is this going to be formally investigated?