Our State Superintendent Will Rally, Just Not For Public Schools

Rally (noun) –
1a : a mustering of scattered forces to renew an effort
2: a mass meeting intended to arouse group enthusiasm (merriam-webster.com)

The following tweet came from our state superintendent on June 25th of this year.


It is the right of every American to come together and peacefully speak out for an issue. What someone rallies for speaks for their interests and values.

When a lawmaker or an elected official attends a rally, it can show his priorities and/or his loyalties like Mark Johnson.

According to the job description of the state superintendent, Johnson is responsible for the “day-to-day” management of the North Carolina public school system. It seems that if anything was to threaten the public school system, then Mark Johnson would be the first to “rally” for the public school system and the students in the public school system.

This past January a rally was held in Raleigh at the Halifax Mall of public school advocates calling for a fix to the class size mandate that threatens most public school systems. This unfunded dictate would cause LEA’s to make decisions on what classes must be eliminated and how to navigate certain obstacles on classroom space and teacher allotment.

That rally was to petition Raleigh’s lawmakers to do the right thing. FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

Mark Johnson was not there. Didn’t even tweet about it. Yet a former state superintendent was present, Bob Etheridge. He was rallying for public schools.

But that does not mean Mark Johnson did not “rally” for people in January.


Johnson was there. He was even the keynote speaker. He will rally for charter schools in a state that has gone out of its way to deregulate charter schools, ramp up vouchers, and use taxpayer money to fund those endeavors when no empirical data shows an overall increase in student achievement.

That’s the same taxpayer money that is not now being used for public schools and not being used to actually fund the class size mandate.

Fast forward to another rally. IMG_6484

When nearly a fifth of the state’s teaching force showed up in Raleigh on May 16th, where was Mark Johnson?

Not there in Raleigh. He didn’t even tweet about it.

But he did tweet about the NC Farmers on June 25th. And they certainly need all of our support, but did Johnson ever approach the NCGA about their decision to protect hog farm corporations in lawsuits when they are clearly encroaching on quality of life for people who live in the rural areas near them?

Ironically, when Johnson tweets support for agricultural studies in rural ares he is supposedly showing support for counties whose school systems may rely on DPI to help with professional development and other resources. If Johnson wanted to help some of those rural areas, then maybe he would have fought harder for DPI to keep both their budgeting and their staff who service all students.

Hard to be a leader of the public schools when you don’t rally with teachers or for public schools, but rather seem more interested in being friendly with those who seek to privatize public schools like in the following instance:


That was on June 26th, the day after the rally for farmers. By the end of the week, Johnson laid off over 40 DPI veterans. The Human Resources Dept. did the laying-off. Johnson wasn’t there.

There’s a pattern, and it shows that Mark Johnson simply refuses to rally for, with, and among teachers in support of public education.

How Easily Supt. Johnson Could Have Prevented the Recent Department of Public Instruction Purge…

…but it would mean going against the wishes of those who control him, and it would also break tradition of actually serving the public school system.

From WRAL’s Kelly Hinchcliffe this past June 29:

State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced Friday that the Department of Public Instruction is eliminating 61 positions – 40 employees and 21 vacant positions. The layoffs are in response to $5.1 million in budget cuts lawmakers made to the agency.

The cuts mainly affect employees in two divisions – Educator Support Services, which helps some of the state’s lowest-performing schools, and Information Technology. The General Assembly reduced the agency’s administrative funds by 6.2 percent this school year and 13.9 percent next school year.

“I support the decisions we made, but we did not make them lightly,” Johnson said in a statement. “I thank all the affected employees for their hard work in support of our public schools. Each will have the option to receive transition assistance, and we are adamant about helping each affected employee who wants our help to find new employment” (https://www.wral.com/40-state-education-staffers-laid-off-21-vacant-positions-eliminated/17665067/).

That was $5.1 million in budget cuts. Yet Johnson has more than accounted $5.1 million in spending above and beyond what this year’s budget already allotted.

Remember when  Johnson was given 700,000 dollars to hire people loyal only to Johnson who were performing tasks already fulfilled and to cover legal fees in a lawsuit with the state board.



Johnson also spent a million dollars to pay Ernst & Young to perform an audit to find supposed “wasteful” uses of funds in DPI.

The audit concluded that DPI was underfunded.

There’s $1.7 million right there.

Then there is this from this past March:

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(https://www.ednc.org/2018/03/09/superintendent-johnson-continues-push-early-literacy-announces-200-k-3-reading-teacher/).

Dr. June Atkinson shed some light on this “magic” funding last December. It might be worth reading this report from NC Policy Watch – “Mark Johnson accused of misleading the public regarding literacy program spending.”

Yes, that money Johnson “found” went to teachers, but it seemed to magically appear out of nowhere. On purpose.

Ironically, Johnson could have fought for more early literacy funding in this year’s budget. It seems to be his big endeavor. And if it that important to him, then would he not actively fight for additional funds for that initiative from the very same lawmakers who are lowering corporate tax rates AGAIN and bragging about a surplus?

Plus, look at the positions eliminated by Johnson and Raleigh.

$1.7 million + $4.8 million = a hell of a lot more than $5.1 million.

In fact, it could allow for those DPI veterans to remain working with low-performing schools and fill the vacant spots with literacy coaches and have money left over to hire more people who can help with reading initiatives around the state.




“To Seem, Rather Than to Be” – The Motto of the State Superintendent

For years the official state motto for North Carolina has been “Esse quam videri” which is Latin for “To be, rather than to seem.” 

This motto (along with “In God We Trust”) is part of a bill that would have all public schools in North Carolina display such words for all to see. The “In God We Trust” issue is for another argument, but if we were to have “Esse quam videri” prominently displayed in all schools, it would be nice if it really depicted what those in North Carolina’s political system actually abided by, especially the state superintendent who is more than eager to exert full control over the public school system.

Yesterday, teachers were sent an email by the state superintendent over school system emails that is a harsh contradiction to the actual state motto.

July 4th

The text is as follows:


Happy 4th of July.

We are fortunate to live in a country that has a dream named after it. Every student, no matter their background, should be able to work hard and reach their American Dream. Public education is the greatest tool we have to help every child succeed, and you are the most important part of public education.

However you celebrate our nation this Independence Day, please be safe, and know how much America owes to its educators.

Thank you for everything you do and for your service to our state. North Carolina is fortunate to have you.

That short missive is in total contradiction to the state motto of “To be, rather than to seem.” If those words are measured against the actions that Johnson and others in Raleigh have taken to hurt public education, then it seems that the more appropriate motto to attach to them would be “To seem, rather than to be.”

In other words, “Say the right things, but don’t back them up with appropriate actions.”

Johnson mentions the “American Dream” often. It was part of his campaign.  In fact, Johnson’s note to teachers sounds a lot like what he said in an op-ed for EdNC.org in September of 2016.

“We are blessed beyond measure to be citizens of the United States, the only nation ever to have a dream named after it. No matter who you are, your background, your neighborhood, or your race; you should be able to go to school, work hard, and reach your American Dream” ((https://www.ednc.org/2016/09/07/our-american-dream/).

Yet, has there ever been a time when Johnson has come out and defended the “Dreamers” in our schools from recent actions on immigration? Has Johnson ever come out against policies that keep over 20% of public school students from escaping poverty? In calling public education the “greatest tool” for success, did Johnson back that up with lobbying hard for more funding and more personnel for public schools?

No. The words are there. The actions never have been.

Johnson also tells educators how “important” they are and that NC is “fortunate” to have them. Automatically, many think of May 16th’s march and rally in which almost a fifth of the state’s teaching force came directly to Raleigh. Were they so important that Johnson actually met with them?

No. Just words. No actions.

However, this type of communication is consistent with Johnson’s approach. Face-to-face interaction with teachers and public school officials is not a strong suit for the state superintendent. Actual dialogue with the very people he supposedly leads is his very kryptonite which is totally antithetical to how teachers should be.

And Johnson loves to talk about his teaching “career.”

The typical Johnson way of interacting with public schools has been indirect and hands-off with the hope of not having to accept any responsibility for reality but having enablers craft words and carry out actions on his behalf.

Just ask those 40+ DPI veterans who were forced to leave due to budget cuts that Johnson never fought against and were given notices by HR people and never came face to face with the very person whose experience in education is dwarfed by every individual affected many times over.

Oh, and many of those former DPI employees were helping low-income school systems to accomplish great growth, leading students out of poverty.

To seem, rather than to be.

The State Superintendent Meets With Privatizers on Monday, Then 40 People Were Laid Off at DPI on Friday

On Monday,  Johnson was busily entertaining former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and a multitude of other politicians who have made it their job to privatize public education in North Carolina.



On Friday, he laid off 40 people from the Department of Public Instruction due to a budget cut made by many lawmakers in the same room as Johnson and Bush in a year where the state supposedly had a surplus.

From T. Keung Hui in  today’s News & Observer,

Layoff notices were given Friday to 40 employees at the state Department of Public Instruction — including several who work with North Carolina’s low-performing schools — to help meet a $5.1 million budget cut ordered by state lawmakers.

Most of the cuts were in Educator Support Services, a division that helps low-performing schools and districts, and in the Information Technology Division. In addition to the 40 layoffs, 21 vacant positions were eliminated, according to State Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson.

“Today, we implemented the budget reductions required by law for the 2018-19 fiscal year,” Johnson said in a written statement. “The plan we developed, drafted by members of the DPI leadership team with the understanding and support of the State Board of Education, was informed by the recommendations contained in the third-party operational review of the agency completed earlier this year by Ernst & Young (EY) “ (https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article214065504.html).

Those same state lawmakers also gave Johnson 700,000 dollars to hire people loyal only to Johnson who were performing tasks already fulfilled and to cover legal fees in a lawsuit with the state board.



Those same lawmakers also gave Johnson a million dollars to pay Ernst & Young to perform an audit to find supposed “wasteful” uses of funds in DPI.

They concluded that DPI was underfunded.

1.7 million dollars is exactly a third of the amount of money cut from the budget for DPI. Wonder how many jobs that would translate to?

Johnson’s remarks in the N&O report were submitted by a written report. He could meet Jeb Bush personally, but was he there to give the DPI employees who have been there much longer than he has their notices?

What Johnson said later in his written statement is even more egregious.

“I support the decisions we made, but we did not make them lightly. I thank all the affected employees for their hard work in support of our public schools. Each will have the option to receive transition assistance, and we are adamant about helping each affected employee who wants our help to find new employment.”

All jobs in DPI that relate to charter schools and the Innovative School District were not touched.

This just keeps proving something that most public school advocates already knew: Mark Johnson is simply toxic for North Carolina’s public school system. Voting out the puppet masters who enable him in November could go a long way into reclaiming our public schools.




Appearance Vs. Reality – Mark Johnson’s Universal Theme

For a public official, how one is perceived by the public for whom he serves is of vital importance. Carefully crafted press releases and talking points are crucial in at least giving the appearance of integrity.

For instance, take this tweet about the Teacher Working Conditions Survey from June 11th from Mark Johnson:


If it took that survey for him to make that conclusion, then Johnson already has a disconnect with reality and is trying to make it not appear to be so. Also interesting that he uses the word “theme,” because there certainly is a running theme to the tenure of Mark Johnson.

Then on June 12th, he wrote a message in the Wilson Times to recent grads telling them to seize their opportunities now and not wait.

“Make the most out of every moment. Every bit of time that passes is time you won’t get back. As soon as you read these words, they will be in the past.”

“And, don’t be afraid to pursue the challenges that make life worth living” (http://www.wilsontimes.com/stories/advice-life-lessons-for-the-class-of-2018,129000).

He even began the op-ed addressing them directly “and their loved ones who will hopefully cut this out of the paper or share it on Facebook for them to read.”

Then there is a reality that does not “appear” until the shine of the appearance wears off – like what was reported today.

What Kelly Hinchcliffe, WRAL’s education reporter, published today was not only a piece of journalistic integrity – it was a testament of the power of the free press. Exercising the right to access public records, Hinchcliffe examined over 100 pages of emails and texts from Mark Johnson during the time leading up to the historic teacher protest on May 16th.

The report opens,

As thousands of North Carolina teachers prepared to rally at the state Capitol and lobby lawmakers for more education funding last month, the state superintendent of public schools was busy making plans of his own.

In the weeks leading up to the rally, State Superintendent Mark Johnson sought advice from three public relations advisers about how to explain to the public why he didn’t support the rally and wouldn’t be attending. He worked to highlight ways he has supported teachers and pondered where he should spend the day on May 16 as thousands of educators descended on downtown Raleigh.

When reporters questioned him about the impending rally, Johnson stuck to his talking points, he assured his advisers, but said he expected there would be “protesters” against him because of his stance (https://www.wral.com/emails-texts-reveal-nc-superintendent-s-internal-discussions-about-teacher-rally/17606382/?version=amp&__twitter_impression=true).

What Billy Ball in NC Policy Watch highlighted from WRAL in his report that gave Hinchcliffe’s piece much deserved recognition is just part of why Hinchcliffe’s report needs reading.



That’s not a person taking his own advice and trying to remove obstacles for teachers so they can be most productive. That’s a man trying to make excuses and running away from confrontation.

For a man who just told tens of thousands of high school graduates in a letter (that he advertised as worth “cutting out” and sharing) to confront challenges and who also just tweeted his unwavering support of teachers and what they said in an actual live “teacher working condition survey,”  Johnson does not practice what he preaches.

What a hard-working journalist like Kelley Hinchcliffe did was show that appearance and reality are often two different things.





If Mark Johnson Wants to be “Data-Driven,” Then He Might Want to Look at the Data

“While it is unfortunate that it took more than a year and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to resolve this matter, the positive news is that we will be able to utilize the data-driven analysis to reorganize DPI to help the agency focus on its core mission of supporting educators, students and parents across North Carolina.” – Mark Johnson (6/8) on the Supreme Court decision in case with SBOE.

The idea of using data to drive policy is not a new occurrence. But it is sometimes hard to quantify the qualitative aspects of public education.  Some officials like to look at proficiency levels and scores. Teachers tend to look at growth. One is a snapshot. The other is a look at the terrain traveled.

But if Mark Johnson is now going to use some data-driven analysis, there is some irrefutable data that provides a very clear picture of what can be done to help public education here in North Carolina.

1. Poverty Influences How Well Students Perform in a State Where Over 1 in 5 Public School Students Lives in Poverty


That is from the 2015–16 Performance and Growth of North Carolina Public Schools Executive Summary, NC DPI.

In Sept. of 2016, Mark Johnson said, “The transformation of our public education system will open true pathways out of poverty” (https://www.ednc.org/2016/09/07/our-american-dream/).

Maybe attacking poverty at its root sources could do so much to help education. The data tends to show that.

2. Average is Not Actual When It Comes To Teacher Pay

Johnson and the people he allies himself to in the GOP super majority take a lot of time talking about how “average” teacher pay has risen.

Here’s a data point.

  • In 2017 the average teacher pay in North Carolina was %16 behind the national average. In 2018 the average teacher pay in NC was STILL %16 behind the national average.

Consider the following table compiled by John deVille, NC public school activist and teacher veteran who has chronicled the various changes in educational policy for years. He tracked the recent teacher pay “increase” and used DATA-DRIVEN logic to show something rather interesting.


What deVille did was to compare salaries as proposed from the recent budget to the 2008-2009 budget that was in place right before the Great Recession hit, the same financial catastrophe that most every GOP stalwart seems to forget happened ten years ago. Adjusting the 2008-2009 salary schedule with an inflation index from the Bureau of Labor, the third column shows what those 2008-2009 salaries would be like now. Most steps see a shortfall. Add to that the loss of longevity pay that was used to help finance these “historic raises” and the amount of money lost by teachers over these past ten years becomes rather eye-opening.

Also notice that the biggest shortfalls happen to veteran teachers. That not only affects take home pay, but also retirement because the average of the last four years helps to project pension.

Look at the charts below from the recent Teacher Working Conditions Survey released by Johnson’s office this past week.

years employed

Take notice of the number of veteran teachers in the state. Compare that to the number of teachers in the state who have less than ten years experience. There’s a trend going on in teaching here in NC. More teachers are leaving the classroom at earlier times in their career. The number of veteran teachers in the state will drop as years go by.

Even Mark Johnson left the classroom after two years. That’s a data point.

3. Public Education is the Top Employer in Most Counties

North Carolina has 100 counties (with 115 LEA’s), each with a public school system. According to the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Dept. of Commerce, the public schools systems are at least the second-largest employers in nearly 90 of them—and the largest employer, period, in almost 70. That means teachers represent a base for most communities, the public school system.  And teachers are strong in numbers.


If people went to the polls in November and had public education as a top priority and had unspun information helping to inform decisions on whom to elect, then there could be significant change occurring quickly.

4. When Lawmakers Say They Are Spending More on Education, It Doesn’t Mean That Per-Pupil Expenditures Have Risen

Here’s a recent Facebook post from Senator Joyce Kraweic.

kraweic facebook post

Say in 2008, a school district had 1000 students in its school system and spent 10 million dollars in its budget to educate them. That’s a 10,000 per pupil expenditure. Now in 2018, that same district has 1500 students and the school system is spending 11.5 million to educate them. That district is spending more total dollars now than in 2008 on education, but the per-pupil expenditure has gone down –  significantly to over 2300 dollars per student or 23 percent.

What many in Raleigh like Kraweic want to pat themselves on the backs about is that we as a state are spending more on education than ever before. And that’s true. Just listen for the many examples to come from legislators looking to get reelected this year to the NC General Assembly yet passing a budget through a nuclear option to avoid having to answer questions about the facts.

But when the average spent per pupil does not increase with the rise in the cost of resources and upkeep and neglects to put into consideration that the population of North Carolina has exploded in the last couple of decades, then that political “victory” becomes empty.

5. Lots of Teachers Already Know These Data Points


More Proof That the Incestuous School District (ISD) of NC is a Pay-to-Play Scheme

Read this only if you want need further evidence that the Innovative School District here in North Carolina is a pay-to-play ploy by privatizers in North Carolina.


An ex-North Carolina lawmaker received financial benefits for his work with a nonprofit that stands to win a state contract with the public school takeover program he helped create, documents obtained by Policy Watch show.

A state disclosure form shows Rob Bryan, a former Charlotte legislator who now sits on the UNC Board of Governors, received at least $5,000 in 2017 as a “stipend” for his work with Achievement for All Children, Inc. (AAC), a Forest City-based nonprofit that’s in the final stages of negotiating a school takeover contract with the State Board of Education (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2018/04/25/school-takeover-groups-payment-to-ex-lawmaker-raises-ethics-questions/). 

NC Policy Watch’s Billy Ball reported today that Rob Bryan received money for his work from the very “nonprofit” for which he works that is profiting from a bill he actually ramrodded through the NC General Assembly in 2016.

That means that Rob Bryan is profiting from working for an outfit that is profiting from taxpayer money for a venture that Rob Bryan put together with taxpayer money two years ago without taxpayer input.

What? Yes, that’s what happened. Again:

  • Rob Bryan literally created the bill that enabled the ISD to come to NC.
  • As a legislator, Rob Bryan received campaign funds from John Bryan, the founder of TeamCFA which is connected to AAC for which Rob Bryan now works.
  • AAC was chosen to operate NC’s ISD by Eric Hall, ISD superintendent.
  • Eric Hall is to report straight to Mark Johnson, NC State Superintendent.
  • Rob Bryan and Mark Johnson are both TFA alums.
  • On the board of AAC is also Darrell Allison, who was recently leader of PEFNC, a school choice advocacy group.
  • Rob Bryan and Darrell Allison also serve on the UNC Board of Governors.

And the funny part is what Eric Hall said in Ball’s article.

Eric Hall, superintendent of the Innovative School District, indicated he wasn’t aware of the payment when contacted by Policy Watch this week, although he said no state dollars disbursed to Achievement for All Children would be used to compensate board members like Bryan.

That’s weak. Money is money. AAC got money from the state. Rob Bryan got money from AAC.


Just further proof that ISD really stands for the Incestuous School District.

For more on Rob Bryan and the ISD, please refer to this posting: https://caffeinatedrage.com/2018/04/08/the-incestuous-school-district-isd-of-nc-follow-the-money-to-see-the-pay-to-play/.

The Office of The NC State Superintendent – Where Doughnuts Are More Important Than Public Schools

If Mark Johnson is willing to run for doughnuts, is he willing to walk with teachers on May 16 in a day for advocacy in support of public schools?

Unfortunately, most teachers in this state already know the answer to that question.

ncae rally

Of all the issues that have surrounded NC and the General Assembly’s assault on the public schools of this state, one would be hard-pressed to find where our state superintendent has made a stand on behalf of the public schools. Consider:

  • per pupil expenditures
  • vouchers
  • unregulated charter schools
  • principal pay plan
  • merit pay
  • removal of due-process rights and graduate school pay
  • revolving door of standardized tests
  • need for more support staff
  • class size chaos

That is just a sampling. Oh, and Johnson and the state school board are still in a court battle concerning a power struggle over public schools. He’s using taxpayer money to fund his legal costs.

Yet with all of the lack of action on behalf of Johnson on really pressing issues, he has spent quite an amount of energy on … doughnuts.

This is the last missive teachers have received from the state superintendent in our inboxes this past week. It has been the subject of the last few communications between Johnson and public school teachers.

I wanted to send you a wrap-up message about the 2018 Teachers Working Conditions Survey. Thank you to the nearly 110,000 school-based educators across the state who completed the survey. That gives us a final completion rate of 90.54 percent – the highest ever for North Carolina!
The results of the survey should be available about five weeks from now. We’ll send you a link when it’s up.
Now, the last piece of business we have is my wager with you that if we reached 95 percent completion, I would complete the Krispy Kreme Challenge – 2.5 miles, 12 doughnuts, 2.5 miles. We didn’t quite make it, although we did come within 0.41 percent of beating Kentucky’s mark for best-ever completion rate. But I am very proud that 109,449 of you took the time to take the survey. That is an amazing number and a true testament to your dedication to your profession.
So I’ll call it a split decision: I’ll run the race. As to how many doughnuts I’ll eat in the middle of the race, we’ll see…
Thanks again, and as always, know that we appreciate everything you do for North Carolina’s students.

That questionnaire really does nothing to address the very issues that plague North Carolina’s public schools because of the treatment by those in the NCGA. You can reference that questionnaire and an explanation of what it does not do here: https://caffeinatedrage.com/2018/04/03/somethings-wrong-with-the-north-carolina-dpis-teacher-working-conditions-survey/.

It is rather ironic that Johnson wants to have beaten a state in its “response to a questionnaire” that actually saw its teachers rally in great numbers on its state capital.

But what is most ironic is that the man who is supposed to be the educational leader wants to talk about what he will eat in a race next year rather than advocate for the students and schools he is supposed to support.


Why the Hell Is Mark Johnson Hiring More Public Relations Personnel?

Over fifteen months into office, State Superintendent Mark Johnson is hiring more people loyal to him while in the midst of a lawsuit over the constitutionality of a power grab that happened the month before he took an oath to advocate for public schools.

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson has created two new positions in his office to provide extra help with public relations and public records requests.

They mark the fourth and fifth positions Johnson has created from a $700,000 fund of taxpayer money lawmakers granted him last year. The money allows Johnson to add up to 10 full-time positions and hire staff without approval of the State Board of Education, a key provision lawmakers gave him as he battles the state board in court over control of the public school system (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-creates-two-new-jobs-to-help-with-public-relations-public-records/17482124/).

To be specific those two jobs are:

  • Community relations specialist, paying $50,000, to manage public records requests and help with media inquiries and other communications.
  • Deputy community outreach coordinator, a part-time position paying $36,173, to help “develop key messages” the superintendent wants to get out to the public, as well as community outreach and media relations duties.

Help with media inquiries, community outreach, media relations, and other communications?

That makes absolutely no sense when one looks at the current organization of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Below is the chart published last September (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/organization/orgchart/orgchart.pdf).


That’s a fairly big chart for an organization that already reports to the state superintendent.

Look closely and you see that there is already a whole division that does the job of what Johnson is hiring for.

It’s called the COMMUNICATIONS Department.


What makes this more interesting is that Johnson has already hired people to help with this “communications” thing (from the WRAL report cited earlier).


Graham Wilson has been operating as a sort of spokesperson for Johnson for a few months already.

Why would Johnson keep hiring people to do the job of others who are already in the position to do the prescribed task?

That’s not rhetorical. It seems odd that someone can make the salary that a new teacher might obtain after two decades on the job just so that Johnson does not have to speak for himself.

It also seems unfair that someone could have a part-time job to “speak” for Johnson and that person make more than a new teacher with a doctoral degree teaching in a low-income school.

Over a year in the job and a “listening” tour under his belt and an unfulfilled promise to bring to the table a host of new innovations because we are in a “state of urgency” and the state superintendent needs to find more people to communicate what he may be trying to say?

Can I as a teacher have someone to “help ‘develop key messages'” that I might want to get across to students and parents, as well as “community outreach” with the surrounding community?

Don’t think so.

Mark Johnson ran on a platform of having been an educator. Educators have to be good at communicating and developing key messages themselves. And those messages are direct.

But the timing of this seems odd. And the purpose of it seems more self-serving as the fund from which Johnson will pay said people comes from the NC General Assembly that controls and enables him.

Would be nice if Johnson stated the reason for such hiring. It would remove all the doubt of whether this is just another part of a plan to get ready to run for another office in 2020.





Something’s Wrong With the North Carolina DPI’s Teacher Working Conditions Survey

Teachers in North Carolina have an extended deadline to complete the NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey for the Department of Public Instruction. Currently we are at 90% of teachers completing it. State Superintendent Mark Johnson wants at least 95%.

It would be a badge of honor for him.

The survey happens once every two years, yet this is the first one with Mark Johnson as the state superintendent. It has become such a crusade for him to get every teacher to participate in this survey that he has issued a “sweet” incentive: if we as a state get %95 of teachers to complete the survey and are the top state as far as participation percentages are concerned, Mark Johnson said he would compete in the Krispy Kreme Challenge in Raleigh next year.

Mark Johnson will run that race and eat doughnuts for us. He will literally throw up, yak, hurl, puke, upchuck, heave, vomit, and blow chunks for us.

But I have one big (among smaller ones) complaint about the survey: it should ask teachers views not only of their school, but MORE of their perceptions of the county / LEA leadership and state leadership.

You can see the questions that were administered on the 2016 version here: NC_TWC_2016_State_Detailed_Results_North_Carolina_Department_of_Public_Instruction. Those questions have not really changed.

The results from that 2016 version did nothing more than demonstrate the disconnect between those who work in schools and those who want to re-form schools; they displayed that what really drives the success of a school are the people – from the students to the teachers to the administration to the support staff and the community at large.

It is hard to take a survey seriously from DPI when the questions never get beyond a teacher’s actual school. There is never any way to convey in this survey from the state what teachers think about the state’s role in education or how standardized testing is affecting working conditions.

It should ask teachers views not only of their school, but MORE of their perceptions of the county / LEA leadership and state leadership.

Below are the main questions (there are subsets) asked on the survey that actual teachers answer.

  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about the use of time in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about your school facilities and resources.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about community support and involvement in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about managing student conduct in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about teacher leadership in your school.
  • Please indicate the role teachers have in each of the following areas in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about leadership in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about professional development in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about instructional practices and support in your school.

There is nothing about how teachers feel about the state’s role in how public schools operate. If Johnson was really keen on “listening” to teachers concerning their views about working in NC public schools, then the questions should also go beyond the “School” and explore the “state.”

Imagine if we as teachers got to answer questions such as:

  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about ho the state helps schools with facilities and resources.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about the state’s support and involvement in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about state leadership at the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about state leadership.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about professional development sponsored by the state.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about  support for schools from the state.

When NC public schools receive a majority of their funds, mandates, stipulations, guidelines, and marching orders from the state, then should not the NC Teacher Working Condition Survey include teacher perceptions on the role of the state and its influence?


But the results of those questions on the survey would tell a much more pointed story, one that Mark Johnson may not really want to know or have published. It may make him actually throw up those doughnuts before he even eats them.

We need more pointed questions.

Mark Johnson prided himself on conducting a “Listening Tour” when he assumed office. A more “genuine” Teacher Working Conditions Survey would give him a lot to consider.

But until the survey is changed, his lack of leadership and the privatizing elements on West Jones Street will have a survey that instantly absolves them of blame. No wonder Johnson so wants us to fill out the survey.


And there’s that hashtag, #BeatKY. Kentucky holds the record for response rate.

Interesting about Kentucky and their teachers. Just this week they “answered” some questions about their own working conditions.

In person.

At the state capital.

kentucky teachers

How many doughnuts is that participation worth?