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Media report: New DPI superintendent hires former McCrory staffers

New DPI Superintendent Mark Johnson

New DPI Superintendent Mark Johnson

We’ve talked at Policy Watch about how reluctant new Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Mark Johnson has been to reveal the particulars of his plans for reforming a public school system he slammed as “outdated” last week. 

But now, those looking for specifics may have a few tea leaves to read this week. According to a report from The News & Observer, Johnson has tapped some familiar faces to staff his office.

From the N&O:

Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson has hired Lindsey Wakely to the job of senior policy adviser and chief legal counsel. Wakely was McCrory’s deputy general counsel and was former legal counsel for Variety Wholesalers, a company run by conservative businessman, political contributor, and former McCrory budget director Art Pope.

Kevin Wilkinson is Johnson’s special assistant. Wilkinson worked at the legislature for former Rep. Rob Bryan of Charlotte. Bryan was key to establishing the state’s Achievement School District, which the legislature created to have charter-school organizations take over up to five low-performing schools from school districts.

A law the legislature passed last month that the state Board of Education is suing over would have Johnson appoint the Achievement School District superintendent rather than the board. The law is now on hold.

Meredith Steadman, Johnson’s scheduler and special assistant, is a former McCrory scheduler.

The appointments come with Johnson in the midst of a pending court battle to determine exactly what powers he will have in his new office.

State legislation approved in late 2016 granted Johnson greater control over the state’s education budget, senior staffing, the controversial achievement school district and the state’s charter school office, although members of the State Board of Education are challenging that order in the courts.

In the meantime, Johnson has told school leaders he plans to hold a listening tour for the remainder of the year before returning with “action items.”

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