Education

A ‘handful’ of NCPTA convention attendees walked out during Superintendent Mark Johnson’s speech

Susan Book

A handful of people attending the N.C. Parent Teacher Association (NCPTA) Convention reportedly walked out during a speech by State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

Some members of the organization were critical of the organization for allowing Johnson to speak at its 100th Convention held in Charlotte last week.

The walkout follows an online petition signed by more than 100 people disappointed that Johnson was allowed to speak.

Susan Book, a member of the NCPTA’s Special Education Inclusion Committee, started the petition.

Book said Monday that she walked out on Johnson’s speech because she doesn’t believe he stands up for “public education in North Carolina.”

“To be a keynote speaker, an elected official should have more than just a title,” Book said.  “They should be a champion for the cause.  I haven’t seen this from Mark Johnson.”

Johnson could not be reached late Monday afternoon for comment.

However, Linda Crandall, a member of the NCPTA Special Education Inclusion Committee and the organization’s board of directors, wrote N.C. Policy Watch to clarify how Johnson became a convention speaker.

Crandall contends Johnson was not invited to speak, but reached out to NCPTA to ask how he could help during the convention.

She said neither Book’s statements critical of Johnson nor those made by her supporters reflect the views of NCPTA.

“Our organization is strictly non-partisan. We interact with elected officials — and others — equally, on the basis of respect and looking for ways to work together to serve students in our state with one voice,” Crandall wrote. “We also treat speakers at our events with equal respect, regardless of status, political party or any other parameters.”

Meanwhile, Book said she was inspired to walkout by the thousands of teachers who took the day of May 1 to advocate for public schools.

“Compared to their work, walking out on Mark Johnson is nothing,” Book said.

Book tweeted this message from the Convention:

“A handful of us walked out and refused to be an audience for Mark Johnson at the #NCPTACon2019.  Since he refuses to respect teachers and NC Public Education, I feel he should not get a podium at NCPTA convention.”

Dozens of people, many of them educators, weighed in on social media about Johnson and the NCPTA Convention.

Jennifer L. Bourne, an educational equity advocate who lives in East Charlotte attended the convention. Here’s what she posted on her Facebook page:

“Yesterday, in Charlotte, NC Superintendent Mark Johnson stood in front of a room of betrayed parents from across the state, and talked about “urgency… innovation… and support[ing] teachers.” He is truly a magician, who talks about the “American dream,” while simultaneously, intentionally, and actively failing to protect the strong public schools where the dreams of our most vulnerable children grow. I have never been more publicly angry. Time to step it up, North Carolina PTA!!!!! #LiarLiarPantsOnFire.”

2 Comments


  1. George W Zeller

    May 21, 2019 at 6:34 am

    Why would they invite him in the first place…he has minimal experience and thus very little to share….

  2. Renee Sekel

    May 21, 2019 at 8:11 am

    The NCPTA’s poor handling of this issue has many of us feeling that the PTA doesn’t adequately represent its members. It’s not just that they invited Mark Johnson to speak (and the claim that he “asked to help” is no excuse — there are many ways in which he could have participated without being granted an uncritical platform); it’s that they have treated those who protested with such disregard and disrespect.

    We have been lectured by the NCPTA’s lobbyist that, by disagreeing with the PTA, we are doing politics wrong. And even Crandall’s quote indicates that she has made no effort to understand the membership’s objection to Johnson. It’s not that he’s a member of one political party, it’s that he has spent his time in office actively undermining our public schools and has either been silent or actually opposed to the policy ideas NCPTA is supposed to stand for.

    I know that PTA member brought their concerns about Johnson to NCPTA board members privately before Susan’s petition began. At that point, NCPTA had the chance to listen to its members and their very valid concerns. Instead, it has at every opportunity, doubled down on its poor judgment call and has chosen to alienate its membership in order to curry favor with an elected official.

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