Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend: Superintendent Mark Johnson’s monarch complex

DPI Superintendent Mark Johnson

In case you missed it, the Saturday editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer does a fine job of summing up the mostly dreadful performance of state schools superintendent Mark Johnson over the last nearly three years.

The latest nonsense to come from Johnson, of course, surrounds the iPads that he bought under questionable circumstances last year. Now, with many of them still sitting in a warehouse, Johnson is dispensing them like the infamous plutocrat John D. Rockefeller handed out nickels and dimes on the street a century ago.

In response to an inquiry from the Board of Education as to the criteria he’s using to hand them out, Johnson made plain that there really are none. Here’s the N&O:

“How do we respond when the question is, ‘Well, what criteria is used to make these awards and how does my school get into the queue to be considered for these awards?’” [Board chair Eric] Davis asked.

“They can email me,” Johnson said.“That’s the criteria?” Davis said.

Apparently, yes. Educators across the state winced at the exchange, while Johnson wondered why he couldn’t just do what wanted. It’s an ongoing pattern with a state superintendent who too often operates without regard to process or protocol — or even the reasons there are processes and protocols. In this case of the extra iPads, such reasons are elementary: Resources are scarce in N.C. schools. Educators should have an equal opportunity to make a case for them, and they shouldn’t be used as props for superintendent photo-ops. At the least, the distribution of resources should be part of larger plans and policies developed together by the state superintendent and state school board.

The editorial goes on to not that Johnson’s lil’ dictator shtick is the byproduct of an ill-conceived GOP pustch in which Johnson’s patrons at the General Assembly passed a law transferring power from the Board of Education to the superintendent. Here’s the conclusion to the editorial:

That left our state’s schools under the unchecked control of an inexperienced schools chief, not a state school board that brings a thoughtful approach and decades of education experience to the challenges our public schools face. A parade of embarrassments have followed, as well as some notable setbacks in programs like the Innovative School District.

Republicans can and should repair the damage they’ve done. They should restore the checks and balances HB 17 removed from public school system leadership, and they should signal to Johnson that his combative, go-it-alone style doesn’t serve North Carolina’s children. Our schools need a leader, not a czar.

Exactly.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

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