(The News and Observer)
Did you know that North Carolina has had the same Superintendent of Public Education for 12 years? That’s about half the lifetime of most of the people reading this article. On November 8th, North Carolina’s (and the nation’s) longest serving Superintendent of Public Education, Democrat June Atkinson, lost the election to the second-youngest statewide, elected official in the country, Republican Mark Johnson.
Johnson, who is 33 years old and who won with 50.6% of the vote, took office as NC’s youngest statewide, elected official on January 1st. A Louisiana native, Johnson is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill’s law school. Johnson’s journey as an educational leader began before his law school days, though; he served two years at Teach for America as an Earth Science teacher at West Charlotte High School. After law school, Johnson went to work in Winston-Salem as corporate counsel for an international technology firm. Later, his involvement with education continued though his service as a board member for Forsyth County School Board.
Johnson has a wife, Rachel, and a three-year old daughter. He states that his daughter is “one of the big reasons” for his campaign, explaining, “My daughter and her peers need someone in Raleigh who will fight for the right policies to give them the best opportunity…” Another driving force in his campaign is the memory of his late grandmother, middle school teacher Amelia Irene Johnson. Johnson says he “would not be where he is today without [his grandmother’s] love and guidance.” Johnson admits he’s “grateful to be able to follow in her footsteps and play [his] part in making sure all children in America have the opportunity to receive an excellent education.”
In his campaign, Johnson advocated giving local school systems more control, reducing the amount of testing that schools perform, improving technology, and repealing Common Core. Johnson advocates a more hands-on approach to education; instead of recommending a “one-size-fits-all” approach to education, he hopes to give every student the ability to reach his or her potential. “I realized that I was ready, if given the opportunity, to devote my life to making sure in my lifetime that all students have the opportunity to succeed… Through my experiences, I realized that opportunity is not available to every student in this country, and it needs to be,” he states.
Watch the state’s Department of Public Instruction to see Johnson’s plans for the next generation!
Kinsley Prendergast wrote this article.