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Thurs, Jan 23, 6:30pm, Chapel Hill Public Library, Denied and  Abridged: The Struggle for Voting Rights in NC. Anna Richards  (CH-Carrboro NAACP) and Irving Joyner (law professor at NCCU) speaking.  Sponsored by Neighbors on Call. Register here.

Throughout  Mark Johnson’s time as NC Superintendent of Public Instruction, his  lack of effort to prioritize the needs of public education have been called into question. Read more here. Beyond that, his ability to follow proper procedures and use State funds responsibly are in question.

Most recently, Superintendent Johnson emailed school districts to tell them that the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) had "executed an 'emergency purchase' of Istation 'in order to ensure the continuation of . . . obligations under the Read to Achieve legislation.' (Read more here.)

According to NC Policy Watch, "State Superintendent Mark Johnson may have violated state policy when he  failed to seek approval from the state’s Chief Information Officer  (CIO) before signing an emergency contract with Istation" for the nearly $1 million contract.

Furthermore, "State CIO Eric Boyette may 'suspend or cancel' the contract if DPI cannot adequately justify the 'emergency purchase' or the 'execution of  the RFQ (Request for Quotes),' which took place outside of normal business hours." The Department of Information Technology has given DPI until 10 am on Tuesday to answer questions about the purchase.


emergency purchase came one day after a superior judge refused to lift a stay to allow DPI to continue to work with Istation. The judge’s ruling left North Carolina without a tool to assess reading levels of  its K-3 students. . . . An administrative hearing on the merits of the controversial award of  an $8.3 million, three-year contract to Istation is scheduled to begin  Monday [January 13]. It’s doubtful the case will be resolved immediately, so  Johnson’s temporary contract with Istation would allow schools to  continue assessing students’ reading levels using the Istation program.  It was unclear late Friday what happens if Boyette suspends or cancels  the emergency purchase.
Amplify, an Istation competitor whose mClass assessment tool had been  used in North Carolina’s K-3 classrooms for several years, filed a  protest over the summer contending the contract was unfairly awarded. In  August, the DIT granted Amplify a temporary stay against the use of  the Istation reading assessment tool.
Jonathan Shaw, the chief counsel for DIT, upheld the stay in  December, contending that the “evidence and arguments of record” are  sufficient to indicate that DPI failed to comply with state law and  information technology procurement rules and “jeopardized the integrity  and fairness of the procurement process.

Read more from NC Policy Watch.

Read more about the $928,527 "emergency purchase" here.

Read more about Shaw's findings when he upheld the stay in December here.

Read more here about how a Wake County Superior Court judge said that "North Carolina public schools will continue using the Istation reading  assessment tool . . . until a full Superior Court hearing." (This is the one held last Tuesday, Jan. 7. Obviously the different parties involved viewed this ruling in different ways, but from a public school teacher perspective, the judge ruled that teachers may continue to use Istation throughout our entire winter break. I still can't help but laugh at this. The ruling was made on December 23 and many schools were out for most of that time.)

Read more from Stamp NC blue about the history of the original Istation procurement fiasco here.

What is particularly interesting about Mark Johnson's seemingly irresponsible use of State Funds is that previously our "NC Superintendent slams 'disturbing' spending at state education agency," DPI. Per WRAL,

in  an emailed statement, Johnson said "the General Assembly is frustrated  with inefficiencies at DPI under the State Board’s leadership, and I  understand that. To avoid future cuts, we must work on building trust that we are spending our available dollars wisely – keeping our  educators and students as the top priority."

He further stated that "the board and other education leaders 'must be held accountable for the taxpayer dollars entrusted to them.'"

Now I shake my head in disbelief that Mark Johnson did not follow through with his advice. The execution of the Istation contracts do not seem like he is working on "building trust that we are spending our available dollars wisely." But I would like to see some follow through that Superintendent Johnson "must be held accountable."

And while we are talking about accountability, how about some accountability for the $6 million Ipad debacle. According to WRAL, "last year, Johnson bought 24,000 iPads for North Carolina's K-3 teachers with money from the state's Read to Achieve fund. He faced criticism after 2,400 of the devices sat in a state warehouse for a year." He was further criticized for giving the remaining devices out with no rhyme or reason. (Read more here.)

Finally, "The Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) sent a letter to the  Department of Public Instruction on Oct. 22 challenging state  Superintendent Mark Johnson’s purchase and distribution of iPads to public school teachers. The letter stated that "the use of the money wasn’t appropriate and that her office was sending the  letter to prevent this from happening again." Then they offered to provide additional training to DPI should it be needed. (Read more here. I'd really like to see a little more action taken on this one too. How much of this irresponsible spending with Mark Johnson get away with?)

He must be held accountable! As a matter of fact, Mark Johnson must go! Many of us are just counting down the days to the election of our next NC Superintendent of Public Instruction. But now Johnson wants to be our next Lieutenant Governor. Mark Johnson does not deserve to be elected to a new public office. Mark Johnson must go!

Tags: (education, Istation, NC Superintendent, 2020 elections, NCPol)

Disclaimer: Stamp NC Blue is a subsidiary of SNCB PAC. SNCB PAC is not authorized by, financed by, or affiliated with any candidate or campaign. Questions? Contact info@stampncblue.org.

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