Superintendent’s reorganization shakes up the agency that oversees NC public schools

N.C. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson oversaw the layoffs of 40 employees, forced by budget cuts handed down by the legislature.
N.C. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson oversaw the layoffs of 40 employees, forced by budget cuts handed down by the legislature. N&O file photo

State Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson is using his newly granted powers to reorganize the state education agency that works with North Carolina’s 1.5 million public school students.

Johnson announced Tuesday that he’s creating new deputy superintendent positions to oversee the reorganized divisions of the state Department of Public Instruction. The restructuring comes after the state Supreme Court upheld in June a 2016 state law transferring some of the powers of the State Board of Education to Johnson.

“As most of you know, since becoming state superintendent, I have advocated a strategy of bold innovation and true urgency at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to support our state’s educators and students,” Johnson, elected superintendent in 2016, said in an email Tuesday to DPI employees.

“Today, we are taking major steps toward those goals by changing the way DPI is organized. To provide better support to the field, we need more efficiency and fewer silos in our organizational structure..”

Previously, some positions at DPI had reported directly to the state board or to both the board and the state superintendent. But the Republican-led state legislature moved to put Johnson, the first GOP schools superintendent elected in 100 years, in charge of DPI.

Johnson announced that there will now be four deputy superintendents, instead of just one, to oversee DPI’s different divisions.

Deputy State Superintendent Maria Pitre-Martin will now have the new title of deputy state superintendent for district support, which will include the divisions that support school districts and teachers. This includes the office that supports low-performing schools, which bore the brunt of recent layoffs made to meet legislative mandated budget cuts.

Some areas that used to report to Pitre-Martin will shift to other deputy superintendents, such as early learning and curriculum and instruction.

Pamela Shue will serve as deputy superintendent for early education. Shue had been hired by Johnson to be associate superintendent for early childhood education back during the court fight between Johnson and the state board.

State legislators had authorized Johnson to create the position filled by Shue, leading to two different offices at DPI in charge of early childhood education. But there will now be one office led by Shue, who will also oversee the state’s Read to Achieve K-3 early literacy program.

Eric Hall was named to the newly created position of deputy superintendent for innovation, where he will oversee different divisions such as charter schools, the Innovative School District and curriculum and instruction.

Hall had initially been hired to be superintendent of the Innovative School District, a new program that allows the state to take over low-performing schools and to turn them over to third-party operators, such as charter school management groups. Hall will still be in charge of the new district while also overseeing charter schools.

State lawmakers had transferred authority of charter schools from the state board to Johnson.

Johnson is also creating a new position of deputy superintendent for operations that has not yet been filled.

Among the people who will now report to the deputy superintendent for operations is Adam Levinson, the chief financial officer. Johnson had opposed Levinson’s hiring by the state board. Levinson will have less authority in the new organizational chart.

Alexis Schauss will also report to the deputy superintendent for operations from her newly created position of chief business officer for N.C. public schools. Schauss had been director of school business.

Johnson had also questioned the state board’s decision to hire Stacey Wilson-Norman, a former deputy superintendent in Durham Public Schools, to be chief academic officer. Under the new organizational chart, Wilson-Norman will have the new lower-level position of division director of curriculum and instruction.

“I know there has been a significant amount of change at DPI over the past 18 months,” Johnson wrote in the email. “I appreciate all the work staff and local districts have done while these shifts, sometimes painful and sometimes merely distracting, have played out around us.

“I sincerely hope that we are at a point where we can begin to focus on urgently driving the innovation our system needs to truly fulfill the educational aspirations of educators, parents, and students.”

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui
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