Politics & Government

N.C. State professor wants to lead NC public schools as next state superintendent

Michael Maher announced he’s running for North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2020.
Michael Maher announced he’s running for North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2020. Michael Maher

An N.C. State University professor who has helped train North Carolina’s future teachers now wants to be in charge of running the state’s public schools.

Michael Maher, the assistant dean of professional education at N.C. State, announced Thursday that he’s seeking the Democratic Party nomination in 2020 to be the next North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction. Maher said he’s running because some state leaders have retreated from a commitment to public schools.

“We are in the midst of a critical teacher shortage, we ask those who choose to teach to do more with less, and we lack a coordinated effort to systematically address our most pressing challenges.” Maher said in a written statement. “Public schools represent our shared commitment to the children of North Carolina, we have an obligation to them.

“As the North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction, I will be a tenacious advocate for public education in North Carolina.”

Maher, 44, would be making his first run at political office. He started his career teaching high school science in Forsyth and Wake counties before moving to higher education.

Maher currently serves as the president of the North Carolina Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators and also serves as vice chairman of the North Carolina Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission. He’s also on the board of directors of the American Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators.

He lives in Wake Forest and his two daughters are high school students in the Wake County school system.

Mark Johnson was elected as state superintendent in 2016 but hasn’t announced yet whether he’s running for re-election or for another office in 2020. After his election, the Republican-led state legislature passed legislation to give the GOP superintendent more control over the day-to-day running of public schools.

Maher would first have to win the Democratic Party primary. Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board member James Barrett has also announced he plans to run for the Democratic nomination.

Jen Mangrum, a professor of education at UNC-Greensboro, is exploring running for superintendent as a Democrat, but she has not definitively declared a campaign, according to the website Longleaf Politics.

Maher said in an interview Friday that the broad range of experience in education he’s picked up over the past 23 years would make him a good state superintendent.

“We need someone who is a stronger advocate for public schools, not only for teacher pay but working conditions,” he said.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.