Politics & Government

Professor who challenged Phil Berger now wants to lead NC public schools

Jen Mangrum, an associate professor at UNC-Greensboro, has announced her candidacy for state schools superintendent.
Jen Mangrum, an associate professor at UNC-Greensboro, has announced her candidacy for state schools superintendent. Jen Mangrum

A UNC Greensboro professor who took on powerful state Senator Phil Berger last year has become the latest candidate to announce she wants to lead North Carolina’s public schools.

Jen Mangrun, an associate professor at UNC Greensboro’s School of Education, announced Monday that she will seek the Democratic nomination for state schools superintendent in 2020. Mangrum drew statewide attention in 2018 when she unsuccessfully tried to win Berger’s District 30 Senate seat. It was her first run for office.

“The people of North Carolina deserve the best public education system in the country and nothing less.” Jen Mangrum said in a news release. “I have proven my commitment as a fierce advocate for students and educators and a skilled and passionate leader in our state. Under current leadership, we have watched elected officials make decisions in their own self-interest, on a journey to obtain more power in government. We need a teacher leading our schools, not a lawyer.

“As a public servant in North Carolina for the past 31 years, I have always put the needs of my community and state first. The citizens of North Carolina can count on me to do what’s right and what will make North Carolina a better place to live and work.”

The announcement came after UNC-Greensboro worked out an agreement Friday that allows Mangrum to run for office while keeping her paid faculty position, the Greensboro News & Record reported.

Mangrum started her education career as a classroom teacher, working from 1987 to 1999 in Onslow County Schools and later Guilford County Schools. She would go on to become a professor at NC State University, where she created the elementary education program.

For the past decade, Mangrum, 54, of Reidsville, has trained future teachers at UNC Greensboro.

Mangrum is the fourth Democrat to announce for superintendent of public instruction, a position now held by Republican Mark Johnson. He hasn’t announced if he will seek re-election.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board member James Barrett, N.C. State assistant dean Michael Maher and Wake County school board vice chairman Keith Sutton have already announced they’re running for state superintendent.

Maher also had to work out an agreement with N.C. State in order for him to run.

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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.