Superintendent Mark Johnson is doling out iPads like Santa Claus

NC Superintendent Mark Johnson and his iPads are making news again.  

In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, Johnson sent 200 of the tablets to students and teachers of hurricane-ravaged Ocracoke School.  

Then on Monday, Johnson slid down the chimney for a surprise visit and photo opportunity at Junius H. Rose High School in non-hurricane ravaged Pitt County, dropping off 100 iPads for math teacher Tracy Moore, whom he said he “knew from a previous visit.”

At yesterday’s meeting of the State Board of Education, Johnson was asked some pointed questions by board chair Eric Davis, who wanted to better understand the selection process for iPad distribution:

“How do we respond when the question is, ‘Well, what criteria is used to make these awards and how does my school get into the queue to be considered for these awards?'” Davis asked.

“They can email me,” Johnson said.

“That’s the criteria?” Davis said.

Board members and the public are right to be concerned over the practice of one individual using taxpayer funds to arbitrarily hand out iPads as personal favors to teachers.  This approach does not allow for the equitable distribution of resources that our students deserve.  

Pitt County, for example, is certainly a high-need district, and 46.5% of students at Junius H Rose are classified as economically disadvantaged.  But Pitt is ranked as a Tier 2 county by the NC Department of Commerce in terms of level of economic distress–and it’s surrounded by six other counties that are in even worse shape economically.  I’m sure they’d also love some iPads in Wilson County. Or Edgecombe.

Unfortunately, time is running out for teachers in those Tier 1 districts to email Johnson and secure Apple’s latest technology for their students.  The Department of Public Instruction purchased 800 of the tablets over the summer, which means only 500 now remain.

The superintendent says the 800 iPads came from money he was able to save because he is so awesome at being fiscally conservative, and he claims he has the discretion to use that money as he sees fit: 

“We are doing such a better job with the operations of this department than was done in year’s past under previous leadership,” Johnson said. “Things are operating more efficiently and more effectively, and when you do that, you end up finding that there’s money leftover at the year, What I decided to do with that money at the end of the year, was to purchase iPads because they are something that’s in high demand, regardless of whether you’re a high school math teacher or if you’re a K-3 reading teacher.”

Johnson may need to answer some questions from the NC Office of State Budget and Management about transferring resources which the General Assembly has allocated for a specific purpose to separate government entities (LEAs) without authorization.  

Even Santa Claus should be subject to checks and balances.

3 thoughts on “Superintendent Mark Johnson is doling out iPads like Santa Claus

  1. Things are not more efficient at DPI, he is simply leaving DPI understaffed. His cronies all have high paying figurehead jobs but the positions that actually support teachers, schools, and districts are sitting vacant. Any teacher trying to get licensure issues taken care of can tell you things are not more efficient. The “money left over” should be going to fill positions that need to be filled. Please research this issue and write about it!

  2. OH MY! You have fallen down the rabbit hole. We had an IPad pilot program (MS level) and it was disaster. Even if your infrastructure is great, the act of 200 kids hitting “send” at the end of class guarantees that there will be a certain percentage of “work” that will not reach it’s intended folder. As teens they have learned how to download and play Fortnite and War of Worlds on these IPads. It’s bad enough that they can “game” or watch you-tube videos during class, but to walk into a lunchroom of gaming/you-tubing kids is absolutely alarming. You will find that your behavior problems will dramatically increase as these kids dive deeper into an online virtual reality and are unable to socially interact with kids sitting just inches away. There are MANY other problems, but these are the most egregious. If parents are smart, they will not allow these devices into their homes… protections whatsoever.

  3. “Apple’s latest technology” are you certain that he isn’t purchasing outdated technology from Apple warehouses. What type of device is he purchasing and what price is he paying?

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