State Superintendent tours Iotla Valley, speaks to Rotary


Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

North Carolina’s State Superintendent Mark Johnson wants to remove the stigma associated with students that choose trade programs over four-year college degrees. 

“We need to stop telling our students that they have to go to college,” Johnson said to the Franklin Noonday Rotary Club on Wednesday. “College isn’t for everyone, and thats ok. We need to celebrate students who choose a career path and encourage the trades programs in our schools.” 

Johnson’s stop at the Rotary Club luncheon was part of a week long listening tour across Western North Carolina, visiting schools and speaking with civic organizations. While in Macon County, Johnson also toured Iotla Valley, the newest constructed school in the county. 

“Iotla Valley Elementary School was excited to host Superintendent Johnson,” said Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin. “His visit gave us an opportunity to showcase one of the schools selected by Superintendent Johnson for a visit. He was also scheduled to visit Highlands School and Franklin High School, but conflicts came up. He was required to limit his visit to Franklin Noon Rotary Club and Iotla Elementary School. He was very appreciative of Iotla Valley’s hospitality and genuinely impressed by the school’s culture and level of engagement in instruction.”

While at Iotla Valley, Johnson posed for a picture with Iotla Valley students and administration with a check stating that all K-3 teachers in the county will receive $200 from the state for reading supplies.

“The additional instructional supply funds are greatly appreciated and will certainly help teachers improve student outcomes this school year,” said Dr. Baldwin. 

The $200 per teacher is part of an allocation out of Raleigh for teachers across the state. The state announced a $4.8 million plan to buy books, digital subscriptions and other reading aids for 479,000 K-3 students across North Carolina. Johnson said the money comes from the Read to Achieve Program which focuses on helping students learn how to read, training teachers, and providing materials necessary for success. 

Last year just under 58 percent of all third-graders in the state earned a grade-level score, with pass rates well below 50 percent for black, Hispanic and low-income children. Only 44 percent of all third-graders – and only about 30 percent of black, Hispanic and low-income students – earned the slightly higher reading score that indicates they are on track for college and career readiness. Third-grade reading ability is considered a benchmark for the odds of academic achievement in later grades. 

Johnson was elected as North Carolina’s Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2016 when he ousted incumbent June Atkinson by 1.2 percent. Before serving as the state’s top educational advisor, Johnson was a member of the Forsyth County School Board and taught at West Charlotte High School for two years.