Candidate Vetting Questions – Dr. June Atkinson Candidate North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction

Interview questions were developed by a Vetting Committee of 10 members of the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association. All candidates for a particular office were asked the same questions. Interviews were conducted by 3 rotating members of the Vetting Committee. Summaries
are the agreed-upon consensus of each 3-member group. Candidates were asked to interview in-person, but phone interviews were offered for candidates living outside Craven County if schedules would not allow travel.
Candidate Vetting Questions
Dr. June Atkinson
Candidate North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction
Interview Date: March 8, 2016
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Interviewed: In Person at the Craven County Library
1. Brad Cummings
2. Mary Griswold
3. Bob Griswold

1) Name, Address, Phone, E-mail, Occupation, Age

Dr. June Atkinson
Email address:
Phone: 919-818-7209
Occupation: North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction
2) Educational Background

Graduate – Virginia Public Schools
Graduate – Radford University
Master’s Degree – Virginia Tech in Vocational and Technical
Doctorate – North Carolina State in Education Leadership and Policy

Currently in third term as North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Schools
Previously held various positions within the department including Director of Careers in Technical Education
Previously taught in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Dr. Atkinson was in charge of the business cooperative program
Prior to that Dr. Atkinson was a high school business teacher in Roanoke, Virginia
Demonstrations of Leadership

When I became Superintendent the graduation rate of North Carolina students was 68 percent. Now it is 86 percent.

I worked with the Community College system to get rid of convoluted laws preventing high school students from taking college courses and put together a coherent progression policy. I worked with research staff to write legislation to allow students with a 2.5 average who were in their junior year of high school to take college courses that are working toward a certificate or degree. Last year 35 percent of high school students had earned some college credits.

North Carolina moved to #18 in the nation in the number of students passing advanced placement exams.

Five or six years ago, I signed an agreement with Microsoft to set up a statewide site license to allow students in North Carolina to work toward Microsoft certifications. Students in career education have earned 130,000 various certifications.
3) Memberships and Associations

Delta Kappa Gamma – a sorority that promotes professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education.

Phi Delta Kappa – a professional organization for educators.

American Association of Career and Technical Education

Lifetime member National Business Education Association

Council of Chief State School Officers

American Society for Curriculum and Development (ASCD)

First United Methodist Church, Cary, North Carolina
4) Why are you running for this office?

a. I want to move the graduation rate closer to 100 percent.

b. I want to improve reading achievement and growth in the early grades.

c. The new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives North Carolina more flexibility in education than the prior No Child Left Behind program. I want to set up a new testing system, more local control, and eliminate some paperwork.

d. I believe that I work well with the General Assembly and want to continue to work with them to improve the education of North Carolina’s children.
5) What is the organizational structure of your campaign, fund raising capability, etc.?

I have a campaign manager and two coordinators—one for the eastern part of North Carolina and one for the western part of North Carolina. My network of friends has held fund raisers for me. I have a presence on social media.
6) Which of the Founding Fathers do you most admire?

Thomas Jefferson. He was born in Virginia, he was a deep thinker, he was a man of curiosity. He had a wealth of experience—nation’s first Secretary of State, Ambassador to France, and 2nd Governor of Virginia. He had a vision which allowed him to make the Louisiana Purchase. As a leader, he had to go against the crowd. He had his flaws, but was a man of accomplishment.
7) Margaret Thatcher once said, “Consensus is a lack of leadership.” Do you agree? – Why or why not?

I agree more than I disagree. Sometimes consensus will not lead people forward. We have to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. We need to develop steps to get where we want to go. If we have consensus, we may not be stretching far enough. The first North Carolina Superintendent of Schools had a vision for a blackboard in every class. If we had stopped at that vision, where would we be?
8) Which President do you most admire? – Why?

William Howard Taft. – I just read The Bully Pulpit which is the story of William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. He was a man of integrity, who cared about people, and was accessible to people. As the first Governor of the Philippines, William Howard Taft moved among the people. A leader has to be accessible.
9) Do you believe the Founding Fathers intended the Constitution to be:

a. An evolving document whose meaning changes with time?

b. A permanent set of rules to limit the power of the federal government?

A permanent set of rules to limit the power of the federal government to be changed only by the vote of the people.
Discuss an ethical dilemma you faced. What happened? – How did you resolve it?

I have faced no recent ethical dilemmas. There were some hard decisions in my past that sometimes involved choosing between good and good or between bad and bad.
10) Where do individual rights come from?

The Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, state statutes, and federal laws. Those emanate from the Bible and religious beliefs such as the Judeo-Christian ethic.
11) What do you know about Common Core? – What is your position on it and why?

It is a set of standards—statements of what students should know and be able to do grade by grade. We are in the fourth year of Common Core. State law requires that we review standards every five years. We will be making a presentation to the State Board of Education in April with our recommendations about Common Core along with the Academic Standards Review Commission recommendations. We will be recommending changes based on what teachers suggest. There are substantive changes to be presented to the Board of Education.
12) What is your opinion on gun ownership, registration, and gun free zones?

As State Superintendent of Schools, this is an issue that I do not directly deal with. I grew up in a family that hunted. I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe that public schools should be gun free zones with the exception of Student Resource Officers who are trained to handle dangerous situations. The North Carolina schools have protocols in place for handling dangerous situations.
13) What does the phrase “Separation of Church and State” mean to you?

Government cannot declare a religion for all Americans. Each individual has the right to be free from religion or free to practice their religion. The Bible and Christianity are part of our heritage.
14) If elected, what would be your number one priority item during your term in office?

To work with the General Assembly to improve teachers’ salary. The enrollment in teacher preparation programs has dropped. The teacher turnover rate has increased to 14 percent, including movement within the system. We have more inexperienced teachers than experienced teachers. I would recommend a ‘wedding cake’ approach to teachers’ salaries. There would be four layers based on various aspects of teaching—mentoring, serving in difficult areas, and achievement of students.

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