North Carolina State Government

Superintendent of Public Instruction

 Department Website:

Mark Johnson

The North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction is an elected executive position in the North Carolina state government. The Superintendent is the secretary and chief administrative officer of the State Board of Education, and is responsible for the day-to-day management of the state's public school system.

The State Constitution of 1868 first identified the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction as a new office within the Executive Branch, and it was made part of the Council of State.

The Department of Public Instruction, with the Superintendent at its helm, manages the daily operations of the state's entire public school system. The department has a staff of nearly 750 people that is directly involved in the education of North Carolina's students, leading the public schools in the areas of curriculum and instruction, accountability, finance, teacher and administrator preparation and licensing, professional development, and school business support and operations.

In addition to ensuring the education of North Carolina's children, and the office is responsible for:

- Enforcing North Carolina's state education laws
- Implementing State Board of Education policies and procedures
- Managing public school funds totaling approximately $8 billion in state and federal funds
- Licensing the almost 120,000 public school teachers and administrators
- Collaborating with the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching, the NC Teacher Academy, the NC virtual Public School, the nine Regional Education Service Alliances/Consortia, and the state's 115 local education agencies

The Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education share responsibility for the public education system. Much of the administrative support comes from the board, which includes an executive director, staff attorney, and legislative liaison. Within the authority of the Superintendent, there are three main divisions:

- The Organizational Support Division manages public relations, human resources, policy and strategic planning, and communications for the entire department.

- The Financial and Business Services Division is responsible for the financial management and licensing. The Office of Charter Schools also falls under the purview of this division.

- The Academic Services and Instructional Support Division directly administers the state's educational programs. The Curriculum, Instruction, Accountability, and Technology Services Office within the division provides career-technical education, exceptional children instructional technology, K-12 curriculum and instruction, and early learning programs.

In 1852, the General Assembly created the Office of General Superintendent of Common Schools. Calvin Wiley was appointed to this position with a salary to be paid from the Literary Fund. This office allowed for local school officials to coordinate their efforts with activities and policies at the state level.

The General Assembly of 1855 re-established the Literary Board as the Board of Literature declaring it a "body politic and corporate" under the name "The President and General Directors of the Literary Fund of North Carolina." Members included the Governor, as ex-officio President, and three other directors appointed by the Governor with the advice of the Council of State. The Board of Literature was vested with full power to order a survey of state owned swamp lands and to order construction for their use and improvement. A fund for the common schools was created with the profit made from the land sales. The directors met for the last time in 1865 before the fall of the Confederacy.

Past Superintendents of Public Instruction




Mark Johnson

2017 -
Elected on November 8, 2016.

June St. Clair Atkinson

2005 - 2017

Patricia Nickens Willoughby

2004 - 2005
Appointed by Governor Michael F. Easley in September of 2004 to fill Michael Ward's term.

Michael E. Ward

1997 - 2004
Resigned in 2004.

Bob Etheridge

1989 - 1996

Andrew Craig Phillips

1969 - 1989
Retired in 1989.

Charles F. Carroll

1952 - 1969
Appointed by Governor William K. Scott. Elected for additional terms.

Clyde A. Erwin

1934 - 1952
Appointed by Governor John C.B. Ehringhaus. Elected for additional terms. Died on July 19, 1952.

Arch T. Allen

1923 - 1934
Appointed by Governor Cameron A. Morrison. Elected for additional terms. Died on October 20, 1934.

Eugene C. Brooks

1919 - 1923
Appointed by Governor Thomas W. Bickett. Elected in 1920. Resigned on June 11, 1923.

James Y. Joyner

1902 - 1919
Appointed by Governor Charles B. Aycock. Elected for additional terms, but resigned on January 1, 1919.

Thomas F. Toon

1901 - 1902
Died on February 19, 1902.

Charles H. Mebane

1897 - 1901

John C. Scarborough

1893 - 1897

Sidney M. Finger

1885 - 1893

John C. Scarborough

1877 - 1885

John Pool

1876 - 1877
Appointed by Governor Curtis H. Brogden.

Stephen D. Pool

1875 - 1876
Resigned June 30, 1876.

Alexander McIver

1872 - 1875
Despite the fact that Alexander McIver had not vacated his office, Governor Tod R. Caldwell appointed Kemp P. Battle Superintendent upon Reid's death. Battle took the oath of office on January 15, 1873. McIver sued and the North Carolina Supreme Court found in favor of McIver, saying he was entitled to remain in office until the next general election (1874).

Kemp P. Battle

See above.

Rev. James Reid

Elected in August 1872, but died before taking office

Alexander McIver

1871 - 1872
Governor Tod R. Caldwell appointed Alexander McIver after Samuel S. Ashley resigned.

Samuel S. Ashley

1868 - 1871
Resigned on October 1, 1871.


1865 - 1868
Office Abolished

General Superintendent of Common Schools




Calvin H. Wiley

1852 - 1865

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