Superintendent of Public Instruction

The Superintendent of Public Instruction leads public education for kindergarten through twelfth grade. They make sure schools follow state and federal law. The Superintendent of Public Instruction makes decisions about things like school funding, special education, and statewide testing.

There are 2 candidates for the office of North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Catherine Truitt (R)
Jen Mangrum (D)

All answers are provided in text with audio files for each candidate. To navigate through the questions you may either scroll through this page to read or listen to their answers, or use the links below to jump directly to specific questions.

The primary candidates for the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction were each asked the following questions:

The complete audio of all responses for the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s race:

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Question 1: What are your top three priorities?

Catherine Truitt (R)

Ensure ALL North Carolina students have the opportunity to receive a quality education and that ALL NC high school graduates are college and career ready with the skills necessary to succeed in a 21st century global economy.

Make certain there is a highly qualified teacher in every classroom across the state.

Grant local teachers, principals, and superintendents the flexibility necessary to make the decisions they need to ensure their students succeed.

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Jen Mangrum (D)

1. Professionalize school personnel: make working in education a viable career choice by improving salaries, benefits and working conditions.
2. Properly fund schools: provide adequate funding for textbooks, resources and personnel & increase per-pupil-expenditures to at least the national average.
3. Establish an Office of Equity at DPI to address the intersectional forces of systemic racism & bias. No child's future should be predetermined by the zip code they were born into.

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Question 2: What should be required in SRO training to ensure that students with disabilities remain safe?

Catherine Truitt (R)

SRO training should include receiving certification in safe restraint techniques as well as extensive training in how to de-escalate situations involving disabled students. They should receive in-depth training about specific disabilities that they will or may encounter at the school they are serving. Also, each school should make the SRO(s) working at that school aware of the individual needs and characteristics of students with disabilities that attend that school.

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Jen Mangrum (D)

Our schools need trauma-informed discipline policies with positive behavioral supports in order to create a school-wide culture that maximizes learning and minimizes involvement with the criminal justice system. SRO training should focus on de-escalation techniques including kinesics (reading behaviors), paraverbal communication, and principles of behavior change. Restraints/removal should only be used in emergency situations when there is an imminent threat to other students. Restorative justice & mediation creates safer spaces for all of our students.

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Question 3: What will you do to address school violence without placing students with disabilities unnecessarily at risk of criminal justice involvement?

Catherine Truitt (R)

I will push to require rigorous training of staff and SROs so that have a better understand of students with disabilities, the needs and characteristics of these students, and how to de-escalate situations involving without criminal justice involvement. I am confident that better training and and an understanding of what students' disabilities will help schools address violence involving disabled students without criminal justice involvement. Also, the standards for involving criminal justice should not be the same for disabled students as they are for non-disabled students.

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Jen Mangrum (D)

If schools change their philosophy from a punishment model to a conflict resolution model by implementing restorative justice, how they respond to incidents will typically not involve criminal justice. Behavior management will no longer be about “control” by the authoritarians in the building, but rather about establishing relationships and trust among all community members. Members are responsible for holding one another accountable and preventing violence before it starts.

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Question 4: What will you do to address the recent recommendations and the action plan in the Leandro case to meet North Carolina’s constitutional mandate to provide all students, including those with disabilities, with a sound, basic education?

Catherine Truitt (R)

I will proactively collaborate with local superintendents, teachers, the State Board of Education, the Legislature, the Governor's office, and m=DPI executives to devise a comprehensive plan to achieve educational equity throughout our entire state. The plan will be student-centric with the goal of ensuring ALL students have the opportunity to receive a quality education regardless of disability, race, income level or where they live. It will give principals and teachers the control and flexibility they need.

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Jen Mangrum (D)

NC has not always taken the needs of our most vulnerable students seriously.The WestEd report recommends an increase of $855 million in new resources this year alone, not adjusted for enrollment and inflation, and the General Assembly hasn't even provided that. While I don't set policy, as a member of the Council of State I will have the ear of the Governor and always advocate for the investments we need to meet our constitutional obligation & provide every child with a sound basic education.

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Question 5: What would you do to address schools/school systems in North Carolina that repeatedly violate the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or other laws protecting the educational rights of students with disabilities?

Catherine Truitt (R)

While I am a major advocate for local control of education, if schools/districts repeatedly violate the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and/or other laws protecting students with disabilities I believe that the state must step in and take action to ensure these laws are complied with and that students with disabilities have access to a quality education. We should also give those students the opportunity to attend another school/district that does follow these laws and/or provide them with a grant to attend a private school.

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Jen Mangrum (D)

As State Superintendent I will take a close look at each of our districts as regards their compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Districts with repeated violations should and will be held accountable.

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Question 6: Do you support banning prone restraint in schools? What else will you do to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint on students with disabilities?

Catherine Truitt (R)

Yes, I support the banning of prone restraint. To reduce the use of seclusion and restraint on students with disabilities I believe that all teachers who work with students with disabilities should receive extensive training in how to de-escalate situations without the use of seclusion or restraint. I also believe that schools should be required to notify parents ASAP when either seclusion or restrain are used. These methods should only be a last resort used by personnel certified in how to use them safely.

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Jen Mangrum (D)

Seclusion and restraint should never be a first response and prone restraint should be banned all together. Teachers and staff should be certified in nonviolent crisis intervention methods and positive behavioral support systems should be in place.

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Question 7: What can DPI do to make remote learning more accessible and effective for students with disabilities?

Catherine Truitt (R)

Remote learning is a tremendous challenge for students with disabilities. I believe these students should be the first to return to the classroom full-time, and that we should look for ways to get them back in the classroom as soon as possible. Until it is possible for them to return to the class, it is imperative that they still receive individualized education tailored to their unique needs either virtually or through visits to their home by their teacher and support staff.

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Jen Mangrum (D)

While we cannot ignore what we're legally bound to provide for our exceptional students, we must be flexible, and know that we have great resources recently rolled out by the EC Department at DPI. As in a traditional IEP, we need to hear from parents about strategies that work so our students don't fall further behind. The General Assembly should make investments in the future of all our children, including those who may need specialized equipment, resources or personnel to manage this difficult time.

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