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SBE And State Superintendent Clash Over Reading Tool Contract

The January 2020 State Board of Education meeting room empties out as the board goes into closed session.
Cole del Charco
The January 2020 State Board of Education meeting room empties out as the board goes into closed session.

The State Board of Education and State School Superintendent are clashing again over a contract for a K-3 reading diagnostic tool.Superintendent Mark Johnson signed what he called an 'emergency contract' this week as the legal fight over the contract he signed with the company Istation continues.  

The total cost of the emergency contract is $930,000. Board members expressed dismay that the emergency contract was written in an amount just below a threshold that would have required board approval.

The cost doesn't seem to be a coincidence, said State Board Chair Eric Davis.

"We have a board policy that says the superintendent should bring us any contract that is over a $1 million -- it's interesting that the value of that contract is just under $1 million," Davis said.

When pressed by members of the board, Johnson wouldn’t give a specific reason for making the contract for the amount he did. He said the evidence supports his side, and should lead to a quick resolution.

“I am optimistic it will be resolved, and if it is not, we will look at our options at that moment," Johnson said.

The Department of Information Technology has a hearing on the original Istation case next week.

Cole del Charco is an audio producer and writer based in Durham. He's made stories for public radio's All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Marketplace. Before joining Due South, he spent time as a freelance journalist, an education and daily news reporter for WUNC, and a podcast producer for WFAE in Charlotte.
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