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Follow the latest news and information about voting and the 2020 election, including essential information about how to vote during a pandemic and more.

Republican Catherine Truitt Elected Superintendent Of North Carolina's Public Schools

Catherine Truitt, Republican candidate for North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Catherine Truitt campaign
Republican Catherine Truitt was elected North Carolina superintendent of Public Instruction.

Republican Catherine Truitt was chosen superintendent of North Carolina's K-12 public schools Tuesday.

In her first run for office, Truitt took 51.4% of the vote to Democrat Jen Mangrum's 48.6%, according to the final but unofficial count. Truitt is a former teacher who is chancellor of the online Western Governors University North Carolina.

Mark Johnson, a Republican who has held the job for the past four years, wasn't on the ballot after making an unsuccessful primary run for lieutenant governor.

The superintendent is a post without a lot of official power, but it comes with high visibility to influence the state Board of Education, the General Assembly and the governor, all of whom make decisions about public education. Truitt will step in as decision-makers grapple with COVID-19, equity and a persistent struggle to teach children to read.

Truitt says she has the background and skills to work with all the players in the public education scene — including local superintendents.

For instance, she says she wants local leaders to have more authority over whether to close schools or bring students back during the pandemic. She also calls for changing the way teacher jobs are funded in ways she says will help local superintendents compete for top educators.

"These kinds of innovations are only going to occur if we are all rowing in the same direction if someone is providing leadership that is about building consensus rather than grabbing power," Truitt said before the election.

Truitt describes phonics-based instruction as the key to literacy — and to providing all students a shot at success in education and life.

"This issue boils down to the battle between whole language and balanced literacy folks and phonics, which is also known as the science of reading," Truitt said.

Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.