NEA Names North Carolina’s John I. Wilson as New Executive Director

By Julie Blair — September 20, 2000 2 min read

A former candidate for the presidency of the 2.5 million-member National Education Association has been tapped to serve as the union’s next executive director, effective Nov. 1.

John I. Wilson, 52, lost to Keith B. Geiger in a 1989 race for president of the nation’s largest teachers’ union, but this fall won the support of its leadership to implement policy and manage daily operations. He currently is the executive director of the NEA’s 72,000-member North Carolina affiliate.

Mr. Wilson will replace Don Cameron, who will retire Jan. 1 after serving in the position for nearly 20 years.

John I. Wilson

“I am 100 percent behind the new agenda that the NEA has put forth,” Mr. Wilson said last week. “I have the skills as a manager and a leader that will allow for us to mobilize NEA staff and resources to push even harder for that agenda.”

The agenda Mr. Wilson referred to is current President Bob Chase’s “new unionism,” a concept he unveiled in 1997 that redefines the role he wants the organization to play. The union should not only address wages and working conditions, under his approach, but also strive to improve schools and help make teachers co-managers with greater authority. So far, however, Mr. Chase has achieved mixed results in persuading the rank and file to accept his proposals. (“A Different Kind of Union,” Oct. 29, 1997.)

Mr. Wilson “has a track record of making organizations perform,” Mr. Chase said in a statement. “He is a tremendous coalition- builder.”

Keeping Focused

Mr. Wilson has served as the executive director of the North Carolina affiliate since 1995. During his tenure there, he has focused on improving the quality of teaching by setting up professional- development programs for teacher-candidates undergoing National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification To date, North Carolina has more teachers credentialed by the board than any other state.

Other emphases during Mr. Wilson’s tenure have included his advocacy of higher salaries and a teacher-cadet program. He is also credited with helping create the Covenant for North Carolina’s Children, a coalition of 90 organizations that provide services for children.

Previously, Mr. Wilson worked as the chief lobbyist for the North Carolina affiliate and taught special education in the Wake County, N.C., district for 20 years.

“He’s a passionate, hard-working advocate for children,” said Karen D. Garr, the teacher-adviser for Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. of North Carolina, who has worked in various capacities with Mr. Wilson for 30 years. “He’ll elevate the morale of staff and keep them focused on what they’re doing as an organization ... so that it is not an organization with 50 different agendas,” Ms. Garr said of his new job.