School & District Management

Bush Chooses Mississippi Chief for K-12 Assistant Secretary

June 01, 2005 2 min read

President Bush intends to nominate Mississippi state schools chief Henry L. Johnson to become the U.S. Department of Education’s assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, the White House announced June 1. The job is one of the federal government’s highest-profile positions for working with precollegiate schools and state leaders.

Mr. Johnson plans to serve through the end of July as the superintendent of education in Mississippi, where in 2002 he became one of the state’s highest-ranking black officials since Reconstruction. He previously helped shape education policy during seven years as the associate state superintendent in North Carolina. Mr. Johnson, 59, was born in Alabama and grew up in North Carolina. (“Accountability the Main Goal For Miss. Superintendent,” June 18, 2003.)

In an interview, Mr. Johnson said that if confirmed by the Senate, he would work closely with officials from all the states to help them carry out the president’s signature No Child Left Behind Act while also helping states find enough flexibility within the law to ensure its full implementation.

“While education is a state responsibility, the federal government ought to think about additional ways we can help states build capacity, to help locals build capacity” toward school improvement, Mr. Johnson said.

Bridge Building

The Mississippi chief would replace Raymond J. Simon, who is currently serving as both the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education and acting deputy secretary, the department’s No. 2 position. President Bush has nominated him to fill the deputy secretary’s slot. Mr. Simon came to Washington in 2003 after serving as the state schools chief in Arkansas.

As the assistant secretary overseeing K-12 issues, Mr. Johnson would face state and local dissent over the 3-year-old No Child Left Behind Act, which requires standardized testing and yearly improvement in student achievement. Utah has passed legislation aimed at giving its state accountability system precedence over the federal law, and Connecticut has said it plans to sue the federal government over the costs of implementing the law. (“Union, States Wage Frontal Attack on NCLB,” April 27, 2005.)

Mr. Johnson said he would hope to build bridges with state leaders if his nomination is approved.

“I want to continue to move in the direction that [U.S. Secretary of Education] Margaret Spellings and Ray Simon are moving, in providing more flexibility within the law—where flexibility is warranted,” he said. “I don’t profess to come in there with any bright ideas about what will happen, but we need to make sure there’s ongoing conversation about how we can facilitate states’ doing their jobs better and improving educational outcomes for students.”

Kenny Bush, a state board of education member in Mississippi who was the panel’s chairman when Mr. Johnson was hired there, said the superintendent would be missed. He predicted that Mr. Johnson would do well at the federal department.

“He is one of the most knowledgeable education leaders on No Child Left Behind,” Mr. Bush, who is not related to the president, said in a recent interview. “What he probably underestimates,” he added, “is the power of the role model he is both for minorities and for whites” in Mississippi.

Related Tags:

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Data Analyst
New York, NY, US
New Visions for Public Schools

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion A Road Map for Education Research in a Crisis
Here are five basic principles for a responsible and timely research agenda during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robin J. Lake
4 min read
Two opposing sides reaching out to work together
J.R. Bee for Education Week
School & District Management 1,000 Students, No Social Distancing, and a Fight to Keep the Virus Out
A principal describes the "nightmare" job of keeping more than 1,000 people safe in the fast-moving pandemic.
4 min read
Dixie Rae Garrison, principal of West Jordan Middle School, in West Jordan, Utah.
Dixie Rae Garrison, principal of West Jordan Middle School in West Jordan, Utah, would have preferred a hybrid schedule and other social distancing measures.
Courtesy of Dixie Rae Garrison
School & District Management A School Leader Who Calls Her Own Shots on Battling the Coronavirus
A charter school founder uses her autonomy to move swiftly on everything from classroom shutdowns to remote schooling.
3 min read
Nigena Livingston, founder and head of School at the URBAN ACT Academy in Indianapolis, Ind.
Nigena Livingston, founder and head of school at the URBAN ACT Academy in Indianapolis, makes swift decisions in responding to the threat of COVID-19 in her school community.
Courtesy of Nigena Livingston
School & District Management A COVID-19 Lull Gives Way to ‘Borderline Insanity’
When the number of cases started to rise steeply, a school community hammered out a routine. Then a basketball player tested positive.
3 min read
Andy McGill, K-12 assistant principal at West Liberty-Salem Local School District in West Liberty, Ohio.
Andy McGill, K-12 assistant principal at West Liberty-Salem Local School District in Ohio, includes coronavirus response among his administrative duties.
Courtesy of Andy McGill