Mark Johnson has been traveling around the state with his message of school reform.

Johnson, a candidate for North Carolina superintendent of public instruction and a current member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education, said his focus ahead of the March 15 primary has been meeting with Republican groups around the state to talk about the importance of technology in the classroom, vocational education and building a relationship with the lawmakers who make many of the decisions that set North Carolina education policy.

“I need the Republican voters to know who I am and that I’m the best choice to be the Republican nominee for this office,” he said. “The biggest challenge is just getting my message out there.”

Johnson, 32, said he is running to help make a change in Raleigh. After two years in the classroom through the Teach for America program and seeing how little control teachers had, Johnson said he vowed to run for school board if he got the chance.

In 2014, he did.

Johnson, a lawyer, was elected to the local school board. After a short time, though, Johnson said he saw that most of the issues plaguing schools and teachers were coming from higher up.

“When I got elected to the school board, I rolled up my sleeves and started working to make these impactful shifts for our students,” he said. “I very quickly realized there were a lot of things standing in the way that, on the school board, good local school leaders don’t have influence over. We need a voice in Raleigh.”

Johnson said he’d like to see more of the decision on what happens in schools left up to local school boards and districts.

“The current administration is trying to prescribe too much at the state level,” he said.

Johnson said he’ll be able to better work with lawmakers and will have a better understanding of issues facing teachers and school districts.

Before Johnson can take on the current administration, however, he’ll have to get past his Republican primary opponents — Rosemary Stein and J. Wesley Sills.

Johnson has far outraised both. In the latest campaign finance report filing, Johnson reported more than $173,000 on hand.

Stein had about $1,500. Sills had $10.

Johnson said that while money helps, the campaign comes down to getting his message out to voters.

“I hope people take the time to learn about the candidates and come out and vote for the vision on education they support,” he said.

aherron@wsjournal.com (336) 727-4068 @ArikaHerron

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