Johnson leaving school system, not Mini Funk Factory Band

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 31, 2013

SALISBURY — Anthony Johnson has resigned from the Rowan-Salisbury School System, but he says the Mini Funk Factory Marching Band he created will play on.

Johnson, who most recently worked as a technology facilitator at Overton Elementary School, turned in his resignation about two weeks ago.

He said Monday that he was offered a position as a classroom teacher with Cabarrus County Schools, and he’s going to take it.

“I felt as though I’ve hit a ceiling here as far as growth,” Johnson said. “With all the things I’ve accomplished… the school system is just not a place for me to grow and do the things that I would like to do.”

The Mini Funk Factory Marching Band will still meet from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the school year, he said. It will continue to use its new location at Salisbury City Park, which has been provided by the city of Salisbury this year. But it will no longer be associated with the school system.

“The band is not going away,” Johnson said. “It’s still going to be here. I still live here. … The only thing that’s going to change is the name.”

Dr. Judy Grissom, superintendent of the Rowan-Salisbury School System, said she is sorry to see Johnson leave.

“He has been an asset to our district and wonderful with our students, Grissom said. “I speak for many when I say that we will certainly miss him. I wish Anthony the very best and much success in any opportunities that he decides to pursue in the future.”

Johnson was hired by the school system in 2004 as a teacher at Isenberg Elementary School.

He started at Overton in 2007 as a technology facilitator, helping teachers incorporate technology into their curriculum. In 2009 and 2011, he secured grant funds to start a One-to-One program that now makes an iPod or iPad available to every student in the school.

In November of 2010, he created the Overton Elementary School Mini Funk Factory as an after-school drum circle. It quickly grew into a drumline and then a full band. This year, it opened enrollment to any elementary or middle school child in grades four through eight in Rowan County.

As a high school dropout who later got a GED, Johnson said he is always looking to work with at-risk students and help them learn.

“Last year, I didn’t get to do as much with the students (at Overton) as I would have liked,” Johnson said. “This band program was started for at-risk kids, and my focus is still those kids, three years later.”

The group’s first and last performance as the “Rowan-Salisbury School System Mini Funk Factory Marching Band” will be this Friday. It will perform at Salisbury City Park at 8 p.m. as part of the Movies in the Park event.

After that, the music will have to pause.

Johnson said he must build up the band’s stock of instruments, because most of them will be left with the school system. He is still trying to work out what to do with instruments that he purchased or that were given by donors.

“I was reimbursed for a little more than $5,000,” he said. “The school system purchased another $2,000 worth of instruments, and then some were donated.”

Johnson said he has now filed for nonprofit status for the Mini Funk Factory Marching Band.

The band’s appearance in the Dunbar Parade at the end of August has been cancelled. Johnson said he is optimistic that he will have enough instruments in time to rehearse for the Battle of the Bands in High Point in late September.

He said parents of students in the band have been involved and supportive, and many of them knew that Johnson might be leaving. He officially notified them of his decision this week.

Johnson cited a disagreement with Phil Hardin, the school system’s executive director of technology, as one of the reasons for his resignation. He wouldn’t elaborate.

Hardin said Tuesday that from his perspective, he and Johnson had a “good working relationship.”

“I hired Anthony as a technology facilitator from the classroom,” he said. “We’ve done several state technology presentations together.”

Hardin said he believes he was able to give Johnson opportunities to grow, including securing funding for his trip to Ireland as an Apple Distinguished Educator.

“I hate to see him leave, but I understand the growth opportunities he wants to have,” Hardin said. “There are things he wants to do that he doesn’t have the opportunity to do at Overton, and we support that.”

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.