Johnston County interim superintendent addresses concerns of parents, students

Johnston County News

CLAYTON, N.C. (WNCN) – Johnston County parents feel their concerns were validated after the school district’s interim superintendent said he would have handled a grievance investigation differently.

Dr. Jim Causby told parents he would have had a third party handle a grievance filed by Clayton High School’s former principal, Dr. Bennett Jones, against former superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow.

“I’m not saying anything was wrong, but there’s the potential for people to believe something was wrong if it’s being handled by people who report to the person who the grievance is against,” said Causby.

Causby stepped in as interim superintendent earlier this month after Renfrow suddenly retired.

On Tuesday, Causby spoke with students, teachers, and staff at Clayton High School before meeting with a group of about 50 parents to address their concerns.

“I regret that what’s happened has happened. I know that many of you feel that it’s a reflection of the school, the kids, all those things. If I could do anything to erase all those things, I would, but I can’t,” he said.

On Aug. 12, Jones was reassigned to an administrative position within the district. The move upset students and parents. Many said they weren’t given an explanation. Jones filed a grievance claiming Renfrow reassigned him without cause.

CBS 17 asked the school district why Jones was reassigned but was told it could not comment on personnel matters.

Tuesday night, Causby told parents the internal investigation into the grievance was complete. He is now reviewing the findings of the investigation.

He said that, so far, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by the school’s football team. Causby said there was one self-reported illegal practice, but the team paid a fine and was put on probation during the summer. He added that the team can play in the playoffs.

Causby also clarified a previous report by the school district that 13 students graduated without meeting the state’s requirements. Causby said he has been combing through each of those student’s transcripts.

He found that, of the 13, four did not actually walk at graduation, nor receive a diploma. Of those four, one is back in school. Two other students were cleared after receiving vocational training.

Causby said he is still looking into the transcripts of the remaining seven students.

He said only one of the 13 was an athlete at Clayton High School, and none of them play collegiate sports.

Causby said one other area of concern in the findings was the school’s finances. He said he is still reviewing them, and would not comment further.

Some parents described the months-long investigation as a “witch hunt.” Causby said he hoped Tuesday cleared up any misconceptions about the process.

“The process just requires you to ask questions, and if something comes up that is questionable, then you have to delve into that. That doesn’t mean you’re trying to create anything. It just means you’re trying to find the truth,” he said.

If Jones wishes to continue with the grievance, Causby will hold a hearing in which Jones can present evidence and witnesses to support his claim.

After the hearing, Causby will rule whether or not Jones was reassigned without cause. Then, depending on that ruling, he will decide whether or not to reinstate Jones as principal at Clayton High School.

“We will get all those answers, and we will work through this. I will get a decision made, and this school will get back to normal at one point in time,” said Causby.

Causby hopes to have that hearing within the next two weeks, but said if Jones appeals the decision, the investigation could continue.

Tuesday night, parents like Kim Winslow said they felt validated after speaking with Causby.

“We got a lot more information then we thought we would,” said Winslow. “Through this whole process, we’ve wanted Dr. Jones to be heard, and we’ve wanted to be heard as far as our concerns.”

During the meeting, Causby became emotional saying he felt the need to come out of retirement, seeing the turmoil at Clayton High School. Causby previously served as superintendent for the district from 1994-2004.

“I was here for 10 years. You don’t live somewhere for 10 years, some of your kids graduate the system and not care about what’s going on,” he said.

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