ONLINE JUNE 10, 2021 • VOL. 3,
Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted
(click highlighted link to e-mail the editor)
Photo from Johnston County Public Schools' Facebook pageHere's a class in session on Monday's opening day at Polenta Elementary School. Notice the children (and teacher) fully masked --- a point of contention for parents who spoke against that requirement at Tuesday's meeting of the Johnston County Board of Education. READ MORE>
Enrollment running higher than expected
in Johnston's Summer Learning Program
Chief Academic Officer Nicholas King told Johnston's Board of Education Tuesday evening that enrollment in the county's Summer Learning Program has exceeded expectations, rising to about 7,900 after an opening-day count of 7,684 on Monday.
As a result, he asked the board to approve an additional $164,116 for print and digital materials for summertime students in grades K-8. That comes on top of an earlier purchase from Savvas Learning Company in the amount of $ 358,152 that was based on a preliminary estimate of 5,300 students in those grades.
Those expenditures are being covered by federal CARES Act grants to Johnston's schools as a result of last year's enactment of COVID-19 relief funding by Congress.
North Carolina's General Assembly adopted legislation requiring all of the state's public-school districts to offer "high quality Summer Learning Recovery and Enrichment programs," Dr. King noted. The programs are targeted for students who fell behind academically during the past year's pandemic but are open to all.
Meanwhile, Johnston's schools once again are offering free breakfast and lunch on weekdays through the summer months to any and all students under age 18 who want them, whether they're attending summer school or not. Locally, those meals are being distributed to students who are out of school from 11 a.m. to noon Monday-Thursday at Smithfield-Selma High School.
Smithfield-Selma High School's Principal's List and Honor Roll for the fourth nine-week grading period published here>
County budget showdown looming
over Critical Race Theory in schools
Following Monday's public hearing on a proposed 2021-22 budget, County Commissioner Fred Smith declared that he won't support any increase in county funding for public schools this year unless Johnston's Board of Education adopts a policy outlawing the teaching of Critical Race Theory here.
"I don't believe our school board has a policy to prevent teaching the Critical Race Theory in our public schools, and I am opposed to them teaching that in our schools which teaches a misguided history and hatred of different races and different cultures that are not in the best interests of our nation and our county," he said.
"I'm not going to vote for any budget that increases their funding, at all, if they can't come forward with assurance that in Johnston County they're not teaching the Critical Race Theory in our classrooms to our children --- opposed to what the majority of our taxpayers would want," Mr. Smith concluded.
"I don't think anybody on this board will disagree with that," responded Board Chairman Chad Stewart.
April Lee, a teacher serving as president of Johnston's chapter of the N.C. Association of Educators, took issue with Commissioner Smith's comments as she addressed the Board of Education during its meeting on Tuesday.
"Mr. Smith proposed a Mafia-style extortion attempt about something he is clearly ignorant of," she said. "Critical Race Theory was born as a tool to examine racism in society through a lens of legal academia and has spread to other areas of academia, mostly in colleges and master's programs."
"Critical Race Theory has become the bogeyman, a source for fear-mongering with indoctrination of our students as its target," Ms. Lee continued. "I'm asking you," she advised the board, "to acknowledge that our schools are not teaching CRT, so there is no need for the policy (to ban it) to exist."
Members of the school board voiced no reaction to either Mr. Smith's comments or Ms. Lee's during Tuesday's session.
School leaders will make their case for increased funding from the county at the Board of Commissioners' budget session scheduled for 6 p.m. next Monday at the Courthouse. Commissioners are hoping to complete their work on the 2021-22 budget for adoption at a subsequent session on Monday, June 21.
Photo of Bartlett Mills from Johnston County Office of Economic Development
COUNTY OKs INCENTIVES FOR WILSON'S MILLS FLOUR MILL
Following a public hearing Monday evening, Johnston's County Commissioners approved property-tax rebates to secure a $26-million expansion of Bartlett Milling Company's flour-making mill at Wilson's Mills. As part of its agreement with the county, the company will add at least five employees to its 18-person workforce at salaries averaging about $50,000 plus benefits.
If those investment and employee goals are reached by the end of 2023, the county will return 50% of county property taxes collected on Bartlett's new investment over five years starting in 2024. A similar agreement will be considered by the Wilson's Mills Town Council later this month as the mill is located within the town's corporate limits a short distance west of the elementary school.
Opened in 2002 under a previous owner, the mill buys wheat directly from farmers in the region as well as wheat imported by rail from the Midwest. Bill Webster of Bartlett told commissioners the expansion project will increase the mill's production capacity to 1.6-million pounds of flour per day sold to baking companies that turn out snack foods, table bread, cookies and cakes.
READ MORE about items addressed during Monday's county board sessions>
80% of Johnston's elderly now vaccinated
That's the percentage of Johnstonians age 65 and older who've been vaccinated against COVID-19, reported Dr. Marilyn Pearson, Johnston's director of public health, in her monthly update to the County Commissioners on Monday.
"Things are looking much better," she told the board.
Even so, the actual number of Johnstonians who have been infected by the coronavirus pandemic is "probably two to three times" the 21,592 cases officially reported over the past 15 months, she said.
Dr. Pearson reported that now it's mostly "younger people going to the hospital" with severe COVID-19 infections rather than older folks. (The number of Johnstonians hospitalized is down considerably from last fall's weekly reports.)
Obviously, the vaccination rate for the younger age groups is way behind the rate for the elderly as just 34% of all Johnstonians have received full doses of vaccine.
The County of Johnston reported 198 active COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday: 183 recovering at home and 15 in hospitals. That's down from 230 cases in last week's report. Three more deaths were reported here this past week, bringing the total to 236 since the pandemic began.
VIEW the current list of vaccination clinics offered in Johnston County>
VIEW the current list of COVID-19 testing sites throughout Johnston County>
County Government, Community College
employ new chiefs for communications
The County of Johnston has employed its first full-time Public Information Officer (PIO) and Johnston Community College has named a new Senior Director of Communications and Marketing.
Adam Carroll is the county's PIO --- a job handled up to now by county employees with other responsibilities. He grew up in Smithfield and graduated from Smithfield-Selma High School before earning his bachelor's degree in media communications from N.C. State University, where he minored in journalism.
He comes to the County of Johnston from the Town of Garner where he has worked the past four years as a communications specialist, winning several statewide awards in video, promotions, public relations, and online live-streaming.
Before his time in Garner, Adam was a producer for PEG Media Partners and spent five years as a broadcast technician for WRAL-TV in Raleigh.
Carrrie Pitts-Densmore is JCC's new communications and marketing chief. She's a former television news producer who worked in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Buffalo, N.Y.; and Raleigh.
She launched her own digital media business in 2013 and was media communications specialist for Urban Ministries of Wake County for almost two years prior to joining the staff at JCC.
An award-winning news documentarian, Carrie sits on the board of the N.C. Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America as awards chair. She is presently seeking her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR).
For more about what's going on at JCC, visit the "News" page on its website>
WHAT'S COMING UP?
JUNETEENTH CELEBRATION ON SATURDAY THE 19th
A celebration of Juneteenth Freedom Day is planned for Saturday, June 19 in East Smithfield. Organized by Town Councilman Marlon Lee and others, the celebration begins with a parade at 10:30 starting at the Johnston Central High School Alumni Center at 110 Massey Street. Festivities continue at noon at Smith-Collins Park, including a cookout and "HBCU Pride events."
THREE LITTLE PIGS TRIATHLON RETURNING JUNE 19
After skipping last year because of the coronavirus-related ban on such activities, the Three Little Pigs Triathlon is returning to Smithfield for its 11th running on Saturday morning, June 19. Requiring competitors to swim, bike, and run, the event starts and ends at the Recreation and Aquatics Center. As a result, traffic will be restricted along roads in the area from 7 a.m. till 10:30 a.m. Sponsored primarily by Chick-Fil-A and Sysco, the event is a fund-raiser for Smithfield's Friends of the Parks and the Rotary Club of Central Johnston County. Online registration is still open>
DEATHS & FUNERALS
Each week we post links to obituaries about persons who have died during the past week. We monitor the websites of local funeral homes to compile our list, and we welcome links provided by readers to obituaries of persons with Smithfield connections who have died outside our immediate area....
DAVID ELLIS BRAGG, 80 - died June 7
NETA CLIFTON JONES, 92 - died June 7
NORMA EUGENIA JOHNSON McLENDON, 77 - died June 4
THOMAS RAY LANGDON, 56 - died June 2
BETSY ATKINS STANCIL, 96 - died June 2
THAT'S THE WAY IT WAS
AT THE CORNER OF MARKET & SOUTH THIRD
This colorized postcard produced before 1920 shows storefronts at the southeast corner of Downtown Smithfield's Market and Third streets. According to The Smithfield Herald archives, the two-story J.D. Spiers Dry Goods Store shown here was completed in 1906 --- and it still stands, having housed a number of businesses over the years including a hardware store. Today it's the home of Jewel's Formals. Second stories were added to the buildings next door in the years after this photo was made. (Digital image from the UNC Library's North Carolina Postcards)
a public service announcement
The Johnston County Arts Council is now accepting applications for Grassroots Grants Arts Program subgrants through July 20, 2021.
Since 1977, the North Carolina Arts Council’s Grassroots Arts Program has provided North Carolina citizens access to quality arts experiences. Using a per capita based formula, the program provides funding for the arts in all 100 counties of the state through partnerships with local arts councils. The Johnston County Arts Council serves as the North Carolina Arts Council’s partner in awarding sub-grants to local organizations for arts programs in Johnston County.
Applications are available for non-profit organizations whose purpose is to promote and develop diverse cultural arts programming in Johnston County. Funding priority is given to qualified arts organizations, arts in education programs conducted by qualified artists, and other community organizations that provide arts programs in the county. Projects must occur between July 1, 2021 and June 15, 2022.
Grant applications are evaluated by a diverse panel. Awards are announced in September each year. Grant guidelines and requirements, and application forms can be found on our website at www.jcartscouncil.org. Applications must be in the Johnston County Art Council’s office by July 20, 2021. For questions or more information, contact Executive Director Darlene Williford at firstname.lastname@example.org
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LOOKING FOR MORE INFORMATION?
Up-to-data Johnston County data
along with useful community links are
on the Smithfield-Selma Sun website>