Thursday, September 2, 2021
Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter (unless otherwise noted)

First graders at South Smithfield Elementary School separated into small groups this week to share stories of fun trips they've taken. (Johnston County Public Schools photo posted on Facebook)

Johnston schools' enrollment hits 37,307

That's 622 above last year's 36,685 on Day 8 (Wednesday) – quite a turnaround from numbers that were lagging during the first few days of school last week.

Wednesday's report counted 37,307 students enrolled in Johnston's public schools. On the first day of the new term a week ago Monday, enrollment totaled 34,540.

The number recorded this Friday – the 10th day – will be a key in determining the amount of state funding initially allotted Johnston's schools for 2021-22. Last year's allotment was based on an enrollment of 37,837 recorded for the 2019-20 school term, even though enrollment in 2020-21 dropped to 36,587 because of the pandemic.



SSS wins big on a "topsy-turfy" football Friday

Apparently no longer a football doormat, the Spartans of Smithfield-Selma High School got an impressive win on the road last Friday, trouncing Nash Central High near Rocky Mount by a score of 42-13.

Meanwhile, a game was played at Smithfield-Selma's Charles Tucker Stadium that didn't involve a SSS team. Clayton High's Comets "hosted" perennial 4A power Wake Forest High on the Spartans' home field because Clayton's new synthetic-turf field wasn't ready for play. That proved to be an unlucky change of venue for the Comets, who were blistered by Wake Forest 48-0.

Another unexpected turn of events was a COVID-19 outbreak at Corinth Holders High School that forced cancellation not only of last Friday's game at Southern Nash High but also this week's home game against Northern Nash.

Back to Smithfield-Selma's resounding victory at Nash Central:

Senior quarterback Deshawn McCullough completed 10 of 21 passes, including four for touchdowns: two to senior Daniel Dawson, two to sophomore Isaiah Dawson. Senior running back Clevonte Watson carried the ball 10 times for 95 yards with one touchdown; senior George Brewer also scored a TD.

The Spartans gained a total of 399 yards on offense – 246 passing, 153 rushing – while holding Nash Central to a total of 200 yards.

SSS is now 1-1 on the season. Next up is a non-conference home game at 7 p.m. today (Thursday) against North Johnston, which has lost its first two games.
Here's the full season's schedule (including results so far) for Smithfield-Selma>



1,075 new cases, 8 more deaths this past week

And the number of Johnstonians hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment continues to be a cause for alarm, rising to 76 in Tuesday's report from the county's Public Health Department.

Johnston County Public Schools' COVID-19 Dashboard indicates a sizable outbreak at Corinth Holders High School, where 28 coronavirus cases among students and staff have put 152 students and six staff members in quarantine, according to Thursday morning's updated numbers.

Cleveland Middle School reports 31 cases among students and staff with 98 students in quarantine. West Clayton Elementary has 82 students quarantined. None of the schools in the Smithfield-Selma attendance district has more than 20 students quarantined at this time.

For Johnston's school system as a whole, Thursday morning's report shows 275 active cases among students and staff, with 1,193 students and 66 staff quarantined.
VIEW the latest dashboard>

VIEW the current list of vaccination clinics in Johnston County>

VIEW the current list of testing sites in Johnston County>


Case total
since 3-20 

(last week)
since 3-20 

(last week)

(last week) 

(last week)
87,861: 42%*
(85,273: 41%)
5,226,936: 50%*
(5,113,704: 49%*)
UNITED STATES 39,260,718
  174,121,529: 53%
(171,367,657: 52%)
WORLDWIDE 218,057,832
total doses given
Information from: County of Johnston at 4:25 p.m. August 31
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services at 12:00 p.m. September 1
Johns Hopkins University at 1:21 p.m. September 1
* Percentage of total population (all ages)

Employment up, jobless rate down in July

The N.C. Department of Commerce reports Johnston County's unemployment rate declined from 4.4% in June to 4.1% in July as the number of Johnstonians with jobs rose from 97,039 to 97,935 while the number looking for work dropped from 4,415 to 4,156. A year ago, July's jobless rate was 8.0% when 7,569 Johnstonians were registered as unemployed. Johnston's jobless rate is consistently lower than the statewide rate, which was 4.6% in July this year.

Register of Deeds reports a big jump in revenue

Johnston County's population isn't the only thing growing around here. Its Register of Deeds Office has recorded a 352% increase in revenue over the past 10 years – from $1,642,184 in fiscal 2010-11 to $7,422,592 this past year.

Register of Deeds Craig Olive attributes much of the recent growth to COVID-related shutdowns by offices in nearby counties while Johnston's office remained in business. Issuance of marriage licenses, for instance, increased by 35% this past year, he noted.

Another factor over the past decade was Johnston's early embrace of technological advances. As a result, Mr. Olive pointed out, 84% of filings in his office are now received as "eRecordings" online. "Johnston County was one of the first counties in North Carolina to implement the electronic recording of records for an easier and quicker way to file documents," he said.

And, "Johnston County Register of Deeds was the first county in the nation to accept electronic recordings of plat/survey maps," according to Mr. Olive.



The County of Johnston's Emergency Services Division is one of 12 EMS agencies statewide selected for an advanced pediatric training and education program developed by researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill. EMS Captain Allison Bissette will serve as Johnston County's Pediatric Emergency Care Coordinator with the program, which began September 1 and will run for two years. Participation in the program will earn Johnston's EMS Division a monthly stipend to be used for local pediatric care. (County of Johnston photo)

August rainfall was a return to normal

After an unusually wet July, August brought us normal rainfall for this time of year when 4.87 inches was recorded at Cornell Cox's Backyard Weather Station in South Smithfield. That brings our year-to-date total to 42.79 inches, closing in on our annual average of just under 48 inches with four months left in 2021. Even so, it looks like we won't reach last year's 76+ inches – unless we get direct hits from a hurricane or two this fall.


Front Street entertainment on Monday's Labor Day holiday

A Smithfield-based organization, The Love Connection, is hosting what it bills as the "1st Annual Unity in the Community Youth Talent Showcase" from noon till 5 p.m. Labor Day Monday outside the historic Hastings House at Front and Johnston streets. Along with the talent show, the event will feature guest speaker Tawana Williams – billed as "The Hope Coach" and also "The Lady With No Arms" – plus free haircuts and hairstyles for children (1-4 p.m.) and free food, free clothing, and goodie bags (while supplies last). Other attractions include food trucks, face painting, and line dancing. Also, The Blood Connection will be on site for blood donations: registration in advance advised>

County Commissioners, Smithfield Council meet Tuesday

The Johnston County Board of Commissioners will meet at the Courthouse next Tuesday instead of Monday because of the Labor Day holiday. The 10 a.m. session will include updates on the coronavirus pandemic and the related Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The 6 p.m. session will include public hearings on two rezoning requests involving small tracts in Pine Level and Wilders Township and a request from the Town of Princeton for $1,115,000 from the county for drainage and water-line projects. Access links to both agendas and live-streaming of the sessions>

The Smithfield Town Council will conduct its regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall. On the agenda are public hearings on rezoning requests for a proposed 143-lot residential subdivision on 31.56 acres on the north side of NC 210 about 1,300 feet west of Skyland Drive and for Light Industrial zoning of 69.26 acres on both sides of US 70 Business West about 670 feet south of Barbour Road. Postponed from last month's meeting is a rezoning request for a proposed 598-unit residential project including single-family houses, townhouses, and apartments across US 70 Business West from the Amazon distribution center currently under construction. Here's the complete agenda>



Click on the name to read an obituary, usually posted by the funeral home

DAPHNE SUE HEATH EDWARDS, 61 – died August 30


PEGGY TOMLINSON DEANS, 87 – died August 29

SHEILA ANN ROYAL ALLEN, 66 – died August 27

ANNE LEE HINES LASSITER, 89 – died August 26

STEPHEN PATRICK HORTON, 42 – died August 25



That's the way it was during recess at school

Those of us who grew up in Smithfield surely remember the huge dirt playground behind our school buildings on South Third and Rose streets. Jennifer Capps Hinton posted this 1958 photograph on a nostalgic Facebook page entitled "You Know You're From Smithfield NC If..." (the buses were parked along South Second Street):

I think just about everybody in elementary school went out there for recess every morning as the spacious grounds seemed to be completely filled up! I remember playing marbles in the dirt. Others played tag. And the older ones? Flirting, I'd guess.

My elders told me this was the site of Smithfield High's football and baseball fields before those facilities were relocated across town at Bingham Park (site of today's SECU Hospice House off Hospital Road). The old playground is paved over today as a parking lot for administrative offices of the school system in the A.G. Glenn Building and others on the property.


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