Stories and photos by WINGATE LASSITER unless credited otherwise
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School employees offered a $2,500 bonus

But there's a catch: They'll have to sign an agreement to remain with Johnston County Public Schools through the end of the 2022-23 school year.

And that's a big reason for the Retention Bonus Plan adopted unanimously by the county's Board of Education on Tuesday: to keep teachers and bus drivers and cafeteria workers and custodians and all other support staff on the job in Johnston during this time of labor shortages in just about every category of employment.

Another reason for the plan is to reward school employees who have stayed the course through the coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted public education for almost two years now.

The $2,500 bonus will be paid in two installments – one in December, the other next June – to all full-time employees hired before March 1 of this year. Employees joining the school system since then will get $1,250 split between the two payments. New employees hired after December 1 will get a $650 bonus next June if they commit to staying here.

The Retention Bonus Plan will be offered to more than 4,000 employees. The cost, estimated at more than $13 million, will be covered by a portion of more than $104 million in federal COVID-relief funds allotted to Johnston County's schools to be spent over the next three years.

The school board was advised that the bonus plan must be cleared by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, with approval more than likely.

Smithfield-Selma High's academic honor lists for the first quarter>


The $240,627 contract with Garris Grading & Paving of Farmville was approved by the Town Council June 1 but resurfacing portions of 11 streets didn't get started till this week. Town Manager Mike Scott said one reason for the delay was unexpected "milling" to remove inferior pavement from some streets that prompted an extension of the contract through mid-November. Pictured is work Monday morning on the western portion of Wellons Street. The town's budget for 2021-22 calls for spending $260,000 of state Powell Bill funds allotted Smithfield for street repairs such as this.

Smithfield's voting districts won't be altered
Candidates will file next month for March 8 election

Without objection, the Smithfield Town Council agreed Tuesday night to forego redrawing the town's voting districts, clearing the way for candidates to file next month for seats up for election March 8.

Smithfield's municipal election was postponed from earlier this month because the town did not receive U.S. Census numbers in time for the normal filing period, which would have taken place in July.

Up for election are seats held by Marlon Lee of District 1 (East Smithfield), David Stevens of District 2 (South Smithfield), Travis Scott of District 3 (West Smithfield), and David Barbour of District 4 (West Smithfield). The mayor's seat now held by Andy Moore is also up for grabs – chosen by all the town's voters.

Town Manager Mike Scott showed the council on Tuesday a change in district boundaries suggested by staff that would have affected several blocks of residents between Market and Johnston streets and South Second and Bright Leaf Boulevard.

But council members decided against changing the lines, citing recent approval of residential projects that will almost assuredly increase the town's population before the next census in 2030, especially in the West Smithfield. (The town grew by just 326 residents from 2010 to 2020.)

As things now stand, 2020 Census counts put 2,491 residents in District 1 (East), 2,763 in District 2 (South), 3,375 in District 3 (North), and 2,655 in District 4 (West).

Subject to approval by the Johnston County Board of Elections, the filing period for Smithfield candidates will be noon Monday, Dec. 6 through noon Friday, Dec. 17.

VIEW map of Smithfield's voting districts on the Board of Elections website>

Smithfield Council approves two more residential projects

On top of several subdivisions approved recently, the council approved two more at Tuesday's monthly meeting – one near Downtown, yet another in West Smithfield.

READ MORE about that and other council decisions on Tuesday>



Melissa Overton (center) is recipient of this year's Athena Award presented by the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce to an outstanding female leader. A nurse by profession, Melissa is founder of a business called, which provides life-saving and leadership training. She is co-founder of the Johnston Network on Aging and project leader for Launch JoCo, a countywide outreach initiative for entrepreneurs. Pictured with Melissa are Kay Johnson, chair of the Chamber Women's Business Network, and Mark McDonnell, Chamber board chair. (Triangle East Chamber photo)





School board votes 4-3 to keep mask mandate

Johnston County Public Schools will continue to require wearing of masks by all students and staff for another month at least after another 4-3 vote by members of the Board of Education on Tuesday.

"We feel very strongly to continue the mask mandate," reported board member Lyn Andrews, who has been serving on a COVID-19 review committee along with Dr. Marilyn Pearson, the county's health director, Assistant Superintendent of Schools David Pearce, and others.

Mrs. Andrews noted that mask-optional schools elsewhere in North Carolina "are having huge numbers of quarantines" keeping students at home.

Johnston County's schools, meanwhile, not only has the mask requirement in place but also a new state program – Test-to-Stay – that gives parents the option of having their children tested periodically at school if exposed to COVID rather than keeping them quarantined at home. Assistant Superintendent Pearce reported that Test-to-Stay so far has enabled 60 students to remain in school.

The N.C. General Assembly approved legislation earlier this year that requires local school boards to vote monthly on the masking question. Johnston's board will likely take up the issue again at its December 14 meeting.

Starting with the board's August 12 meeting, Al Byrd, Kay Carroll, Terri Sessoms, and Mrs. Andrews have voted to require masks while Ronald Johnson, Mike Wooten, and Board Chair Todd Sutton have voted in favor of optional masking.

This week's report from the school system (posted this morning) showed 107 active cases among students and staff (up from 68 last week) with 294 students and 21 staff members quarantined (219 students and 7 staff quarantined a week ago).

Schools with the most students in quarantine (as of this morning): East Clayton Elementary 60, McGee's Crossroads Elementary 18, South Johnston High 14, Cleveland Elementary 13. The highest number in the Smithfield area was 7 at SSS High School. West Smithfield Elementary reported no students in quarantine.

VIEW the school system's COVID dashboard with data for all schools>

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)
101,839: 49%*
(101,181: 48%)
5,872,003: 56%*
(5,839,740: 56%*)
UNITED STATES 46,850,000
  194,382,921: 59%
(192,931,486: 59%)
WORLDWIDE 251,605,914
total doses given
* Percentage of total population (all ages)
Data provided by: County of Johnston at 4:25 p.m. November 9
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services at 12:05 p.m. November 10
Johns Hopkins University at 8:21 a.m. November 11


Coach Deron Donald leads his charges onto the SSS playing field in this undated photo by Kevin Gottuso posted on the Town of Smithfield's Facebook page>

SSS defeats South Johnston in a stunner, 54-14

Smithfield-Selma High School's football Spartans, who haven't had a winning season since 2008, dropped three of their first five games this season, including a 21-14 loss to rival South Johnston and a 35-0 drubbing by eventual conference champion Wilson Hunt.

Since then, the Spartans have won six in a row, including a stunning 54-14 victory over South Johnston in last Friday's 3-A playoff opener at Charles Tucker Stadium. None of those games have been close as SSS outscored its opponents by a whopping 276-88 during that six-game stretch.

Two Spartans scored four touchdowns apiece against South on Friday. Brandon Perry ran the ball into the end zone four times while Clevonte Watson caught three TD passes from George Brewer and scored a fourth on a running play.

The Spartans intercepted four Trojan passes – by Isaiah and Daniel Dawson, Gerard Sanders Jr., and Michael Thompson – and recovered two fumbles – by Chris McCray and Jaylen Stancil. Joshua Hightower made four solo tackles, Jalil Howell nine, Jaylen Stancil eight, Thompson and Jeremiah Hatley seven apiece.
MORE SSS stats from the South Johnston game on MaxPreps>

Smithfield-Selma travels to Northern Nash High this Friday for Round 2 of the 3-A state playoffs. The Knights have won 10 of their 11 games this season. To buy tickets in advance for Friday's game, follow this link>


Neuse Charter girls come up short in volleyball title match

Neuse Charter School's Cougars won 26 of its 29 matches this season, which ended with a 3-1 loss to Union Academy in Saturday's state 1-A championship showdown. The Cougars won all 10 of their Carolina 1-A Conference matches this year plus four non-conference matches against intra-county rivals Princeton and Smithfield-Selma.

REVIEW the entire season on Max Preps>


Former Jewel Box store on its own lot at 1699 East Booker Dairy Road, with more than 30 parking spaces: $569,000.

Fonville Morisey Realty   •   919-669-9235   •



Veterans Day fireworks this evening at Community Park

Smithfield's Parks & Recreation Department's Veterans Day celebration begins at 4:30 p.m. today with children's activities capped off with a fireworks display at 7 o'clock. There should be plenty of room in parking lots adjacent to the park off Durwood Stephenson Parkway for folks to watch the show from their vehicles.

Neuse Little Theatre's "Explorers Club" opens Friday

It's the second production of the 47th season for the theatrical troupe in its home in the former Legion Hut beside the river in Smithfield. Show times are 8 p.m. this Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 19-20. To reserve tickets, call 919-934-1873. The cast list is posted on the NLT website>

County Commissioners will convene at 6 p.m. Monday

The board's regular third-Monday-of-the-month session begins at 6 p.m. in the Commissioners Meeting Room inside the Courthouse. First up on the agenda is a moment of appreciation for Chairman Chad Stewart, who is giving up his seat on the board at the end of the month to accept a full-time job as manager of Johnston's ABC system. Among other items on Monday's agenda is an update from consultants on work to revamp the county's Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
VIEW the complete agenda posted on the county's website> 



Last Saturday turned out to be blustery with the temperature barely above 50, yet that didn't keep parents from bringing their youngsters to Touch-A-Truck, an annual Downtown treat put on by the Junior Women's League of Smithfield with support from commercial sponsors and equipment providers. The League is currently accepting applications for membership. MORE information on its website>


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

RAQUEL ANN KORNEGAY CONNELL, 50 – died November 10

BRAD JOSEPH MOORE, 46 – died November 9




Electric rates are no longer the main issue here

The good news: Residential electric rates charged by the Town of Smithfield continue to be the lowest in Johnston County.

Not so good: Charges for water and sewer service from the town are now as much if not more than monthly costs for electricity.

That shifting of utility expenses began to hit home this summer after the town passed along an increase in what the County of Johnston charges municipalities like Smithfield for accepting and treating our sewage.

Our most recent utility bill from the town had charges for water and sewer service about $30 more than what we owed for power.

And that's before adding in monthly fees billed by the town for emptying our garbage cans and picking up our yard debris (both fees slightly increased July 1).

Thank goodness those electricity rates came down some years back as a result of negotiations that eliminated the crushing debt dumped on Smithfield and other ElectriCities by the commercial power companies half a century ago.

Now, if we can somehow cut down on what we're flushing down the drain and tossing into the trash can....

Paying what's necessary for utilities essential to our livelihood is one thing; paying more for wastefulness is a telling commentary on our present-day lifestyles. 


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