PUBLISHED ONLINE AUGUST 25, 2022   •   VOL. 4, NO. 33

Stories and photos by WINGATE LASSITER unless credited otherwise
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School board wants Ronald Johnson removed

Unless he voluntarily resigns by noon this Friday, the other six members of the Johnston County Board of Education will petition the District Attorney to remove Ronald Johnson from his seat on the board for violating two of its statutory policies:

(1) That he secretly made recordings of discussions among board members "on approximately ten occasions" since the first of this year – an action specifically prohibited by the board's Code of Ethics.

(2) That he "attempted to interfere in a student assignment matter involving two special-education students" and a school principal – in violation of a Code of Ethics provision against use of a board member's position "for personal or partisan gain."

The board voted 6-1 on several resolutions producing that result after receiving an investigative report of Mr. Johnson's activities during a special session Wednesday evening. Attorneys with the law firm of Tharrington Smith prepared the report. The Raleigh-based firm is under contract to advise Johnston's schools on all legal matters.

Mr. Johnson spoke defiantly against the board's action, calling it "a witch hunt" based on hearsay. "I don't have any recordings," he declared. "You're not going to produce any recordings." And he said the student-assignment incident "did not happen."
(Screenshot of Mr. Johnson from YouTube broadcast of Wednesday's school-board session.)

Board member Terri Sessoms pushed back. "You have abused the trust of the people who voted for you," she declared, and "it has cost our children – in time (spent on this matter), in legal fees, in morale" among school staff. "It's hard for me to believe in what you have to say," she added.

Ms. Sessoms also requested that the board's pending letter to the District Attorney asking for Mr. Johnson's removal from office include a reference to an ongoing investigation by the Town of Smithfield into an undisclosed matter regarding his status as a Police Department detective. Mr. Johnson remains on unpaid leave from that job.

Details of the investigative reports presented Wednesday are attached to the meeting's agenda posted on the schools' website>

EDITOR'S NOTE: The investigations that produced Wednesday's actions resulted from revelations discussed at the board's August 9 meeting that were covered in the August 11 edition of the Weekly Sun (third item from the top of the page)>



August 29 is the earliest date North Carolina's traditional public schools are allowed to open this year under a state law requiring the first day to be the Monday closest to August 26. The N.C. Department of Public Instruction is projecting enrollment in Johnston's schools to reach 38,000 students this year. Last year's 10th-day enrollment was 37,593.

Because of the later-than-usual opening, the fall semester will extend beyond the Christmas holidays until January 27. The last day of the 2022-23 term is June 8.

With time running out, staff vacancies exceed 300
The school system's Central Office reported mid-week 113.5 "school based certified vacancies" – which includes teacher and administrator positions – and 200 "school based classified vacancies" – which includes teacher assistants, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, and other "support staff." Johnston's schools are currently allotted 2,812 certified and 1,159 classified positions.

Entering the third school year since the onset of COVID, Johnston's schools will return to the traditional policy of charging for students' meals based on a household's ability to pay. All meals have been served free of charge over the past two years under federal COVID-relief measures.

The new year begins with continuation of the mask-optional policy for staff and students that the Board of Education adopted last February following six months when masks were required in classrooms and on school buses.

VIEW the full year's calendar for students attending Johnston's public schools>

Principals of Smithfield-area schools
The only newcomer to this group is Dondi Pate at Wilson's Mills Elementary:

David Allen
High School
LaShunda Faison
Smithfield Middle
Susan Jones
South Smithfield
Darrick McNeill
West Smithfield
Dondi Pate
Wilson's Mills

When the daily school bells ring
Smithfield-Selma High: 7:15 a.m. tardy bell, 2:15 p.m. dismissal.
Smithfield Middle: 8:05 a.m. tardy bell, 3:15 p.m. dismissal.
Elementary schools: 8:55 a.m. tardy bell; 3:55 p.m. dismissal.




SSS continues reversal with big win vs. Princeton

Making a statement that last year's winning season was no fluke, the Spartans of Smithfield-Selma High School looked dominant in subduing perennial football power Princeton last Friday night by a score of 35-21 – a surprising reversal of last year's match-up that produced a 42-21 victory for the Bulldogs.

Princeton took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter but SSS bounced back with three touchdowns before halftime, capped off by a 65-yard run by junior Isaiah Dawson just before intermission for a 20-7 advantage.

The Bulldogs came back in the third quarter with a TD to make it 20-14 but the Spartans put the game away in the fourth quarter with with a 67-yard touchdown drive followed by senior linebacker Jalill Howell's 34-yard fumble return to make it 35-14. A third Bulldog TD cut the lead to 35-21 but it was too little, too late as the Spartans' running game kept the ball away from the visitors through much of the final quarter.

Sophomore Devyn Grant led the SSS running attack with a total of 126 yards rushing, including one touchdown. Senior Gerard Sanders Jr. racked up 96 yards and a touchdown. Dawson accounted for 81 total yards and two TDs.

On defense, senior Jaylen Stancil made 12 solo tackles, senior Michael Thompson Jr. had 11, and Devyn Grant had 10.

The Spartans host another team of Bulldogs at 7 p.m. this Friday when Nash Central High visits Charles Tucker Stadium. SSS beat Nash Central last year 42-13, the first of eight wins in a 12-game season for the Spartans. Nash Central beat Southeast Halifax  52-24 last Friday night.

How other Johnston County teams fared on opening night

South Johnston 31
Western Harnett 7
Cleveland 55
Cary 12
Greensboro Grimsley 42
Clayton 14
West Johnston 28
Harnett Central 13
Corinth Holders 39
Franklinton 20
North Johnston 38
Farmville Central 6

Neuse Charter School's teams are off to a winning start

The girls volleyball team lost the season's opener at East Wake Academy last week but has since won four straight matches, defeating Princeton High once and Wayne County's C.B. Aycock High twice. Next up is a match at Franklin Academy today (Thursday).

The boys soccer squad won the season's home opener against Southside Christian School of Clayton last week by a score of 6-0. Play continues today (Thursday) when the Cougars travel to Roxboro Community School.


"Trusted by families since 1977"
840 S. Bright Leaf Blvd. • 919-934-7164 •

Democrats produce nominee for commissioner

Evelyn L. Sanders of Pleasant Grove Township is the Johnston County Democratic Party's nominee for the District 4 seat on the county's Board of Commissioners. Her name will be on the ballot for the November General Election along with the name of Republican April Stephens of Elevation Township who was appointed to the board in April following Commissioner Larry Wood's resignation when he moved outside the county.

The commissioners were required to appoint a successor to Mr. Wood from the ranks of the Republican Party; therefore, leaders of the Democratic Party were entitled to nominee a candidate of their own for the seat that represents a district that extends from the Benson area to McGee's Crossroads. Those nominations could not be filled by May's Primary Election since Mr. Wood resigned after ballots were printed.

Ms. Sanders is CEO of Southeastern Healthcare of North Carolina, Inc., a home-care agency based in Raleigh that serves elderly and disabled adults in several nearby counties, including Johnston.

Here's the latest information about November's General Election from the Johnston County Board of Education, including the complete list of candidates whose names will be on Johnston's ballots>


Crackdown coming on Downtown parking violations

The Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation (DSDC) has asked the town's Police Department to launch a campaign to enforce violations like this (one of half a dozen observed during a spot check along Market Street Wednesday morning) as well as violations of the two-hour limit for on-street parking and the 25-mph speed limit.

"The DSDC has observed a significant increase in vehicles parking on the sidewalk, which we attribute to a combination of the speeds traveled on Market Street, the narrow parking spaces, and the increasing size of many vehicles," reads a statement issued by the organization's board of directors. "Having vehicles on the sidewalk, an area meant for pedestrians, creates safety concerns for downtown users. Additionally, both the Town and the DSDC have made significant financial investments to upgrade the sidewalks and streetscape, and parking on the sidewalks is compromising the work that has been done....

"Despite the two-hour limit that exists for on-street parking in the downtown core, extended parking remains an issue. When DSDC staff completed an analysis earlier this year over the course of a three-week period, they found that there was an average of more than 24 vehicles each day parked in a space in excess of that limit, with as many as 17 vehicles parked in one location for at least six hours on one day.

"As it is important for the on-street parking to turn over in order to make parking more convenient for downtown visitors, the DSDC encourages downtown business owners, people who work downtown, and people who are making extended visits to park in one of the nine free public parking lots located within two blocks of the intersection of Third and Market streets (a map of these lots is available under the Parking section at"

Police Chief Keith Powell told the Sun this week that his department
"will conduct the enforcement as manpower allows" starting in mid-September. "This will give everyone time to be aware of the upcoming enforcement actions," he said.

The Town Council earlier this month approved a revised schedule of fines that raises the fee for most parking violations from $10 to $25.




River Rat Regatta will try again to make its run Saturday

The cardboard-boat race on the Neuse River from the Town Commons boat ramp to the Market Street bridge is set to start at 5 p.m. Last-minute entries may sign up from 3 to 4:30 p.m. The race was postponed two weeks ago because of high water on the river following heavy rainfall upstream. For more information, contact the Smithfield Parks & Recreation Department at 919-934-2148.

Smithfield Town Council will hold an extra session Tuesday

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall for a discussion of three matters:
• New rules on commercial building maintenance and garbage, trash, and refuse.
• "Park in lieu" fees related to new residential developments.
• Stormwater funding options.
VIEW details attached to the agenda including the proposed ordinance changes>

"Trusted Elections Tour" coming to Smithfield Wednesday

The N.C. Network for Fair, Safe, and Secure Elections is hosting a series of 15 "town hall" meetings, one in each Congressional district and a virtual event for those unable to attend in person. Smithfield will get the event next Wednesday (Aug. 31) from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Johnston County Courthouse. The panelists: Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst at the John Locke Foundation; Brad Reaves, cybersecurity expert from N.C. State University; Leigh Anne Price, Johnston County elections director; Gordon Woodruff, Democratic member, and John Shallcross Jr., Republican member, of the Johnston County Board of Elections; and Pressly M. Millen and Phil Strach, N.C. election-law experts. For more information, visit



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

LLOYD LAMUEL STRICKLAND, 97 – died August 21




A setback for school board's claims of transparency

Johnston's County Commissioners held a retreat last spring on the campus of Campbell University in neighboring Harnett County. It went for two days and was live-streamed on the county's YouTube as all the commissioners' meetings since the onset of COVID.

Johnston's Board of Education followed suit with a retreat of its own on Wednesday of last week on the Campbell campus. But we don't know how long it lasted because it was NOT live-streamed and we've yet to see a report, or a video, of what transpired.

Public notice of the school board's retreat was posted the previous Friday, and it came too late for publishing in the Weekly Sun for you, our readers, to know about it. And this reporter chose not to attend the 8 a.m. session in person as preparations for last week's edition of this publication couldn't be put on hold.

Besides convenience, another good thing about those YouTube broadcasts of meetings is that they're archived for viewing later at a time of one's choosing. But in this case, apparently that isn't going to happen.

Despite recent good-faith efforts to shine more light on its deliberations, the Board of Education still has a hill to climb toward full public trust in its handling of school matters.


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