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4 of 5 Smithfield-area schools graded "D"

The four are Smithfield-Selma High, Smithfield Middle, South Smithfield and West Smithfield elementary schools. Wilson's Mills Elementary, which includes students from the residential section of town known as West Smithfield, got a "C." Neuse Charter School, based in Smithfield with students residing throughout Johnston County, also graded "C."

That was the disappointing news from the state's annual "report card" based on standardized testing of students at the end of the 2021-22 academic year. The good news is that Johnston County raised the number of schools earning letter grades of A, B, or C from 30 to 37 this past year while reducing the number of "Low Performing Schools" as defined by the state from 14 to five.

Among those five are Smithfield-Selma High, South Smithfield Elementary, and West Smithfield Elementary; the other two are West Clayton Elementary and the Virtual Academy, Johnston's alternative online school. Smithfield Middle, although graded "D," avoided the Low Performing label because its test scores exceeded defined expectations for improvement this past year. The other local "D" schools did not reach that goal.

A dozen of Johnston County's 48 schools got "B" grades: Corinth Holders High, Archer Lodge Middle, Cleveland Middle, the Innovation Academy at South Campus, Riverwood Middle, Cleveland Elementary, Dixon Road Elementary, Powhatan Elementary, River Dell Elementary, Riverwood Elementary, Thanksgiving Elementary, and Johnston Charter Academy at Clayton.

The only "A" grades went to two programs operating with limited enrollments outside of traditional campus settings: the Career & Technical Leadership Academy and the Early College Academy, both hosted by Johnston Community College.

Johnston's school leaders staged a news conference last Thursday afternoon to celebrate high points in the state's report released earlier in the day. Following that event, the school system issued a statement with this explanation for improvements at many of the county's schools:

"The district has implemented research based Core Curriculums in reading and math and the use of on-going instructional walkthroughs with feedback and coaching. JCPS is monitoring student progress across skills and grade-level standards through use of common benchmark assessments to inform and adjust instruction, and is using a differentiated plan of support across the district aligned to meet the specific needs of each school."

With the latest test results, Johnston's public schools as a whole are now ranked 41st in the state. That's up from 59th last year and 83rd the year before.

VIEW the state's report for all of Johnston's schools>

Here's how schools in the Smithfield area stacked up against schools in all of Johnston County and the entire state:

Grade / Score *
South Smithfield Elementary   D / 46 37.2% 28.2%
West Smithfield Elementary D / 43 33.3% 17.9%
Wilson's Mills Elementary C / 59 48.8% 27.4%
Smithfield Middle D / 48 39.7% 30.0%
Smithfield-Selma High D / 53 30.5% 31.4%
Neuse Charter School C / 62 59.6% 57.1%
All of Johnston County n/a 53.3% 42.7%
All of North Carolina n/a 51.4% 45.4%
* Since 2013-14, student performance data have been used to assign letter grades to public schools as required by N.C. General Statute 115C-83.15. The grades are based on each school’s achievement score (weight of 80%) and each school’s student academic growth (weight of 20%). The total school performance score is converted to a 100-point scale and then used to determine a school performance grade:
A: 85-100; B: 70-84; C: 55-69; D: 40-54; F: less than 40.

Another Thanksgiving school site to be purchased

The County Commissioners this week approved the school system's requested purchase of 130 acres adjacent to Thanksgiving Elementary School for $3 million. Apparently it's to be the site of a new middle school serving the fast-growing Flowers Crossroads area east of Clayton. Commissioners were told the site may also accommodate future parks and recreation facilities open to the public. Owners of the land being purchased are the Raymond Earp Family Trust and Mary E. Moore Worley, who sold the 39-acre site for the new elementary school two years ago.

Two industries granted incentives to expand

Novo Nordisk at Clayton and Becton Dickinson at Four Oaks will get property-tax rebates if they meet capital-investment targets for projects expanding production facilities and adding new jobs.

The Johnston County Board of Commissioners Tuesday evening approved an agreement with Novo Nordisk for return of a sizeable portion of county taxes paid on property valuations added by renovations and expansions over a 12-year period: 90% returned the first five years, 80% in the next three, 70% in the next two, 60% in the 11th year, and 50% in the 12th. After that, the company would pay annual taxes without rebates.

What makes that incentive agreement unique is a lack of specifics about what the company will do. Commissioners were told that the capital investments would total "millions of dollars" and create "hundreds of high-wage, good jobs." Those investments would have to be made by the end of 2031 for Novo Nordisk to qualify for the full incentive package.

The company – said to be the world's largest producer of insulin used to combat diabetes – currently employs more than 1,700 workers at Clayton as a result of eight expansion projects over its 30 years in operation here.

Becton, Dickinson & Company (BD) – "a global leader in medical devices" – will get tax rebates from both the County of Johnston and the Town of Four Oaks for constructing a new facility beside its existing distribution center in Four Oaks Business Park off I-95 east of town.

At a joint meeting of the County Commissioners and the Four Oaks Town Council Tuesday afternoon, an agreement was approved for refunds of 90% declining to 50% of county and town property taxes paid over seven years on capital investment of at least $20 million that will add at least 20 new jobs paying at least $75,000.

BD has been operation at Four Oaks since 2010 and currently employs about 300. The company expects the new facility to be in service by the end of 2024.

County earmarks first receipt of Opioid Settlement funds

The County of Johnston is scheduled to receive $8,055,921 over eight years from the national Opioid Litigation Settlement with four major drug companies. Johnston's County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a budget for spending the first year's allocation of $309,505.

Dr. Marilyn Pearson, the county's director of public health, reported to the board that Johnston recorded 44 illicit drug deaths in 2020, up from 25 in 2010 and 29 in 2015. "Our goal is zero," she declared.

Of the county's initial settlement money, a big chunk – $105,000 – will be used to purchase 5,000 doses of Naloxone for persons at risk of drug overdoses, most of that to be distributed by the county's fire departments and emergency medical stations as well as the Health Department.

Other expenditures will cover detoxification treatments, recovery-support services, early-intervention programs, and employment of a part-time coordinator for "collaborative strategic planning" among agencies dealing with drug addiction.

Johnstonians asked to turn on green lights for military veterans

Starting in October and continuing through Veterans Day November 11, residences and businesses will be encouraged to burn those lights "to honor the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform." In support of a nationwide campaign called Operation Green Light, commissioners adopted a resolution which notes "that 44-72 percent of service members experience high levels of stress during transition from military to civilian life" and "are at high risk of suicide during their first year after military service."

Firefighters Week begins Sunday on anniversary of 9/11 attacks

The commissioners adopted a resolution supporting that observance at the request of Johnston County Fire Marshal Ryan Parker. Other proclamations approved Tuesday are for the N.C. Department of Transportation's 34th annual Fall Litter Sweep September 10-24 and for Child Passenger Safety Week September 18-24, which includes National Seat Check Saturday on the 24th.

VIEW the board clerk's highlights of all matters taken up at Monday's sessions>


Health Department offering latest Pfizer COVID booster shots

The Johnston County Public Health Department has received its first shipment of Pfizer bivalent booster vaccines and is now providing those immunizations on a walk-in basis free of charge 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, till 6 p.m. Tuesdays.

The Pfizer bivalent booster is approved for persons 12 and older and may be received two months after completing a primary vaccine series or any booster dose, regardless of the brand of vaccine received in the past.

The bivalent boosters are formulated to protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant. For more information visit or call the Health Department at 919-989-5200.

Town Council permits a second five-story hotel

It will be constructed next door to the five-story Hampton Inn on a cul-de-sac just south of Market Street beside I-95. The new Home2 Suites hotel, like its neighbor, will exceed Smithfield's 40-foot height limit for buildings and therefore required the Town Council's approval for an exception to the rule.

The hotel to be built will reach 70 feet in height, according to its permit application. The Hampton Inn is slightly shorter. Both are operated as different brands of the Hilton hotel chain. A Tru hotel already under construction nearby is also part of the Hilton family.

The Town Council approved the requested special-use permit without dissent at Tuesday's regular monthly meeting. No objections were heard from the public during a hearing prior to the council's vote.


Hearing postponed on incentives for industrial "spec" building

Al Neyer, a commercial real-estate firm operating in several states, has requested property-tax rebates from both the town and the county for construction of an industrial "spec" (speculative) building for "a future lessor" at the intersection of Brogden and Wal-Pat roads beside I-95. A public hearing on the request was scheduled for Tuesday's Town Council meeting but was postponed till next month at the petitioner's request. (A similar hearing scheduled before the County Commissioners this week was also put off till October.)

A second public hearing on Tuesday's council agenda resulted in the closing of Circle Drive, a short street linking Bright Leaf Boulevard and South Seventh Street. Walter Sanders Funeral and Cremation Services had asked for closure of the seldom-used driveway adjacent to its property. Hearing no objections, the council OK'd the request.


Library, Planning, Historic Properties appointments made

The council reappointed Terri Lee to a second term as one of Smithfield's representatives on the Public Library's Board of Trustees and Debbie Howard to a second term on the town's Planning Board. Elizabeth Anne Temple was appointed as a new member of the town's Historic Properties Commission.

At the start of Tuesday's meeting, Mayor Andy Moore presented a proclamation of appreciation to Stephen (Steve) Upton upon his retirement from the town's Planning Board after 15 years of service. He was the board's chairman until recently and continues to serve on the town's Board of Adjustment.


Council issues permits for several upcoming special events

The list includes the following:
• B.U.D.S. Foundation Fallen Riders Fundraiser 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday (September 10) at Bulldog Harley Davidson on Outlet Center Drive. (B.U.D.S. stands for Bikers United to Defend Driving Safely).
• St. Paul's Episcopal Church picnic 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Sunday (September 11) on Church Street closed to vehicular traffic between South Second and Front streets.
• Family Days Fall Fest Super Carnival by Inner Shows, Inc. September 15-25 at Carolina Premium Outlets.
• JoCo Praise in the Park by Keanna Howell 1-5 p.m. Saturday, September 17 at Smith-Collins Park.
• Community Outreach Event by Compass Community Church 4-6 p.m. Saturday, September 17 in the Rotary Shelter at Community Park.
• JoCo Works Career Expo by the Triangle East Economic Development Foundation 8 a.m. to  5 p.m. October 13-14 at Johnston Community College.


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



Smithfield-Selma shuts out North Johnston, 42-0

The Spartans remain undefeated after their first three games with a 42-0 win over North Johnston High last Thursday. SSS scored six touchdowns with a balanced attack that produced 180 yards rushing, 178 yards passing.

Senior quarterback John Renfrow completed 10 of 13 passes thrown, two of those for touchdowns. Senior Gerard Sanders Jr. led the rushers with 91 yards on 11 carries, including two touchdown runs. Seniors Joshua Hightower and Jaylen Stancil led the defense with 12 tackles apiece.

The Spartans have a bye this week, returning to action Friday, Sept. 16 at South Johnston in the first of seven Quad County 3-A Conference games.


Last week's football scores for other Johnston County schools
(team's record for the season to date in parenthesis)

 Cleveland (3-0)           34
 D.H. Conley                23
 Clayton (1-2)             41
 Wakefield                   7
 Corinth Holders (1-2)  0
 Northern Nash          61
 South Johnston (2-1)  23
 Southern Lee              17
 West Johnston (2-1) 10
 Gray's Creek             21
 Princeton (2-1)         45
 Rosewood                32 

Other Spartan teams struggling to get victories

The SSS boys soccer team has a record of 0-5-2 after a 2-2 tie at home Tuesday against St. Pauls High. Quad County 3-A Conference play opens next Monday for the Spartans at South Johnston.

The girls volleyball team has won three of its first eight matches but has lost its first three conference contests, most recently against Wilson's Fike High on Tuesday. The girls tennis team remains winless after nine matches.



SSS-based robotics team hosting chalk-drawing contest

Team 6004, f(x) Robotics from Smithfield-Selma High School will host a "FoxChalk" event this Saturday from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m. Downtown. Portions of sidewalks along South Third and Market streets will be sectioned off for the chalk-drawing competition. The event will support a project to build "assistive technology with robots" to help children with dexterity limitations in local elementary schools. Besides the competition, activities including face painting, games, vendors, live music, and a dunk tank will be offered without admission charge.

9/11 Remembrance Ceremony this Saturday afternoon

The Town of Smithfield is hosting the event from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Community Garden on South Fifth Street to honor our first responders. Activities include a 9/11 commemorative-plate auction, face painting, and free hot dogs. Event sponsors are Stevens Sausage, Barbecue Provision Company, Grace and Truth Leadership Organization, Rotary E-Club of District 7710, Angelique Legget d.b.a. Ms. Lynn's Attic, and Mark Lane.

9/11 commemoration at SSS High School Monday morning

Smithfield-Selma High School will hold a 9/11 commemoration ceremony at 7:30 a.m. Monday. The ceremony is expected to end by 8:45 am, and will be held in the bus parking lot (in the event of adverse weather, the secondary location will be the gym).  Guest speaker will retired U.S. Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Deschamps.

School board's monthly meeting scheduled Tuesday

The monthly meeting usually opens at 4 p.m. with a closed session immediately followed by the open business session. The board meets in the Evander S. Simpson Building on US 70 Business east of I-95. VIEW the agenda here once it's posted>


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

ELIZABETH ANN HINNANT WARD, 75 – died September 6

ROY WILLIAM (POPS) ROLAND SR., 78 – died September 5

LINDA THORNE BARBOUR, 70 – died September 2

KATHIE ANN SUPER, 68 – died September 2


Here's an example of how the Neuse River Trail in Wake County avoids conflicts with highways – shown in a photo taken by the editor several years ago at Mial Plantation Road between Clayton and Garner.


Recommended route is not a "Neuse River Trail"

The County Commissioners received a consulting firm's Neuse River Trail Feasibility Report this week that prefers a routing of a proposed Clayton-to-Smithfield greenway connection almost entirely removed from the banks of the river.

Details in the report show why that option could not be considered part of the present-day Neuse River Trail some of us bicyclists have been enjoying in recent years between Clayton and Falls Lake at Raleigh.

The report's preferred routing runs beside Buffalo Road leading away from Smithfield, follows the river just a bit before running alongside US 70 (soon-to-be Interstate 42) toward Wilson's Mills, then Powhatan Road and Glen Laurel Road into Clayton
. Along that course are six "major" and 23 "minor" crossings of highways and roads plus three crossings of the North Carolina Railroad.

What makes the Neuse River Trail above Clayton into Raleigh so special is not just the scenic beauty of the riverside woods but also the safety of a biking and walking trail completely free of conflicts with menacing motor vehicles. (By following the riverbank it ducks beneath numerous highway bridges that span the Neuse.)

Apparently the consultant's recommended routing away from the river could be built much quicker and cheaper than what many of us would like to see. The report includes engineers' estimates that show a "River Route" could cost as much as $50 million to construct, and that price tag doesn't cover right-of-way acquisitions and easements.

Another big issue, apparently, is the reluctance if not refusal of some riverside property owners to give up a portion of their land for a public greenway.

But it would still cost millions to build a bicycle and pedestrian roadway beside some of our region's busiest highways that are destined to become more and more congested as Johnston's residential growth continues to explode. And how many private driveways would such a trail have to cross along the way?

Adrian O'Neal – the county's experienced parks, greenways, and open-space coordinator – presented a more optimistic view of things in a follow-up statement to the Weekly Sun after Tuesday's presentation to commissioners:

"The road-based route is the route that will be fastest to build. I think we will end up with a mesh of routes that will provide different experiences for everyone. The one closest to the river is just going to take a little more time and finesse," he wrote.

I hope he's right.

VIEW the Neuse River Trail Feasibility Study including maps and cost estimates>


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