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PUBLISHED ONLINE OCTOBER 13, 2022   •   VOL. 4, NO. 40

Stories and photos by WINGATE LASSITER unless credited otherwise
(Click on highlighted link to e-mail the editor)
 



Now that's a really creepy Halloween display!

Giant skeletons in this yard at the corner of Sanders Street and Walnut Drive in South Smithfield are intimidating creatures, to say the least. Where in the world (or out of this world) does one get such oversized specimens? Hopefully, they didn't come from an archaeological dig around here!
 


 

School board censures Johnson for a 3rd violation

The Johnston County Board of Education, during a special session last Thursday, voted to censure board member Ronald Johnson for a third violation of board policies, this one involving "inappropriate text messages" concerning a school employee during meetings of the board in April and May of 2019.

The board in August censured Mr. Johnson for violating a policy that prohibits secret recordings of discussions among board members and another that bars a member from interfering in student-assignment matters (details in the Sun of August 25).

In both cases, Mr. Johnson was the only board member to vote against the resolutions of censure. He also was the only member to oppose sending the contents of investigations leading to the censures to the District Attorney's Office, which has authority to initiate proceedings that could lead to Mr. Johnson's removal from office.

The latest action against him came after an unnamed school employee notified Todd Sutton, the school board's chairman, about text messages exchanged in 2019 between Mr. Johnson and Jimmy Lawrence, the board's attorney at the time. Those messages became public during a Facebook live broadcast on August 8.

As a result, Mr. Sutton asked Tharrington Smith, a Raleigh law firm currently under contract to advise the school system on legal matters, to investigate the employee's complaint. "We conclude that Mr. Johnson failed to comply with the board's ethical standards and other duties of board members when he sent the text messages," states the law firm's report made public at last week's meeting.

VIEW the complete investigative report presented to the school board last week>

WATCH the proceedings of last week's meeting on the schools' YouTube channel>

 

Audit report finds nothing amiss in school system's finances

At Tuesday's regular monthly meeting, Johnston's Board of Education received the school system's annual audit report from Adam Scepurek, a partner in the accounting firm of Anderson, Smith, Wike who said he and his staff found no discrepancies in the books for fiscal 2020-21, which ended June 30. Johnston's schools closed out the year with a General Fund balance of $31,345,361 – an increase of 7.9% over the previous year, Mr. Scepurek reported. That amount will be reduced by $8 million once the County Commissioners sign off on the school board's request to transfer those funds into the system's Capital Outlay Fund, the auditor noted. He characterized the system's rebuilding of its fund balance over the past couple of years "nothing short of an extreme turnaround" – a phenomenon he said was experienced by many school districts as a result of extra federal and state aid coupled with savings from school shutdowns brought on by the COVID pandemic. VIEW the complete report from the independent auditing firm>

Bonus payments approved for staffs at 15 improving schools

The board approved payment of bonuses ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 to 1,157 members of the staffs at 15 schools that met predesignated benchmarks of academic improvement this past year. Included are teachers and all other employees at Smithfield Middle, South Smithfield Elementary, West Smithfield Elementary, and Wilson's Mills Elementary schools. Total cost of the bonuses will run about $2.4 million, to be paid out of the school system's General Fund balance, Chief of Finance Stephen Britt told the board, which authorized continuation of the program for another year.
 

New covered entrance to be built at Smithfield Middle School

The board approved a $303,000 contract with low-bidder Daniels and Daniels Construction Company of Goldsboro to build a new covered entrance and canopy for the "carpool drop off" at Smithfield Middle School. Funding comes from the county school-bond issue approved by Johnston's voters in 2018.
 

South Smithfield's Advisory Council gets five new members

The board approved the nominations from the elementary school's principal, Susan Jones, and present council members, of Waynica Bradshaw, Rick Buckner, Kate Byrd, Jeff Caldwell, and Kellie Smith. They're appointed to three-year terms.

 



Our signs are changing
to remind you that a new
season is headed our way.

Call Pernell.com
to make sure you're ready.

 



It's to be the Johnston County Public Center when this building under construction beside US 70 Business east of Smithfield is ready next year for the county's 9-1-1 Communications and Emergency Management departments. It's in front of the county's new Detention Center (shown below), expected to be in service in January.

 

County gets big grant to equip its new 9-1-1 center

From Johnston County Public Information Office

Johnston County 9-1-1 was recently awarded a substantial grant from the North Carolina 9-1-1 Board for paging and radio infrastructure upgrade needs. The department applied for the grant this past May and was notified recently it had been awarded the full request of $1,756,657.

9-1-1 Director Brett Renfrow said the grant money will be used to outfit the center with the latest technology available for paging capabilities. It will also cover costs for moving the current phone system (from the Courthouse, where 9-1-1 is presently housed). The funds will also help cover installation of a new generator at the Public Safety Center. To learn more about the county's 9-1-1 operation, visit https://www.johnstonnc.com/911/.

 



HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS REPORT

SSS stays unbeaten with 20-13 win at West Johnston

Repeating the scenario from a week earlier, the Spartans jumped out to a 14-0 lead against the Wildcats Friday night, had the lead cut to 14-13 after halftime, then stiffened on defense and added a third touchdown late in the game for the Spartans' seventh win of the season with no losses.

SSS is also undefeated in Quad County 3-A Conference battles at 4-0. It was the Homecoming game for West Johnston, which dropped to 2-2 in conference play.

The Spartans' touchdowns came on runs by sophomore Devyn Grant and senior Gerard Sanders Jr. and a TD pass by senior John Renfrow, who completed 9 of 14 attempts for 136 yards. Sophomore Julian Dobbin led the rushing attack with 95 yards on 12 carries.

On defense, senior Joshua Hightower had 13 tackles, three of them sacks. Senior Michael Thompson Jr. and sophomore Danyaeul McCray each had an interception.

Smithfield-Selma hosts conference foe Southern Wayne this Friday, and it's Homecoming. Here are the current conference standings and conference records:
Smithfield-Selma, 4-0; C.B. Aycock, 4-0; West Johnston, 2-2; South Johnston, 2-2; Wilson Hunt, 2-2; East Wake, 1-3; Wilson Fike, 1-3; Southern Wayne, 0-4.

 

Last week's football scores for other Johnston County schools
 Cleveland (7-0)            47
 Willow Spring                2
 Clayton (4-3)               3
 South Garner              0
 Corinth Holders (2-5)     0
 Fuquay-Varina             36
 South Johnston (4-3)   42
 Southern Wayne           7
 North Johnston (2-5)   0
 Beddingfield              34
 Princeton (6-1)            55
 Goldsboro                     0


Spartan soccer team wins one, loses one in conference

Smithfield-Selma's boys soccer team is 5-3-2 in Quad County 3-A Conference matches after Monday's 3-0 win over Wilson Hunt and Wednesday's 2-1 loss at Wilson Fike. The team's record overall now stands at  5-9-4.

The Spartan girls volleyball team dropped to a record of 6-15 overall and 1-12 in conference play after losses to Southern Wayne, West Johnston, and C.B. Aycock this past week.

The girls tennis squad finished the season with a record of 2-16 overall, 2-11 in conference matches.


Neuse Charter volleyball team 9-0 in conference matches

The Cougars' girls volleyball team remains undefeated in Carolina 1-A Conference matches after last Thursday's win over Rosewood and Tuesday's win over Lakewood. Neuse Charter closes out the regular season at home today (Thursday) versus Union High. The team's overall season record is 17-3.

The boys soccer team is 6-8 overall, 2-6 in conference play after last Thursday's 8-1 loss at Hobbton and Wednesday's 7-1 loss at home against Rosewood.

 



HOME FOR SALE IN SOUTH SMITHFIELD:  2,427 sq. ft., 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, 2-car garage. 811 Baker Street (MLS# 2478008). Asking price: $410,000.

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WHAT'S COMING UP?

County Commissioners meet in regular session Monday

The Johnston County Board of Commissioners will meet at 6 p.m. Monday at the Courthouse. The agenda was not ready in time for this week's edition. Once posted, it may be viewed on the county's website>

Health Department offering flu vaccines on Thursdays

The Johnston County Public Health Department began its Adult Influenza Vaccine Clinic today that will continue every Thursday 9-11 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. No appointment is necessary. All forms of insurance will be filed. Costs for patients without insurance will be $25 for regular flu vaccine and $70 for high-dose vaccine (for patients 65 and older). For more information visit www.johnstonnc.com/health or call the Health Department at 919-989-5200. The Health Department is located at 517 North Bright Leaf Boulevard in Smithfield.

Early voting for the Nov. 8 election starts next Thursday

Smithfield's early-voting place continues to be the First Baptist Church Ministry Center at South Fourth and Johnston streets. Here's the complete list of Johnston County early-voting sites with dates and times all will be open through November 5:


 

VIEW the two-page SAMPLE BALLOT for Smithfield precinct voters>
 



DEATHS & FUNERALS

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

RONNIE LEE CROCKER, 77 – died October 11

WAYNE RONDA REGISTER, 82 – died October 8

MARTHA GRIFFIN PELLETIER, 81 – died October 7

CHRISTOPHER ANTONIO SURLES, 35 – died September 29

 



A WORD (OR TWO) FROM THE EDITOR

Are student transfers undermining local schools?

That was a question raised at last week's meeting of the Smithfield Town Council during a presentation by Landis Bullock speaking in behalf of Friends of Johnston County Schools, a committee promoting approval of the $177-million school-bond issue on the ballot this fall.

Councilman Roger Wood and Mayor Andy Moore expressed fears that construction of new schools and renovations at older ones with bond funds would be accompanied by more transfers of local students out of the Smithfield-Selma school district. That has been an issue in the past, they reminded Mr. Bullock.

He couldn't address their concern because neither he nor the rest of us have any recent data about school transfers in Johnston County. That's because the Board of Education no longer approves or denies transfer requests in open session as the board was doing a couple of years ago.

Presumably, that change was made to protect the privacy of students and their parents. But couldn't we at least get a summary report each month with numbers of transfers by school district?

The absence of facts about the issue leads to negative speculation about it.

 

A spectacular autumnal sunset at the N.C. coast

The editor joined family members for a long weekend at Oak Island near Southport and observed the sun setting behind a fishing pier last Friday evening. "Best sunset pictures I've ever taken!" he exclaimed. Sometimes you get lucky.


 



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