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School board has failed Clayton High community, speaker says

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Paul Yates tells Johnston school board members that the Clayton community remains largely in the dark about the investigation into a grade-fixing scandal there.
Paul Yates tells Johnston school board members that the Clayton community remains largely in the dark about the investigation into a grade-fixing scandal there.
Johnston County Board of Education video
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SMITHFIELD — Paul Yates didn’t mince words.

Johnston school leaders have kept the Clayton community in the dark about their investigation into allegations of grade-fixing at Clayton High School, he told the Johnston County Board of Education on March 10.

“Since this past summer, the Clayton community has been told to trust the process concerning the investigation into Clayton High School,” Yates said. “You, the members of the board, implored us to be patient and, in doing so, the appropriate response and outcome would follow.”

But the process has yielded no public disclosure, Yates said.

Instead, former superintendents Ross Renfrow and Jim Causby quietly told Clayton High’s principal and former football coach that the investigation had cleared them of wrongdoing, Yates said. Renfrow and Causby also shared their findings with school board members and other elected officials in Johnston, he said.

“But you know who wasn’t told?” Yates asked the board. “The public at large.”

And the public, he said, continues to believe that Clayton High principal Bennett Jones and former coach Hunter Jenks did something wrong.

The school system’s leadership, Yates said, had broken its promise to the Clayton community. “Dr. Causby assured Clayton parents, students and faculty that once the investigation was complete, if there was no wrongdoing, Johnston County Public Schools would issue a statement that would be just as public as the allegations,” he said.

But all the community has seen is a statement from board member Mike Wooten in a candidate interview in the Johnstonian News, Yates said.

“Once again, Johnston County Public Schools has failed us in transparency, honesty and integrity,” he said.

Yates found particular fault with Tracie Zukowski, the school board’s liaison to Clayton High. “You have admitted to having a personal problem with Dr. Jones and the Clayton community,” he said, speaking directly to Zukowski. “How can you have the anger and hostility that you have shown ... and still be an effective liaison for Clayton.”

Yates went on, without presenting evidence, to accuse Zukowski of racketeering, collusion and fraud. He also said she had used her position to line her pockets and to conduct personal vendettas.

“And I ask for your resignation,” Yates said. “I ask for you to be truthful, and I ask for you to show some integrity, be honorable and resign.”

In keeping with board practice during the public comment portion of its meetings, Zukowski did not respond to Yate’s comments.

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