“Be Honorable And Resign” Citizen Tells School Board Member

Citizen asks Tracie Zukowski to resign immediately

Ronald Johnson asked to hand over recordings of Zukowski

SMITHFIELD – Concerned citizens spoke up during Tuesday’s Johnston County School Board meeting. One parent directly asked school board member Tracie Zukowski to resign.  Another asked Ronald Johnson to turn over recordings he reportedly has in his possession regarding Zukowski’s alleged conduct.

Paul Yates of Clayton spoke during the public comments section of the board meeting and directly addressed Zukowski urging her to step down immediately.

“I stand before you tonight as a concerned citizen, parent and a volunteer of Johnston County. Since this past summer, the Clayton community has been told to trust the process concerning the investigation into Clayton High School. You, the members of the Board of Education, implored us to be patient, and by doing so the appropriate outcome would follow.”

“We have witnessed not one but two superintendents resign. Prior to each superintendent’s resignation, they privately confided to the accused, to board members and/or to various elected officials, that CHS, Hunter Jenks and Dr. Bennett Jones were innocent of the allegations. But you know who wasn’t told?  The public at large who continues to believe that CHS, Hunter Jenks and Dr. Jones did something wrong!”

“Dr. Causby assured the Clayton parents, student and faculty that once the investigation was complete, if there was no wrong doing, Johnston County Public Schools would issue a statement that would be just as public as the original allegations. Instead, all we’ve gotten is a statement from Mr. Wooten, former Board Chair, in a candidate interview with the Johnstonian.”

“Once again, JCPS has failed us in transparency, honesty and integrity. I stand here to ask why. Dr. Bennett Jones, Coach Hunter Jenks and the Clayton High School students and staff deserve what they were promised!”

School Board member Tracie Zukowksi appears to take notes as Paul Yates of Clayton asks for her resignation during the March 10, 2020 meeting of the Johnston County Board of Education. Johnston County Report Photo

“Mrs. Zukowski, I do not think you are a bad person. People that I respect tell me that. But good people lose sight of the right thing all the time because they are personally invested. I do believe you have taken this personally,”  Mr. Yates stated.

“You are the board’s liaison to Clayton High School. Yet you have admitted having a personal problem with Dr. Jones and the CHS community. I have personally heard a conversation where you said you had a personal problem with Dr. Jones and some very vile things of the citizens of Clayton. How can you have the anger and hostilities that you have shown and voiced toward the concerned parties and still claim to be an effective liaison for CHS?”

“Furthermore, we have strong reason to believe that you have conspired to circumvent any clearance of Clayton High School. Besides being blatantly dishonest, we believe that throughout your tenure on the board, you have committed racketeering, collusion and fraud!  You have leveraged your position on the board to line your own pockets. You have blatantly sabotaged people in this district to satisfy your own personal vendetta and you have tried to coerce a board of education candidate to satisfy your own personal agenda.”

“As a result, I stand before you, speaking for my fellow citizens of Johnston County, and I ask for your resignation. I ask for you to be truthful and to finally show some integrity. Be honorable and resign. Resign from the board of education tonight. By doing so, we the people of Johnston County can move forward with healing our schools and our county with honesty and integrity.”

Trust And Cooperation
Anita Bland of Clayton addressed the Board of Education during the public comments section asking members to reject the Unity Agreement, which was later renamed a Consensus Agreement and then an Operational Agreement.

“Trust and cooperation are the foundation of a team’s success. In reviewing the wording of this organizational document, it looks like the trust and cooperation have been missing from our board of education team for a long time.  The document rejects the politicizing of personal issues or other operational issues for personal interest. I can imagine that this originated because former superintendents and former board members should not be exercising influence over the current board members for their own interests. Board members shouldn’t be in a position of allegiance to those political activists,” Mrs. Bland stated.

“No board members can address a concern from a community member individually. Really? The member who I voted for, who I felt best matched my values and concerns, can’t talk to me except to say ‘thank you, someone with get back with you.’  That is a brush off.”

“I wouldn’t accept this from an elected official in any other office at any other level. That is still what each board member is, an elected official. We need accessibility and accountability as individuals.”

Mrs. Bland continued saying, “We ask for access to the recording that shows the disdain that Mrs. Zukowski holds for Dr. Bennett Jones and for the citizens of Clayton, despite being our liaison.  We ask for the recording that reveals her attempt to cripple our successful recovery by encouraging teachers to leave our school.”

“We ask for the recording by Dr. Causby saying that according to the same board member, putting Dr. Jones back in Clayton High School would mean the withholding of funds from the Board of Commissioners.”

“We intend to continue working to heal our school and community, to shine a spotlight on the political machinations of our elected officials, and to be a part of the redirection toward true unity of purpose for all in our county,” Bland said.

Immediately after Mrs. Bland’s comments, Mr. Johnson stated, “You’ll have it tonight,” referencing the recording in his possession.

Unity Agreement
Later, during a board discussion on the proposed Unity Agreement, a motion to approve the agreement was made by Teresa Grant on the condition a paragraph requiring board members sign an Operating Agreement was removed.

By removing the Operating Agreement signature requirement, the current Policy Code 1550 (Code of Ethics and Responsibilities for School Board Members) would then be unchanged.  Realizing there would be no change, Grant withdrew her motion following unanimous consensus of the board.

The proposed revision was first brought to the Policy Review Committee in June 2019 by Zukowski.  Johnson said he believed the proposed change was designed to “tie our hands in certain situations” and felt it may have been directed towards him.

After the motion was withdrawn by Grant, and no additional action was taken by the board, the current ethics code, originally adopted in December 2017, will remain in place with no changes.

No Comment
During a break in Tuesday’s board meeting, Tracie Zukowski was asked to respond to Yates comments asking for her resignation.  Zukowski replied “no comment” and walked away.