Details Emerge On What Prompted Interim Superintendent’s Sudden Departure

Interim Superintendent Dr. Jim Causby resigned on Jan. 10, 2020. JoCoReport Photo

New details have emerged on what may have prompted interim superintendent Dr. Jim Causby to resign without notice on Friday, Jan. 10th.

On September 3, 2019, Dr. Causby became the interim superintendent of Johnston County Schools. He agreed to stay through June 30, 2020 while the school board looked for a permanent replacement for Dr. Ross Renfrow who retired last August.

Causby was tasked with handling multiple issues facing the school system including the controversial removal of Clayton High Principal Dr. Bennett Jones, low performing schools, and a budget crisis among other problems.

Last Thursday, Causby spoke with JoCoReport about the $8.8 million budget shortfall and his plans to meet with Johnston County Commissioners this week to hopefully secure funding to prevent the possible layoffs of up to 480 employees.

In his resignation letter on Friday, Dr. Causby indicated some board members were interfering with his ability to perform his job. “… I also discussed with the Board of Education of Johnston County Public Schools that at any time I believed the Board or individual Board members would not allow me to effectively perform my job as Superintendent, that I would no longer agree to continue in this role. I believe that there are members of the Board who have fully supported me and I appreciate them. However, there are roadblocks and interference by others on the board which have impeded my ability to effectively fulfill my role as Superintendent.”

Board of Education member Teresa Grant told JoCoReport that Dr. Causby stepped down while she was asking the interim school leader some tough questions about reduction in force plans she knew nothing about until being contacted by teachers.

“Several people reached out to me via Facebook (Thursday) night, alerting me to the fact that teachers were told by the Superintendent that a reduction in force (RIF) affecting approximately 480 employees would occur if the County Commissioners did not fund us with $8.8 million.  It was very concerning to me that the Board of Education had not received any such information from the Superintendent,” Grant said.

“I reached out to the board and Dr. Causby (Friday) morning with the following questions.  “Why hasn’t the budget committee been convened to look at cuts?  Why are we sending out notices to teachers about layoffs instead?  Why wasn’t the board notified that these notices were going out?  Why am I learning about it from Facebook?”

Grant said Dr. Causby responded by saying, “It is my role as Superintendent to manage the budget and do what is required.  It is my role to develop any RIF plan…If you are not happy with the way I am handling it then I will be pleased to turn it over to you Monday morning.”

“I told him again that I was not happy that teachers were being told they might be laid off, that the board was not told, and that the budget committee was not convened to look at other cuts.  Within about 30 minutes, he informed us that he was resigning.”

“This is the only time that I recall the Superintendent and I having any kind of disagreement, so I was surprised that he implied that I was a “roadblock” and impeded his ability to do his job.  If by roadblock, he means trying to preserve the jobs of an average of 10 staff – classified and certified – at each school, then I am happy to be a roadblock.  I think we can do better than that.  The finance committee immediately set up a meeting that was held (Friday) afternoon to discuss other potential options.”

“I appreciate the positive things Dr. Causby has done for our school system and I wish him the very best,” Grant added.

School Board Member Ronald Johnson said Friday, “The last conversation I had with Dr. Causby was Wednesday and it was a positive conversation. We talked about moving forward and he was very complimentary of me and amicable.”

“Dr. Causby and I have disagreed but we have never spoken a harsh or cross word to each other. Even after our disagreements, we remained friendly. I have no hard feelings toward Dr. Causby. While he didn’t thank me, I would certainly like to thank him,” Johnson stated.

We also reached out to School Board Chairman Todd Sutton for a comment. Sutton has refused to respond to multiple emails seeking a comment on Dr. Causby’s resignation and other recent school news articles.

Causby had previously served as superintendent of Johnston County Schools from 1994 to 2004.