A lawsuit has been filed against the Johnston County school system and Superintendent Dr. Ed Croom.
Concerned Citizens for Successful Schools (CCSS) formerly known as the Citizens’ Study Commission, filed the lawsuit Thursday afternoon in Johnston County Superior Court. The group alleges Johnston County Schools have failed to turn over documents requested in 2015 under the NC Public Records Law.
Four years ago, a group of local parents, educators, business owners, and civic leaders who were concerned about the academic decline occurring at Smithfield-Selma High School formed the group. CCSS was organized to figure out why the decline was occurring, and what could be done to reverse it. Over time, the five feeder schools for Smithfield-Selma High were added to the study. CCSS analyzed various factors present in Smithfield and Selma area schools in comparison with other Johnston County schools.
As a result of that analysis, the mission of CCSS was established: to remedy racial and socioeconomic disparities in Johnston County schools so as to ensure the opportunity for a sound, basic education that will improve academic performance and outcomes for students in Smithfield-Selma High and its feeder schools: South Smithfield Elementary, Smithfield Middle, Selma Elementary, Selma Middle, and Wilson’s Mills Elementary.
As part of the group’s efforts to study the issue, CCSS sought the help of the UNC Center for Civil Rights. On May 29, 2015 a public records request was made from Superintendent Dr. Ed. Croom. Some of the records were provided on October 22, 2015. The group contends several items were missing from the records including “…demographic information needed to understand the racial imbalance that exists.”
On December 2, 2015, the UNC Center for Civil Rights repeated their request for the missing information. On January 15, 2016, Johnston County Schools Public Information Officer Tracey Peedin Jones responded that the request for the public records were “being reviewed.” Officials said they have had no further response to the request since then.
The Public Records Lawsuit alleges Johnston County Schools violated NC General Statute 132-1, which states that those records “are the property of the people.”
JoCoReport.com reached out to Johnston County Schools Attorney Jimmy Lawrence for a response. Lawrence did not respond before our news deadline.
Members of the CCSS include local Chairperson Susan Lassiter, attorney and former school board member Jack O’Hale, Selma Mayor Cheryl Oliver, former school board member Kay Carroll, Former Smithfield Mayor John Lampe, Cynthia Pittard, Dr. Gettys Cohen, Lloyd Barnes, Dr. Linda Whitley, Annie Johnson, Lt. Col. Jonathan Gaskins, and Bobby and Joyce Alston.