The chairman of the Johnston County School Board says he does not appreciate a JoCoReport.com article pertaining to an investigation underway at Clayton High School. Mike Wooten says the article questions the integrity of the school board.
On Thursday, JoCoReport reported that the athletic program at Clayton High School was under investigation by Johnston County school officials following a whistleblower email sent to school board member Ronald Johnson of Clayton around June 10th. (A similar, if not identical, email was also sent to JoCoReport.com on June 3rd. A second whistleblower email was also received on June 18th by JoCoReport.com)
Johnson forwarded the June 10th email to Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow requesting an investigation into allegations of policy and recruiting violations.
In the article Johnson said, “Unfortunately, instead of seeking out the truth, a senior level employee and board member are using this as an opportunity to tell those being investigated I can’t be trusted, portraying me as the one responsible for the investigation. My allegiance will ALWAYS be with the truth and I think that’s a little hard for some of my colleagues to comprehend… When employees at Johnston County Schools report allegations of wrong doing, and your first reaction as an elected official is to punish the people reporting the allegations, without an investigation, it’s unlawful, unethical, and reprehensible. People elect board members to do the right thing, not to punish the people who come to us for help.”
Wooten, the school board chairman took offense. “The article has the appearance or intention that one school board member has urgency of investigation on the allegations on Clayton High School and others do not. I can promise you that Mr. Johnson is not the only member that desires a full investigation to collect all the facts. Upon finding out these allegations the board immediately directed the superintendent to begin his investigation and to leave no stone unturned.”
“Whether information of wrong doings comes from a Board Member, employee, taxpayer, tip line, etc., they are all taken seriously and turned over for investigation,” Wooten said.
As for Johnson’s concerns about possible retaliation against whistleblowers, Chairman Wooten said, “The Board would never knowingly support retaliation toward an employee for reporting illegal, unethical, or immoral behavior. This article questions the integrity of the current board, which I do not appreciate and is far from the truth. I will put the integrity and character of our current board make up against any other board. Normally comments on allegations are commented on after a complete investigation of the allegations that were made. I can assure you as Board Chair that the Board of Education will follow through to make sure Dr. Renfrow completes a full and complete investigation in a timely manner.”
When asked for a response Friday morning on Chairman Wooten’s comments, Mr. Johnson issued the following statement:
“I appreciate Mr. Wooten’s comments “the board would never knowingly support the retaliation toward an employee.” Might I remind the chairman of the incident in 2018 where the school board attorney sent a letter, at the direction of the chairman and superintendent, demanding Johnston County Report reveal the identity of a whistleblower, who was a teacher trying to do the right thing.”
“The whistleblower reported the incident and it was “investigated”. The county office found no evidence but when a recording was presented that proved the whistleblowers case, the school system demanded to know their identity.”
“I’m sure there is some fear of retaliation among employees in Johnston County Schools. We just had 5 former employees come address half the board because in their words, they were bullied and intimidated by administrators at Johnston County Schools. So please Mr. Chairman, don’t act as if what I’m saying is something new. I have nothing but respect for you Mr. Wooten, but I will not be discredited or disrespected for demanding what the public deserves, honesty.”
School officials have not said how long their internal investigation into alleged policy and recruiting violations at Clayton High will take.
Violation ‘Self-Reported’ To NCHSAA
Dr. Renfrow did confirm to JoCoReport on June 10th a violation was ‘self-reported’ by Clayton High School to the NC High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA), but he did not say what the violation was.
A spokesperson for the NCHSAA says they are not allowed to comment on any investigation and referred our questions back to Johnston County School officials.