School Board Narrows Field Of Candidates

Interviews with 5 finalists set for February 22nd

The Johnston County Public School Board met in special session Thursday evening to approve a process for filling the vacant seat of Tracie Zukowski who resigned in January.

A total of 31 people submitted letters of interest for the seat including several people who were unsuccessful in their bid during the 2020 elections.

School board member Ronald Johnson (center with blue tie) meets with supporters of Terry Tippet prior to the Feb. 18, 2021 special called school board meeting.

The board approved, in a 6-to-0 vote, the selection process. The board voted by ballot to narrow the field from 31 to 7 candidates, then voted again to narrow the field from seven to five candidates.

The five finalists for the seat were Dr. Chuck Williams (5 votes), Al Byrd (5 votes), Robert O’Neal Jr. (4 votes), Brian Jenkins (3 votes), and Jeff Robinson (3 votes).

The selection process was in contrast to the last time a vacancy occurred between elections. In January 2017, Todd Sutton was appointed to fill out the unexpired term of Larry Strickland who stepped down after winning the District 28 seat in the NC House.

Sutton lost in the 2016 elections but was the highest vote-getter not to have won a seat. Board member Ronald Johnson reminded the board a precedent had been set in 2017 to appoint vacant seats, referencing Sutton’s appointment. However, Mr. Sutton, who is now the chairman, said there was no precedent and no set guidelines on how to fill a vacancy.

Several people gathered outside the JCPS Central Office prior to the meeting holding signs in support of Terry Tippett. He came in fifth place in the Nov. 2020 elections with four seats up for election. Those gathered said they believe Mr. Tippett should have been appointed to the seat, the same way Sutton was appointed in 2017. Tippett finished about 1,600 vote behind Mike Wooten for the fourth seat last November. Tippett was not among the five finalists chosen for interviews by the board on Monday, February 22nd.

After the five finalists for the seat were announced, Ronald Johnson said he was shocked his fellow board members did not consider Terry Tippett for the vacancy. “That is not cool at all. The people had confidence in him. We are not even giving him an interview. Something has to be said for voter confidence. I am at a loss for words. I feel like we have failed in some sense by not picking him.”

The board could name a replacement for Mrs. Zukowski at the conclusion of the Feb. 22nd special called meeting for candidate interviews, but no later than their March 9th regularly scheduled meeting.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Are y’all really surprised by this? Once again… GOVERNMENT DOESN’T GIVE A F**K ABOUT YOU!! Of course they are gonna vote how they want. Just send them your kids and tax dollars and shut the f**k up. That’s all they want you to do.

    If y’all are really pi**ed about it, go to the meetings and tell them. I don’t mean that bullsh*t public comment section where they tell you how long you can speak. I mean go to the meetings and make them listen to you.

    • When Ron Johnson gets behind and endorses the school board candidates that will run in 2022 these seats will flip. This will give a clear picture to us all to whom to fall in line with and vote for. The Republican Party needs to be on the same page with Ron Johnson because the liberal progressive liberal Democrats will again flood the field with liked minded friends with the R behind their name to dilute the votes. Ron you have garnered the votes this last election that was impressive and now you and the Johnston County Republican Party needs to implement a plan to flip this school board.

    • Nope…. If the public wanted Tippett, the would have elected him in November. The fact that he *didn’t* get enough votes to win a seat should be enough to decide against his appointment.

  2. The entire board voted on the process and all 6 voted for the process, then when it does not go the way he wants it to Johnson complains???? All of this noise behind the scenes and on Facebook is all because of Ronald Johnson! Now I don’t think for one minute this post won’t be deleted because there is nothing posted on this site pertaining to the school board that is not first cleared with Johnson but where there are only a few within his little cult that still believes everything he says, most people in JOCO are seeing him for what he is!! Just let him go and he will take care of himself one day!!

    • This is not about Ron Johnson.

      This about an unfair and undemocratic action taken by the BOE against Terry Tippett.

      Traci Zukowski remained on the board without meeting the residency requirement just long enough to deny Terry Tippett the Board seat he earned in the last election.

      The only fault I can find with Mr. Johnson is his failure to make a motion to challenge the rules adopted by the Board.

      I hope that Mr. Johnson or one of the other Board members finds the resolve to challenge Mr. Sutton’s blatant disregard for the results of the last election in qualifying candidates for the open Board seat.

      It’s not over until a candidate is selected and Board members can make a motion at any time to challenge Mr. Sutton’s selection process.

  3. The fact the board did not even consider Tippett leads me to believe that individuals on the board knew that Zukowski was not living in the county in August. Some of the board members probably figured if there was a fifth spot that Tippett was likely to be seated on the board. There needs to be an investigation of this whole situation. Sure smells of politics and this board is suppose to be non partisan. I don’t think this is over.

    • Let’s keep it simple…WE can either let this happen or WE can make something happen. It is time WE all come together as one with a mutual desire to put the best interests of the kids and taxpayers first. If WE can do this and keep any personal differences out of the equation, united WE stand for the win! I suggest a grassroots plan spearheaded by Michelle Aintone or someone she would recommend to get this off the ground. An easier way for us all to communicate and get on the same page asap will be imperative. So, all WE need to get this started is someone to second the motion…what say you Michelle?

  4. This action by the board tells me that Todd Sutton and other incumbents on the board knew Zukowski was not living in Johnston County in August 2020. They figured if there was a fifth spot in November that Tippett might be elected to that seat. This smells of politics and the board is suppose to be non partisan. Their arrogance and sense of empowerment to do whatever they want all while ignoring the will of the people is ridiculous. I don’t think this over.

  5. I’ll poll the candidates for the next election. It would be great if we, the voters, could send them a brief bi-partisan checklist to identify their position in educational philosophy…and their position on America.

  6. Instead of just commenting and complaining, everyone needs to attend the JoCo GOP monthly meetings and get involved locally. There is also the County Republican PArty Convention coming up as well. If you’re not willing to volunteer and get involved, then you shouldn’t complain.

  7. When Todd Sutton was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Board several years ago, the members of the Board at that time made the decision to fill the vacancy with the person who received the next highest amount of votes. The members at that time justified their decision with statements such as: He is a Godly man. He is a dedicated member of the Johnston County Education Foundation. He is a parent leader at all school levels. His wife teaches in the district and his children attend schools in the district. State policies/laws grant power to the local boards to decide how they will fill a vacancy. That Board decided to fill the vacancy by appointing the next highest vote getter. I don’t think their decision of the process was written into law and therefore the current Board, which consists of some new members, agreed on the process they would use to fill the current vacancy. Their process is different than the process of the previous Board. Perhaps, they can’t justify simply appointing Tippett, the next highest vote getter, the same way the previous Board justified their decision to appoint Sutton. The next time a vacancy has to be filled, the members of that Board will make a decision about the process to fill the vacancy. This happens in boards across the state. As a matter of fact, just last week, another local School Board flipped a coin when they had a tie when it came down to two people. They decided the process they would use. We elected this Board to carry out their duties. Their duties include deciding on a process to fill vacancies when one occurs. That is what they did.

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