School Leader Responds To Critics

Johnston County’s incoming school superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow has responded to criticism after his contract with the Johnston County Board of Education was released two weeks ago.

Renfrow will become the leader of Johnston County Schools on March 1st following the retirement of Dr. Ed Croom.  Renfrow will make the same starting salary as the retiring superintendent, $215,022. That is equal to a 94 percent pay increase for Renfrow, who currently makes $110,600 as the deputy superintendent, a position he has held for the last 3 years. 

Ross-Renfrow-2-FIHe will also receive several perks including $10,000 a year for a retirement plan of his choice and up to $15,000 annually to meet goals set by the school board.  If fired from his job, Renfrow could receive severance pay equal to 2 years of his salary.  

While not specifically addressing his salary increase, Renfrow said being Johnston County School Superintendent is “tied to my heart” just like the time he served as principal at North Johnston High School, a school he once attended as a student. He was also principal at Corinth Holders High. 

“Amy and I made a choice that I would go back to school to pursue a doctorate in education,” Renfrow told WTSB. “After I received mine, she would go back and get hers. We are in life where we are today because of the choices we made along the way. If we made good choices, the rewards could be great. If we made bad choices, the consequences could be severe.”

“The way the last 4, 5, 6 years have played out, I may not have made that choice,” Renfrow said referring to the death of his wife, Amy, in December 2011 who lost her battle to cancer. “A lot of nights I left North Johnston and Corinth Holder High Schools to go to class. The only time I would see my family was in the morning when I left and at night after they had gone to sleep.”

Renfrow said over the past couple of years he had been offered the superintendents position in more than one county, but declined to name the county’s the job offers came from.  “Those folks offered me a lot more money than what I will make in Johnston County,” he said. “It was never about the money. I could not go and lead a district I was not passionate about. I am passionate about leading Johnston County Schools.”

“I promise you I will try to do a great job every day. We will make mistakes. We are not made out of steel. But we will work to make those mistakes right.”

Asked specifically if he wished to respond to critics who expressed concerns about his 94% pay increase, when schools reportedly could not provide basic supplies for classrooms, “I don’t respond. I value everyone’s opinion. If you have 10 people in a room, you have 10 opinions. I value their right to express that opinion. That does not offend me nor does it bother me. People are entitled to their opinion. That is the great thing about America. We are free to express our opinion.”

“I am looking forward to working with the (school) board as superintendent and working with the board of county commissioners.  You can say Ross you are being naive. But I value that. It is within my skill set to work with all groups of stakeholders.” He said he looked forward to healthy conversations with both boards. “That’s who Ross Renfrow is.” 

As for any changes he might make, Renfrow responded, “One of the pluses of hiring within, I know the system as good as anyone. If any changes are necessitated, they will be minor subtle changes that will play out over the summer, just some tweaks and fine tuning.” 

As Superintendent, Renfrow said his goal is to place caring and competent adults with each child parents send to school and prepare the students for colleges, careers, and life itself. 

Renfrow Second Highest Paid Superintendent

Renfrow is the second highest paid school superintendent in the area.

Wake County Superintendent Dr. James Merrill makes $281,801, Wilson County Superintendent Dr. Dean Bulson is paid $178,972, Nash-Rocky Mount Interim Superintendent Dr. Travis Twiford is paid $175,536, Harnett Superintendent Stan Williams makes $161,968, Wayne County Superintendent Dr. Michael Dunsmore makes $145,000, and Sampson County Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy is paid $135,504. 

Wayne County pays the lowest matching county supplement in the area with $14,499.96 in local funds. Harnett County chips in $16,968 towards their superintendent’s salary.

Johnston County tax dollars account for $64,750 of Renfrow’s $215,022 salary.