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Citing school board 'interference,' Jim Causby resigns as Johnston superintendent

The (Raleigh) News & Observer logo The (Raleigh) News & Observer 1/11/2020 By T. Keung Hui, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Jim Causby unexpectedly announced his resignation Friday as interim superintendent of Johnston County Schools — the latest tumultuous event to affect the school system in recent months.

Causby had agreed to come out of retirement after previous superintendent Ross Renfrow abruptly announced his resignation in August. Causby was supposed to stay on until June 30.

But on Friday, Causby cited “roadblocks and interference” from members of the school board for his early departure.

“When I agreed to return to Johnston County Public Schools during this time of transition, I was clear that I needed to make decisions and oversee the daily operations of the school system, which was agreeable to the Board,” Causby said in a statement.

“However, 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.”

Todd Sutton, chairman of the Johnston County Board of Education, issued a statement Friday afternoon that accepted Causby’s resignation “with deep sadness.”

“While this is a difficult time for Johnston County Public Schools, we ask for your support of the school system and our Board of Education as we take the necessary steps to move the school system forward,” Sutton said.

Sutton said Brian Vetrano would immediately begin serving as the new acting superintendent. Vetrano is chief of Human Resources and Financial Services for the school system.

Much turmoil in school system

The Johnston County school system has been rocked in the past few months over issues such as whether students were improperly given diplomas at Clayton High School.

Johnston school board member Ronald Johnson has accused school leaders of lying about the need for $8.8 million from the county to cover a budget shortfall. Johnson also accused leaders of covering up an investigation into sexual harassment of district employees.

Johnson had charged that Causby told board members in October that Art Stanley, the district’s chief finance officer, had been directed to lie to school board members and commissioners about the amount of money needed.

Causby and other board members have denied he made the statements about Stanley.

Causby had also accused Johnson of questioning his integrity by saying he hadn’t acted on the allegation of sexual harassment,

“My integrity, honesty, and skills as a leader are important and crucial to me, and it is extremely concerning when those are questioned without merit,” Causby said in his statement Friday.

Causby thanked five board members in his statement for providing him “their full support.” He did not include Johnson on that list.

Former Superintendent of the Year

Causby, 73, had served as Johnston’s superintendent from 1994 to 2004. He was a superintendent for 30 years in six districts, winning North Carolina Superintendent of the Year three times.

Causby was in semi-retirement working as an education and marketing consultant when he agreed to return to Johnston as interim superintendent. He said it was with “great regret” that he was announcing his resignation.

“I have not taken this decision lightly, and I continue to love the students, staff, and citizens of Johnston County,” Causby said. “My long history in the school system has been one of the highlights of my career.

“As I prepared for my arrival, I was informed that there were major budget needs, low morale, and the need to return to a sense of normalcy for the students and staff of the system. During my time in Johnston County Public Schools, I have aggressively worked to address these issues and was fully capable of bringing these issues to resolution.”

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©2020 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

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